Fourteenth Chapter – Faith

07/30/2008

I promised at the outset that despite the Christian origins of my ‘take’ on this subject, I wouldn’t preach at you. However, I find I can’t wrap up this topic without integrating some of that about which I am most passionate – my personal faith and how it affects this issue. If you want to hold me to my promise, feel free to skip this chapter. I also didn’t want to write a book that could see wider distribution – not through the publishing industry, but through people passing on copies – that contained scripture references with things like “I Cor.” and “Rom.” leaving some readers unclear what an I Cor or a Rom is. (They’re abbreviations for Bible references.)

 

I also recognize there will be some who think, “If he’s so spiritual he wouldn’t have gotten seduced by this stuff online in the first place.” You know what? I’ll give you that point. It would be nice to think that both veteran, seasoned Jesus-followers along with those who’ve had a more fresh, recent experience of what we call “crossing the line of faith” would never be tempted in any area. But it happens, and in this case I was able to not only get out quickly and cut my losses, but also redeem the experience by using my perspective to create a book presenting a take on parts of the issue which heretofore hasn’t existed in the world of Christian publishing. I hope it has been helpful to you.

 

First, let’s discuss this for those who are in what is considered “a Christian home.”

 

What about those three issues we talked about at the outset? The propensity for lust is huge in our world. Every magazine, every television show, every subway advertisement; all of these are pushing the envelope on permissiveness. I can’t help but see. But I can choose to quickly look away. As a Christ follower, I vowed in a ceremony that took place in a church, attended by two (!) ministers, in front of both friends and relatives that I would be faithful to my wife. I believe that God’s intention is that a husband and wife should find their fulfillment in each other. All their fulfillment. When I’m with her, I can pretend we’re on a Caribbean island, but I can’t imagine that I’m with someone else.

 

The issue of self control is something addressed several different ways in Christian teaching, in fact it’s one of nine special qualities singled out in the Apostle Paul’s letter – in the second part of the Bible – to a church in Galatia that he calls the fruit (or result) of God working in our lives. A newer translation of the Bible, something called the TNIV, renders a verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (10:5) this way, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The NLT (New Living Translation) treats the whole verse like this, “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” In both of these translations, Paul personifies our thoughts, as though they have a mind of their own. Which they do. In another place the Bible talks about our minds as a kind of gate; choosing what gets in and what is tossed aside. That sort of suggests in context of this topic, that we are to be our own internet filter.

The third issue mentioned in the introduction, the stewardship of our time, is also something that Christ followers are challenged to be aware of. In another one of Paul’s letters, this one to the church at Ephesus, he challenges us, “Look carefully then how you walk… making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” That’s how the English Standard Version tells it (5:15-16) but check out how The Message (a modern version) deals with this: “It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” (verses 12-16).

But maybe there’s something more basic we could look at here. Have you ever been to a wedding ceremony and heard the minister say something like, “What God has joined together let no man tear asunder”? Most of us, if asked what that means would say, ‘It means that these people are now husband and wife and don’t do anything that would tear them apart.’

Good answer. Recently I heard someone – sorry, I really don’t remember – share something different: Science has come to learn what’s going on at the atomic and nuclear levels. The drawing of electrons spinning around a nucleus is familiar to us. But we’ve also seen the destruction that can take place when you “tear asunder” or “split” the atom. Hiroshima. Scripture says “by Him all things hold together;” and I’ve heard several preachers suggest that God is Lord over atomic structure at the micro level, in addition to planets and stars at the macro level. The next step is to consider that among God’s creation – along with electrons and planets – is the family. The family structure is part of God’s master plan. In the last few decades, the rise of divorce, the acceptance of alternative sexualities, the redefining of marriage; all these have ‘split the atom’ so to speak.

Now re-read the phrase: What God has joined together – the family unit itself – let no one tear apart.

One of the inevitable consequences of pornographic exposure – the one we stated in the first chapter – is changed relationships. Many times the ‘acting out’ of this leads to affairs (or transfers of affection, or inappropriate conduct) which lead to divorce. That leads to kids growing up with single parents, or in blended families so complex that drawing a family tree becomes utterly impossible.

Without wanting to sound like Dr. Dobson – not that there’s anything wrong with it – the fact remains that the family unit, or what I would prefer to call ‘the family principle’ is under attack. When you recognize how high the stakes are, when you truly appreciate the consequences, it makes you want to take ‘the western approach’ and ‘head ‘em off at the pass.’ You want to stop this thing in its tracks.

