I was having lunch with a pastor friend of mine the other day and he was sharing his story about his struggle with pornography. I was not surprised by his confession. I actually smiled and thought about the potential impact on our churches if more Pastors commitment to being real and transparent. Then he shared with me the responses he received from other pastors as he shared his story. I was surprised by the response he had received as he shared his struggle. He spoke of turning to the group of pastors and sharing his tendency to see women as objects and fall into pornography. So picture this, once he shares with these fellow pastors the room goes completely silent. He said it felt like eternity went by until one of them said, “can we move on now?”
What? Can we move on now? Are you kidding me? A partner in ministry shares what he has never told anyone in the hope of getting some support and encouragement and he gets NOTHING but blank stares. Now he is seen as the black sheep of the group, the odd pastor out, the dirty lustful man leading a church which is probably not experiencing the blessings of God…whatever, the list goes on.
I thought to myself, how many other men in our churches have finally gained the courage to share their dirty little secret only to be greeted with absolute silence? How many pastors are afraid to share their story for fear they will be the one made to feel all alone? It is because of this fear we pretend that our issue with porn and lust is not that big of a deal. We believe that a little porn won’t really hurt us and that we can manage our porn consumption. We actually pretend that this issue does not exist – this is how we cope. However, the reality is we have put on a great face but we are lying to ourselves; we are dishonest.
I was reminded of the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler. You may quickly question how a story about a man instructed by Jesus to sell all his belongings to come follow Jesus has anything to do with confession and transparency—so hang with me for a second.
In Mark 10, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and a wealthy man approaches Jesus with a question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells the man to follow the commandments – do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, and he goes on. The rich man, in relief I imagine, responds to Jesus with confidence that he has kept the commandments since he was a young boy. This man is completely genuine at this point. He has convinced himself that he is doing right and that he is deserving of eternal life until Jesus drops a suffocating bomb.
Mark 10: 21, “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
It’s like Jesus says to the man, “Are you kidding me? You are lying to yourself. Not only are you not keeping all the commandments, you are not even keeping the very first one.”
Exodus 20:3-4, “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.”
The instruction from Jesus is not so much about wealth, possessions, and giving to the poor as it is about our inability to be good enough to inherit the kingdom of God. Listen, we are not good on our own. We struggle and we sin and we must be honest about our failings with ourselves, with others, and with God if we have any hope of healing. It is like the rich young ruler has convinced himself that his love for money is not that big of a deal. It’s like we have convinced ourselves that this struggle with purity is not holding us back.
The first step in kingdom living is to actually be honest with yourself about your sin and your inability to be good enough. Have you convinced yourself that porn is not that big of a deal in your life? Maybe you deal with your struggle by lying to yourself, to others, and to God about your sin. Stop pretending like you have it all together. As a pastor it seems all that much harder to admit that we are struggling, but it is the key to recovery and renewal. We have to take the mask off with someone.
James said it this way:
James 5:16, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed…”
Finally after many years this pastor friend of mine found a community of people he could be real and transparent with and was able to confront his sin. Through this community of transparency he is winning the battle and overcoming temptation. Is he perfect? I don’t think I even need to answer that question, but is he experiencing victory – YES.
Jesus will dig into these areas of your life with great compassion to pull out of you a transparency and an openness that will ultimately bring healing. Do not skip the journey of wholeness because of your lack of honesty with God, others, and ultimately yourself.