The distinction regarding pornography use – is it a sin or an addiction? …and if it is an addiction, is it a disease like appendicitis that we have no control over? – has been argued about for some time. The same arguement exists regarding alcohol use.
Pastor James Berger in John Cook’s book, Conquerors Through Christ, answered the question regarding sin or disease regarding alcohol abuse/addiction by saying that alcohol abuse/addiction is both sin and disease. One does not become diseased with alcohol addiction without the sin of abusing alcohol in some way. He called the person addicted to alcohol a person caught in a sin. “Caught in a sin” is his key phrase.
An alcoholic does not become addicted to alcohol without bending the elbow to get the drink to his or her mouth. One does not become addicted to pornography without using it. If you search the Bible carefully you will note that drunkenness is the sin, not the glass of wine that we drink or the beer that we sip. Lust is the sin, not the nude picture or the act of intercourse between husband and wife. God gave us sex as a blessing. God gave us alcohol as a blessing. It is when we abuse either that we sin.
We abuse God’s blessing of sex upon a man and a woman in marriage with lustful desires for anyone not our spouse. We abuse God’s gift of sex with adultery and fornication. Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Addiction is the continual and habitual use of something that is sinful or the abuse of something that is given by God as a blessing in such a way that it becomes a powerful, controlling force in our lives. An addiction is something physiological in the brain that compels us to keep on doing that which we, as Christians, know is displeasing to God. When that happens the addiction rules our lives, not our God. We are caught in the sin of abusing the thing to which we are addicted.
According to some scientific studies, the brain activity and pleasure intensity is the same for both:
- The person sinning in lust as he or she views porn
- The person addicted to the pleasure provided by crack cocaine
It does not take long for the brain to crave the pleasure of crack cocaine or the pleasure of lust and porn use. When the brain begins to demand that it be pleasured, the pathways of the brain change. When this change happens, the addiction happens. The lust and the abuse come first. The sin is there with the lust and the abuse. The word, “addiction,” describes being “caught in the sin.” It is not only a sinful feeling and a spiritually sinful abuse of a blessing from God, it has also become a physical corruption in the brain.
An addicted person will always be an addict for his or her whole life. But when the addict stops the sin – the abuse and misuse of sex with lust or porn – then our God of love has blessed him or her again. No person caught in a sin gets set free without Christ. Jesus Christ is the power that is greater than any chains of sin or addiction. Repentance is being sorry for sin, trusting in God’s forgiveness, and turning away from that sin. There are fruits to repentance. The cravings and the desire may still be there for the addicted person. But the continued misuse of God’s blessings is no longer there. Sinful lust no longer controls the person, but is banished when it enters the mind. By God’s grace in Christ there is forgiveness. A sanctified Christian life in recovery is being lived with the help of God.
In God there is victory! In our Triune God we are more than conquerors.