By: Shane James O’Neill
Lying to Myself
I’ve had patches of abusing pornography throughout my Christian life. I’m always shocked to see how quickly the habit grabs a hold of me and how much it impacts my life. When I am watching pornography my life output significantly dwindles: my heart cares less for people, I don’t exercise nearly as much, my dieting falls to pieces, and my disciplines for reading and work also go to the wayside. I care less about Scripture and I have no confidence in prayer. My attitude is shorter with those around me and I find it very difficult to serve from an overflow of love.
Needless to say, when my sexual integrity is compromised so is every other area in my life.
There are few things worse than being trapped in an action you don’t believe in. Actions are powerful. Actions teach us how to think and can re-form our belief systems:
If you believe the poor are important but don’t interact with them then over time they will stop being important to you. If you believe God can save anyone but don’t share Jesus with those around you, then your faith is only theoretical and that theory will shift. If you believe pornography is wrong, but watch it regularly, then you are confessing a belief with your actions (that pornography should be enjoyed) that is opposite what you confess with your speech (that pornography and premarital sex is not how people were designed to enjoy life).
Over time your actions of watching pornography or having premarital sex will re-create your sexual convictions, it will even change the way you read Scripture. And eventually, you will settle for a belief system that matches your actions. True belief is always shaped by how we live.
James was absolutely right when he said, “faith without works is dead.”
So what is biblical faith and how do we accept faith as a gift that shields us instead of as a curse that condemns us?
A proper shield
In Ephesians 5 the Apostle Paul connects the Christian resource of faith to the Roman shield.
The Roman shield (called the scutum) was rectangular and covered the entirety of the soldier’s body. The Roman soldiers formed together: the formation was designed so that a soldier’s shield would guard those beside them, while other soldiers were positioned to put their shields overhead to guard from arrows and spears. By strategically linking themselves by their shields, the soldiers would outlast and endure the assault of their enemies and once their adversaries were exhausted then they would attack. In combat, the Roman soldiers used their shields as offensive weapons to batter the enemy and expose weak areas for assault.
Two important observations:
First, the Roman shield was never designed to be used in single combat. The brilliance and success of the Roman army was its formation as a collective force. The Roman shield was crafted to be used with other shields, and the army was trained to use their shields as a unit, with a group of people who had a common enemy and were trained to stand firm together against that enemy.
Second, the scutum was a defensive weapon that functioned so well it had incredible offensive application. The scutum was a major weapon wielded by the Romans to beat back the opposing force, while it also protected the entirety of their bodies.
getting faith right
Paul is making these same two observations about faith in Ephesians 5:
First, your faith is not meant for only you. Humans are made in the image of God and are thus social beings, after the fashion of our Trinitarian Creator. You are a resource to everyone around you and when you aren’t pursuing Jesus’ teachings on sexuality then that not only impacts your own life, you are also exposing all the people nearest to you. Our faith is designed to cover and protect the people we live life with and when we drop our shield we expose those closest to us to serious attack.
Your faith is not meant for you alone, it is designed to lock in with other people’s faith. Likewise, attacks aren’t meant for just you, the enemy will attack you knowing that they can get at others if you have a weak faith-shield.
Second, St. Paul begins his exhortation in Ephesians 5 with a call to actively stand firm against the attacks of deep darkness. Your faith is defensive and offensive. It protects and it repels the things in your life that are waging war against you. In prayer we go on the offense for those around us, in love we give dignity and care to those who are hurting, by trusting in truth we defend against lies and then offensively beat them back, by not giving into anger or anxiety we remain ambassadors of peace in other people’s lives.
You may believe that Jesus can save you, but if you aren’t cashing out on that promise then you’re really just slowly suffocating. Faith is incredible, it allows us to live in relationship with one another so that we’re protecting each other. Our shields of faith guard more than ourselves, they guard the people to our right and to our left. Faith guards our parents, our children, our spouses, our co-workers, our hopes, our peace, our sanity, our purity.
Work to have people in your life who will create a shield wall of faith. Have people in your life who are prepared to do war every day. We were never meant to have an individualized faith, nor is sexual purity a war we’re meant to fight alone. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present evil, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places… Stand firm, therefore… In all circumstances take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
We can no longer settle for the mistreatment of women and the self-abuse of lustful pornography. “This is War” is here to train men in honor and integrity and signal a battle cry for men to stand for Sexual Integrity and fight against the use of Pornography.
Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for ProvenMen Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.