When looking at the relationship between the believer and visual media, it is necessary to go back to the late 20th century in South Africa. Between 1976 and 1981 television became available in the homes of South Africans. I remember how we sat in our neighbour’s lounge to have our first glimpse of television. It was the experience of a lifetime, but little did we know how much it would change the lives of South Africans. The day we allowed television into our homes was the day worldliness entered in and took up prominent residence in our homes! It is only by God’s grace that many believer’s eyes have been opened to the dangers of allowing television to take up a prominent position in our homes!
Have you noticed how non-believers and even professing believers arrange the chairs in the lounge or entertainment room? In many cases, the chairs are arranged in such a way that the television becomes the focal point in the room. The question is: What kind of programming is being broadcast? What percentage of the programming is biblically acceptable for a believer? What are believers exposing themselves with when they watch television?
The television reminds me of a “worldly altar” and the chairs that face the television are like the seats of those who come to offer their eyes to the filth of the world. Many years ago, someone said: “The sins for which Christ died on the cross is the same sin that is used to entertain people today”. There is truth to the statement because programs on television promote all kinds of sin. It seems as if nothing is left untouched. Family dinners and devotions have been replaced with TV dinners and favourite TV shows. The broadcasting networks made sure that the most popular shows are shown during family dinner and devotion time.
I remember when television started, I turned my head when horrific scenes were shown. It started off slowly but as time went on we were exposed to more and more horrific scenes and people got used to them. Families started eating supper in front of the television even while horrific scenes were shown. We quickly became de-sensitized to the horrific scenes on the screen. It is nearly impossible to filter the pictures from your mind once you looked at them.
After television arrived in South Africa, it didn’t take long for pornography to show its face in the homes of South Africans. They wouldn’t have been exposed to it if it wasn’t for television. On the website www.IOL.co.za, in an article titled: “Remember when local was lekker on SA TV” the writers Kashiefa Ajam and Lumka Oliphant wrote: “Then came the incident that shocked Natal viewers on January 11, 1986. During the TV1 news, two technicians watching porn had to do a patch to the bulletin. But they unfortunately connected their sexy stuff directly through the switching feed and viewers were subjected to a 10-second insert of porn.”
The technicians had a little “mishap” and porn was shown to an audience who didn’t ask for it. I believe those ten seconds was the beginning of desensitising the people of South Africa to accept porn. With the introduction of E-TV it didn’t take long for so called “soft porn” to be broadcast over the airwaves of South African. Young and old eyes sat and watched visual material which would turn out to be one of the most addictive “drugs” of all time.
There’s a verse in Job 31:1 which speaks directly to the issue of the believer and the use of his eyes. We read: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? (ESV) John Gill commentary on this verse explains it so beautifully when he writes: “I made a covenant with mine eyes, …. Not to look upon a woman, and wantonly gaze at her beauty, lest his heart should be drawn thereby to lust after her; for the eyes are inlets to many sins, and particularly to uncleanness, of which there have been instances, both in bad men and good men, Genesis 34:2; so the poet represents the eye as the way through which the beauty of a woman passes swifter than an arrow into the hearts of men, and makes impressions there; see 2 Peter 2:14…”
Even though this verse is speaking about the covenant of a man with his eyes, it also applies to a woman and what she exposes her eyes too. Both men and woman should protect their eyes so as not to allow anything to enter in which will make an impression on the heart which does not glorify God.
We read in Psalm 101:3 “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” (ESV) David understood the importance of not setting his eyes on something that is not his to look at. When he looked at Bathsheba she was not something worthless. She was another man’s wife. To Uriah she was the woman he could love, admire, enjoy and be intimate with. To David she was off limits because for him it was worthless to look at another man’s wife and desire her. It was worthless for him because he would pay dearly for his sin.
The sin started with his eyes – looking at a woman which was not his to have. The eyes are the means of observing all kind of things and it is our responsibility to protect ourselves from the things that is set before our eyes. In the society we live in, it is common to find all kinds of sexual temptations. Visual media is most probably the greatest source of temptation ever to be invented by man. Visual media is a platform like none other to broadcast sin.
I am of the conviction that television paved the way in South Africa for pornography to enter the homes of people. The devastating effect it had on the lives of millions of men and woman in our country is becoming clearer every day. Millions of men and woman all over the world are addicted to pornography. As a pastor I am reminded of the devastating effects of porn addiction when I counsel men who have fallen into the power of this extremely addictive sin. When the door to sin is opened, it does not take long for it to take root and as time progresses it will become clear that the first “little sin” has grown to an un-tamable monster. It is only through God’s revelation and by the power of His Spirit that people are set free from the years and years of bondage to visual sin.
In Psalm 119:37 we read: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” When we are looking at worthless things, it refers to the things of this world: the riches, honours, and pleasures of it. These things are all vanity and things which are like gall to our spirit. The things of the world are the things which catch the eye, and it is so attractive that the heart is drawn to it.
What should a believer’s response be to visual media? I believe the answer is simple but difficult – Guard your eyes at all cost. Don’t allow sinful images to enter your eyes. Control what goes into your eyes and by doing so, you will protect your heart. If necessary – throw that visual media “gadget” out the door! Protect your heart!