The Cheap Substitute is Never Better than the Real Thing

By Paul Chappell

When God created marriage, he said it was “very good.” And that was an understatement. Marriage is incredible. It’s awesome. It’s satisfying.

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I don’t just refer to my marriage (although it is), but the idea of marriage itself.

Marriage, as God designed it, is a gift full of gifts. It includes companionship, completion, acceptance, love and intimacy.

And part of what makes this gift so exquisite is its exclusivity. At its deepest and most intimate level, marriage is valuable and satisfying because it is exclusive.

Of course, not everyone believes this. And we were reminded of that often over the past days with the news of Hugh Hefner’s death. Founder of Playboy Magazine and leader of the American sexual revolution, Hefner absolutely rejected the premise with which I opened this article.

Many of the news stories about Hefner, in fact, including one by the Associated Press, have included or referenced his statements related to his Methodist upbringing and his determination to throw off puritanical restraints and champion the way to freer societal norms.

“Part of the reason that I am who I am is my Puritan roots run deep,” he told The Associated Press in 2011. “My folks are Puritan. My folks are prohibitionists. There was no drinking in my home. No discussion of sex. And I think I saw the hurtful and hypocritical side of that from very early on.”

Thankfully, many of the articles have also noted that the way in which he set out to do this degraded and objectified women.

There’s no doubt that Hefner was wildly successful—by any measurements—in accomplishing his goals. From a business standpoint, he became tremendously wealthy, and from a cultural revolution standpoint, he set forces in motion that will never be turned back.

But I don’t believe Hugh Hefner understood at what cost he did it.

In Hefner’s ideas of freedom, he hurt countless others. And that’s not just true of the women who were his girlfriends, lovers or models who have spoken out on these issues. But it’s perhaps even more true of those who have suffered because of the cultural acceptance of pornography and the sexual revolution.

Actually, as a pastor who has the privilege of counseling hurting people, I believe I have a truer picture of the cost of what the sexual revolution, and in particular, the porn industry has brought about:

·         It’s the heart-wrenching, shoulder-shaking sobs when a wife learns her husband is addicted to porn and she knows she can’t compete with his imagination.

·         It’s the little girl who gets up in the middle of the night for water and sees what Dad is looking at on the computer—and now has nightmares.

·         It’s the marriage dreams (and perhaps marriage as well) that are shattered because of airbrushed pictures and unrealistic fantasies.

·         It’s the child crying himself to sleep because he thinks it’s his fault mom and dad didn’t stay together.

·         It’s the wife who is degraded by unfair comparisons.

·         It’s the husband who cannot break free from his lust.

·         It’s the loss of what could have been—freedom and satisfaction as God created it.

The lifestyle that Hugh Hefner was so proud to have normalized isn’t freedom at all. It’s terrible, terrible heartache. It’s a cheap substitute for something so much better.

Why do I say this?

1. Relationships as God designed them are incredible.

But Hefner’s statements about his upbringing indicate that he never understood the gift of exclusive marital intimacy. He saw only restriction, rather than value of faithfulness.

God’s design for marital intimacy isn’t a stifled version of something better. It is the most satisfying version of something otherwise polluted.

God made sex to be a celebration of the purest, most faithful love—not an expression of self-love.

2. Twisting God’s design hurts everyone involved.

I’m not sure what Hefner meant by saying that he saw the “hurtful and hypocritical side” of what he thought of as puritanism. If he meant that he saw an outward show of abstinence but hidden indulgences in lust, then he was correct that it was both hurtful and hypocritical. But exercising the restraint of faithful love to your spouse isn’t hypocritical.

In fact, as many have noted over this past week, there is an embarrassingly hypocritical side to “freeing” men to use women as objects.

When you live in moral freedom, you can enjoy marital intimacy that is satisfying to both husband and wife. (See Proverbs 5:15-19 and Song of Solomon.) But when you live in the fantasy world of porn or a life of unfaithfulness, you are kept in bondage by your own addictions. And then you are left to suffer the consequences of them.

3. Freedom is possible.

The beauty of God’s love is that Christ can bring you from where you are to where He wants you to be. Freedom is not just for the one who never struggled. It is for you, for me, for every one of us who falls short.

The Bible doesn’t present a God we can’t reach. It presents a God who loves us even though we fall short. It tells of a Christ who came and died in our place for our sin and offers us forgiveness as a gift (Romans 6:23).

People who have been held by porn, or suffered as a result of it, often need help to break free and discover the power and healing of the gospel. If that’s you, I encourage you to get that help. But never believe that it’s not available.

Don’t fall for the lie that a cheap substitute is better than the real thing. It’s not worth it when it costs so dearly and leaves you with so little.

There is a real thing—and it’s very good.

Dr. Paul Chappell is the pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church and the president of West Coast Baptist College in Southern California. He and his wife, Terrie, have just written a new book titled “Are We There Yet? Marriage—A Perfect Journey for Imperfect Couples.”