Is it a sin to be attracted to kids or is it just a neurological condition? Is this purely physical due to the bad neurological wiring in our brains or is there a moral component?
From our perspective, it’s certainly a lot easier to claim sickness over sin. After all, if we say it’s a kind of evil – the weight of guilt falls directly on us and it doesn’t seem fair. We didn’t want this. We didn’t choose this. The thoughts and feelings we experience are like unwanted guests in the houses of our minds – tormenting us at every turn. Our past is a scattered train wreck of abuse and painful events. For some of us, entire years are missing from the archives of our memory. We already feel bad enough for who we are, so why in the world would we condemn ourselves and invite a trigger-happy society to do the same?
At the same time if we claim sickness, there’s a chance of being accepted. We want people to stand alongside us and support us and tell us we’re all okay, and that it’s not our fault. We could be the new minority – victims of one of the worst kinds of neurological diseases, now on the forefront of social dialogue to sweep away ignorance and pedophobia and build a better, safer world for everyone. Who doesn’t want that right? Case closed. Done and dusted. (apart from the various Antiped groups on the darkweb but whatever)
But something doesn’t seem quite right. We push it out of our minds as much as we can, and yet we still feel it sometimes when we ride the subway, or when we’re in the shower, or walking through the forest, or when we can’t sleep. It’s like the bite of a sandfly at the back of our heads or the wriggling of a worm under our skin that just doesn’t seem to go away. But why? Why do we still feel this way? Haven’t we just sidestepped a steam engine? Aren’t we all good now so long as we don’t act on our feelings?
Not in the slightest.
In recent centuries our understanding of the doctrine of sin has undertaken a significant weakening. We understand sin in the anthropocentric sense of the term, which is why murder, rape, and child sexual abuse are all viewed as evil, yet this is a very low resolution picture. And it’s this low resolution picture which is mostly responsible for all the confusion of what to do with people who struggle with unwanted under-age attractions among other things.
In the pages of scripture we find all the answers we need but the words which the Bible uses to describe sin can be difficult for us modern people to understand. For the most part, the church has preached the dumbed-down version that sin is simply a clear-minded and informed defiance against God. The real Biblical position on sin is actually a lot more detailed.
For example, you’ll realize that the Bible uses multiple words for sin. Words like ‘transgression’ and ‘iniquity’ are found all throughout scripture so it’s important that we understand these terms properly. ‘Transgression’ is simply the breaking of trust, or an agreement. For example, we expect our politicians to represent us, but quite often they don’t. This is a transgression, even if they haven’t “sinned” directly, they’ve abused the trust that we’ve placed in them. ‘Iniquity’ refers to something or someone as being twisted or crooked; something that’s messed up, perverted, and rotten. So even from here we can see that defining sin isn’t as simple as so many have made it out to be. We are by nature, fallen creatures, which means that whatever understanding of sin we do have is going to be tainted by our own sin – or worse, weaponized against other people.
Furthermore, we can often think of sin as an individualistic affair – stripping it of its relational context. Certain actions become sinful such as lying and stealing, but we don’t see them in the backdrop of things such as culture, or family of origin. I found Genesis 34 to be a great help in this aspect. Here we have a particularly detailed insight into Jacob’s dysfunctional family. We see the flow-on effect of sin; the cycles of retaliation like a chain of emotional blow-outs and heartbreak. And because it’s all happening within the context of a family system, it’s impossible to lay the blame at the feet of any one person (except perhaps Schechem).
In this chapter, Dinah, the daughter of Leah, Jacob’s least favorite wife, runs away from home and is raped by Shechem – the young prince of the city. When her father hears about it, he does…nothing. He isn’t grieved by what’s happened and he doesn’t demand justice like a loving father would. Dinah’s brothers on the other hand, are grieved by what’s happened, and being enraged, they take things into their own hands. Simeon and Levi take their swords, and massacre the entire city killing every male. They kill Schechem on sight, and take their sister Dinah back with them, along with the surviving women and children as plunder. When Jacob hears about what his sons have done, he becomes angry and rebukes them sharply, but since he’s lost his credibility as father, they reply sarcastically; “Should we have treated our sister like a prostitute?”. The inference being – “like you”.
The way everyone in Jacob’s family plays off one another reminds me of my own experience growing up. More often than not, dad would be a needy and unorganized mess. In response to this, mum would become angry, and fly off the handle. My brother would get angry back at mum which would only make things worse. I would zone out completely because I was just so overwhelmed, and my sister would set out to annoy everyone. The whole thing was just a horrible mess and nobody was in their right mind.
