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September 17, 2012

As Christians we are adept at looking at the culture around us and seeing how it is violating God’s good standards when it comes to sexuality. Not too long ago, though, I was asked to reflect on the ways in which Christians may compromise God’s standards for sexuality—some of those hidden or sanctified sins in which we allow compromise in our lives, our marriages, our churches. I came up with five ways that Christians may compromise God’s standards for sexuality.

We compromise God’s standard for sexuality when we leave the gospel out of the marriage bed

Christians consistently have trouble extending the reach of the gospel from salvation all the way to sex. Yet the gospel isn’t just about that one-time commitment; it’s about how we live today and every day. It extends through every part of life.

The gospel says, Whatever my marriage is to be and whatever our sexual relationship is to be, it is to be a part of that portrait of Christ and the church. When I am considering sex in this way, I’m first asking, Would this look like an accurate portrait of Christ and the church? What reflects Christ giving up his life for his bride? What reflects the church joyfully submitting to Christ? This completely reorients us away from self, from self-love and self-service, and orients me toward my spouse. This portrait of marriage does not come to an end when we close the bedroom door.

When we compromise this standard we become bound by law instead of freed by the gospel; we have become self-focused instead of other-focused. Law is always focused toward self, gospel is always focused toward the other and, ultimately, toward God. If we allow ourselves to fall back into that age-old temptation of law, we will inevitably harm our relationship with the one we love most.

We compromise when we disobey the clear biblical command that in marriage we are to have sex, and that we are to have it frequently, willingly and joyfully

There is a difference between understanding the Bible and obeying the Bible. There is a difference between believing the gospel and living out the implications of the gospel. This is why so many of Paul’s letters fall into two parts; in the first part he talks theology and in the second part he talks application. There is a reason for this: he knows that good theology needs to be worked out in life and he knows that we can’t do this without the right gospel foundation.

There are many couples that fully believe what the Bible teaches about marriage, and they may even believe what the Bible teaches about sex within marriage, but they do not have sex together. One has refused for so long that the other has stopped even asking or trying. One has given up and let himself go and the other has lost interest. Together they have become disobedient and their compromise grieves the Lord. They claim to believe what’s true, but they refuse to practice it.

God places stipulations on the sexual relationship. You are allowed to stop having sex, but only for a limited time and only if that limited time will be devoted to prayer. That’s it! And yet every marriage goes through seasons of sexlessness and too many marriages just abandon the sexual relationship altogether. There is something in 1 Corinthians 7:3 that has always jumped out at me. Paul talks about “conjugal rights.” The Bible says very, very little about our rights. In most cases talk of rights is opposed to gospel. But in the marriage relationship we are told that a husband and wife have the right to one another, the right to one another’s bodies. Sex is not a suggestion, it is not just a good idea or a nice gift to give. Sex is a right because in God’s economy of marriage, it is a necessity.

What happens when we compromise God’s standards here? Well right from 1 Corinthians 7 we see that we allow the possibility of sexual sin in our spouse. A husband who denies his wife is not protecting her from sexual sin. A wife who denies her husband is not protecting him from sexual sin. Abstaining from sex is selfish and unloving and compromising. Yes, it will be your spouses’ fault if he or she falls into sexual sin because you have stopped having sex; but you will bear part of the responsibility. Have you ever considered that Satan’s great plan for you is that you would have as much sex outside of marriage as possible and as little sex within marriage as possible? God’s plan, of course, is just opposite to that—to have no sex outside of marriage and a whole lot of it within marriage.

There is another consequence: we are blatantly disobeying a clear command of the Lord and a command that flows from what is true of the gospel. The sexual relationship is not a little isolated pocket of Christian obedience, but something that flows right out of the gospel. Too many of us isolate sexuality from everything else in life.

And finally, when you compromise in this area you are denying your marriage a great means of grace. It can be helpful to look at sex as something like a marriage sacrament, something deeply symbolic that is far more than the sum of its parts. It’s far deeper than the physical, far more than just the act. We trust that in this act God extends grace to our marriage. We obey him and are right to expect his blessing. The marriage that forgets sex is like the church that forgets Lord’s Supper—it is weakening itself and denying itself one of the strange and unexpected ways that the Lord blesses it.

March 16, 2011

Harry SchaumburgThis week’s episode of The Connected Kingdom finds us in coversation with Harry Schaumburg, a man who has dedicated his life and ministry to helping people recover from sex addiction and addiction to pornography. In this conversation we seek to ask him very practical questions about issues that are on many people’s minds.

Here is a breakdown (including time stamps) of some of the topics we cover and the questions we ask:

2:55 - How widespread is this problem?

