I loved belonging to little league as a kid – I just didn’t care for baseball. Hand/eye coordination didn’t come naturally to me, and I’ve never been quick, so strike outs and missed catches were a problem. I could manage a football pretty well, and I blocked and tackled better than most. Still, baseball eluded me.
Yet there I was, season after season, wearing a little league uniform. I liked the status. I liked saying “I’m a ball player.” I loved the camaraderie of the team, and the social privileges it brought. I liked everything about baseball, in fact, but the game itself. So I made up my own. At each game, I’d sleepwalk through the first half, strike out, flub catches or get tagged. Then, when the others in the lineup took over during the second half, I’d sit on the bench with a concealed comic book, sipping a soda and letting my mind wander. Disinterested in the real game, I had my own game going.
Until my coach intervened. I was in the middle of a terrific Green Lantern story, ignoring, as usual, my team mates and the game, when my coach snatched me off the bench, pulled my astonished face within a fraction of his, and said, “Dallas, nobody made you join this team. You wanna play? Play. You don’t wanna play? Then turn in the uniform and quit calling yourself a player. Because when you carry this team’s name and don’t really play , you let the rest of us down.”
Christ Himself might say the same to many of us, because Christian men by the thousands are sitting on the bench, carrying the Name but ignoring the Game. And while there’s no telling just how many believers are sexually compromised, the estimates aren’t encouraging. Over 18 % of the men polled in a Zogby/Focus on the Family survey, for example, identified themselves as Christians who used pornography. Studies quoted in Newsweek magazine suggested that as many as 30% of the ministers interviewed had committed adultery, and during an informal polling at the 1996 Promise Keepers Men’s Conference, one out of three men admitted they “struggled” with pornography.
If you’re one of those guys, and you’re considering reasons to change, I want to offer you three.
First, Your most important relationships are suffering.
You may belong to God, but something’s missing, because you know that He knows there’s compromise in your life, and the Father/Son bond is polluted by that mutual knowledge.
Perhaps you’re ducking Him?
No surprise there. Man’s first response to sin, after all, was to run and hide from God, rather than run to Him for help. When Adam sinned, he fled the scene, making an insane attempt to duck God. And to my thinking, there’s no sadder line in all of Scripture than God’s heartbroken call to His rebel son:
“Adam, where are you?”
Of course, your relations with others are suffering, too. Secrecy does that, and if you’ve been entertaining a sexual sin, don’t tell me you haven’t become a pro at the secrecy game. You have to, in order to keep sexual sin alive. You have to do it secretly, then cover it up, lie about it, and pretend it isn’t there. And the ongoing cover up can’t help but erect a wall of secrecy between you and the people who love you the most.
Close friendships and family relations suffer when a man leads a double life. Something dark and more than a little frightening happens to a guy like that. He’s ashamed, but not ready to cop to the cause of his shame. So it poisons him, leaving him defensive, isolated, and spiritually dulled.
You’re being gratified, perhaps, but not really satisfied.
Think of the difference between hunger and appetite and you’ll see what I mean. When your body requires food, it creates hunger pangs to satisfy that need. The “hunger message” is honest; it tells you what your body really needs, and when you respond by eating, you satisfy its requirements.
But you may have also developed a large appetite, which is a desire for certain types and portions of food. If you overeat, that’s usually why – your appetite claimed you needed more food (and probably food of a different sort) than your body required.
Appetite is dishonest in two ways. First, it disguises itself as hunger by saying “I need”, when a more honest statement would be “I want.” If you don’t indulge it, you’ll find you can do with much less food than it demands. Second, it often demands the sort of food you really don’t need. Haven’t you noticed that when your appetite is up, it usually doesn’t call for broccoli? It craves gratification – the quick intensity of rich foods in large quantities – rather than the foods my body needs to truly satisfy it.
Likewise, when you sexually sin, you’re gratifying an appetite that is inherently dishonest. It convinces you that what you want – the porn, the adultery, the hooker, the ritual – is, in fact, a need. There’s immediate impact when you say “yes” to that want, but it soon shows itself to be the sensual counterpart to “pigging out,” as pleasure gives way to shame, guilt, and spiritual sluggishness. Only then might you realize you’ve sacrificed hours of emotional, mental and spiritual satisfaction for a few minutes’ indulgence.
Finally, you’re not fulfilling a primary function.
Have you thought lately about a primary function Jesus said you have; one you cannot, to my thinking, fulfill as long as you’re involved in ongoing sexual sin?
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost his savor, with what shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5: 13-14)
He didn’t invite you to be salt and light, nor did He ask you to consider it. He said that’s what you are. That’s your function, and moral compromise weakens your ability to fulfill it, just as surely as drunkenness would weaken an athlete’s ability to run a race. And when your ability to fulfill your role is weakened, we all suffer.
It’s not just about you. It never was. Someone else, directly or indirectly, is also affected by your compromise. People who already hold Christianity in contempt get fresh ammunition every time a Christian’s secret sin is brought to light, the undecided are given yet another reason not to decide, and fellow believers are demoralized in their own efforts to be an effective influence. And even if your sin has not (yet) been brought to light, the thing itself can’t help but weaken your zeal by polluting your mind and hardening your heart. In that case, you may be a true believer, but you’re hardly one who’s equipped for battle.
Intervention is Inevitable
Considering all this, is it any wonder your Coach is intervening? He’s interrupting your life because something in it is wrong and needs to be made right. Whatever that something is, you can be sure of this much:
- It gratifies, but your own history by now should prove it doesn’t really satisfy.
- It’s hurting someone. It’s hurting you, of course, and it’s offending God, which is no small offense. But it’s also hurting someone close to you – a wife, a friend, a child – who deserves better.
- Meanwhile, it’s keeping you from fulfilling your potential, calling, and role. And we’re all suffering as a result.
(If you’re wanting to read more about this topic, check my book The Game Plan, available here)