A year ago, I sat with Dr. Preston Sprinkle my partner in The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender, (www.centerforfaith.com) discussing the sexual beliefs of Christian kids. We were preparing for a meeting with Sean McDowell, a theologian at Biola University and David Kinnaman, president of Barna Research, both true experts in this field. Francis Chan was all ready, all in to do some of the teaching.
Both Preston and I had a dream of producing the best educational videos we could on sex, marriage and gender. The Center’s primary emphasis is on same-sex attraction and trans people from a conservative biblical position. But we wanted to expand into helping high school and college age students think more biblically about Christian sexuality, marriage and gender, gay or straight. So, we called together a dozen of the most experienced Christian leaders in the country to help us think through some better ways to address this issue other than, “just say no!” What follows is my contribution to the subject.
When I was a teenager, I understood there was an authority structure in the world. It was God, the church, my dad, then my mom and us kids were dead last. I also knew God prohibited sex outside of marriage. But even though I believed God was my authority and he knew my every thought, that was not enough to scare me or convince me to not try having sex occasionally. But it was a speed bump! There were times I was tempted and resisted, because I knew it violated God’s will for me. When I would give into temptation, I don’t remember exactly what my logic was, but it had to be something like, “I know I’m sinning, and that I’m saved, God will forgive me.”
I was holding Papa School a few years ago, with some of our older grandchildren on the topic of sex. My grand daughter asked me straight out, “Papa, did you and Nana have sex before you were married?” “Actually we did not, but not for lack of trying on my part!,” I confessed. “To my shame, your Nana had more will power and fear of God than I did.”
Today I’m not sure if younger Christian kids even think about God as their authority, and the Bible as God’s message to humans about his will for them. By “will” I don’t mean his wishes, but his requirements for all who claim the name of Jesus.
My impression is that younger Christians get most of their guidance on moral or ethical questions from their friends, and when they are faced with a temptation, they may give God perhaps 2 or 3 votes, because he’s God, for heaven sakes! But if most of their close friends are silent or have a different idea, there’s a good chance God is going to lose that vote.
So, I believe we have little chance of helping young Christians to change their behavior sexually unless we do at least three things.
Convince them that they should not consider themselves Christian unless they intend to live under God’s authority, doing his will. If any of us think we can do what we want and still think we’re Christians, we’re deceiving ourselves. (If planting the fear of the Lord in them is a sin, I’m happy to commit it. )“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
Convince them that God’s rules, his laws are there to help us flourish, not to put a stick in our spokes. I’ve always been skeptical of the claim that if you wait to have sex until you’re married, it is so much better. How would anyone know that? However, I can say you will feel the pleasure of self-discipline and knowing you obeyed God. And no guilt. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 7, 8
Encourage groups of like-minded Christian friends to band together to help encourage each other to be sexually pure. As a teenager, it never even dawned on me to enlist some of my friends to help me. I didn’t want help, but I should have. The idea is that if our peers are silent on sex outside of marriage, most Christians will cave in the face of a temptation. We need to find a way to use peer pressure to encourage holiness.
The good news is that we’ve finished the Christian Sexuality series and it will go on sale in October. Here is the link (www.christian-sexuality.com).
I don’t know how many young Christians will be impacted by this teaching, but I’m proud to be part of a project that puts the authority of God before them in a way that makes following Jesus, attractive.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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