Teaching your children a biblical view of sexuality is important, and difficult. Parents know this! Just look at one recent, somewhat controversial example.
Christian music artist Matthew West put up and took down a music video, all in the course of a week. The song’s title was “Modest Is Hottest,” and while West intended it to be satire, that phrase is so loaded with baggage that he got understandable pushback.
After withdrawing the music video, here’s what West said:
When a reader asked me about the song, I responded with a Facebook post you can read here. But basically, I wasn’t inclined to bash a struggling dad for (what he thought was) a tongue-in-cheek song about modesty. What I’m inclined to do is use such opportunities to discuss what modesty really is—not how much skin is showing, but how you present your whole self humbly and faithfully in the world—and how we can teach our kids what we really want them to know.
Likewise, we can use many real-life situations to teach our teens about sex. What should we tell them?
Several years ago, I wrote a guest post I for another website years laying out what I wanted my then-teenagers to know about sexual integrity. Here are 10 things I tried to teach my sons about sex.
1. God created sex, so it’s good.
Sometimes in our quest to get across the message that sex before marriage is bad, we communicate that sex itself is bad. But it’s not. Sex according to God’s design is a wonderful thing—a beautiful gift—and I wanted my kids to have that foundational belief.
2. You can always talk to me about this topic.
One of my kids asked me a question about something mentioned at school, but prefaced that friends had warned him not to ask a parent because he might get in trouble. Thankfully, I’d made it clear my kids could ask me anything about this topic. It’s not taboo. God created sex, He talked about it (the good and the bad), and He put parents in charge of instructing kids. I tailored my answers to age and context and so on, but my door was open for tough topics. It’s part of the parent job.
(By the way, that question was about condoms. The friends had erroneous information, and because he asked, I got to provide better information, along with our biblical values.)
3. Pregnancy and STDs aren’t the only consequences for premarital sex or promiscuity.
These concerns get drilled into teens’ heads so much. Many believe the worst, or only, consequences of having sex before marriage or having multiple partners is unwanted pregnancy or contracting an STD.
Yes, kids, those things could happen, but the scars left on your heart, the disruption to your future marital happiness, the disobedience to God—these matter so much. They may be intangibles right now, but in time poor choices can wreak havoc on your life. So make the right choice.
(That said, God can redeem and wounds can heal. See #7.)
4. Birth control is not 100% effective.
Speaking of which, many expect to dodge an undesired pregnancy with birth control. Sure, we have some great contraceptive methods that couples have used successfully. But I could also sit down and make a list of couples I know who got pregnant while using contraception. If a birth control method is 99% effective, that means that 1 time out of 100, you’re on your own. So don’t rely on it, and only make love in the context that could properly support a child (aka marriage).
5. Sex is more than intercourse.
What constitutes sex? Is it merely intercourse? Is foreplay fair game? When I was a teen, the phrase “technical virgin” meant you’d done just about everything else, yet considered yourself a virgin because you hadn’t done “the deed.”
I look back and think how utterly stupid that perspective was! Sex is the whole kit-and-caboodle. If you’re getting the least bit naked to do something with someone, welcome to the world of sex. Even purveyors of porn and erotica know this, so we really have no excuse. I wanted my kids to understand sex isn’t everything but, and that sex encompasses far more than intercourse.
(By the way, this is good news for future marriage. There could be times when intercourse is unavailable, but they won’t have to give up being intimate with their spouse!)
6. “How far is too far?” is the wrong question.
However, that’s the question youth workers hear again and again when the topic of sex is brought up with teens. Teens want to know where the line is—how far can they go without sinning or risking consequences. It’s basically, “What can I get away with?” Which is not the attitude God wants us to have toward Him or His gift of sexual intimacy.
Rather, we should ask, “How can I honor God when it comes to sexual intimacy?” Framing it that way, some of our nitpicking questions simply go away, and it becomes clearer what we should and shouldn’t do.
7. If you mess up, it’s not over.
Activities such as dabbling in online pornography, chatting promiscuously in a chat room, going much too far on a date, engaging in premarital sex—yes, they are bad, but they definitely don’t make the unforgiveable list.
Messing up doesn’t mean it’s all over… and you might as well give in, and God’s already mad at you so what’s the point, and you have to hide your ugly stuff or people will know how bad you really are, etc. No, no, no! If you fail at some point, God’s grace and healing can cover our sins and both He and your parents are here to help you get back on track.
8. The Bible has a lot to say about sexuality.
It’s easy for kids and teens, and plenty of us adults, to feel that a book written thousands of years ago has little bearing on our modern-day challenges. After all, where are the verses about sexting and 50 Shades of Grey and the hookup culture?
But the Bible is relevant. There are direct stories of sexual sin and sexual love, as well as many verses about guarding our hearts, measuring our actions, and honoring others. If God’s Word is true, it permeates every aspect of our life, including the bedroom. You can’t compartmentalize, believing that “loving your neighbor” has nothing to do with treating that girl or boy in your arms with respect. So if you want to know the real deal about how we should approach sexuality, read the Bible.
9. More sex happens in marriage than outside it.
One might think it’s the opposite based on media, entertainment, and conversations. But studies show that married couples are getting more, and more satisfying, sex. If kids think the sex well is going to dry up the second they say “I do,” they’ll buy into the sow my wild oats theory before marriage, or put off marriage for fear of their sex drive going unheeded.
But I love what one newlywed man told our youth group: “I’m having lots of sex now, and I never, ever think, ‘Man, I wish I’d had sex back in high school.'” It’s kind of like Christmas, kids: It takes a while to get here, but the gift you receive is worth the wait.
10. Your parents love each other—yes, even in the bedroom.
My kids were well aware that marriage includes sexual intimacy, because they saw it hinted at with their parents. Of course, they didn’t have details, because that aspect of our relationship is private. But they saw us flirt and display appropriate affection in front of them, and they knew the bedroom door got closed and locked at times.
They rolled their eyes at our hugs or kisses, but they also smiled. It’s reassuring to know our parents love each other and that marriage, even long-term, includes true passion.
Parents, if you want to help your children have a better shot at a healthy, holy view of sex, you have to be involved, use the opportunities you get, and be intentional about what principles you want to teach. I pray these 10 takeaways are a good place to start.
Above all, remember Relationship Before Rules. I first heard that from Jim Burns of Homeword, but I don’t know if it originated with him. The principle, however, is that being there with and for your kids goes a long way toward them trusting what you tell them. And when you reach the end of what you know, you can never go wrong by pointing them toward God and His Word. That relationship with their Heavenly Parent is the one we most want our teens to have.