Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Teaching Children About Sex and Marriage...Some random thoughts -- Part I
(Please note: This post is not for young readers, but for parents.)
God's word is eternal and firm, and, thus, God's standard for love and marriage applies in every generation. When God's standard for sex, love, and marriage is followed, it leads to happiness, holiness, and blessing. When this standard is either ignored or flagrantly disobeyed, the consequences lead to misery and, even, destruction.
History students know that while God's standard remains constant, the world's standard fluctuates. The world swings back and forth from times when sexual sins are openly accepted and times when they are not condoned -- at least not condoned publicly.
Sometimes, a culture will enact strict standards of morality, because they see this is best for the family or the community or the nation. People often confuse the world's more conservative ideas of morality with God's standard of purity. Worldly morality -- in or outside of the church -- can be accompanied by self-righteousness, merely outward conformance to a set of man made rules, and hypocrisy. God's standard of purity is accompanied by a genuine concern for holiness, dependence on the Lord for grace and strength, obedience to God's rules, and humility.
The godly person who takes a stand for sexual righteousness may be labeled a repressive hypocrite by those who don't understand. But, the godly person avoids hypocrisy if he remains mindful of his own sins, and if he remembers that he, himself, has received much mercy from God. Then, he is able to take a stand for righteousness out of love and respect for the Lord, as well as out of concern for another's spiritual welfare.
In the twentieth century, we saw a greater and greater acceptance of sexual sin, combined with a disdain for all authority -- even that of God. In the past century, society's ideas about morality jumped all over the place. Think of the "roaring twenties", the deceptively calm fifties, and the "free-love" sixties.
We have brought the last century's legacy of sexual confusion with us into the first decade of this century. Actually, the confusion was created as soon as sin first entered the world. Since then, Satan has perverted God's beautiful gift of sex over the ages in order to snare many a soul. But, there's no doubt that our present culture is hurting because of the world's faulty approach to sexuality and relationships. When we get to the point that a middle school in Maine considers offering condoms to students, we know we're in trouble!
Today, technology brings into our homes what could once only be obtained on the street. Children of today can passively receive and view pornography, whereas children of a hundred years ago would have had to go out of their way to see illicit materials. Not only that, but modern pornography is graphic and portrayed with living, moving human actors, which may leave a deeper imprint on young minds than the crude drawings of centuries ago.
In such a world, it's easy for us as parents to make two grave mistakes: 1) assuming that their little darlings will never be tempted by such things or 2) freaking out, because we are intimidated as parents by the pervasive corruption of our society.
As for the first, you can guarantee that somewhere along the line, your child will encounter someone who will offer the child a chance to view or participate in sexual impurity or immorality. You cannot build enough hedges around your child to ensure that they will never run into temptation. Besides, our children are meant to become Christians, who are to shine like lights in a dark world, pointing other people to Christ. As such, they will need the character to say "no" when temptation comes their way. So, while we must shield our precious children's innocence, we must also give them the tools they need to develop their own firm convictions about purity. If they attempt to fight for purity based on the strength of our principles, they'll be prime targets for temptation. We must help them develop their own firm faith in God.
Regarding the second, we do live in difficult times. But, reading the scriptures shows us that godly men and woman have raised faithful children in times that were as dark or darker than ours.
In Bible times, prostitution and fertility rites were often associated with idol worship. Other than in Israel, distorted views of sexuality were accepted as a normal part of life and were even thought to be pleasing to the "gods". Sadly, even Israel ran after foreign gods at times.
Pagan ideas of sexuality were present in both Old Testament and New Testament cultures. Thus, God-fearing parents in Bible times faced some of the same challenges that we do today.
With all of this in mind, we can appreciate the examples of parents who raised children with hearts devoted fully to the Lord.
Think of Noah, who was the only faithful man in a generation of which Genesis tells us that their thoughts were full of evil and violence. Despite the fact that they were the only couple who believed the Lord in the world, they raised three sons and influenced three daughters-in-law who believed the Lord's instructions about the ark. True, the family had some troubles later on. But, at the time of the flood, everyone in Noah's little family was motivated by their faith in the Lord to help build the ark and to get on it when the Lord said that the time had come.
God was able to use the faith of Noah's family to illustrate the wonder of salvation. I Peter 3:21 says, "...when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God (or, as most translations say, "the appeal to God for a clear conscience".) It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."
Though it probably didn't make logical sense to them, Noah's little family believed God and went into the ark. God carried their little ark safely through the waters of the flood. They were the only eight people on the earth whom God saved from the flood! God used the flood to cleanse the earth from evil. In the same way, when we, in faith, pass through the waters of baptism, God saves us and cleanses us. He does this through the resurrection of Jesus. This verse tells us that the waters of the flood symbolize our immersion as Christians.
So, we, as parents, can take heart. If, through God, Noah could inspire three sons and influence three daughters-in-law to be saved from a totally corrupt generation, then, surely, he will help us with our families!
In order for our children to grow up with strong convictions about purity, they must know the following things:
1) God is infinitely good. He is also infinitely wise. He knows what is best for our children, and he desires what is best for our children. Whatever he does and says is for their benefit. He is not out to take away their fun, but to save their souls from pain and destruction and to give them abundant life.
2) God's boundaries protect us, rather than stifle us. Satan's first lie to Eve was that God was holding out on her by forbidding her to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Today, he still preaches the message that God is holding out on us by denying us pleasures that we want, and he tells us that "freedom" and "fun" are found only by stepping out of God's boundaries. The world believes this lie. We can help our children reject this lie if we teach them how to have faith and confidence in the Lord. Again, it goes back to trusting that God is perfectly good and that He is perfectly wise.
3) It's not just enough to fight the sin of impurity; it's important to fill the heart with the positive quality of purity. Children must learn to see godly purity as a blessing.
4) God is sovereign, and he has the power to arrange the specific events of our children's lives for good. God's plan for the majority of people is marriage. If that is what he plans for our child, our child must know that he will bring the right person into the child's life at the right time. When he does, the child can look forward to a happy sexual relationship within marriage. If God's plan is for the child to stay single, he will provide strength for that, as well.
5) All who want to live a godly life will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12. Today, children, teens, and young adults who do not go along with the world's standards are accused of all sorts of things -- from being called "judgmental" all the way to facing questions about their sexual orientation! Our children must be prepared to stand firm in the face of persecution, without giving way to fear, anger, or self-righteousness. They look to us to help them. We must either remove the child from a situation that he is not ready to handle, or we must guide the child through the process of facing persecution. If a child learns how to respond to persecution in a godly way under our roof, he or she will be better equipped to deal with it when they leave the protection of our nest.