I remember the first time I witnessed, from afar, the fall of a Christian leader I respected. One of the painful lessons I learned is that we’re all vulnerable. I appreciate what Ray Ortlund says: “Every one of us is always five minutes away from moral and ministry disaster.” It’s closer than we think.
We have a problem. 64% of Christian men admit to watching porn. 57% of pastors admit they have struggled with porn, either now or in the past. This is a problem we clearly must address. Books like The Purity Principle, and Ray Ortlund’s upcoming book The Death of Porn, should be required reading.
That’s not to mention other sexual issues that go beyond porn.
This problem is serious, but to make it even worse, it’s hidden by another problem: the cloak of secrecy covering our sin.
The Problem of Secrecy
We’re so ashamed of our sexual sins that we hide them, which makes things even worse.
Randy Alcorn is right: “Lust thrives on secrecy. Nothing defuses it like exposure. (One man told me, ‘We’re only as sick as our deepest secret.’)” We can’t afford to keep our sexual sins secret.
That doesn’t mean we broadcast our sexual struggles and sins to everyone, but it means we must tell them to someone. No believer, no pastor, can afford to struggle in secret.
Matthew Kruse, a pastor near Boston, spoke these words to his pastoral team:
Men, we must relentlessly pursue personal holiness without compromise. Lazy, entitled, secret sin in our lives will dampen, damage, or even destroy everything we are trying to do. We cannot give an inch here. Nothing can slow this thing down or spin this thing sideways like sin in our senior leaders.
“Settle this now in the souls of your leaders and people: whatever it takes, church will be a place where our private lives and our public personas align with our personal holiness,” he counsels in his book What Church Can Be. He gives the folks of his church a hunting license to ask questions about his life. He also requires people to share their stories of sin and grace at all gospel communities, ministry teams, leadership development tracks, etc. “This includes historical sin that Jesus has washed us from and ongoing sin we are currently working hard to mortify.”
We have two problems: sexual sin and secrecy. Let’s declare war on both.
Let’s kill our sexual sin before it kills us. Let’s assume we all struggle, and let’s take that struggle seriously. No games, no coddling sin. “Do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty” (1 Samuel 12:21).
But let’s also kill the secrecy. Confess your sins to the Lord, and to someone who loves you enough to help you. If you’re battling sin, don’t battle alone. Get help. Find a friend you can trust who has wisdom and who is willing to ask you hard questions.
“We need a massive spiritual cleansing coming down from above upon our generation, because a tsunami of sexual defilement has slammed us in the face,” writes Ortlund. “For example, every Christian man and woman who cannot stop looking at Internet pornography must have the humility to go to his or her pastor and say, ‘Pastor, I have a problem. I’m out of control. I am viewing, and thereby participating in, the violation of women and children. I am living in active denial of my Savior and everything he stands for. I love the Lord. But I can’t stop. I don’t make sense to myself. I need help.’” And when pastors can’t stop looking, they must ask for help too.
Let’s flee from sexual sin and the secrecy that goes along with it, for God’s sake, for the sake of those we lead, and for the sake of our souls.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).