Another aspect of sin that rarely gets a mention is sin that’s done unintentionally. Leviticus 4:27-29 helps shed light on this aspect. Here God says: “If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect.” At first, we can find this hard to grapple with. If someone does something unintentionally in our world, quite often the only thing required to set things right is an apology. After all, how can you blame someone for something they were unaware of? In our mind it doesn’t seem right. In regards to more serious matters though, we can find ourselves completely stumped. God however, sees all the intricate details. He recognizes that whether intentional or not, an offense has still taken place which must be atoned for.
When I was around ten or so, I was out playing in the street. A friend of mine invited me over to watch some afternoon cartoons. Unaware that I had stepped in dog poo, I followed my friend back to his house and walked dog poo all over the new carpet. Now at the time I had no idea that I had done the wrong thing. As far as I could tell, I was just being a good kid and enjoying some cartoons, but that didn’t change the fact that there was dog poo on the carpet. The offense was still there. Someone had to clean it up. It didn’t just magically go away because I didn’t mean to bring it in with me. So yeah as you can imagine, I got in trouble. I was embarrassed, and I had to go back outside and miss my cartoons until the carpet was made clean again. It wasn’t my fault, but at the same time, it was.
So in light of all this, what are we supposed to do? There’s not a single person on earth who’s completely innocent. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We’ve either sinned in the traditional sense, or broken trust with someone, or we’re twisted and perverted. All of us are caught up in some kind of system of brokenness whether it be our family, our church, our office, or our college. All of us have done something we shouldn’t have unintentionally. All of us have offended in some way – even if it’s just in our thoughts. (Although to be honest, I probably shouldn’t say just our thoughts. Our thoughts reflect the attitudes of our heart which shows us that our hearts are corrupted and rotten also.) Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, these are the things we’re supposed to be thinking about (Philippians 4:8). No matter how we frame things, we still fall short. We haven’t loved the lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. And we haven’t loved our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-41). And if lust is still a sin (Matthew 5:27), if covetousness is still a sin (Exodus 20:17), if greed is still a sin (2 Kings 5) how is it possible for us to claim that under-age attraction is okay? What is under-age attraction anyway if it isn’t some kind of lust, some kind of covetousness or some kind of greed?
So what can we do?
We’re guilty, not simply of having a neurological condition, but guilty of sin. We’ve sinned against a holy and righteous God. We deserve the wrath, and anger, the fury, the hatred of God almighty to come crashing down on us. There’s no way around it. There’s no escape. We deserve to be condemned to hell forever and ever. We deserve to be tormented for all eternity. We deserve to be thrown down and crushed – even if we haven’t harmed a child! Feel this against your soul! Don’t turn away from the fire. You have no chance of entering heaven; no chance at all. God’s blazing eye of justice sees you as filthy and detestable, and condemns you to the lake of fire, and all of heaven stands in thundering applause because God is so good that he would rid the earth of you!
BUT THEN, a ray of light appears. Jesus comes into the world taking on human flesh. He lives a perfect life even though he lives among corruption. He willingly goes to the cross, and he drinks in and absorbs all the hell that you deserve. God the Father in perfect hatred yet in a perfect state of mind unapologetically drives Abraham’s dagger into the heart of his Son. And from the cross he cries out “It is finished!” as he willingly submits to death and gives up the ghost. And finally, after three days of silence he bursts out of the tomb in victory, ascends back up to the father, and receives the outpouring of glory, honor, and praise forever and ever.
And now… because of everything he’s done – because Jesus has taken on the wrath of God that you rightly deserve, there’s no more wrath left for you, and God can look on you as though you never sinned – as though you never were a part of the corrupt mess of humanity – as though you never broke trust with anyone – as though you never turned out the way you did – and even, as though you never harmed a child.
This is grace. This is why we love and worship Jesus, because he took the penalty we rightly deserve. And so now, in light of this, we strive to live a life of holiness with everything that we are – looking forward to the day when we’ll be made perfect and inherit the eternal life God has for us with him.
Under-age attraction is a sin, but we don’t lose heart because we have a mighty savior in Jesus.
And for this reason we shout with unspeakable joy “Hallelujah! Christ my savior! Christ my joy! Christ my God!”