Over the past five years (or more) now, I’ve been reading and writing a lot on the topic of biblical manhood, pornography, and purity. During the course of that time, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Often times the conversation is about how men can overcome an addiction to pornography. Resources are needed to help men and women overcome pornography and you won’t ever hear me say otherwise. The main problem is that the impression I get from these resources, and the message they send, is in emphasis. The emphasis is clearly on overcoming an addiction to pornography. What happens after one has overcome an addiction to pornography? Are they to be in the local church? How can they continue to grow and continue to fight sin? What kind of man or woman are they to become? While I often ask myself the other questions it is, in particular, the last question, “What kind of man or woman are they to become?” that I am most concerned about when it comes to the purity movement as a whole.
That last statement needs a little clarification and qualification. There are great ministries out there doing excellent work in the area of biblical manhood and womanhood. You won’t hear me say otherwise. These ministries are emphasizing that men and women are equal in dignity and worth, but distinct in role and function. They understand well what the Bible teaches. My concern though is that there is so little written from the specific angle of fighting pornography and the goal of becoming a biblical man in the case of men and in the case of women, a biblical woman that the impression can become—great, I’m struggling with pornography, but wonder in the back of their minds, “What kind of person should I be becoming?”
In this article, I want to lay out what kind of person I believe men and women should become. Biblical manhood and womanhood is first about God. God is the One who created man in His image and likeness. He then took from man’s rib and made Eve to be a helper to man. Man is to lead in the home and in the church. Women are to have a significant ministry to other women, specifically older women instructing younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Women can also serve as deaconesses, writers, counselors (to other women), and a great help and support to their husbands as they preach and teach (if their husband is a pastor or an elder).
The proper way to view these roles especially in relation to women is through the prism of servanthood. Every single Christian is a servant of God’s grace. Every single Christian has God-given gifts, abilities, and talents. God is not saying, “I gave you this gift, now you can’t use it…” rather He is saying, “I gave you this specific gift to function this specific way, as I’ve designed within my Church, just as I created you.” The question is not whether women can serve but rather why shouldn’t they, since every Christian is to serve. Yet, many men and many women are failing to adhere to the vision that God has ordained for their respective gender. We see this especially today in the current discussion on homosexuality and transgenderism.
We’ve just seen recently in the news that President Obama has decreed that all public schools must allow those who believe they are transgender can go into whatever bathroom they want. This means that a teenage boy, if he thinks he is transgender, can go in and take a shower in the women’s bathroom—with teenage girls present! And vice versa with teenage girls. The level of confusion on sexuality is not improving at all, and this is only the start.
Pornography and the Objectivity of the Opposite Sex
Pornography trains the mind to view the opposite sex as an object of pleasure. Instead of sexual pleasure being enjoyed within the confines of covenant marriage, between one man and one woman, those addicted to pornography lust after the opposite sex outside of God’s established boundaries. Biblical sexuality is concerned that men function as men and women function as women, as God has decreed in His Word.
Instead, our culture trains men to be superheroes. They view women as a conquest to conquer over and then move on to the next woman. “Say,” our culture says, “if you don’t like your wife, there’s this thing called no-fault divorce. Sure you can get a divorce. It might hurt your pocketbook, but you can do that. There’s no consequence for divorce.” We live in a culture of mass confusion when it comes not only to marriage, but also to biblical sexuality in general.
Biblical Gender Roles and Pursuing Purity
Biblical gender roles are applicable to the discussion on pornography and purity because they help us make sense of how God views each specific gender. As men, we are to be the pastor-theologians in our homes. Men are commanded to love our wives (Ephesians 5:33). As Christians, we are to hate our sin and turn from it to Jesus. This goes for whether you are a man or a woman and profess faith in the Lord Jesus.
Part of your God-given identity is to take hold of the newness of your new life in Christ. This new life entails the idea that while you are a sinner by nature and by choice, Christ has transferred you from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13). You are wholly His, and He is yours. You have union with Christ for the purpose of communion with Christ.
By understanding biblical gender roles, we come to understand the aim of our fight against pornography. We are not just men and women struggling against a particular sin. Instead men and women are created in the image of God. Through Christ, we are new creations in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is making all things new in our lives. As we turn from our sin to Jesus, the nature of God in us that was marred by the Fall is being restored increasingly through the present ministry of the Holy Spirit. As He puts a spotlight on our sin and convicts us of sin, He also points us to the finished work of Jesus, and then empowers us to go out on mission to make disciples, for His glory.
