The Grievousness of Sin
Anselm of Canterbury, an 11th century theologian, published a landmark book titled Cur Deus Homo (literally: Why God Became Man). In it he presents his view for the necessity of the substitutionary atonement of Christ. He argues that God had to become man in the person of Christ and had to die on the cross in order to atone for man’s sin. The weight of his argument rest on the seriousness of sin and the justice of God’s character. The book is presented as a conversation between Anselm and his friend, Boso. At first Boso seems unclear as to why Jesus had to die on the cross to pay for sins. Thus, at the beginning of chapter 21, Anselm asks this very important question: “Have you not yet considered of what a grievous weight sin is?” Anselm’s point is essentially this--if we fail to understand the magnitude of Christ’s death on the cross, it is because we fail to understand the magnitude of sin in the eyes of God.
In recent years, this failing to see the magnitude of sin in the eyes of God has not been more obvious nor more pervasive than in the area of sexual sins. We are living in such a sexually supercharged and promiscuous time in the Western world that has not been seen since the days of the Roman Empire. Once Christianity spread throughout Europe and then to north America, sexual sins were—for the most part—kept at bay. However, now that the Western world has—for the most part—become post-Christian, the dark days of the Roman Empire are upon us. According to recent studies, 70% of men age 18-24 admit to visiting porn sites at least once a month. This is also true for 30% of women.[i] But this is not a problem that exists only outside the church. Again, according to recent studies, 68 percent of church-going men admitted to viewing porn on a regular basis. And among women who are regular church-attenders, 33% admitted to viewing internet pornography in the past month.[ii] “Studies and polls have shown that the percentage of Christian men viewing pornography is the same as that of nonbelievers (33-50%). This could explain the findings of Barna Research, which found that 35% of born-again Christians believe sex outside of marriage is ‘morally acceptable.’”[iii] What should be of paramount concern is that research consistently shows that 11 is the average age by which a child will be exposed to pornography.
However, most Christians understand the grievousness with which God views sexual sins. “Thou shall not commit adultery” made it on God’s top ten list (the 7th commandment). He strongly condemns sex outside of marriage (Duet 22:22-24), condemns sex with family members (Lev 18:6-18), and condemns sex with animals (Exod 22:19; Lev 18:23; 20:16). However, God reserves the strongest possible language for sins of homosexuality and transvestitism, which today would include transgenderism, calling these an abomination (Lev 18:22; 20:13; 22:5). The Hebrew words often used in these texts are toebah, meaning abominable, detestable, loathsome or extremely offensive, and niddah, meaning abhorrent or detestable.
The New Testament is equally as clear and forceful regarding sexual sins in the eyes of God. When the apostles were considering how to advise Gentile believers, who (1) did not have access to the Hebrew Bible and (2) were not bound by Old Testament law, avoiding sexual sins made the short list (Acts 15:20). Paul explains, in 1 Cor 6:12-20, that when a believer engages in sexual sins with another (i.e., pre-marital or extra-marital sex) he or she is profaning the Lord’s temple. It is as if they are bringing a prostitute or the money from a prostitute into the actual Temple (Deut 23:18).
Over the years I have heard the grievousness of sexual sins in the eyes of a holy and just God explained and described in several ways. It has been rightly taught that when we engage in sexual sins, it is as though we are denying Christ by our actions just as Peter denied Christ on the night of his betrayal. That is, when we engage in sexual sins, at that moment we are essentially denying the Savior who bought us (2 Peter 2:1). In fact, at that moment we are behaving worse than Peter in that we are looking at the bloody, beaten, and crucified Christ, knowing that he died for our sins (unlike Peter) and yet saying to him, ‘I don’t know you.’ ‘I don’t want to be identified with you or associated with you.’
It is also rightly understood that sexual sins are a form of idolatry in that we are desiring something else more than we desire God. Again, in the Old Testament God uses the strongest possible language to condemn idolatry. He speaks of it as being an abomination to him (Duet 7:25; 13:14; 14:3; 27:15), as being detestable or loathsome or extremely offensive. Anytime a person bows before the alter of sexual immorality, holding up their sexual desires and passions as being more important than God, they are engaging in idolatry.
For this reason, anytime persons engage in sexual sins it is because at that moment their desire to please themselves is greater than their desire to please God. Christians are not enslaved to sin (Rom 6:17-18) and, contrary to what the world may think, the devil does not make us sin (James 1:14). Christians sin because they choose to sin, because their desire to please themselves is greater than their desire to please God.
