Today I have been slowly making my way through the rather-large-job of marking and internally verifying a huge pile of young people’s folios. And I mean huge. Which is one of those jobs which is vitally neccessary (we are a Learning Centre after all), but also a bit… Let’s just say that after 58 folios you kind of know what’s coming next… 😉
So as I’ve been pretty-much-document-checking that these folders meet the evidence requirements to pass certain qualifications, I’ve been keeping my brain active by listening to some of the recent teaching that Benjamin Nolot has been doing at IHOP-KC. Which has been phenomenal. Really, really phenomenal. Looking at some really raw issues of pornography, lust, culture, purity and the way that the love of God can change absolutely everything.
Now I both love and respect the work of Exodus Cry and the freshness with which they approach bringing the real-life-hope of God into some heartbreaking and apparently-hopeless situations. And I also think there’s something very powerful about this teaching, which really protects and edifies women, and really brings the hope of forgiveness to men, coming from a guy. Because I’m not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but my own personal testimony, my research in Japan, and the work I do on a daily basis, means I am pretty passionate about us speaking up about the reality of some of these things in the body of Christ.
I’ve listened to hours of teaching this morning, and I revisit this subject on this blog semi-frequently, so I’m just going to headline a few things that really struck me afresh today. Most of them rooted in the contrasts that we see so clearly between love and lust. Because our highest calling is to love. To love as God loves. But lust is the great enemy of love. It really is. I know it, I’ve lived it, and I’ve needed to be rescued from it.
But there’s such hope here. Hope for every single person on every side of the fence. Because none of us have a testimony that we have never failed. But all of us can have a testimony that we never gave up. And His mercies are so new every morning and big enough to lead us on this path of all-consuming and transformational love.
Lust subverts our calling. Love fulfills our calling.
When we think about the huge issue of sexual trafficking in the world right now, it’s easy for it to be held at arm’s length. Something we pray for but don’t really experience. Something that we give financially to help solve, but don’t really acknowledge. But, when it comes to what our eyes see, and our ears hear and the places our feet walk… We introduce far more shades of socially-accepted grey.
Because all of us are vulnerable to a spirit of lust in some capacity. The same popular culture that produces a globally affluent sex industry, begins with the culture that normalises pornography. The same culture that tells women that their worth is measured by their sexuality, and the same culture that tells men to consume that same falsely paraded sexuality.
Because that may sound extreme… But it’s true. I work with young women everyday who live their lives according to the unspoken-but-believed mantra of ‘You must be hot.’ I work with young men who genuinely believe that sex is everything… But yet somehow doesn’t really mean anything. And this isn’t just some hidden-and-secretly-viewed pornography channel, or top shelf magazine. These are the lies we are sold in our music videos, in the song lyrics of our iTunes top 10, on the front cover of women’s (as well as men’s) magazines. When we go to the gym, or switch on the TV, or turn on the radio, and are numbed to what we hear or see or feel.
A distortion of God’s original design. His original design for men. For women. For sex. For marriage. For relationship.
The story that is being told about women by the mass media is not true… Women are not a sexual buffet for the carnal appetites of men, they are the image bearers of God and the crown of His creation (Benjamin Nolot).
This isn’t a light thing. Because I work for a children’s charity, and I read a report this week that showed pornography is so normalised amongst our teenagers right now, that 96% of under 16s have viewed it in some capacity. And lust robs us of our calling. It robs women of knowing that beauty is rooted in who they are in Christ. It robs men of knowing that their strength is found in servanthood and humility. It robs our relationships of the expression of sexuality that only brings together, rather than tears apart.
Lust exploits. Love protects.
Wow. This one hits me. Because it links straight into our vulnerability.
Lust sees vulnerability as an opportunity for exploitation. Love sees vulnerability as an opportunity for protection.
Because when Jesus loved us, He saw where we were weak and He clothed us in His strength and His righteousness. He cared for us when we were at our most broken. When we were shattered by the consequences of our sin, it was then that He carried us.
When I share my testimony with girls, this is an area I talk on at length with them. I really believe that a man should be a woman’s natural protector. And when you fear the one who should be your natural protector, there’s a problem. The way that a guy treats you when you are ill, when you are asleep, when you are upset, is like a real window into what’s going on in his heart. It was for me. Because real love always protects.
I love that Jesus fought for me and fights for me still. And I love that He never calls us to remain in a situation of exploitation. His protection is so much bigger than that.
Lust consumes. Love pursues.
We live in a society that is immediate. It’s a buy-now-pay-later kind of mentality. But love contrasts this in the pursuit.
When you pursue someone, you are ascribing honour and dignity to that person. Because there is glory in the pursuit. That’s why I really, really still believe that a guy should chase and woo a girl! 😉
I had a few experiences in Japan this summer that deeply marked me. One was waiting to meet a friend off the Shinkansen in Tokyo. I was sitting in a cafe at the station, drinking orange juice whilst I had 20 minutes to kill, and there was a young guy about my age sitting on the table next to me. He had his smart phone out in front of him, and we were so jammed into the cafe that anyone around him could see what he was doing… And he was scrolling down his phone choosing a girl. Literally. He was buying time with a girl. Right next to me. In the same way that you would choose a pizza topping or a take out meal, he was just flicking through this webpage, not a care in the world. It made me feel so sick. It made me want to grab his phone off of him and throw it across the cafe.
But the thing is, he was just a guy in desperate need of a Saviour.
That quote came into my mind:
Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God (G.K.Chesterton).
Because culturally, images affect behaviour. They affect what we see as normal. And lust numbs you to the reality.
Love means you feel. Deeply. Painfully. Truely. But that’s why it puts the effort into the pursuit that costs something.
Lust seeks instant gratification. Love waits.
In 1 Thessalonians 3 we are given some keys to really walk a path of purity. Because viewing pornography, no matter how little, is never contained to itself. It always has an outlet. That may be having sex outside of marriage or manipulating sex within marriage, but it will always destroy what God intended for glory. Because pornography emphasises the body at the exclusion of the person. It is fuelled by what you can get rather than what you can give. And that is never the attitude or outworking of love.
To walk in love is to walk with Holy Spirit.
It is to walk differently. To walk in purity.
And purity is not about what we did yesterday, purity is all about who we choose to be today. And today, we can change our minds (Hosanna Wong).
So, here I will finish. With His grace and our choice.
But in deeply loving each other, and praying for each other and protecting each other, and forgiving each other, we have to remember that lust is the great enemy of love. And I believe in love. I really do. I’ve been harmed by lust and felt it’s affects. I’ve got the battle-scars to show from the journey. But just as we should never lose faith in love because someone else failed us, so we can ALWAYS have faith in love because we are in relationship with the one true God who never, ever will.
Love never fails.