Allow me to approach this from a more personal direction. Though I’m not gay, I have had an addiction to pornography in the past. And there are a good number of commonalities between these issues, even though they aren’t necessarily the same thing. And please note that these thoughts may be more philosophical in nature, so it is important not to answer with these kinds of thoughts alone. Rather these thoughts help to frame a more personal answer to the question. I apologize in advance for the lengthy response, but there is no simple one-line answer to this question.
When someone like this asks such a question, it is difficult to answer truthfully without offending, because offense stems from the questioner’s perception of their own identity. When we say, “Love the sinner; hate the sin,” it is often ill-received, because someone who identifies as gay usually identifies themselves that way. “It’s who I am!” Thus, they are often unwilling to accept an answer framed in such terms, because to them, the supposed “sin” is perceived to be a part of who they are. So we need to be careful in how we approach this answer.
But as I sought answers to my questions about how to overcome porn addiction, a thought occurred to me: What if I am genetically predisposed to being more attracted to sexual imagery than the average man? What if that’s just a part of “who I am?” It’s a legitimate question and opens up a bunch of other questions, such as, “Why would God make me like this if it is wrong to begin with?” And even more, “If this is who I am genetically, how am I ever supposed to overcome this?” Let me tell you, those questions and thoughts are daunting ones, and the feeling of helplessness was front and center and very real for me! I think our LBGTQA+ friends share many of these same questions and feelings if they get so far as to put the morality of their behavior in question in the first place.
But allow me to share some of the thinking process I went through in trying to understand this. Let’s assume for a moment that there actually is a genetic component to having homosexual tendencies, to some degree legitimizing the homosexual’s claim that it is, at least in part, who they are. Does that mean that because God created you that way that action on that predisposition should therefore be celebrated as “good?”
Let’s look at something that appears to be far more apparent in human behavior than homosexual behavior is. Would it be fair to say that the act of lying when a person perceives that they can get away with it and it is perceived to serve their own advantage is a much more universal human trait? I think it goes without saying that the predilection toward this kind of behavior is FAR more prevalent in humans than is the predilection toward homosexual attractions. Maybe 100% of us. (Anyone know of someone who hasn’t done this?) But we don’t celebrate lying, do we? But isn’t that even more “who we are” then? So you see, just because we have been made with certain predilections does NOT mean that the behaviors those predilections tend to push us toward are therefore “good.”
The truth of our condition is this: God has made every single one of us with a sinful nature. We are pre-wired to sin in some ways, shapes and forms. That’s “who we are,” but that doesn’t make sinful behaviors “good.” Just because a behavior “seems natural” does not mean that that behavior should be done. Otherwise sociopaths are gonna have a field day!
So the next question is, “How do we know what predilections are good and which ones are sinful?” As Ravi Zacharias has taught sin is, at its core, a violation of purpose. An acknowledgement that there are sinful behaviors suggests that there is a purpose that those behaviors violate. Thus, to know what is “sinful” requires that we know what the proper purpose is to begin with. What kinds of behaviors did God intend us to do? How do we know what those are? And how do we judge whether a particular behavior falls into which category?
One answer is our consciences. Conscience is a good guide to an extent, but it can be tricky, because as Proverbs tells us, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but it only leads to death!” Conscience can help, but it can’t be trusted with full confidence, because our own feelings can easily be misconstrued for “conscience.” Conscience is there to help, but it isn’t foolproof, because we can’t perfectly discern between feelings and conscience. Feelings have strong influence, make no mistake!
A second answer is the Word of God. The Bible is God’s revelation of Who He is. Ultimately, Who He is is what determines what is right, and violation of His attributes is what defines “evil” or “sin.” God has chosen to reveal Himself through the Bible so that we have a standard to which to compare behavior to test it for moral goodness. The Bible stands as our best way to reference what the objective standards are today.
But there has been no greater answer to this question in history than the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Law was the “standard” that was given us in order for us to understand how sinful we are. It doesn’t save. It convicts and condemns. It shows us that we are wrong and how wrong we are. In contrast, Jesus showed us how to live rightly. He lived the perfect life.
If that is true, how could the perfect life NOT include sexual satisfaction?! Wasn’t Jesus human? Didn’t He have urges? How come God didn’t give Jesus a mate? Didn’t God the Father want Jesus to be happy?
Whoa! Hmm. Wait! Jesus was called the Man of Sorrows, for crying out loud! If He lived the perfect life, what does THAT say? Since Jesus never had sex, how can we say His life was “perfect?” How could He say and mean, “It is finished,” if He never even started this fundamental aspect of life? After all, what was God the Father’s first purpose given to man back in Genesis? “Be fruitful and multiply,” right?
