One of the hardest things about my journey with God was coming to terms with my under-age attraction. I remember feeling so awful and disgusting. It felt like my whole body was full of black mud. Up until this point, I thought I was a pretty decent person. I went to church, I played in the band and I went on mission. As far as I and everyone else could tell, I was just a normal young guy. I knew I was a ‘sinner just like everyone else’ but pedophilia felt like it was something different. I felt like I was something different. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. My whole identity had been completely shattered. What was I supposed to do now? Where was I supposed to go? I had no answers and life was basically unbearable.
It really felt like pedophilia was ‘just one of those things I wasn’t supposed to have’ …but I did.
How did I get this idea into my head? My preacher didn’t exactly pound the pulpit and rant on about how pedophiles are ruining the world. In fact, he didn’t do that about anyone. He just opened up the bible and preached on the passage. For the most part, it was a taboo. The first time I had any knowledge of pedophiles was when I was seventeen (I know right?). I remember the topic came up on ‘A Current Affair’ and I happened to be sitting in front of the TV at the time. It was only later on when I was nineteen and starting to go on mission that I realized how much of a topic of concern child protection was in the adult community, and all the legislation that existed. Before heading off, I remember reading over the child-protection document I needed to sign. I remember being shocked as I was reading through all the terms; grievous bodily harm… possession of child pornography… psychological abuse… voyeurism… exhibitionism… threats of violence… grooming… and of course, sexual contact with a child.
In my mind I couldn’t help but thinking “Huh? People actually do this stuff? People think I’m capable of doing this stuff? The church thinks I’m capable of doing this stuff? How come I never heard about any of this stuff already?” (I was incredibly naive, even though I was nineteen). There was so much that didn’t seem to make sense. Could a real Christian struggle in this area? Could a real Christian be into child pornography? Could a real Christian abuse a child? And if so, what are we supposed to do about it? Can we forgive? Should we forgive? What does that process look like? How come we don’t have any testimonies of people who have been changed as they’ve come to understand the love of God? At church, the whole congregation would openly pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” but did we actually believe it? Did we actually believe that we ourselves were sinners? Because everything else that happened in church; the style of music, the language used, the topics discussed, the tea and biscuits, the brochures, the women’s’ sewing club…
everything that happened in that church seemed to be endlessly screaming out: “We…don’t…sin!”
There were no hurting people in church. There were no broken people in church. Nobody in church was struggling with anything. Everything was fine. Everything was okay.
The embarrassing thing, for the most part is I actually believed it. And looking back I can see why. I was one of the most spaced out kids on the planet. I was completely unaware. I didn’t pick up on the subtle gestures, or the nuanced looks. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why I was thought of as one of the ‘good’ kids. I had no sense of self. When one of my friends confessed to me around that time that he was struggling with porn (it was just normal soft porn) I was shocked and confused. But my friend was a Christian!? How in the world could a young christian man struggle with porn? At the time, I still hadn’t discovered the internet for myself. My little brother was always on the computer and he’d go psycho whenever anyone else wanted to use it. And this was in the time before smart phones and tablets. I didn’t even have a laptop at that time. We didn’t have a lot of money.
And so as a result, I was quite influenced by this strange church moralism, and I believe it was this framework that made my journey all the more difficult. Nevertheless, God was still good to me, and in a series of circumstances, led my eyes to Romans 7. Ever since, I’ve always kept a place in my heart for this wonderfully encouraging and deeply relevant portion of scripture. Let’s have a look at what it says.
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to our God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”Romans 7:21-
Paul, like all of us was struggling with sin. We don’t know what it was exactly, yet by God’s grace he was given the awareness that he was living under two laws: God’s law, and the law of sin. He explains this law of sin in more detail in vs 14-21 but then briefly summarizes it for us here; “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” And so we see this law of sin working against him. It’s almost as if he’s walking against a strong wind or swimming against the current. His factory default setting is towards sin – even though, he’s a Christian – even though in his mind he is a slave of God’s law. He doesn’t have perfect desires. He would like to because he says ‘in my inner being I delight in God’s law’, so nobody can come along and tell him that he secretly hates God or anything. He already loves God and he loves God’s law, and yet… the law of sin is still in his body.
Now if this was true for the Apostle Paul, how much more is this true for us? Are we better than Paul? Should we assume that we’re completely done with sin just because we follow Jesus? Not at all. If Christians don’t sin, then why do all the apostles take the time to write all the instructions on holy living? Why does James tell his readers to ‘confess your sins to each other…’ (James 5:16a)? Why does Peter urge his readers ‘to abstain from sinful desires…’ (1 Peter 2:11)? And why does John say; ‘if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’ (1 John 1:8)? So when someone claims to be sinless, or even worse, when they claim to be a sinner but maintain the moral posture of being without sin, they’re actually going against what God says in his word. God calls his people to be honest.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”1 Timothy 1:15
I think it’d be hard to find anything more honest than this. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many people who can give full acceptance to this trustworthy saying. Others, don’t give any acceptance at all. ‘You mean to tell me that Jesus died to save pedophiles?’ That’s what the Bible says. It’s also important for us to remember that this salvation is more than just going to be with God when you die. God promises to work in a person’s life bringing every aspect under his rightful lordship. This takes time and happens by God’s grace. In my own journey, my attractions have diminished significantly over the years of walking with God and seeking out a good psychologist. My attraction to boys has gone from a 10/10 obsession to a 1.5/10 background chatter. For me this change took around ten years. For you it might take longer or shorter depending on all the variables, but if you keep on following after God, if you continue to make it your life’s goal to seek him and be known by him, you will start to see change as you look back over the years and decades.