In the real life and death drama of Apollo 13, after hearing an explosion in their space capsule 200,000 miles away from earth, crewmen James A. Lovell, Jr. and John L. Swigert recited one of the most famous understatements in history: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Those placidly stated yet chilling words sent the world’s greatest scientists and engineers at the NASA mission control center in Houston scrambling to find solutions. Under the unrelenting leadership of NASA Flight Director, Eugene Kranz, failure was not an option.
To borrow their alarming understatement, we’ve had a problem, too, here in the African American community. While comprising only 12% of the U.S. population, African Americans now account for nearly 50% of all the new AIDS cases. Decades ago, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop warned that this trend amongst African Americans was genocidal. Despite the billions spent looking for secular answers, the death count keeps rising. So I pray that this blog post will find its way to a different Houston, a network of Christian leaders who will relentlessly scramble to find biblical solutions and refuse to accept failure.
Porn: The Gateway Drug
That is why I gladly accepted the invitation to write this blog post for Covenant Eyes. Their ministry presents real help to those who have a real struggle with pornography. While pornography obviously doesn’t cause AIDS, it is the perfect gateway drug that leads to a whole host of sexual sins that do. There is no magic wand that will take away a person’s lust for sin. The Bible commands believers to kill (mortify) their sinful desires, the flesh (Colossians 3:5). That doesn’t sound easy. However, God commands it. Since He commands it, we must believe it is possible. Christians can, by God’s grace, choose to kill the flesh, not give the flesh an opportunity, and not allow ourselves to be enslaved by it. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for choosing to yield to lust rather than resist it. Let me put it another way: Satan can tempt Christians with porn, but we have to click a mouse. When we sin this way, we do so because of choices we make. Therefore all of us need to be encouraged through accountability (like Covenant Eyes) to make godly decisions.
I love the African American community. While I know immorality is an equal opportunity vice that knows no cultural, ethnic or gender boundaries, my heart’s burden is for my brothers whose battle is according to the flesh. In the African American community, which has given pop culture gangsta rap music, life is imitating art. Too many young men are living above the law and paying for it by living behind bars.* Earlier in my ministry I taught weekly Bible studies at Wayside Prison in California. To my horror, the men had cable TV and access to porn. The last place you want to inflame lust in men is where they are locked up together. Result (no rocket scientist needed): the HIV virus proliferating among African American men who, when released from prison, transmit the virus to women in staggering numbers. The leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 25-34 is not heart disease or cancer. It is AIDS! Do you get a sense of the weightiness of the problem?
Being the Salt and Light
What can a Christian do? We must do what God has called us to do. Preach that the wages of sin is death and that God holds all sinners responsible for repenting (Acts 17:30-31). We need to clearly state that AIDS is a lifestyle disease which is 100% preventable, by celebrating monogamy and celibacy. A faithful man married to one woman can thoroughly enjoy God’s gift of sex with his wife, and neither of them will ever get the HIV virus, and for that matter, any STD.
But the moans and groans, sultry swaying, and shaking from the latest videos streaming from the Internet are blinding even professing Christians to this reality. The Bible warns, “don’t let her (the seductress) capture you with her eyelids,” but this warning is often ignored. And there is a deadly price Proverbs promises for making that fool hearty decision.
So what are the solutions for the African American and all of our communities? Grace, grace, and more of God’s marvelous grace. Where sin abounds, God’s grace can and does too (Romans 5:20). We must exhort Christians to be light and salt. Light casts out darkness and the deeds that go along with it, while salt preserves. And the good news is that Jesus promises that all genuine Christians can live free from sin, and that includes sexual sin. He said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
On one hand, our mission is simple. Find believers who are skilled in the word of God, who by faith believe that it can produce a revival in purity, and who are bold enough to call people to live radically holy lives.
On the other hand, our mission is hard. For many believers to live holy they must repent from living unholy. Only if this happens will the church experience the power of God necessary to produce a revival of purity in our nation. I believe God’s promise to Israel can apply to the people of God today if we radically repent.
Lord, Heal Our Land
“And [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
No doubt, some have lost hope and believe that we are fighting a losing battle against pornography. The truth is, we might be. But as ambassadors for Christ, we should, rather, hope in Him, use His sword and sanctified tools (like Covenant Eyes software) which He has given us. And perhaps, just maybe, our Nineveh will repent too, and God will use us to rescue more souls from the snare of sexual sin.
May the Lord hear our cry and help us.
* While African American men represent 14% of the population of young men in the U.S., they represent over 40% of the prison population.