While all the above scriptures can help people understand the abhorrence with which God views sin, and the above illustrations cause them to feel guilty about the sexual sins they commit, for many these truths do not enable them to see their sexual sins through the eyes of a holy God. The trouble with most Christians who struggle with sexual sins is not a lack of knowledge—they know God condemns sexual immorality—nor is it a lack of guilt or self-condemnation. Men I have counseled with over the years who struggled with overcoming sexual sins all knew God condemned their actions, and they all felt extreme guilt over it and struggled with feelings of self-condemnation to the point of questioning their own salvation. They went to church, read their Bibles, prayed regularly, and yet struggled with serious sexual sins, ever wondering if they would someday be on the receiving end of Matthew 7:23. The trouble, I discovered, is that most people who struggle with sexual sins do not see it as God sees it.
Years ago, when I was a high school history teacher, I had a student who struggled from a unique psychological disorder. Her body was emaciated, and she was perpetually tired. Rarely could she stay awake in class. Shortly after the semester began, I received an email from her parents asking to meet with me to discuss her diagnosis and how I, as one of her teachers, could best help her. When I met with the parents, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear and have described to me. The student suffered from coprophilic disorder or coprophilia. “Coprophilia is the attraction to the smell, taste, texture or sight of the act of defecation as a primary means of sexual arousal and gratification.”[iv] It is most common in persons “with diffuse brain damage and in persons with mental retardation (or with intelligence below the average).”[v] They began to explain to me that those who suffer from coprophilic disorder, such as their daughter, must be closely monitored, especially when visiting the restroom. If not closely watched, they will take their own feces in their hands, squish it between their fingers, spear it on their face, and in some cases even consume it. All of which they find to be sexually arousing. As I sat listening to them, I was at once disgusted and grieved. Disgusted by the images swirling around in my mind but grieved for these parents and for this young teenage girl. The daughter herself did not see it as a problem. She found it enjoyable, pleasing, and erotic. She talked about how she could hardly wait to become an adult, so she could be on her own and do what she wants. Of course, what she viewed as enjoyable, the adults in the room viewed as abominable, detestable, and abhorrent.
Since that day it has often occurred to me that this must be the difference between the way many view their sexual sins and the way God views them. Like the teenage girl’s parents, they know God does not approve of it and thinks it is harmful to them. But looking at internet pornography or dabbling in other sexual sins is enjoyable, pleasing, and erotic. What they do not realize is that in the eyes of God, when humans engage in sexual sins it is as though they are taking their own feces in their hands, squishing it between their fingers, spearing it on their face, and even consuming it, all the while thinking ‘this is so enjoyable and pleasing and erotic’. Yet God stands beside them thinking this is abominable, detestable, loathsome, and abhorrent.
If you have made it this far in the article, you are probably wondering why I wrote this article in such graphic nature. Isn’t this a bit extreme? Two reasons. First, one of the reasons the use of internet pornography is reaching pandemic proportions within the church is because too many churches and too many ministers do not want to talk about it. And when they do, they will only discuss the problem on a surface level. Quite literally, too many churches and too many ministers are bringing a knife to a gun fight. We are never going to curb the problem of sexual sins and sexual addictions within the church if we refuse to attack the problem head on. The problem of internet pornography and sexual sins within the church is not one that can be handled with kid gloves but will only be resolved with a bare-knuckles-no-holds-barred approach.
Secondly, many Christians continue to struggle or willingly dabble in sexual sins because they have “not yet considered of what a grievous weight [sexual] sin is?” They fail to understand the full magnitude of sexual sins in the eyes of God. They know their sexual sins are wrong and that they grieve the heart of God, but they fail to see their own sins as God sees them. Christians who are tempted to engage in sexual sins or who are tempted to get on their computer or tablet or smartphone and look at internet porn need to ask themselves, “Do I really want to engage in spiritual coprophilia? Do I really want to take hold of feces, take hold of that which is abhorrent to God, and squish it between my fingers, rub it over my face and neck, and put it in my mouth and say, ‘This is so enjoyable and pleasurable.’”? If more Christians saw their sexual sins the way God sees their sexual sins, they would be less inclined to partake.
[i] Tech Addiction. <http://www.techaddiction.ca/files/porn-addiction-statistics.jpg> Accessed on 11/8/18
[ii] Charisma News. <https://www.charismanews.com/us/73208-15-statistics-about-the-church-and-pornography-that-will-blow-your-mind> Accessed on 11/8/18
[iii] Pure Life Ministries. <https://www.purelifeministries.org/blog/why-pornography-is-the-greatest-threat-to-todays-church> Accessed on 11/8/18
[iv] Psych Forums: Phycology and Mental Health Forum. <https://www.psychforums.com/paraphilias/topic14336.html> Accessed 11/8/18
[v] Science Publishing Group. <http://article.sciencepublishinggroup.com/pdf/10.11648.j.ijpbs.20160103.12.pdf> Accessed on 11/8/18
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