There’s this very useful Christian website based in Colorado. Affiliated with a well-known conservative organization that promotes family values, the site provides many helpful resources to single Christians and young adults and I generally enjoy their gospel-centered articles but one day, I came across an unhelpful, unforgettable statement that I must call out.
If you’re a single man who one day stumbles by viewing porn, wait one year before actively dating a sister in Christ, the statement essentially read. The author acknowledged how harsh that sounded, but maintained that with such filth still close to the surface, men have no business pursuing God’s daughters.
To be fair, the author also stated that the habit of viewing porn is a terrible one to bring into a marriage, and I agree. My main problem with his article is his failure to differentiate between the habitual viewer and the occasional stumbler. He simply tossed everyone in the same boat. One year fits all.
This makes him come across as a legalist, as I explain below, despite his good faith attempt to protect our sisters. Like millions of Christians, purity seems to be a stumbling block for the author.
I know it’s possible to give up a porn habit but still struggle to forget, even after several years, because, let’s face it, regular porn consumers never completely rid their minds of pornographic images, regardless of the passage of a year or ten. Does that mean they’re never to seek marriage? A lifetime of singleness for folks who just can’t get those decades-old images out of their heads? As we can see, it’s not about time since last viewing. God sees things in terms of heartfelt repentance (Acts 2:37), not in terms of time frames. He doesn’t keep a record of when we last wronged Him, and I sure am glad for that.
It’s your attitude towards porn and how far you’re willing to go to guard your heart that counts, not how recently you viewed it.
At amusement parks, we often run into signs that say “you must be ‘this’ tall to get on this ride”. These signs remind me of the mindset too many Christians have. I’ve come across far too many Christians who say ‘before considering marriage, you must be “this” sanctified’, subjectively setting some level of sanctification as a yardstick. For a few extremists, that level is nothing short of perfection.
Let me state one thing clearly: God only has one indisputable marital prerequisite, and that’s saving faith in His Son, not some human-defined sanctification benchmark, or the abstention from some particular sins for some human-determined period. The ability to care for your would-be spouse is also important, but anyone with genuine faith in Christ would naturally want to care for their future spouse.
Another reason I find the advice legalistic and troubling is the fact that according to the author’s logic, every married man who gives in to pornographic temptation must separate from his wife for a year each time it occurs, or, unlikely but possible, that the God-fearing single man who despite his best efforts, keeps slipping into porn once every eleven months and twenty nine days must stay single for life, as he’s locked into a vicious circle.
Moreover, insisting on time frames and human-defined levels of righteousness before marriage is exactly the kind of works-based righteousness against which God warned us through the letters of the apostle Paul. The only biblical pattern I’m aware of that mandates physical separation during a period of cleansing is tied to Mosaic Law, which no longer applies to believers.
If a single man is struggling with porn, this shows that there’s a beautiful, God-given desire that he’s trying to fulfill in the wrong ways. Having him wait twelve months is probably counterproductive. I have a different, multi-layer proposal: finding several accountability partners, using internet monitoring software, taking his sexual desires to God in prayer, and perhaps his body is signaling time to begin begging God for a wife.
It’s your heart attitude that matters, not time frames. I know abstaining from all things remotely sexual, including marriage and the opposite sex, has only caused problems for me.
This is perhaps my co-laborer Ray Stone’s biggest problem with the Church today, and also one of mine.
We’re so dogmatic and unforgiving that we conjure up unreasonable rules like the Pharisees did (see Matthew 23:4).
Unlike Pharisees, God has a dichotomous view of morality. By His standards, no one is worthy of marriage, since we all fall into sexual sin each and every day (Matthew 5:28, Mark 7:20-23). Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, through Whom we have already been perfected without having to wait 12 months. Our positional sanctification is already complete in the present, and that goes even for the worst porn fanatic who now places his trust in Jesus.
Christians are so steeped in unbiblical, moralistic traditions that they are unable and unwilling to dig up the real truth and appreciate that which God endorses and declares beautiful e.g. Couples Nursing, thus the Christian taboo surrounding anything sexual is perpetuated.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9