Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

Lindsey writes to ask, “As I have considered men who desire to marry me, pornography and lust continue to resurface as strongholds in the lives of my suitors. I’m seeking to view men with eyes of grace and to use wisdom at the same time. I understand that every sin, including lust, is a turning away from delight in Jesus to a broken cistern.

“In light of this, do you believe it is it possible for a man to be strong in faith, finding genuine joy in Jesus and enjoying an overall satisfying relationship with him, while simultaneously indulging frequently in lust? I believe that every sin can be defeated through the power of the Holy Spirit, but I do not want to be naïve either, since I know this issue is wide and pervasive. I suppose another way to word my question would be this: Pastor John, should the presence of pornography in a man’s life be a marriage deal-breaker for a single woman like me?”

Four Questions

Well, I hear at least two questions there, and I can’t answer the last one — “Is it a deal breaker?” — until I answer a couple of others. When I think about this, here are the four questions I am going to have to tackle. One is the very question she asked.

  1. Can a man get victory over this? And shouldn’t a man be able to live a life of more or less regular triumph instead of returning over and over again to pornography?
  2. If he can’t, is it a deal-breaker for her marrying him?
  3. What is pornography? She didn’t ask. I have to ask it.
  4. Even more importantly, why is it wrong?

So let me tackle those real quick.

What Is Pornography?

Here’s my definition. I am going to omit homosexual issues. I am going to omit sex in movies. Those are huge issues, but more or less, what men are usually dealing with today in involvement with pornography is looking at or fantasizing sexually about nude women other than your wife. That is what I am talking about: looking at or fantasizing about nude women. The woman might be doing all kinds of stuff, or just standing there. But the point is, it involves women other than your wife. That is my definition.

Four Reasons Porn Is Wrong

Now here is why I think it is wrong. I have to say this because until the guy feels these things that I am going to say right now about why it is wrong, it won’t make any sense to him why she would say, “I can’t marry you.” These are so big I am going to wind up saying, “Woman, you are so right. Don’t lower your standards.”

1. Porn Is Unloving

Here is why I think it is wrong. Number one, porn is unloving. It is unloving to the women involved because it endorses their behaviors and their desires, which are going to destroy them if they don’t repent.

“A porn-saturated soul won’t be able to delight in the glorious pleasures that God offers us in his word and in his world.”

It is unloving to their future husbands, and when they are confirming in these women a lifestyle of nudity, it is going to be destructive to the future relationships those women are going to try to have some day.

It is unloving to the parents of those women. Put yourself in the position of the dad or the mom. That is your daughter. How do you feel about that? And here is this Christian guy who is endorsing, approving, helping that happen and confirming that, as if he doesn’t give a rip about those parents and their broken hearts.

Their hearts are broken because of this girl’s behavior, and this guy doesn’t give a rip about whether their hearts are broken. He is enjoying her breaking their hearts. So that is number one. It is unloving.

2. Porn Is Adultery

The second thing is that porn is adulterous. In other words, it cultivates and pursues mental and physical pleasures that are made by God to flourish in marriage. But they are pursued through women other than our wives. So Jesus has very strong words to say about that (Matthew 5:27–30).

3. Porn Destroys Love

Here is the third thing. Porn is destructive to a man’s capacities to love a woman purely for herself. He is training himself and his body when he engages in pornography to need increasingly different, strange, erotic situations and bodies. He is making it, therefore, harder to be content with the real body of this woman that is going to be offered to him as his wife.

“If Jesus is our treasure, then we won’t be continually hating women with our choices to demean them and confirm their destruction.”

Her body, even when it is at its best, is not going to be the airbrushed body of the women on these pornographic sites. When she is 50, it isn’t going to be that either. If he hasn’t cultivated a kind of pure love for his wife, for herself as she is, then his eyes are going to be cruising continually beyond what she has to offer him at 40 and 50 and 60.

A woman needs to be able to trust a man. She needs to be able to believe he is okay when she says, “I am what you have. I am what you need. You don’t have to have eyes for another woman.” A woman feels profoundly compromised when a man says to her, “No, I really need more than you can offer me.” That is tragic for a man to say that to a woman. So porn is destructive to his capacity to love her for who she is.

4. Porn Ravages Souls

Here is the fourth and the last thing I will say about why it is so wrong for a man to do this. Porn is destructive to a man’s soul. His capacity to see God, and the purity and the greatness of his glory, is shriveled. It is compromised.

The soul tends to shrink to the size and the quality of its pleasures. A man may say to his soul, “Adapt yourself now to this low, brief, unclean, selfish pleasure. Adapt yourself to this, soul. Get yourself around this, soul. Form yourself around this, soul.” And if he does, it will become that small.

When a soul shrinks like that, it won’t be able to make much of God, won’t be able to see God, won’t be able to delight in God anywhere near like God should be delighted in, in the glorious pleasures that he offers us in his word and in his world.

So those are my reasons I would say to this woman and to all the men who may be listening as to why it is so wrong for him to pursue pornography.

Don’t Lower Your Standards

Now back to her question. She wanted to know, “Isn’t it possible for a man to be strong enough in faith and to have enough joy in Jesus and to have an overall satisfying relationship to him that he can conquer this? Isn’t his indulging frequently in lust an undermining?” And my answer is that she’s right. An overall satisfying relationship with Jesus means that Jesus is precious enough that we value him above those four reasons.

Those four reasons that I gave for why porn is wrong become compelling if Jesus is our treasure. If Jesus is not just a doctrine, but is Lord and friend and Savior and supreme treasure of our lives, the way he should be, then we won’t be continually hating women with our choices to demean them and confirm their destruction. We won’t be continually committing adultery in our hearts with those women. We won’t be continually defiling our capacity to love our present or future wives. We won’t be continually shrinking our soul’s ability to savor the glories of God. We won’t, because Jesus is so utterly different than that.

“Porn is destructive to a man’s capacities to love a woman purely for herself.”

A man who continually says, “I embrace all that destruction, I embrace all that evil, I embrace all that uncleanness, I embrace all that idolatry and that hatred for women” is saying something that a woman who is about to marry him better hear loud and clear.

To her last question — “Should it be a deal-breaker if this man can’t get victory over this, if he is regularly tuning in?” — I would say, “Yeah, that is a deal-breaker.” Now I am not a woman, and so I can’t make this call myself. I would just say to her, “You strike me as a woman of remarkable grace, not legalism. You strike me as a woman who is striving for biblical standards, not artificial and unrealistic and perfectionistic standards. I hear grace in your question. I don’t hear brittleness.” And I would say, “Don’t lower the bar.”

I think we have lowered the bar too much. We have treated men like dogs in heat rather than men who are created in the image of God and who have the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, and self-control. That last one, self-control, is usually used in relation to sexuality. Men are not victims, and these women have a right to expect more from us.

I would say to her and to the other women, “Don’t lower your standards. God is in the process, I believe, right now, of purifying a man’s soul and a man’s body for you.”


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