First, I think it should be evident that there is a sizable plank in our evangelical eye. The Bible doesn’t say you can be a practicing Christian and a practicing sexual sinner as long as the sexual sin is heterosexual. Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Paul is saying that if the persistent pattern of someone’s life is living in unrepentant sexual sin, then they are evidencing themselves to be an unbeliever (Cf. 1 John 3:9). The routine unrepentant pornography user and the habitual, unrepentant fornicator will not inherit the kingdom of God any more than those who make a practice of homosexuality.
We are right, therefore, to tell our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction that they can’t be a Christian and live in or practice homosexuality. We are wrong not to say the same to our brothers and sisters who willfully and unrepentantly live in sexual sin with the opposite sex—whether in person or online.
Make no mistake, looking at pornography and participating in hookup culture are worshiping at the “high places” of our pagan culture just as much as embracing a homosexual lifestyle.
Second, we significantly undermine our witness when we, individually or corporately, explicitly or implicitly, support a double standard on sexual sin.
We don’t permit people to become or stay members of our churches if they refuse to give up homosexual practices. To avoid hypocrisy, the church should draw the same membership line for those who practice heterosexual promiscuity and pornography consumption. Failing to do so dishonors Christ; it also dishonors our brothers and sisters who, out of their love and devotion to Christ, mortify their homosexual desires and live chaste lives.
The widespread participation in fornication and pornography in the church is evidence that we haven’t taken as hard a stand on these issues as we have on homosexuality.
I say all this as someone who, upon becoming a Christian in my early twenties, immediately gave up the habit of heterosexual promiscuity but didn’t completely give up looking at pornography until six years later—which leads me to my third takeaway.
Finally, we fail to love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling with these sins if we don’t exercise church discipline. Church discipline is a God-ordained means by which we are restored from a state of wandering in sin to a state of walking in obedience.
There is a world of difference between struggling in obedience and coasting in disobedience. If your sin causes you godly sorrow that leads to repentance, your heart has been changed. If you are carefree and unashamed of your sexual sin, then there is a high probability that your heart hasn’t been changed. Of course, sexual sanctification takes time (as I learned in my own life), but an unwillingness to repent and fight for sexual holiness is a mark of unbelief.
Church discipline, as outlined in places like Matthew 18:15-20 and Galatians 6:1, is an escalating process designed to expose the sincerity or insincerity of a person’s faith and to either “bring back a sinner from his wandering [and thereby] save his soul from death” (James 5:20), or to “to deliver [the person] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that [their] spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5; Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:13).
No doubt, more people would be free from pornography addiction and fornication if we treated these sexual sins with the same level of seriousness as we do homosexuality, adultery, and alcohol addiction. I truly believe my deliverance from pornography would have been expedited had I been put through a church discipline process that included loving/private confrontation, elder oversight, professional help, strict accountability, and potentially a period of being barred from the table. God commands us, and people need us, to bear these burdens with them according to a biblical blueprint for restoration (Galatians 6:2).
It’s time for us to remove the plank of pornography and promiscuity from our individual and collective eyes so that we can better see how to love our neighbors (Matthew 7:5).