Jesus’ standard for sexual purity is frighteningly lofty. In the famous Sermon on the Mount he says, ‘everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Mt. 5:28). To even look with intent is to commit adultery; a brief glance and the heart is tainted! Whenever we consider Jesus’ standard for sexual purity in light of modern society and the prevalence and availability of pornography (whether moving images on the internet or saucy words in a book) we should be troubled. Not only is there ease of access to pornography for those who seek it out, but even those who attempt to avoid it can stumble across it unintentionally.
Therefore, it is highly important that, rather than react to this (apparent) eventuality, we are pro-active. Instead of dealing with the consequences of watching pornography, we prepare for when or if it is stumbled upon unintentionally. The obvious hope in this is to dissuade the intentional seeking out of pornography.
We will note seven tips for talking about pornography. These tips could be used in discussion groups, youth ministries, families, church settings, or men’s and women’s ministries. Just adapt them to your setting.
This should be a given, but since it should go without saying it probably needs repeating! Everything that we endeavour to do as Christians should be done with much prayerful preparation. Before we seek to talk about pornography we must pray.
We need to pray for wisdom, help, guidance, clarity and boldness (among many other things) when planning to discuss it. More than just praying about talking about pornography with others, we should be praying for ourselves and others consistently. Protection from the world of pornography should be one of our prayer requests for ourselves and those we talk to. Prayer to an almighty God promises much help, strength and hope. It should be something which pervades a Christian’s life, and for important issues like talking about pornography prayer should be the base from which to work.
2. Make it an early conversation
Sadly too many people have waited until it is too late when talking about pornography.
If we don’t teach each other about sex and pornography (from a biblical point of view), somebody else will (and most likely not from a biblical point of view). Whether it is school, friends, TV, internet, other family members, or someone else, we will eventually be educated about sex and pornography. The hope should be not to deal with the aftermath of this, but to prepare for when it happens.
For that reason it is important to ensure that we make discussion about pornography an early conversation. This will develop as those we talk to/with grow and develop, but even from the youngest days we can be educating children and young people with age appropriate language about sex and pornography. Some would argue that from as young as 3 or 4 you can talk to your children about sex (Deepak Reju, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, 2014). As children and young people mature then the language used and the topics addressed develops.
We must teach each other about sex and pornography from a biblical point of view before someone else does – especially if that someone else will be teaching a contrary opinion to Scripture.
3. Make it an ongoing conversation
It must be appreciated that talking about pornography cannot be a one-time thing. It needs to be repeated, again and again. We need to talk regularly about this issue. As people grow and mature, not only does what they’re exposed to change, but also how they feel and what happens to their own bodies changes. Therefore, we need to address this topic more than once.
Also, if we are to act on the above tip and speak to children and young people early we cannot expect to give enough information to last them until they are 18; nor should we expect them to remember all that we tell them at such a young age. It is important to speak to them more than once to remind them of what you have told them and to build more information into what you tell them as they grow, develop and mature.
Talking about pornography repeatedly also allows us to gauge understanding and acceptance of what is being taught, as well as providing repeated opportunities to ask questions or seek clarification on issues.
4. Pick your moments
This needs to be done on a larger scale as we have mentioned above. Parents must strategically choose the ages at which they will speak to their children about sex and pornography and what topics they will address at which age. The church must also strategically choose the points in time that they will address the issue too.
It also needs to be done on a smaller scale. It is perhaps not the wisest idea to tackle the issue of pornography with someone 30 seconds after finding them watching it online. There will be too many emotions, too close to the surface, in both parties for the conversation to actually be beneficial. It is not a good idea to tackle this subject publicly either – the dinner table with the rest of the family is not a sensible place to talk about it in a specified way (although talking about sex generally is perhaps permissible in this setting, more on this below).
We must not just wait for the right moment to arrive either. This will not happen; the ‘right’ moment will never present itself. It is necessary for us to be proactive in deciding that at certain times and places the topic will be discussed. Of course make use of natural opportunities to address the subject – but initially (and often) it will probably require an organised setting with the specific purpose of dealing with the issue of pornography.
5. Explain rules
Assuming that you are adopting biblical principles, discouraging the viewing of pornography and setting measures in place to protect one another, it is important to explain the rules. It is not appropriate to simply say that TV cannot be viewed after 10pm and that all online activity will be monitored. While you know that these measures have been put in place for the greater good and benefit – it may not seem all that obvious to others!
Therefore, it is vitally important that we take the time to explain what the rules/regulations/measures are that we have put in place, and then proceed to explain WHY they have been put in place. We must make it abundantly clear that we are doing these things for the good, and make it clear so that obedience is offered in good will. To force someone into obedience will not bring about a change of heart. It will only change their actions, and only for a time. To ensure that someone understands why we do things allows us the opportunity to win their heart.
6. Explain consequences
It has been widely reportedly, albeit often anecdotally, that pornography viewing is a common characteristic of those found guilty of physical and sexual harm caused to others. It is also a common characteristic of paedophiles.
We need to be honest with our children – there are consequences to watching pornography. Indeed, if we take Jesus’ teaching mentioned above, to watch pornography is to commit adultery if married; and fornication if not married. It is sin and sin carries consequences of God’s punishment and justice. However, there are also other consequences such as: lower view of women, unnatural expectations from sex, dulling of the ability for arousal, propensity toward violence (especially against women), and a more promiscuous and avant-garde attitude toward sex in general.
We must be warned of the dangers we put ourselves in by indulging in this kind of material.
7. Hold up sex in marriage as good
One common mistake that Christians often fall into on this front is to say sex is bad and should be left alone for a long time. The problem is that this is not necessarily biblical advice. The Bible actually paints a picture of sex which is beautiful, fulfilling, enjoyable and very good (see Song of Solomon). We must not be afraid to tell our children that sex is actually a very good thing, and something to be looked forward to. However, this must be explained.
The Bible is clear that sex is only beautiful and good in the context of a marriage relationship. In a committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationship sex is a good gift from God and we should not be frightened to teach that. We must give ourselves a biblical picture of sex which will far outweigh whatever can find on the internet.
It must be admitted that none of this is essay. Whether it is talking to a peer, answering the questions of a young teenager or raising the topic with your child, conversations about sex and pornography are inherently awkward. However, for the sake of our purity and the purity of others we must endure this awkwardness, pressing through it to a mutually beneficial line of communication on the issue. It is also necessary to note that much grace and compassion should be shown to those ensnared by the trap of pornography. As with all sin, this too causes great shame, regret and embarrassment. So let us strive to be firm but gentle when helping those entangled by pornography.
But, the aim in talking about pornography is to get in front of the game. We don’t want to be left chasing our tail, responding to wrong attitudes and practises toward pornography. Rather, we want to be proactive and tackling the topic before it becomes an issue – therefore preparing ourselves to face the challenge of pornography to our sexual purity.