I was a weird kid. You can try to say that you weren’t, but you don’t have to keep lying to yourself. All of us were a little weird at one time or another. Some of us still are. I won’t deny that I’m probably among that crowd. But I digress…
Tomatoes were evil to me as a kid. I wouldn’t touch them. Onions, too; and mushrooms. I thought I had my mind completely made up, firmly grasping to the obvious truth that tomatoes, onions and mushrooms were universally disgusting and should never be consumed. As an eight-year-old, I was so sure. I couldn’t imagine my opinion ever changing, and yet now I don’t mind tomatoes or onions. I don’t remember when it switched, but the way I see them is completely different now. Mushrooms are still evil, but I’ve unknowingly eaten them and am alive to tell the tale, so maybe they’re not as evil as I thought, either. Still working through that one.
Now for a more uncomfortable subject–one I only briefly admit to in my book. Controversial and “improper” to talk about as it may be, it’s nevertheless part of my story, and millions of others’ as well. Here it goes…
I used to think there was nothing wrong with watching pornography.
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Through high school and college, I rationalized it by telling myself that the sexual relationships I was in would benefit from what I could learn and observe on the computer screen. All this while calling myself a Christian. I made my own opinions and judgements, only looking to what God’s opinion was when it was affirming to my own beliefs. I was also completely accepting of what the Bible said about things that were absolutely irrelevant to my life. It was a super easy path to walk when God never disagreed with me.
Thankfully, after deciding that I couldn’t keep ignoring who Jesus really was, I started to see pornography as something entirely different. I became much more honest with myself and admitted that, yes, I really was lusting after other women. I was using them as if they were in my own bed for the night. I was being unfaithful to the girls I was dating and I was, most of all, being unfaithful to God and the way He designed relationships to operate. From other men’s transparency, I also realized that getting married one day wouldn’t halt the temptation, and that I needed to free myself of the addiction while I was still single. And in so doing, I would allow myself to become the man a faithful woman deserves to have.
During that time, I recognized some alarming tendencies in my heart. My expectations had become unrealistic and my definition of beauty had very little to do with the heart and virtually everything to do with how a woman appeared when she had revealed parts of herself that only her husband should rightfully see. I suddenly saw how a porn addiction would naturally hurt my future wife, and how I would be hurt if she constantly compared me to other men. It wasn’t okay anymore; no longer just a way to “study.”
My view and desires have completely changed, which began with the decision to actively pursue Jesus and give Him “permission” to change my heart. I say “permission” because I’m not confident enough to take credit for it in any real way. But I can clearly see now that the expectations I had before Jesus changed my life would have killed every relationship I could have conned myself into by making her think I knew how to be faithful. I see that my standard of beauty has to rest solely in who God is and how I see His character in someone else.
And yet I was so sure of porn’s harmlessness.
This article is not about being a nit-picky eater, nor is it about pornography (although you can obviously tell I have a lot to say about that topic). No, this article is really about how we grow, mature, and find that our views and opinions change in the process.
We tend to form opinions about others, the world, even ourselves, and think to ourselves that the way we see it is the naturally correct response. But think back to how you’ve grown and matured over the years– how your opinions have changed with new insight and fresh experiences. Do you really think the clothes you wore in grade school are still as cool as you claimed they were?
What we think is permissible or reasonable today is not guaranteed to be what we think is equally harmless next year, or the next. Our views of right and wrong, good and evil, allowable and detestable can easily change over time, and they often do. It’s why we tend to value the opinions of our elders more. We respect that they’ve lived longer and gathered more wisdom than we have. We know they will likely think of things that we haven’t considered and their views will be more complete and reliable.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we tend to form our opinions based on what is most convenient or lenient for ourselves at the time. If we struggle with something or have been inconvenienced by something, it becomes more tolerable to give into and, as a result, we rewrite the world’s rulebook. Eventually, we have a society full of people who have each written their own rulebook based on biased observations and opinions. A standard of universal right and wrong withers away.
What if we viewed God’s word, the Bible, as God’s opinion on what life should look like? What if we treated it respectfully as how our Creator designed us to live at our fullest potential, with a level of wisdom much higher than our own?
When we choose and form our own opinions on a topic that is actually given direction to in the Bible (abortion, sex before marriage, pornography, etc.), we essentially claim to have a higher, more mature understanding of the world than God does. But aside from the arrogance and ridiculous idolatry in that statement, here’s how I know there’s a problem with that. God is the ultimate “elder.” He is unchanging, whereas we change our minds everyday. So who is more trustworthy?
“Repenting means revising one’s judgment and changing one’s plan of action. God never does this; he never needs to, for his plans are made on the basis of a complete knowledge and control which extend to all things past, present, and future…” (Knowing God by J. I. Packer).
In other words, if God says tomatoes, onions, and even mushrooms are good, then they are good beyond the goodness that my tastebuds can tell. They have nutrients that are wholly beneficial to the quality of my life. (Thankfully there’s nothing specific about mushrooms in the Bible, and so the war continues.) If God says that pornography, homosexuality, abortion, and all these other topics we love to debate really are harmful to society (these are, indeed, in the Bible), then it must have an impact that our lust, deceptions, and selfishness are offended by and don’t want to accept. Just like a good parent knows to limit when and how much candy their kid consumes, no matter the fuss their little minion throws, God knows what is best for us. We need only to trust it.
The point of being a Christian is to let God influence our opinions and worldview instead of forming our own and then fitting Him into our life only where it’s most convenient. He is God. We are not.