Steve was a Pastor with a secret. A secret that was tearing his life and ministry apart from the inside. Like an undetected, untreated cancer, Steve harbored a secret sin deep within his heart that was eating away at his joy, his vitality and his faith. Unknown to anyone in Steve’s life, he was deeply addicted to pornography and lived everyday with the fear of being caught. “Everyday one of my kids picked up my phone or asked to use my computer I would panic,” says Steve. “I never intended for pornography to take over my life the way that it did, but over the years it slowly consumed more and more of my life.” On average, Steve spends at least an hour a day looking at pornography. It started ten years ago, just after his wife Maggie had their third child. The addition of another child in their home, along with postpartum depression, resulted in the loss of Maggies’s libido.
“It was easy to justify at first,” says Steve, “my rationale was that it was better to give in to a little harmless pornography than to be open to the temptation of an affair.” But Steve quickly found out that there is no such thing as “a little harmless pornography.” He soon found that the images of women in bikinis weren’t giving him the buzz they had before, so he started looking at soft-core magazines, but within a few months these images were not satisfying him either.” So he moved on to hard-core pornography then to videos and finally to webcams and other interactive sites. At the time we spoke, Steve shared with me that he was actively engaged in an online relationship with a woman that he met in an online chat room.
Steve’s secret sin is ruining his relationship with his wife and children, not to mention stealing his joy in the Lord. “It would ruin my life if my wife or any of the church members ever found about what really am” shared Steve, “everyday I live in constant fear that today I will be discovered. In some ways I wish that I would get caught. At least then I could stop living in constant fear.” What started out as a small indiscretion has grown into a full-blown addiction in Steve’s life and is threatening to consume him. Like so many other Pastors, Steve has learned first hand that unconfessed sin is like a cancer that will eat away your life if left unchecked.
We Must Take Sin More Seriously
It may seem strange to have to tell pastors and church leaders that they need to take sin more seriously, but I can think of no other audience that needs to hear this message more. The reason that I can say this is because I am a Pastor and in addition to knowing other ministers I also know my own heart. While it is easy for us to point out the sin in other people’s lives, we sometimes struggle to take seriously the sin in our own lives. We are somewhat like the Pharisees in this regard and end up placing ourselves in grave danger.
It seems to me that one of Satan’s greatest weapons against ministers is to make us think that our own sin is trivial or unimportant. If we buy into the notion that our sin is minor and excusable because of our circumstances, Satan can trap us in the most hideous of ways. In Steve’s case, for example, he found it easy at the beginning to justify his sin and to excuse it due to his circumstances. Whenever we find ourselves reasoning about the reasonableness of sin, we can be sure Satan has found an inroad into our lives. The answer is to take sin more seriously.
The temptation is to stop here and think about all the consequences sin produces in our lives. If we go back to the example of Steve, it is readily apparent that sin is producing a host of negative consequences in his life. It wouldn’t take very long for each us to come up with a lengthy list of the negative consequences of our own sin. But negative consequences alone are never enough to keep us from sinning. Mere negative reinforcement has never produced permanent results in dealing with sinful behavior. Considering the consequences may produce temporary results but it doesn’t provide the cure for dealing with sin.
The real key in taking sin seriously is to consider it from a Biblical perspective. The better we understand what the Bible has to say about our sin, the more seriously we will take it. Allow me to remind you of just a few of the key points that the Bible makes about our sin:
1. Sin is rebellion against God.
2. Sin separates us from God.
3. Sin separates us from the people we love.
4. Sin keeps us fulfilling our chief purpose.