by CPT Todd Stanford, USA
Since the terrorist attacks in 2001 our military has been at war against the enemies of our nation. Our soldiers have also been waging another war with another enemy, an unseen one–sexual temptation. It comes in many forms, leaving in its destructive wake adultery, divorce, discipline problems, and low moral conduct and morale.
I saw many soldiers caught in the claws of sexual impurity during my deployment to Iraq. It grieved my spirit to see these things affecting the soldiers of my Forward Operating Base (FOB), fueled by the rampant availability of pornographic items. I decided to make a difference by starting a Bible study on sexual integrity for men.
Every Man’s Battle, the men’s study book I chose to use, promotes Bible-based abstinence through God’s word: no pornography, adultery, sex outside of marriage, or masturbation. The battle of sexual integrity is won only by achieving sexual purity.
As defined in Every Man’s Battle, sexual purity is “when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife.”i God’s standard for sexual purity is straightforward, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity”(Ephesians 5:3).
Once the books arrived, via donations from my church, I began a weekly study at the FOB chapel. With only about three months left in theater, I wanted to help the soldiers prepare to be able to meet their wives with pure hearts. We discussed the previous week’s reading assignment and corresponding questions from the book’s study guide.
Four other Every Man’s Battle study groups also started up at nearby Patrol Bases (PBs). This was the first sign that these Bible study groups in pursuit of sexual purity were having a positive impact. The need was there. And God provided for the need as men of character stepped forward to help their fellow Soldiers.
The men learned about the pitfalls of viewing sensual images, of how exposure to them is comparable to a drug addict getting a fix. Men get a chemical high from viewing sexually charged images through the hormone epinephrine that’s secreted into the bloodstream. Whatever stimulus is present at the time of the emotional excitement becomes locked into memory.
The unchecked male tendencies of tolerance to mixed standards of sexual purity, rebellious nature, and sexual gratification received through the eyes lead to constant impure thoughts and negative effects on relationships. The worst-case scenario is that this unchecked lust leads to action on the part of the individual with dire consequences such as divorce, fraternization, and adultery. God’s standards are clear on this: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
The objective in successfully battling lust was in learning to build three perimeters of defense-with the eyes and in the mind and heart. Two such tactics were “bouncing eyes” (Job 31:1 —I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman), and “taking thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5 –-we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ). And a third perimeter was in the strengthening of their affections for, and the commitments and promises made, to their wives.
This trio of tactical areas was studied in depth to develop each man’s individual battle plan. This study’s focus included single men as well, teaching them the same tactics to help them stay sexually pure, not develop addictive behavior, and increase the potential for them in marrying the right person.
As an officer and a Christian, it’s not just taking care of soldiers on the battlefield that counts. You must lead them in the battlefields of the mind as well, where the battle against sexual integrity is waged. That battle can be won only if a leader has the courage and fortitude to tackle this topic head on.
Taking care of a soldier in marriage and family life should be foremost in a training plan and command philosophy. Giving them the tools, such as a Bible study like this, and establishing an environment to ensure their success is your responsibility as a leader. The military is a family–and for many of us, the only one we have from time-to-time. We must take care of each other to ensure victory on all fronts and remain family strong!
A men’s study devoted to sexual integrity can provide your soldiers with the weapons and tactics to win and maintain strong moral standards during combat deployments.
Todd enlisted in the U.S. Army after the 9/11 attacks, attended Officer Candidate School, and conducted three combat tours in Iraq. His third deployment was as a Company Commander in support of Operation New Dawn
i. Arterburn, S., Stoeker, F., & Yorkey, M. (2000). Every Man’s Battle: Every Man’s Guide to Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time. Colorado, CO 80920: Literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680. 10
This article originally appeared in COMMAND magazine, or an OCF Ministry Report.