4:30 - What’s the real issue here? What’s the heart issue?

8:48 - Should every wife suspect her husband and be suspicious that he is looking at pornography?

13:12 - How important is open communication about the sexual relationship within marriage?

15:41 - How can we protect our children?

24:30 - Here we quickly go through a list of very practical questions and answers.

  • What does a wife do if she discovers that her husband is looking at pornography?
  • What does a husband need to know about how pornography may affect his wife and family?
  • Does pornography tend to escalate over time?
  • When and how do you know you’re cured?
  • Can you offer a quick critique of Every Man’s Battle?
  • When does a person need to seek out help from his local church and when should he seek out help from a professional counselor?

Harry is the author of Undefiled and False Intimacy. You can learn about his counseling ministry at StoneGateResources.org.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

January 12, 2011

A short time ago, while posting a poem titled “I Looked for Love in Your Eyes,” I lamented that while there are many, many books written to help men overcome an addiction to pornography, there is very little written to help the women who have been victims of a husband’s addiction. Shortly after I received an email from Vicki Tiede who has written just such a title. Her book, titled Mosaic Heart: Spiritual Healing in the Midst of a Husband’s Addiction to Pornography (Update: The book has been released as When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography) will be published by New Growth Press, probably about a year from now.

HeartI asked Vicki if, in the meanwhile, she’d be willing to do an interview to offer some words of help to women who are struggling with the effects of their husband’s sin. She was kind enough to do so. Here is what I asked her:

What is the scope of this problem? How many women are struggling with the effects of a husband’s addiction to pornography?

For nearly every man who regularly views pornography, there is likely a wife or girlfriend experiencing the fallout resulting from his choices. According to TopTenReviews.com, 28.8 million U.S. men regularly visit pornography websites. 50-60% of Christian men struggle with addiction.

From a wife’s perspective, is there a difference between an addict and a more casual user? Should there be?

This is a great question. First let me give you a technical response and then I’ll give you a heart response. The term “addiction” implies that there is a progression, tolerance, and an inability to stop the behavior even when there is a desire to stop. A single act of viewing pornography would not be an addiction. However, a “casual user,” indicates more than a single act and I would suggest that a “casual user” is already on the slippery slope of addiction. Pornography has a snowball effect; what may begin as seemingly “innocent,” occasional visits to a porn site often slowly increases to greater frequency of visits and for larger amounts of time.

Sadly, this increased exposure to porn results in desensitization and tolerance, so when free internet pornography no longer satisfies their supposed needs, some men expand their repertoire to include subscription pornography, massage parlors, strip clubs, prostitutes, hotel rooms, and travel expenses for clandestine affairs. So to answer your initial question - Is there a difference between a one-time exploration and an addiction? Yes. Is there a difference between an addict and a more casual user? No, there is not enough difference to suggest that we can dismiss casual use as harmless.

Now, here’s the heart response of a wife … I would ask the question, “Is the betrayal any less heartbreaking if a husband only has an extra-marital sexual affair ‘once in a while,’ and he insists he can ‘stop having affairs anytime he chooses to do so,’ than if he seeks sexual fulfillment from someone other than his wife several times a week and can’t stop himself?” It seems ridiculous to even answer such a question, doesn’t it? Whether a man claims to be a casual user of porn or is addicted, his wife still experiences the same feelings of rejection and loss.

To be honest, in my book I tell women that they should thank God if their husband is struggling with his addiction to pornography. That struggle is an indication that the Holy Spirit is at work. It’s when a husband feels no conviction for his sexual sin that hope seems harder to hold onto.

What is the struggle of women whose husbands are battling (or perhaps given over to) pornography? What do men need to know about the way a husband’s use of pornography tends to affect his wife?

December 18, 2010

A few days ago I received an email from a reader of this site, a woman who was responding to some of the articles I’ve written on the subject of pornography. She shared a poem, a bit of free verse she had written in the midst of her husband’s addiction. I wish I could say it was the only email I’ve received from such a woman. Sadly it’s not; not by a long shot. That same day I received another email from another woman looking for resources for dealing with the wife’s response to a husband’s sin (rather a gap in the available literature right now, I think).

Anyway, I thought I would share this poem. It’s a little bit graphic, but only so far as it needs to be. I think it’s particularly heartbreaking in drawing out the clear connection between pornography and violence. And it’s just a realistic look at how so many men are damaging and destroying their wives and families. It’s reality.

So here it is, “I Looked For Love in Your Eyes.”

I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.

I’m a prop in a filthy play.

Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?