Protecting Purity in a Technological Corinth
I used the phrase “technological Corinth” in 1985 when I published my first book, Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution. Corinth was the immoral city in the first century, and 1 and 2 Corinthians refer to all the immorality in the church’s midst. Everywhere out on the streets there were prostitutes, a thousand priestesses of Aphrodite. It was a degenerate culture.
In the '80s, there was the advent of VCRs and places where you could rent a VHS or Beta tape. (If you remember Beta, like me, you are now officially old.) You could rent a Disney movie as well as an inappropriate movie you could watch in the privacy of your own home, instead of going to a porn theater where you might be seen. That in and of itself was an incredible revolution in making lust and sexual sin more secretive and easier to get away with. (Seemingly, but of course God sees all and judges all, and our sexual sins hurt our families and others too.)
Fast forward 25 plus years. We are now living in a more far-reaching technological Corinth. I recently read some statistics dealing with the problem of “sexting.” Studies show that 22% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys have shared nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves, either attached to a text message or by posting them online; 33% of young adults aged 20-26 have posted or sent nude pictures of themselves—one in three—from phones and computers. 51% of the girls who have done sexting—including both explicit text messages and nude photos of themselves—say they were under pressure from a boy. (When you talk about actual explicit text messages—using words that are sexual—the number of people participating is of course much higher.)
A police officer friend told me that hardly a week goes by when he doesn’t get a call from a distraught parent who has discovered that nude pictures of their daughter are being sent all over the school and across the country because she posed for her boyfriend or took the picture herself. Those images cannot be recalled, nor the shame erased from memory.
A few years ago a man in our church was standing next to his son, who received a text message with a photo attached. He was looking over his son’s shoulder, and recognized a church girl who attends the same high school. She was naked. The boy said he didn’t know it was coming, and his friend just sent it to him. Maybe he was telling the truth. But all it takes is a cell phone. Christian parents would have been stunned if you had told them 25 years ago that today most kids would be carrying around a miniature television screen that would allow them access to pornography and on which they could receive images of naked people while the young person is doing homework or sitting in church.
We’re in a battle—big time. Tragically, most Christian homes are losing this battle. Scripture says that Satan goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and sadly, we are losing our daughters and our sons. It’s not just boys who are looking at pornography; young girls are too. And some of them are going to online chat rooms to be flirted with by strangers who are often not what they claim to be.
As a parent you might wonder, “Well, do I have the right to interfere? Isn’t that being nosey?” Your job is to interfere and to be nosey. Your job is to know what is going on in the life of your child and protect them, just as if you were standing next to a freeway and would feel an obligation to put your arms around your child and say, “Stay off that freeway.” That is your responsibility as a parent. This is a battle for our children with their lives and futures at stake.
Proverbs 5:1-5 says, “My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death.”
Notice that these words talk about body parts and where body parts go. It’s all about feet and eyes and ears and hands and mouths. What we do with our bodies will determine the condition of our lives, including whether we move that finger to double-click on an image or go to a website, or whether we take our hands and pick up the Word of God, or turn off the television with a remote control. The spiritual life is lived out by what we do with our bodies. This is why Romans 6:13 says we yield our body parts—our body members—to the Holy Spirit of God.
Proverbs 5:5-6 says, “Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; She does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.” Notice the clear choice between life and death. In Deuteronomy 28 through 30 God says he sets before us life and death, blessings and curses. “Now choose life.” There are blessings that will come from right choices. There are curses that will come from wrong choices.
I know there are many Christians who are not trying to be corrupt. Their life goal is not to entice and seduce other people. Yet I see the way many young (and even older) women dress, and how they look at teen magazines and follow current fashions, and I think, “They don’t know. They don’t understand.” I would encourage Christian parents, and even grandparents, to intervene kindly and graciously. It is appropriate to firmly say, “No. You can’t leave the house dressed this way” and graciously tell them why they can’t.
Verse 7 says, “And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.” Take counsel from those in authority. I’ve coached tennis at a local high school, and the players who ultimately live up to their potential are the ones who listen to instruction and accept coaching. Those who are convinced they are going to do it their way don’t do nearly as well as they would have if they had listened to those in authority.
In my book The Purity Principle I write that God has given us guardrails through His commandments. Why do the guardrails exist? Have you ever been driving late at night on a mountain pass knowing that if you went off this road, you would plunge to your death? Suppose you are driving along in the fog on a treacherous mountain road with a cliff below you, and you know people have gone off that cliff to their destruction. All of a sudden you hit something. You get out of the car with a flashlight and see a guardrail and your dented fender and bumper. Would you look at it and say, “I hate that guardrail. Look what it did to my car!” No. You would thank God for the guardrail, because it saved your life.
