I think we have done a poor job as the Church in communicating to people about Sex. There’s been an evolution on the topic for sure. You may have remembered scare tactics and shaming when you were young and in church. Or maybe there was just a total ignoring of the topic. Many churches now properly talk about Sex as this great and wonderful gift from God, but then can’t articulate well why people should wait until marriage.
Parents are usually pretty awkward at talking with their kids about it and so they have pawned their responsibility onto their Public School and their Youth Pastor. So I’m not sure if I’m writing right now to Young People, or Christians in General, or Parents, or Youth Pastors. So I’m just going to layout my thoughts to the Church in general.
Just so you know, I have no interest in critiquing the School System. Do I think they’re doing a terrible job? Yeah, it seems so. Do I know how I would do it differently? No, it’s complicated. I don’t expect Non-Christians to view this issue the way I do, and I am not looking to push Scriptural values on them. (Even though those values would benefit them tremendously.)
Talking to teens about sex in a Church setting is tricky. You have some 6th graders who are into Disney movies and some who have already engaged in sexual activity. How do you talk to that crowd? Well, generically. You use language to not educate or inform but that allows them to fill in the gaps on what they know. Be sure, that whatever questions young people have about sex they will go searching out for an answer. They’re going to either ask their friends (and get terrible advice) or they’re going to search on their smart phone (and get terrible advice) and probably find porn. Opening up that line of communication early on is so helpful. Parents, talk to your kids. Youth Pastors, talk to your teens’ parents, and then talk to your teens. But eventually you are going to have to get on an individual basis (guys with guys, girls with girls). What I fear is happening either overtly in some more liberal churches or subtly in more conservative churches is a terrible message on Sex. We, either directly or indirectly, tell teenagers, just don’t get caught. Here’s the messaging:
1) Don’t get pregnant or get someone pregnant.
2) Don’t let people find out.
3) Don’t get some disease that’s going to haunt you the rest of your life.
4) Don’t get heartbroken so wait until you are really ready.
These are not biblical reasons to not have sex for the Christian. Here’s what’s being communicated through that messaging:
1) Babies are burdens and it’s better to get an abortion than anyone find out you’ve had sex. (And girls are treated much more harshly for getting pregnant than the guy)
2) Non-Christians get to have sex and be proud of it, the only difference for Christians is that they need to be ashamed.
3) Condoms are God’s little blessings from above.
4) More and more people treat sex like an activity with no intimate connection whatsoever.
These messages might have been unintentional but that is definitely what is being communicated.
So, churches turned to abstinence. They try to scare or shame people into not having sex before marriage. First of all, this creates innumerable people who feel guilty about sex even once they are married. Second, it wrecks people’s understanding of the forgiveness of God. Finally, it treats a symptom without dealing with the actual problem. Matt Chandler puts this in one of the most articulate ways I’ve heard and I think of this illustration often.
We’re focusing on the wrong thing. To single-out sex and other sexual activities is at best causing people to run from Christ and not to Him, and at worst actually enticing Christians to engage in such things. Here’s what I mean. Go out to your favorite restaurant and get your absolutely, all-time favorite meal. Now, curve-ball, you are on a special diet and here are the things you can’t have – No Meat, No Carbs, No Glutens, No Sugars, No Unnatural Dyes. Enjoy! I didn’t even know what a Gluten was until recently, then I realized how much I love Glutens and am so sad that there are people who can’t eat Glutens. The reality is, when someone is told something they can’t do or can’t have, it makes them want it even more, they are more intrigued and more interested. If the day comes that a Doctor tells me that I’ll die if I eat another Gluten, then I don’t want a list of all the things I can’t eat. I would spiral into a depression the depth of which I might not escape (and I probably would just risk it on occasion because I miss them so much.) I would MUCH prefer a list of delicious foods I can eat instead.
This is why you should talk about Purity. Isn’t that just another name for abstinence? Nope, not at all. Purity is a desire to be holy in the same way that God is Holy. It’s living a life in the way you were designed. Hammers were designed to drive in nails, not to bash people’s heads in. Hammers can be used for that, but that’s not how they were designed (except when a Zombie Apocalypse occurs). God designed human beings to be Pure in His sight. Purity does not just deal with the symptom but with the actual problem. Purity starts in the mind. Purity is about keeping our mind on Christ and Things Above. It’s about staying focused on Christ’s Mission and His purpose for our life. Purity is all about painting a picture of why God’s way is better than anything the World might try to pervert. What you watch, listen to, desire, dwell-on, think about are all influencing the Purity of your mind. If someone is thinking constantly about sexually inappropriate things, then the battle is lost. What’s interesting is that many people think that once they get married then all their sexual thoughts will be about their spouse. Why would someone think that? If you were not willing to wait on God’s Plan before you are married why do you think you’ll be willing to follow God’s Plan when you are married? I also occasionally hear the phrase “Pure until marriage.” This is a misspoken phrase. God wants us to be continuously Pure, especially in our marriages. Sex is a beautiful, uniting element that God specifically designed for marriage. So here are 2 pieces of real, practical advice that I would give to any believer that wants to be Pure their entire life.
1) Set-standards That means talk about them as well. It might be awkward at first, but it will be way more awkward down the road. So lay it all out there. Here’s a sample standard that I think can work for anyone (simple, not easy.) Never be alone with a person of the opposite sex – ever. Never home alone. Never in a bedroom alone. Never parked in a car alone. But how will we ever get to know each other? What??? You can talk on the phone (do people still do that or do phones only text these days?) You can go to a restaurant. (Because that’s not alone, there are tons of people there.) You can hang-out at your house with other people. Be creative. Have fun every time you are with each other. Find the things you really enjoy doing together. Many times people put themselves in situations that are so difficult to resist. Don’t just be Netflixin and Chillin. Get creative. Enjoy each others’ company. And help another couple at the same time by spending time with them too.
2) Accountability Get someone that will ask you the tough questions. Go to the godliest person you know. Tell them everything you struggle with. Share with them your standards. Take their advice on other standards that shouldn’t be crossed either. Then tell them EVERYTHING. Have them keep you accountable on what you look at, on where you go, and what you do. Remind yourself always that you have someone to answer to. This person (or persons) is just the physical representation of God in your life. He also loves you and cares for you and wants the very best for you.
The real beauty about Purity is that it can begin now. No matter your past. No matter what you think your future is. You can begin living in Purity right now. It’s a series of difficult choices that begin in our mind, but I for one can attest, the relationship you can truly have with Christ is more than worth it. He is better.