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big ben, london

Purity in a Porn Age

Letter from London

Steve Clifford

8 Comments

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  • Frank Mascarenhas

    As a Catholic I can truly say that Steve's 'four steps' are exactly Catholic teaching: particularly the last step, which for us Catholics is the Sacrament of Confession, or Reconciliation as it is named after VAT II. Even from a purely human point of view "a joy shared is a joy doubled: a burden shared is a burden halved." In fact through the priest "confessor" we share this "burden" directly with Jesus. And we take courage in the words of Jesus, "There will be greater joy in heaven at the conversion of one sinner than a hundred just men."

  • Chris kelsey

    This is a struggle that most Christian men and some Christian females face. A key verse hat has helped me is when Paul talks about taking thoughts captive. Get rid of these evil thoughts in the name of Jesus. It does help. But next day sometimes we seem to be back a step. The struggle continues.

  • Andrew

    This is very helpful. Thank you for speaking frankly but also in a way that keeps us facing the right direction.

  • Ed.Pell.Ph.D.

    Death.Starvation.should.have.priority--porn,is.a,meaningless.distraction Focus.on.achievement.of.kindness.cooperation.community.consideration.equity.of.food-- food.is.not.to.be.a.commodity--the.wealth.of.the.Sudan.oil.fields.goes.where--while.the.South.Sudanese.People.perish.from.starvation?

  • C. Schnittler

    Thanks for the post. Another nail hit on the head. A powerful, but simple prayer that packs a wallop for this particular kind of difficulty is, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." I've used in all kinds of difficulties and temptations and know countless other people who have been helped by this simple prayer and the formula you outlined. Thanks again.

  • daniel lightcap

    I feel that the comments left by Steve Clifford are to the point.America has so much sex that it has become an industry.London maybe bad but time spent in America would rock this gentleman's world.

  • Christopher Russell

    First class advice to anyone: a lot of it would make sense even for those who are not Christians.

  • Patrice Salone

    Thank you for discussing a very tough subject in a straight forward way, and offer some things to do be true to our higher light.

I love my city, London, and I am proud to live in it. I love its energy, its creativity, and its glorious multitude of cultures.

But there is much which distresses me about London: the extremes of wealth, the obsession with “stuff,” and the sexually saturated atmosphere. My journeys on the London Tube bring me face to face with ads featuring attractive women dressed with little left to the imagination, as well as offers to sort out any erectile dysfunction. My Metro, a free newspaper, offers me “personal services.” The phone app Tinder invites me to “hook up” with any available woman within a five-kilometer radius.

That’s just London, you might say. Yet even your teenager, safe in his or her bedroom “doing homework,” has London and worse just one click, swipe, or tap away. According to the Porn Scars initiative, one third of ten-year-olds have viewed pornography online, while the largest group of internet porn viewers consists of children age twelve to seventeen. Sex has become an industry in which people are translated into a commodity to be bought and sold, or, slightly more subtly, to be used to sell products.

Against this backdrop, how does the two-thousand-year-old teaching of Jesus apply now? He told his Jewish audience: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’” (Matt. 5:27–30). But he doesn’t leave it with a prohibition of an external act. He raises the bar: “But I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Right actions are not enough; what is going on in the head matters equally. Sexual sin starts in our minds when we treat someone made in God’s image as an object of gratification. Jesus will not allow such a dehumanizing process, in which real people – a stranger on the bus, a colleague at work, or a member of our church – are used to feed our sexual appetite. Whether it’s looking the wrong way or dwelling on inappropriate options, it falls into the head space called lust.

So what can we do? To some of us, Jesus’ teaching may seem impossible. Perhaps we can start by recognizing our profound need of God’s help. Then, relying on his abundance of grace, we can take a few practical steps:

Let’s ask God to help us to see people as individuals made in the image of God, refusing to allow them to become “things.”

Let’s avoid those particular situations which we know make us vulnerable.

Let’s regard that unwelcome thought, that doorway to lust, as an enemy rather than a friend. A quick prayer in Jesus’ name will often see it go.

Finally, let’s keep accountable. Have someone in your life whom you will tell about your own struggles, however embarrassing it might feel. Bringing these issues to the light breaks their power, because light and darkness cannot coexist.

The amazing truth that Scripture reveals to us is that God understands. Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet without sinning (Heb. 4:15–16). He doesn’t leave us on our own, but promises to be with us through his Holy Spirit. We can learn to lean into him and find strength to make the right decision.

However bad our past missteps or our present struggles and sins, forgiveness is available. We don’t have to live with our guilt. Jesus comes to us, forgiving us and equipping us for everything we face, no matter where we live. Even in London.

Steve Clifford is general director of the Evangelical Alliance, United Kingdom.

Big Ben, London
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