Obviously – well, it should be obvious by now – I believe in theocentric families; God-centered families. I don’t believe necessarily in theocratic government (in this life) but I do believe that if we have families where God is at the center, then we will be able to protect ourselves from the horrors that are affecting others.

One of the unique challenges here is that in North America, men aren’t going to church or taking a strong spiritual stand in their family’s life. Part of that is the church’s fault itself; David Murrow did a good job covering this in Why Men Hate Going To Church. Many other titles have been written on the challenge facing wives who are married to an ‘unsaved’ husband. (I think that increasingly, some of the men are ‘saved’ but have simply dropped out of church out of boredom, or in favor of working the weekend rotating plant shift or coaching soccer or baseball.) Putting the notion of ‘family’ back together involves families returning to the concept of worshipping together and of placing a high regard for scripture in their home.

But as I write this, I realize there are also readers who go to church every Sunday, yet someone in the family has a secret online habit. At that point, suggesting that a Christ-centered family life would make a difference is absurd; the family (as a whole, even though only one person is responsible) is effectively living a lie, and Jesus taught that ultimately, no one can serve two masters.

At this point, I want to just say, ‘Well…ya gotta keep praying;’ but I recognize how trite that may sound. I would suggest finding ways to enlist the prayers of others. That’s tricky where sharing the request essentially reveals the secret. You can’t do that overtly, unless you have a prayer partner or pastor you truly trust. (You could actually ask for prayer online through a web ministry that takes requests; which means creating an irony where the ‘cause’ becomes part of the ‘cure.’)

You can confront the issue and offer to pray together, or just suggest that as a couple you should pray more together generally. When two people are ‘moving towards the cross’ they can’t help but be moving closer to each other.

What are you really praying for? Many of our prayers are not specific enough. I think – and this is just my opinion – that asking God to fill someone (their attitudes, their thoughts, their actions) in a new and fresh way may be a better prayer than asking Him to simply remove the offending behavior. Somewhere in The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says something to the effect that we never really look at sin rightly, unless we see it as being against God. You can make a resolution that you don’t keep, and feel that you let yourself down, but we need to see these things at hurtful not only to ourselves but to God. Then we need to let His love – and an awareness of His love – motivate us toward the place where we don’t want to let Him down or fall short of His standards.

If you’re dealing with a son or a younger brother, this isn’t easy. Often the spiritual maturity that causes us to long for personal holiness is something that comes with more general maturity; something that takes time. But it needn’t always be a factor of age. The first disciples are described as “unschooled” and “ordinary;” but the verse that provides this description goes on to note that despite this, they had “spent time with Jesus.”

Perhaps this discussion so far doesn’t match your situation because you simply aren’t in what would be called “a Christian home.”

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re not sure – or you are sure – if you’ve ever actually crossed the line of faith yourself. You may need to lead the way in this by starting on a path towards a greater knowledge of, and a closer intimacy with Jesus Christ, being careful not to exhibit a newfound ‘righteousness’ that would only drive a greater wedge between your spirituality and your spouse’s online interest.

One of the recent buzzprhases used in the Evangelical church is, “intentional spiritual formation.” I don’t want to go overboard trying to explain that phrase except to underline that spiritual next steps have to be fully intentional. It has to be at the top of your “to do” list.

Get yourself one of the easier to understand translations of the Bible. If possible – unless someone you know really knows their Bible translations – don’t buy this online, but get a trained person at a Christian bookstore to guide you through the process. Head to the New Testament and start reading who Jesus is and what He said and what He did. (You might like to start with the story as outlined in Matthew or Luke .) I promise you that if you look at His life with an open mind, you can’t help but be changed.

Then, try to connect with some other people who are Christ-followers. It may be in a church setting, or it may be a bunch of Christian professionals who meet early in a donut shop once a week, or in someone’s kitchen twice a month.

Third, at some point in this process, be open to taking that invisible, indescribable, and individual step of faith where you simply speak out (either aloud or in your heart) and ask God to meet you at the place where you are, with the hurts that you have, and the hopes that you dream, trusting that when you read all that Jesus did and said, that Jesus was the God He claimed to be, and that through his death and resurrection, you have the right to ask God to help you and be the center of your life. (Wow! That was a long sentence… take a minute to read it again.)

Seeing a change in the life of someone else – a wife, a girlfriend, a mother, a daughter, or a sister –has the potential to have a large effect on that husband, boyfriend, son, father or brother.

Someone has said that being a Christ-follower consists of “coming under the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ and being joined to a company of imperfect people who are trying to live a new life in a new way.” I can’t promise that your step of faith is going work like magic to instantly heal every addiction related problem in your family, but I can promise you that you are better served working with God than without Him.

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