“For neither man nor angel can discern hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible.” – John Milton –
Double life. As someone who used to be a card-carrying minister and also habitually viewed pornography, this expression carries a lot of meaning for me.
People are often fascinated with the concept of the struggle between personal sin and social respectability. This theme comes out most powerfully in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic science fiction story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Dr. Jekyll is a benevolent, respectable scientist who learns from a young age to present his best side to the world while repressing his darker impulses. Deeply troubled by his duplicity and wanting some outlet for his sin, he resorts to the field of science to solve his problem. The good doctor creates an experimental potion that he hopes will divide the two sides of his personality.
Taking the potion, Dr. Jekyll is transfigured both physically and emotionally. Inside he feels lighter, younger, unencumbered by conscience with no regard for morality. Outwardly he looks sickly and deformed, colored with evil. This wicked persona he names Edward Hyde.
What starts as a bizarre experiment turns into a double life. As Dr. Jekyll, he carries on his respectable public life. As Mr. Hyde, he indulges in every lustful wish. The potion can change him back and forth, and for a while Jekyll enjoys the sort of freedom this affords him. “I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil,” Jekyll writes, “and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine.”
Sadly, over time Hyde begins to emerge as the dominant personality, surfacing more and more without use of the potion. As Hyde becomes more reckless and less discreet with his evil, Jekyll feels he must prevent Hyde from rearing his ugly face. But no matter how hard he tries, he cannot control the demon caged within him.
As Hyde becomes more difficult to conceal, and as his sins become more sinister and harmful, Jekyll is dismayed when he discovers his potion no longer has the original potency to keep his evil persona under control. Jekyll hates the monster he has become. In his final account he writes,
I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul.
In complete despair, and fearful of the punishment that awaited Hyde for his crimes, Jekyll takes the only course he feels is left to him and commits suicide.
Reading the fictional memoirs of Dr. Jekyll, I cannot help but sympathize with him. For me, the Internet was my potion. It was the place where my anonymity was secure, where I could become a different person, where I could let my most lustful desires run free. Once my lust was satisfied (but never really satisfied), I could then swallow the antidote of “ministry” to cure me, to bring me back to “reality.” This was the sad habit of my life for years.
By the grace of God, my Edward Hyde did not drive me to total despair and ruin. He did not utterly take over. (Of course, by “he” I really mean “me.”) Like a father, God orchestrated events in my life and relationships that brought me out of hiding and into the light. Today, I walk in a much greater measure of freedom from pornography, but it is a fragile freedom. This side of glory, Hyde will never really go away, and from time to time, he likes to remind me that he’s still around.
As a Christian, my marching orders are clear: I must throw myself on the mercy of God and put these inclinations in my flesh to death. Easier said than done, I know. But over the years, God has been faithful to slay the sin in my members and give me a fresh joy in Him that displaces the pleasures of sin. I pray the same will be true for you.
The Purpose of This Book
This book is written to church leaders who feel the tension of a double life. How do we break free of our compulsion to view pornography? This is a great question, but before we answer it, we must ask the more basic question: how can we have what King David called “an undivided heart” (Psalm 86:11)?
This book is not a step-by-step guide away from lust and pornography. It really isn’t a step-by-step guide to anything. This book is about one step—one crucial step—that ministers must take: get honest with ourselves and with others we trust about the real nature of our sin. No pretense. No minimizing. No rationalizing. No games. Just gut-level honesty.
This book is about repenting of drinking our religious potions that enable us to wear our titles like masks and keep us from bringing our sins into the light. Just as sure as we must repent from our Hyde-like lusts, we must also learn to turn from our Jekyll-like pretenses. Your Hyde is not your only problem. Jekyll too must change. He must learn the first step to stopping Hyde is exposing him, not trying to manage him.
We must shatter the illusion that we can simply quarantine our sin and still carry on as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The same Jesus you serve from the pulpit will simply not let you entertain idols at your computer.
This book is also written to those who work with or are close to ministers who struggle with pornography. We hope these pages contain practical resources for you to identify with and counsel a struggling minister.
Well before the dawn of the Internet, British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Sex has become the religion of the most civilized portions of the earth. The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.” How much truer is this quote today in our Information Age, with seemingly anonymous sexual images and interactions available to us at the click of a button. Now more than ever, ministers and pastors need to renew their delight in the living Christ so the fleeting pleasures of sin cannot compete as rival gods.
This book is only a first word, a beginning to the conversation. It is not the last word on this subject. Real freedom isn’t learned in a book. It is forged in prayer. It is experienced through gut-wrenching conviction. It is practiced and celebrated in honest friendships. My great hope for this book is that it woos you out of hiding and helps you step into the light of accountability and freedom.
Yours in the battle,