Missions and Masturbation
John Piper says we shouldn't let guilt over sexual sin derail our ministry.

There is no need to reiterate the statistics on sexual immorality among clergy. We all know them. And we also know that addiction to pornography is at epidemic levels even within the church. But do we know how many gifted young leaders never answer their call into ministry because of the guilt they feel over past sexual sins?

John Piper has written an article for Christianity Today addressing this problem. He says:

?so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ. The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.

It's no surprise that Dr. Piper's prescription for overcoming a guilty conscience is a heavy dose of Reformed theology. "Take two doctrines and call me in the morning," seems to be his answer:

With this passionately embraced theology - the magnificent doctrines of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith (even if you don't remember the names) - you can conquer the Devil tomorrow morning when he lies to you about your hopelessness.

Agree or disagree with Piper's solution, the problem he is addressing is important. As our culture becomes increasingly sexually charged Christians will need the tools to not only fight temptation but also the means to recover from failure. When facing an epidemic preventative medicine alone isn't enough.

Similarly, how do we help young people find balance when many gage the health of their relationship with Christ on a single issue - their sexual purity? A friend working at a Christian college has noticed this trend in recent years. Incoming freshmen are the first generation to have grown up since grade school with internet access. Many have been exposed to massive quantities of pornography since their pre-pubescent years. By age eighteen some young men are already sexual addicts. But many others have been formed to measure their spirituality based solely on their sexual self-control. When a single issue carries so much weight the guilt of failure can overwhelm.

Is Piper right? Are we at risk of losing a generation of Christian leaders not because of sexual failure but because they haven't been taught to fight the aftershock of guilt? And is embracing a passionate theology of justification and atonement the solution? I encourage you to read Piper's entire article here, and post your thoughts below.

October 30, 2007