Many men and women today are failing at their God-given assignment. Instead of being biblical men, many men even in the Church (I was one of them when I was addicted to pornography) are apathetic to their God-given responsibilities. I’m convinced, in my ministry to men, that pride and apathy are killing us. Men need role models like what Paul outlines in his pastoral epistles, men who take seriously their own walk in godliness and come alongside other men as Paul instructed us to do (Titus 2:6-8).
Likewise, many women now are struggling with pornography. Whether it’s with illicit images, videos, or romance books that take women into a fantasy world where they can depart for a few hours or minutes, women are struggling with this issue. God created woman to be a helper to her husband. Both men and women have abdicated their responsibilities outlined in the Scriptures. So what do we do?
Six Ways Local Church and Proclaim Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
First, local churches should commit to preaching series somewhat regularly on biblical manhood and womanhood issues. Local churches should have specific groups for guys and one for ladies. Both groups need small groups where they can study the Word and share together with each other, with a view to caring for and pray with one another. Such groups should be led by men, but where women participate and contribute to the discussion.
Second, men’s and women’s ministries should be designed to help men become biblical men and women to become biblical people. Men need specific instruction on how to become men of God in private, in the home, in the church, and in society. Women need to understand how to respect their husband, how to deal with the stress of motherhood (if they have children) while ministering to others (if they work outside the home), and if they don’t work outside the home how to care for their husband, children (if they have them), and how to be a good church member. This is not an exhaustive list of the responsibilities of men or women. There is much ground for men’s and women’s ministries to cover, but it is all covered in the Word of God. So my encouragement if you are in a men’s ministry is this: guys, teach the Word to the men and proclaim the Gospel. Women, if you are in a women’s ministry let me encourage you: ladies, teach the Word and proclaim the Gospel to the each other!
Third, men and women should not be shamed when they come out of sexual sin. Instead, the local church should come alongside them and minister to them. People who struggle with sexual sin often feel a debilitating sense of guilt and shame. When someone opens up about their struggle with porn, they need first a big hug, prayer, and a whole heap of God’s grace. They need lots of room for people to listen and to care for them. They also need help.
If someone comes to you and admits to struggling with sexual sin, listen to them, pray for them, love them with the love of Jesus, and speak the truth in love. Help them find the help they need and be an accountability partner to them.
Fourth, the Church needs more resources and voices on this topic. This issue of Theology for Life has aimed to cover a lot of ground. To be fair even this article alone could take up an entire issue on its own. With that said, we desperately need more people writing and speaking on this topic. If you don’t know where to start please, don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help you get started writing and speaking on this topic.
Fifth, the fight for purity is a fight for a vision of biblical manhood and womanhood. As I’ve tried to make clear in this article—our world is confused about biblical gender roles. God has established these roles for the good of civilization. When civilization fights against these roles, they are ultimately fighting against God’s design for the sexes. The fight for purity whether it is against sex-trafficking or against pornography is a real fight. It is ultimately a fight not against flesh and blood, against real people who are living and working in these industries, but for the Gospel. Men and women are captivated by their sin. The only hope and cure for the pornography and sex-trafficking industry is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church must proclaim a biblical vision of manhood and womanhood and continue to do so.
Lastly, the fight for purity is a fight for a vision of God’s glory. The glory of God is impugned when men and women look at pornography of any kind or type. When either gender supports the trafficking of men and women created in the image of God, they have sinned against their Creator. Men and women were created by God to reflect His image. They are sinners by nature and by choice. The good news is that while an enemy of God, they don’t have to stay that way. Instead, they can become friends of God through the death, burial, and resurrection of King Jesus. Instead of assaulting the glory of God, men and women can know God, enjoy Him, glorify Him, and live within the God-ordained role and function that He has designed.
The more men and women understand of the Gospel, the more they will desire to become men and women of God. The more this happens, the more Christians will desire to become like Jesus. He is the ultimate example of biblical manhood. He called the religious leaders out, yet cared for the broken. He taught men and women, and yet He didn’t excuse their sin. He healed the sick, mended the broken-hearted, and taught His disciples. Jesus is unlike us, however; He is utterly sinless and we are sinners. Jesus had to die in our place and for our sin and rise again. You and I need Jesus. We need the bread of life that He provides. We need the living water that He promises. You can know Jesus today by believing that He is who He says He is, and did what He said He did in His death, burial, and resurrection (Acts 16:31).
If today you are a Christian struggling with pornography there is hope in Jesus. He is still waiting for you like the prodigal son’s father in Luke 15. He is the Father you need and the Father who loves to lift up the struggling out of the pit of despair. He took upon Himself all your sin and shame, and died in your place for it. Turn to Jesus, look at His loveliness and be captivated once again by the grandeur of His grace.
This article first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Theology for Life. To download this issue please click here.