When is the last time you were watching something on your phone, your TV, or at the movie theater, and you saw something you shouldn’t? If you’re like most people, it wasn’t long ago. These days it’s hard to avoid watching bad things, even if you aren’t looking for them. And you might wonder whether God can forgive you for some of the things you’ve seen or some of the things that you’ve kept watching.
It’s a simple enough question, but to answer it according to the Bible will take a bit of explanation.
Does God care what I watch?
First, the question assumes that God does care what we watch. But how do we know? And what sorts of guidelines does the Bible give for what we do or don’t watch?
Psalm 101:3 is a good place to start. In the King James, it reads “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.” The NIV and ESV are similar. But I think the CSB captures the nuance of what this means a little better:
“I will not let anything worthless guide me.”
There are clearly times when godly people cannot avoid seeing ungodly things! The key is whether you’re consuming those things in a way that influences your life for godliness or ungodliness. Are you letting bad things guide you?
Does God care if I watch porn?
You won’t find the word pornography in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t give detailed guidelines for what you can and can’t watch either. So how do we know? Jesus says in Matthew 5:28:
“But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So then, the Bible doesn’t focus on the content of what we watch, but on our hearts. God cares whether you watch porn because of what goes on in your heart when you watch it. By design, pornography fuels lust. And God cares deeply about the sin of lust.
- See related: Is Watching Porn a Sin?
Can Christians watch anime?
People often wonder about anime—is this OK for Christians to watch? Clearly, the Bible doesn’t address this kind of content specifically. However, the principles of Matthew 5:28 apply here as well. Does this content, whether animation, live action, or anything else, cause you to lust? If so, then you shouldn’t watch it.
- See related: 3 Reasons Anime Porn Is Bad for You
What Christians Should Watch
I could go through a very long list of my opinions on specific things Christians should and shouldn’t watch. I’m sure you’d agree with me on some things and disagree on others. But Philippians 4:8 gives a much better standard of the type of content that should fill our minds:
“[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”
This can vary for different Christians. Depending on your background, strengths, and weaknesses, something that’s perfectly fine for your Christian friend might be a stumbling block for you.
The key biblical idea is an honest evaluation of everything you watch, read, or listen to: Does this bring me closer to God or farther away?
Will God forgive lust?
So, we’ve established that Christians shouldn’t watch porn or anything else that causes you to lust. But what if you’ve already looked and lusted? What are the consequences?
First, we should acknowledge that there are consequences for watching bad things, especially pornography. For more, see The Effects of Porn: What Watching Porn Does to You and Those Around You. You will need to confess your sin both to God and potentially to those whom you’ve sinned against such as a spouse.
- See related: How to Confess Your Porn Addiction to Your Spouse
Second, rest assured in God’s promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God’s mercy and grace are so much bigger than what we choose to put before our eyes!
- See related: Will You Go to Hell for Watching Porn?
Here are some wonderful examples of God’s forgiveness in the Bible:
- Judges 13-16, Samson. Throughout the story of Samson, we’re told that he’s guided by his eyes—whatever looks good to him he pursues it. Consequently, Samson suffers heavy consequences, eventually his freedom and eyesight. Yet, in the end, Samson calls out to God and God uses him in a final act of deliverance for his people. Hebrews 11:32 mentions Samson as one of the heroes of the faith. It’s not a happily ever after story! But it does show how God can redeem our “sins of the eyes.”
- 2 Samuel 11-12, David. King David not only lusted after Bathsheba, but he allowed his lust to drive him to commit adultery with her, and then murder Bathsheba’s husband to cover it up. David and his family suffered because of his sin, but God still forgave him. David was still a man after God’s heart. Psalm 51 recounts beautifully David’s experience of God’s forgiveness.
1 Corinthians 6 talks at length about the sin of lust. In verse 11 Paul says, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Just like Samson and David, we can experience God’s mercy and forgiveness for our sins of lust!
- See related: 3 Biblical Strategies for Fighting Lust
How to Stop Watching Bad Things
If you’ve developed a habit of watching things you shouldn’t, how do you quit? It can feel shameful and overwhelming, but don’t worry. You’re not alone. There are proven ways to quit, even if you feel like you’re addicted.
Confess Your Sin to God and Ask for His Help
You need to take responsibility for the bad things you’ve watched and confess this to God. Prayer is a powerful weapon against temptation. Check out our article, The Secret to Effective Prayer Against Pornography, for more detailed guidance.
Commit Yourself to Change
A lot of people confess their struggles to God and then wonder why the temptation doesn’t disappear. It won’t. Even after you’ve repented and asked for help, changing a sinful habit can be a very tough road. If you’re not serious about it, you’ll quickly lose motivation.
The people who successfully overcome pornography addiction are those who radically commit to change—and are willing to do whatever it takes. That could mean turning off a favorite TV show or avoiding social media. It could even mean a more extreme step like getting rid of your smartphones!
The question is, how committed are you?
Tell Someone About Your Struggle
One of the most important means that God has given us to protect our eyes from bad things is accountability to other Christians. If you’ve got a porn habit or some other pattern of watching things you shouldn’t, you need to tell another person about this.
For more on how to stop watching porn, check out our article, How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps by the noted sex addiction therapist Dr. Doug Weiss.