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Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Eyes of the Soul

I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? (Job 31:1)
Silly question, of course. Job didn't have Facebook or the Internet. That's how, Job. Come on! Get with it!

There are three categories of men in modern America; perhaps four. The first is the group who struggle with or indulge in pornography. The second is the group who deny they struggle with or indulge in pornography, but do. The third is those who don't struggle with it at all; it's not a problem. I suppose the fourth group could be those men who live under a rock and have not the problem to deal with because they don't have the exposure that modern media has provided in the Internet, the movies, and the television. Of the group of "all men in America", I would guess that 95% fall in the first two categories which, if you were paying attention, turns out to be one category: Those who struggle with or indulge in pornography.

Knowing that Scripture says, "You may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph 5:5) (and says it repeatedly), I would think that Christians in that category would be men who are struggling with pornography (as opposed to those who indulge it without remorse -- unbelievers). Why it is such a struggle, however, can sometimes be a mystery? I mean, how hard can it be? Stop!

Well, it's not that simple, is it? It's not at all clear what the draw is once a Christian realizes that it's sexual immorality, that it's destructive to relationships both with people and with God, and that it's sin. And yet there is the draw. Men work at various plans, much like Alcoholics Anonymous, step programs to try to work their way out of it, and yet there is the draw, the repeated failures. What is this mysterious force? Why is it so hard to break? Why is Bob Newhart's approach so useless?

There is likely more than one reason, and you can probably suggest a few yourself, but I'd like to offer one that is commonly missed. Oh, you'll find it there at the top of the page!

Men are visual creatures. We are stimulated by sight. That's why female strippers are far more common than male strippers. That's why men's nudie magazines have always been more prevalent than, say, the Playgirl magazines of the world. Indeed, men don't need nudity to be stimulated. They need ... females. It can be a particular body type or a particular type of clothing or a particular hair color, but as long as it's a female's appearance, that's about all men need.

Still Christian men appear to miss this reality. They may avoid the porn sites but have no problem with the Victoria's Secret commercials. They may spurn the Victoria's Secret commercials but enjoy a day at the beach with the bikini-clad lovelies. The truth is that men aren't limited in their visual stimulation to nude or even scantily clad. A lovely lady, well-dressed, with an appearance that pleases, is about all we need. And we fail to make "a covenant with my eyes."

How many times have we heard "There's nothing wrong with window shopping as long as you don't buy" or "Why not look at the menu as long as you don't order?" or some other euphemism? What's wrong with it? It is the beginning. It is the starting point. It is a push toward the lust that Jesus classified as adultery (Matt 5:28-30). Indeed, Jesus's own recommendation for that problem was "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell" (Matt 5:29). Hyperbole? Perhaps. But relegating that hyperbole to meaninglessness is not the right response to hyperbole ... or Jesus.

Ephesians 5 begins with the command to be children who imitate God. Paul goes on to say:
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Eph 5:2-4).
"Sexual immorality ... must not even be named among you ..." God's people should be so far from sexual impurity that it couldn't even be suggested that we are guilty of it. Hearing "Hey, my eyes are up here!" from a woman is the suggestion of impurity. Pressing the LIKE button on a Facebook cutie's picture is the suggestion of sexual immorality. Even if they don't fall into the category of sin, they certainly fall into the category of giving Satan the opportunity (Eph 4:27).

How do we avoid sexual immorality? Stop! No, not just stop. Stop giving Satan the opportunity. Stop aiming our hearts where we don't want our eyes to go. Someone once said we shouldn't let our eyes linger where our hands shouldn't. Indeed. Stop going in our hearts where we ought not and allowing our eyes to lead us in. Replace that passion with another, a holy passion. Pornography is not simply a problem of self-control. It's a heart problem that isn't solved by lock and key, by Internet filters. And, as the eyes are the gateway to the soul, so are they the gateway to all sorts of sin, entered into before we ever see it coming. If we are to be imitators of God as beloved children, then holiness ought to be high on our list of positive traits to nurture.


Neil said...

Great suggestions. "Every Man's Battle" was a book with good tips -- especially the parts about "bouncing" your eyes and corralling your mind. If you focus on those they can become habits, but it takes diligence.

P.S. I'm not sure why, but it takes me many tries to read and type in the moderation words.

Stan said...

Actually, Neil, it took one less try than you thought. I got two of these comments -- one with the P.S. and one without. Also, I understand. I dislike them myself. But when I remove it, I get a host of "robot" responses telling me how good my stuff is and "please link to my porn which I am disguising as something else that at least you will have to check". I apologize.

Taking every thought captive is a good goal. It's not easy.

Dan said...

This is funny. It reminds me of a story my pastor told. A young man went in to talk to an elder about his problem with pornography. The elder told him "well john, you're just going to have to stop doing that".

Stan said...

I have to admit that deep down in my inner recesses there is a part of me that really likes the approach in that video. "Stop it!" Need something more? Well, of course, but, really, it's a good starting place.