Sex and the Bible
While it is common knowledge that the Bible is very specific about the commandments God gave us with respect to sexual relationships, not too many a Christian parent is able to point to the appropriate set of Scriptures in time of need. As a matter of quick reference, here is a collection of the forbidden inter-personal sexual practices:
- Adultery (Proverbs 5)
- Any kind of sex outside of marriage (Galatians 5:19)
Homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9,10, Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26,27)
- Prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)
Yet it appears that our modern society prides itself on having a progressive attitude about sexual lifestyles. This attitude permeates almost every aspect of modern living, from the sexually explicit lyrics and dance acts during prime-time sporting events to the movies that seemingly revel in the depiction of sexual immorality as a good thing. In addition to the foregoing, it is apparent as well that the media does not give equal play to the significant minority who still seek to live out and accept the Biblical teaching that sex outside of marriage is wrong.
Sex and the Cities we live in
It has gotten to a point where a societal attitude has been developed that sings a siren-song advocating that sexual experimentation prior to marriage, preferably with more than one partner, can be a good thing, in essence promising a life of greater sexual fulfillment. Realistically, however, this siren song is more of a swan song, and serves as a powerful reminder that the opinion of the majority does not equal truth.
Sex and Marriage
What does equal truth, however, is that trust is a vital component of a healthy, growing marriage relationship, yet the ability to trust a marriage partner can be badly damaged by the refusal to delay sexual gratification until a commitment to a lifelong relationship has been sealed. Due to the vulnerabilities exposed, rejected, and crushed during the build-up, stagnation, and break-up of a sexual relationship outside of a marriage, the emotional ability to trust and give oneself fully, as is required within a healthy marriage, is seriously injured. Thus sexual fulfillment is not the outcome of sexual experimentation, but instead the only outcome is sexual gratification at the expense of emotional well being. Other far-reaching consequences are, of course, the deterioration of spiritual health, a destruction of self-image, self-worth, and, last but not least, the destruction of a good personal reputation.
Sex and Teaching Morality
As a Christian parent, you already know that the buck stops with you. You already understand that training your child to have a healthy respect for the marriage relationship is your job, and, of course, you are well aware that teaching your child to run from sexual immorality must come from you as well. You know you cannot rely on the media, the school, the church, or your child's friends to help her/him gain conviction in this area. As a matter of fact, a study found that
"Permissive parental values regarding adolescent sexual behavior emerged as a strong risk factor for both males and females. Not surprisingly, adolescents who perceived their parents as accepting of premarital adolescent sexual activity were more likely to be sexually experienced. (1)
So how do we prepare our child(ren) to weather the barrage of sexual innuendo and temptation that hail from everywhere? While we can preach and teach in the home, they are on their own in the classroom, with their friends, etc. We cannot hold their hands 24-7, yet we must instill values that help them build convictions that will hold their hands and spirits, and encourage their souls even while we are physically absent. To this end, here are some practical suggestions that take the mystique out of sex, help your child(ren) stay firm in the face of temptation, and still be relatable to their friends and peers without coming across as "weird :
The child needs a clear concept of sex and its role.
In order to form strong convictions about her/his personal sexual purity even in the presence of strong curiosity, and in order to make a serious commitment to refrain from premarital sex, your child needs a clear understanding of sex, its role as designed by God, its benefits and also its risks when used outside these confines, i.e. sexually transmitted diseases. Another aspect of the risks of the ungodly abuse of sexuality is unwanted pregnancies. Especially boys need to understand that an unwanted pregnancy will affect them, especially if it ends in an abortion; this is a knowledge they will carry for the remainder of their lives and is far from trivial! Of course, the ability to teach your child these concepts requires that you let go of your own unhealthy attitudes about sex (i.e. appearing embarrassed, ashamed, or simply unapproachable), or, if need be, repent of your own unhealthy sexual activity. don't undo your teachings by your actions!
The child needs to have a good relationship with you.
Teaching about sexual morality and temptation is not something that can be done in a couple of talks, or through a one-time lecture. Instead, it is done over the course of years, using teaching situations, moments of discussion, and, most importantly, a continuous dialog. Invest early in your relationship with your child, and you will be able to discuss everything! Fail to build that relationship, and you may find that you are unable to reach your child on this topic of vital importance.
The child needs to be prepared for what lies ahead.
Prepare your child for the physical changes of puberty. don't leave it to the school to teach your child what will happen to her/him; similarly, don't leave it to the friends. You must be the one who teaches your child about how her/his body will change. Do so matter-of-factly, without hemming and hawing, the same way you would explain other physical changes, such as loosing the baby teeth... If you are the one to impart this information, your child will be more likely to come to you with questions, concerns or fears, rather than going to her/his friends. For girls, especially, it is essential that they be prepared for their first menstrual period before it actually occurs. While this sounds simple enough, it is astounding how many little girls run from the school's bathroom in abject panic; to this end, remember that girls begin menstruating a lot sooner than they did some 20 years ago! Additionally, you must rise above your upbringing ... never, ever refer to menstruation as "the
curse ; instead, treat it with respect that any milestone on the road to adulthood deserves.
The child needs to be able to expect the temptations.
Expect your child's increasing interest in the opposite sex, and help your child deal with it before it becomes a temptation. don't hope against hope that your child will not be curious and thusly don't put your child in a position where s/he is blindsided by temptation. Additionally, prepare your child that s/he will also be the object of such interest by others. At this time it is important to draw a clear line between the hugs amongst friends and the hugs between a boy and a girl that linger just a tat too long. S/He needs to become somewhat "streetwise about avoiding situations that increase the likelihood of sexual temptation, as well as avoiding potentially dangerous situations and also date rape.
The child needs a strong beacon.
The temptation of the moment and the heat of passion may easily cloud personal judgment, but a strong foundation of faith may very well be that homing beacon that will allow the child to step back and get control of her-/himself instead of giving in to temptation. To this end, be certain that you do everything possible to facilitate your child's spiritual growth! If this means driving across town to a children's/pre-teen/teen ministry event, then so be it. The more time your child spends around spiritual children, the less s/he will hang out with the unspiritual crowd. don't dim the beacon's light and power by preventing (be it because of inconvenience or sheer laziness on your part) your child to get recharged by it regularly!
If your child understands that sex is not an ugly, dirty activity that is best not talked about or a seemingly disgusting duty forced upon us by our Creator, then s/he will be able to accept it as the gift that God has truly intended it to be to His creation; a gift that will bring fulfillment if used properly, but pain, heartache, and perhaps even destruction if used outside of the relationship that God intended it to enhance.
(1) Stephen Small (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Tom Luster (Michigan State University), published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family
This article was previously publised at Suite101.com