A Pastor’s Reflections: The Internet and Purity
The Internet has brought many great advances and benefits, even blessings. I marvel at the fact that as little as ten years ago, or less, when I used to travel I could only talk to my wife over the phone. But now, with advances with the Internet and related technology, I can video chat my wife and children. I can see my family on a regular basis with a good Internet connection. Similarly, as little as ten years ago it used to be that acquiring rare books was an expensive endeavor—they cost a lot of money and often required that you had to travel to rare book dealers to find them. Now, I have the blessing of being able download scads of rare books for free. At the same time, the same ease of access to other types of media has become problematic.
It seems that regardless of the website, there are often inappropriate images here and there. I know, I know, the first thing that you might think is, “What websites are you looking at?” I’m talking about news outlets—go to mainstream news outlets, such as yahoo.com and you’ll see your fair share of stories and small link-images of scantily clad men and women along with a selection of salacious “news” for consumption. I find it odd, but perhaps a sign of the times, as to what passes off as news these days. Why supposedly reputable news outlets will feature stories on celebrities, for example, that have clothing “malfunctions” is beyond me. Such “news” is trite and even lascivious. But beyond these appetizers of sexual immorality, there is a world of wickedness lurking just a few mouse clicks away.
It used to be that pornography required a bit of courage to purchase. You had to go into a public establishment, risk being seen, and then make your purchase. Now type a few words into your search engine and you have gross sexually immoral images and videos immediately at your fingertips. The same ease of access that I have to rare books is equally available for all sorts of sexual immorality. Given the ease of access, I believe that pornography is a huge problem in the church these days, but one that I suspect few realize.
I remember talking with a missionary who told me that sixty-five percent of the young men his mission organization interviewed as missionary candidates were disqualified because they admitted to problems with pornography. I sadly had the responsibility of sitting in on an ecclesiastical judicial trial where a man came as his own accuser for violating the seventh commandment. His adultery, he informed the trial judicatory, began with dalliances with Internet pornography. I had to deal with several instances in my congregation where men had thousands of pornographic images stored on their computers. My wife dealt with a situation at her office where an elder in a NAPARC church was caught with pornographic images on his work computer. He subsequently resigned in shame so he wouldn’t be fired.
All of this is to say, it used to take a lot of effort to acquire pornography. Now lust and opportunity have few obstacles to stand in their way. What is a person to do? I’ve seen a few extremes where people won’t have an Internet connection because the temptations are too great. If that’s necessary, then do it. Learn to get by without it. Another thing that you should avoid is going to great lengths to privatize your computer. It’s one thing, for example, to have password security on your computer and various accounts to prevent hacking and theft, but it’s entirely another when you won’t give your wife access to your computer. If you hide your passwords from those closest to you, ask why you are doing this. Be willing to have your wife, or a good friend, perform a search on your computer for images, search your web history, and cookies so that they can hold you accountable. Whenever I received any questionable e-mail or spam, I would either forward it to my wife or show it to her so she knew that I didn’t go looking for trouble. I can remember, for example, looking into the cost of an M-60 machine gun (don’t ask why) and I clicked on the link to discover the price and something else showed up on the screen (it was a reputable weapons dealer, I assure you). I’ve also clicked on a reputable news site only to be directed to another website (they were hacked). On those occasions I immediately hit the back-arrow and later told my wife about the incidents. Another remedy is to be very selective in the news articles and blogs you read. Yes, it may look like an innocent news story, but you won’t die if you decide not to read the story about Kim Kardashian.
But all of these efforts, as important as they are, don’t get to the heart of the matter. Lust is ultimately a lack of contentment with God’s providence, where he happens to place you in life. You can make and take all of the necessary precautions in the world to avoid Internet smut and never deal with the root of the problem—your own sinful heart. The only way to eliminate sin is to displace it. You can’t just avoid sin because you carry it with you. You could move to Antarctica and still have a problem with lust. You must fill your heart with a passion and zeal for Christ that displaces your lust. And only Christ through his Spirit and the means of grace can grant you this passion and zeal. Pray, therefore, that Christ would deliver you from your lust, as he is the only one who can sanctify you. Don’t throw away your ministry by becoming entangled in a web of sexual immorality. Pray that Christ would enable you to be faithful, even when you think no one is watching.