The fact is that Jesus lived a life of complete fulfillment, and sex wasn’t even involved. He experienced the ultimate in intimacy: perfect intimacy with God the Father. That intimacy never waned His entire life. He was able to live a life of complete fulfillment, because He lived a life of perfect intimacy with the Father. And the truth is that that intimacy and the fulfillment that is experienced with that kind of intimacy transcends “happiness.” Happiness is circumstance-dependent. Fulfillment is not.
The apostle Paul echoes this when he said that he had found the secret to being content in all circumstances. How did he do that? The same way that Jesus did. Interesting that he was single too, right?
It turns out that Jesus’ life proves that sexual pleasure, though very enjoyable, is not a requisite for our fulfillment. There is a place for it. And, it turns out, that the Scriptures delineate the bounds within which God intended for us to experience that pleasure.
Our problem is that we want to redefine what is intended for us. We want to redefine our purpose. I did it with porn–which, I one time even tried to justify myself saying it was “better” than homosexual sex, in that heterosexual sex IS what God intended. (SO wrong, twisting that thinking with such redefinition!) I wanted to redefine it! MY way!
That is what each and every one of us does. We just do it with our own predispositions and predilections. Homosexuals do it with theirs just like we do it with ours.
We are no better! And it is vital that we communicate this to our LGBTQA+ friends when framing our answers to these questions.
So now, what on earth do we do with this, then? If we really are predisposed to doing these behaviors, and they are indeed sinful, how do I stop myself from doing them? The apostle Paul echoes this when he declares what a wretched man he is. “I do the things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do the things that I want to do! What a wretched man I am!” If Paul is like this, what hope is there for us?
The answer to the question, “What can I do to stop myself?” is: Nothing! The truth is that nothing in the universe can change what it is essentially, itself. The only way something can be fundamentally changed is if someone or something else acts upon it! THERE IS NO SELF-HELP PROGRAM THAT WORKS!! We are not able to fundamentally change “who we are.”
When you finally come to this realization is a very low moment in life. You feel helpless. You are frustrated, because all of the efforts you have previously put in have been fruitless. And for me, despite trying to do all of the things a good Christian is supposed to be doing (praying, reading my bible, attending church, etc.), each failure then made me more despondent than the previous one. I would set rule after rule after rule. “Don’t turn on the computer after 11 pm, Dave! You’re tired then and more prone to giving in to temptation then.” The rules would work…for a little while…until my urges became so great they would overcome the rules. After all, rules that are that easy to make are also that easy to break!
Is there no hope then?
Here’s the Good News: We are not able to change ourselves, but the Holy Spirit is very capable of doing that. Transformation is actually His business! That’s what He does! When Paul says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” in Romans 12:2, that is a passive verb. We don’t do the transforming. He does it! That is critical to understand!
So how do we get Him to do it? What do we do? The Bible tells us, and it starts with true repentance (assuming redemption). That’s much more than just saying “sorry.” If you read Scripture carefully, there are 5 steps to proper repentance. The Holy Spirit will not act to transform until sin is properly, Biblically handled. We need to turn back towards God. That’s what repentance means: turning away from sin and turning towards God. His way!
Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son? The Father is waiting anxiously for the Son on the porch. He doesn’t go out to the son when he is in the pig sty. The son has to start making his way back to the Father first! Then, when he is still afar off, the Father sees him coming and runs out to meet him, and restores him!
We need to repent to enable the Holy Spirit to begin His work of transformation. The ongoing process is one of continual dependence.
But let me be clear: Does that mean that God will completely remove that predilection in all cases? No. Not true. I am keenly aware that sexual imagery could still have its greater affect on me if I were to stop being dependent on the Lord for His transformational power in me. It would not be a long trip to get back to where I was. In my journey to victory, I had one slip up that was short–one bad night. It was painful, but it was a big reminder of how important it is for me to remain dependent on God, not to take away that urge necessarily–although if He wants to do it, I’m game!–but perhaps only to change me so that I don’t want to engage in it any more.
That was the real trick! I could never get myself to not want to look at porn! It was SO frustrating! But once I discovered that I needed to handle this sin His way, and stop redefining my own purpose, but rather let Him do the defining and the transforming, it led me to victory!
Was watching porn pleasurable? Absolutely! But only for a moment. It was followed by emptiness, and then after I tried to escape it on my own, to failure and desperation! And it prevented intimacy with God.
I now don’t need porn to be fulfilled. I have more intimacy with my wife, but it stems from my intimacy with God. Sex, it turns out, is more fulfilling now than it ever was with porn, even if sinful indulgence might have been more pleasurable in the immediate. Fulfillment transcends happiness. It transcends pleasure. Intimacy with God transcends all! Jesus walked that and showed us what that looks like.
That’s the Good News!
I hope some of this gives you a better frame for answering your colleague at work. Thanks for taking the time to read this.