Disclaimer: In the next few blogs I will be addressing the subject of pornography. If you tend to faint or swoon at the subject I advise getting a pack of smelling salts before moving forward.
Removing the stigma around addressing pornography and sexual wholeness is at the heart of what my husband and I are all about. We both know that the first step toward breaking free is speaking to a supportive community of believers. It’s how you start to own the problem.
Unfortunately, in our current church culture, starting a conversation about the use of pornography–for women especially–is close to impossible. There’s no room for it. I often try to imagine opportunities in which to creatively breach the subject. Maybe that time in between worship songs when we take a moment to greet each other. “Hi, good to see you. My name is Liz. Do you continually look for NC-17 movies on Netflix?” Or perhaps during our next after-church potluck: “These hotdogs are delicious. Can you pass me the mustard? Do you continually erase your computer history?” Or maybe during the next friendly basketball game in the church parking lot: “Ok, I’ll be on the skins team. By the way, how much skin did you see over the weekend?”
Obviously, corporate group settings are not the best route in beginning private conversations (although I hope that one day they can be), yet creating a culture where people don’t run from their sin depends on a few things.
- Get Educated: This is for all of us. Do you know why pornography is harmful? Do you understand what the Bible says about pornography? Do you know why men and women so often use pornography? Our churches will ALWAYS have members who struggle or are bound with sin. If our pews are void of people who need love and support then we aren’t fulfilling the mission that Jesus gave us. Once we come to grips with the fact that messy people are real people then we can move on to embracing them in a biblical way.
- Get Uncomfortable: Asking the hard questions results in hearing the hard answers. Hearing the hard answers requires time, effort, and prayer. What are we doing in our hang-out time outside of church? Do we really care about each other and the struggles we face? This is vital in helping someone to come out of a chronic or even occasional pornography problem. We can’t expect church pastors to be the only ones who address this issue in our congregations. This is a family problem–a church family problem.
- Address Your Own Passivity: What goes in your eyes and ears matters. Make sure you’re not trading away your sensitivity to the Holy Spirit for entertainment. I’m not going to tell you what kinds of movies you should and shouldn’t watch, because only you know your heart; it’s up to you to judge how media is affecting you and what you’re really getting out of it. It’s important, however, to also be responsible as far as exposing others goes. I’m personally not going to invite my church friends over to watch Fifty Shades of Grey and pretend like everything’s alright. Even if I were okay with it (which, just for the record, I’m very not), it’s wrong to ignore the effect it might have on others. Right now, passivity in this regard is something of an epidemic.
If you want to be a healthy contributor to your church community then ask the Holy Spirit where you are being passive against sin in your own life. This isn’t a self-analyzing, bellybutton-gazing, how-do-I-fix-myself stance; it’s a simple invitation for the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Passivity towards sin leads to hardness of heart and ears that are deaf to hearing Him. A humble act of invitation will put you in the right alignment for addressing areas of your life that not only keep you from His best for you, but stifle your authority in helping others. It’s a daily process of both honesty before God and obedience. I would rather have a soft nudge from the Holy Spirit than a group of believers grabbing me by the shoulders and begging me to listen because it’s God’s last attempt to reach me before I’m given over to whatever god I’m chasing after.
A healthy family has authority in their own life over the Goliath of sexual sin and invites others into that wholeness. We can no longer deny this philistine or address it with cowardice. He is robbing from our lives and this is not the dignity and freedom that Christ paid for all of us.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.
Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.