Is looking at pornography a sin?

I came to faith in Christ in my late teens. Before I became a Christian, and for a short time after I became a Christian, I was exposed to and semi-regularly viewed hard-core XXX-rated pornography. I know God uses our past sinful experiences to enable us to minister to others. But, if I could change one thing about my past, it would be my viewing of pornography. Some of the images are literally seared into my brain. The images function like annoying internet pop-up windows. They display themselves in my mind even though I do not want them to, and they are very difficult to close once they are open.

Thankfully, over the past 25 years that I have been a Christian, and especially over the past 21 years I have been married, God has enabled me to overcome the temptation to consume pornography. I am not claiming to have been 100% victorious over that time period, but my failings have been very few and very far between. Thank you Lord! In a sense, a ministry that requires 10+ hours a day online is not an ideal fit for someone who has a past with pornography. At the same time, I know the temptation would be there no matter what I did for a living.

Is looking at pornography a sin? Absolutely, yes! The Apostle John described sin as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Pornography, by definition, is lusting after flesh with your eyes. Pornography is definitely not in the list of things the apostle Paul tells us to think about (Philippians 4:8). Pornography easily becomes an addiction (1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19), is destructive (Proverbs 6:25-28; Ezekiel 20:30; Ephesians 4:19), and is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:28). On a more practical/personal level, pornography can lead to masturbation addiction, and can lead to dissatisfaction with your spouse due to his/her inability to "perform like the professionals."

If pornography is so obviously heinously sinful, why is it such a temptation? I would point to three primary reasons, each of them demonic in origin. First, I would say that the demons know how powerfully addictive and destructive porn can be. Therefore, they actively tempt people into a sin that will be an ongoing hindrance to their relationship with God. Second, the demons love using pornography to create guilt and shame in a person, even to the point that the person doubts God's love for him/her and questions his/her salvation. Third, the demons know the value God places on marriage and family. Pornography wreacks havoc on marriages and families. The demons can produce multi-generational damage on a family through one person's addiction to pornography.

Now, with that said, I do not blame demons for my sins. Yes, demonic forces make sinful temptations more powerful, and seem to be able to bring them up more frequently than my sinful flesh would on its own. But, we cannot blame our sins on Satan. Satan and his demons cannot force us to do anything. For the Christian, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, to say that you had no choice is to say that the temptation is more powerful than God. First Corinthians 10:13 specifically states that God always provides a way of escape from temptation. If we fail to take advantage of the escape plan, that's our fault, not God's.

So, to what do I attribute my victory over the sin of pornography? Besides just saying God, I would have to point to something I prayed around 23 years ago. I asked God to cause me to have the same feelings about pornography that He does. I fully expected God to fill me with anger and hatred towards pornography. And, while those emotions were present, what I primarily felt was a profound sadness for the people in the porn industry. They are ignorant of the fact that they are pawns of Satan. They are ignorant of the damage they are doing to themselves, their co-participants, and their viewers. They are exchanging eternal pleasures for temporary pleasures and an eternity with no pleasure whatsoever. For me to in any way contribute to that is unthinkable.

S. Michael Houdmann

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Is looking at pornography a sin?