Skin Deep? Sexual Immorality

Pornography is a poisonous cancer, designed to be addictive, it seeps into minds and emotions. Pornography is a killer, it gives a false, idolatrous view of sex, including often violent relationships that kills passion and intimacy within marriage. Pornography says that infidelity is okay.

So, what should you do if addicted to porn? Following Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:27-30, the best answer seems to be to cut off the link, get off of the internet, or at least set up some form of accountability software.

Yet, if we are paying attention to what Jesus is saying in the sermon on the mount, we will realise that even such measures are not enough. You can cut yourself off from the internet, avoud the newsagent and its top shelf magazines. You could even head off into the hills and live the life of a monk or hermit well away from the tempting vision of women to lust after. But your imagination will still be there.

Jesus’ words are strong. They remind us how tightly sinful habits can grip onto us.  They warn us that there is more than one way to destroy a relationship and be unfaithful. They will also sound impossible to many of us. Indeed, that seems to be the point of the extremely graphic imagery of chopping off hands and gouging out eyes.

Yet, the point is this. Jesus is not just commanding but inviting. He is offering new life. He is saying to his disciples that there is forgiveness for sin, justification (the status of righteousness) and the promise of the Holy Spirit so that we can grow in holiness.

How do we start to put to death this particular sinful desire?  Well, here is a starting suggestion.  Jesus talks about removing eyes and hands. As I said, this partly highlights the difficulty of dealing with the issue.  However, it does something more.

Note that the way of bringing justice that was prescribed in the Old Testament was “an eye for an eye.”  Well, that was usually a way of ensuring that victims could carry out limited vengeance against the perpetrator. Later, Jesus will replace this form of vengeance based restitution with forgiveness and going the extra mile.

But here we see the rule functioning differently. Instead of taking out the “eye for an eye” punishment on my enemy, I recognise that I deserve it.  There are two aspects to this.  First of all, it reminds me that my sexual immorality, even within the imagination is not victimless. It demeans women, it poisons my own relationships. So, I offer myself to justice. Secondly, because of the damage it does to me, I think there is a sense in which Jesus’ words here remind me that this sin is self -destructive and so in a way I become the victim of my own sin.

The later words ending the eye for an eye rule point to Jesus’ words about gouging out your eye being metaphorical rather than literal but hopefully we get the point.  Lust, porn, adultery are presented to us as safe, pleasurably, unharmful, innocent but they are not. Putting sin to death starts with recognising how harmful and ugly it is.

Is the momentary sensory pleasure worth the damage and dishonour it causes to others? Is it worth the shame and pain of gouging an eye out or severing a hand?  I thought not.

Stopping and reminding ourselves of this might just help as we seek to resist temptation.

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