Seventeen-year-old Tim was browsing the Internet one night when his eye caught the image of a pop-up advertisement. “Find true love now,” it read. Pictured below was a young woman showing off her mostly-unclothed body.
Tim had looked at pornography before. Without realizing it, he had formed an addictive habit—waiting until his parents went to bed before going straight to the computer. His youth pastor had suggested using a free accountability program called x3watch (www.x3watch.com), which e-mails a list of all questionable content directly to people whom you pick as your accountability partners.
Tim had downloaded this software and had chosen Emily, his girlfriend, to receive these e-mails. But like a tractor beam, the pop-up pillaged all of Tim’s inhibitions and off he clicked, finally ending in a whirlwind of sexy images and videos. Immediately, he felt the overwhelming sense of shame and guilt and hated the thought of having to tell Emily. What would she say? Would she tell anyone at school? Would she tell anyone at church? Questions even over his own salvation began to creep into his shattered little world. “How can God still love me,” he wondered.
I wish I could say that Emily and others around him forgave him, challenged him, and ushered him toward healing and recovery in a non-judgmental way. I wish I could say that those in his church who knew about his “problem” also became open and honest with their own problems and together sought repentance and wholeness. But this has not been the church’s response.
The addiction to pornography (much like homosexuality) is often singled out by the Church, and labeled the principitas of all sin. It’s ugly and grotesque. Those caught in it are brought before the church like the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel of John. But the judgmental glances and holy talk can’t disguise the hypocritical stones. John Calvin wrote that our hearts are “idol factories,” turning anything and everything into something to be worshiped and adored. The church has become obsessed with the “dirty” sin of pornography, but has overlooked others like idolatry, gluttony, and pride.
Even now, as the stones are being thrown in the Church, young people everywhere are crying out—wanting desperately to be listened to, helped and forgiven. But those who have confessed bear the scars of many stones. And those who have been too scared to confess, but have been “found out,” seem beyond recovery. Their reputation is lost. Their Christian witness is shattered. Their usefulness is discarded and thrown out with the trash. And in the end, the church is shooting its wounded.
But there is hope. If you’re like Tim, you’re not alone. Thousands across America are in your situation. Some ministries, like Tapestry of Hope (www.tapestryofhope.com) in Birmingham, Ala., are coming alongside those struggling with pornography and graciously leading them toward change and a bolder resolve to fight all sin in their lives. God is displayed as God—just and loving, holy and gracious.
In the distance we hear a faint echo of Jesus’ words to the adulterous woman, “You are no longer condemned. Go now and leave your life of sin.”