The young man in Proverbs 5 is told, “Don’t go near the door of her house.” Just like in real estate, it is all about location, location, location. Where do you put yourself? If you’re on a diet and you decide, “I’m just going to stop somewhere for a cup of coffee” and choose Krispy Kreme as the destination, that’s not a wise choice.
But it’s not just about the physical places, even though there are places physically you should not go. There’s also wisdom in saying, “Don’t go anywhere near that book or magazine or website or have it in your home.” If you have a history of struggling with impurity on the internet, where in the Bible does it say, “You must have a computer. You must have internet access. You must have a cell phone. You must have a cell phone with internet access”? Where does it say “You must have a television”? Look up television and internet in a Bible concordance. They aren’t there. If you have a history of having a problem with something, remove it, restrict it. Do not keep putting yourself back at the source of temptation. Run from it—do not go to it.
Do you know what it does say we must do? Be sexually pure. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us that it is God’s will that we abstain from sexual immorality. We do not have to wonder what the will of God is in this area—He tells us.
Proverbs 5:11-12 goes on to say “And at the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are consumed. And you will say, ‘How I hated discipline and my heart despised reproof!’” There will be regret for those who have ignored God’s guardrails. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” If someone is going to poison the stream, they poison it at its source. And if you are going to clean it up, you clean it up at its source. We are called upon to clean our hearts and minds by filling them with the things of God (things that are good and pure as Philippians 4 says) and by putting off and turning away from those things that corrupt our hearts.
Verses 13 through 15 say, “I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation. Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.” This is a figure of speech related to marriage. Verses 16-18: “Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, [Do not be promiscuous. Do not be unfaithful] and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Who created sex? Was it Satan? No. It was God. Think about two of the most powerful things God has created: fire and water. What would we do without fire and water? But have you ever seen water out of control? A flood, a tidal wave, a tsunami? It is devastating. Have you ever seen fire out of control—a forest fire or a house burning to the ground? Have you seen somebody’s body covered with burns? It is absolutely horrific. The things that are the best become the worst when taken out of their God-intended boundaries. Sex is one of the best things God has made, but it becomes the very worst—the most devastating—when it is taken out of its God-given context.
Verses 20 and 21 say: “Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.” God sees everything, and we will be accountable to Him.
Verses 22 and 23 say: “The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” The right choice is always the smart choice. The wrong choice is always the stupid choice.
In Proverbs 6:20-22, it tells us, “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”
Deuteronomy 6 commands parents to not only inscribe or engrave on the hearts of our children the Word of God, but also to talk about and model the principles and truths of God’s Word as you rise in the morning, as you go to bed at night, and all throughout the day.
Our children will sometimes not listen to us, but they will seldom fail to imitate us. You might think you are trying to cultivate some sense of purity in the home, but Dad or Mom, are you watching shows on television that feed impurity? There are many homes in which parents do not want their girls to become pregnant, or their boys to become sexually active, and yet they are watching programs like “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy” or “The Bachelor,” and even old reruns of things like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” that have sexually-explicit jokes and allusions and situations. Are you laughing at dirty jokes? Not just are you telling dirty jokes, but are you laughing at dirty jokes? Laughter is a form of approval.
Ephesians 5:3-4 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity...because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.”
Use this passage as a standard by which you measure a sitcom, drama, soap opera, movie, reality TV, novel, website, You name it. Does it have:
Even a hint of sexual immorality?
Any kind of impurity?
If it does, then the inspired Word of God decisively tells us, it should not be present among you because it is “improper” and “out of place” for God’s children, who are to be holy and Christ-centered.
If you say, “Well, really, what’s so wrong with those things?” it’s because you have become desensitized to what you’ve been watching. But those things are feeding immorality, and all the more because you’ve let down your guard against them. And parents, don’t try to cultivate a shallow sense of morality in your home, when you’re modeling and bringing immorality into it—for example, when the kids see Dad gazing at the sports cheerleaders on television. You are training your children to think in sexualized ways.
I would suggest that many of us should go to our children, confess, repent, and say, “I’m sorry. We’re not going to be watching these things any more. They’re not pleasing to God and they’re not good for you. We want to protect you, and we need to guard our hearts as well as yours.”
That models something—admitting you are wrong and asking for forgiveness. The best part is that when you get that junk out of your home, you now have time on your hands to get into the Word of God and cultivate superior, higher pleasures—such as reading great Christian books individually and as a family, and listening to wonderful stories on Focus on the Family radio theater. Do not be satisfied with the lesser things of this world that distract us from the better things.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Fill your heart with these things. Fill your home with these things and watch God bless you.
I beg you. Protect your own life. Protect your children. Protect your grandchildren. Then watch and enjoy the blessings and rewards of purity in your life and theirs.