My generation of American church youth participated in True Love Waits rallies and purity Bible studies. Even though it wasn’t explicitly taught, we got the impression that if we kept our pants on, saved ourselves for marriage, and never kissed until the pronouncement then we’d experience marital bliss. But the trouble is sex can’t carry that much weight.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher writes about his own grand search for meaning in life. He searched for significance in work, in material treasure, in aesthetic beauty, and in sexual relationships. He says, “I acquired… a harem as well – the delights of a man’s heart” (2:8). If the writer of this text was King Solomon (and I believe it was), then he’s employing quite the understatement. According to 1 Kings 11:3, he amassed seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure,” the Teacher writes (2:10a). But was this enough to satisfy his deepest longings? No, he concludes, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (2:11).
God did not design sex as a way of meeting our deepest spiritual needs. He designed sex to be an expression of a loving marital relationship (Gen. 2:24-25). And he designed the marriage relationship as a signpost that points to something more – the deep love and mystical union between Christ and his bride, the church (Eph. 5: 31-32). When a married couple experiences the joy of sexual intimacy, God intends for them to be reminded of the greater joy they’ll one day experience when they’re united to their bridegroom Christ in glory. “Even the single person who is celibate,” writes Joel Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, “is declaring with their life that they are waiting the union they will experience in the consummation of all things.”[i]
So, rather than holding out a great sex life in the future as the great hope and moral motivation for our kids, we must instead hold out Christ for them. Teach your teens that while sin gives temporary satisfaction, our great hope is found in God, whose love is better than life (Ps. 63:3). An orgasm gives pleasure for the moment, but God’s love and presence brings eternal joy. Teach your kids to look up and cling to the Savior who loved them even in the midst of their weakness and sin (Rom. 5:8).
Tell them that believers in him have his record of being the only sexually pure one to ever walk this earth. Teach them about the free grace of forgiveness that he extends to everyone. Teach them how much his love is better than any sexual experience they will ever have. Open their eyes to the beauty of the Lover of their soul.
One tool that may help you is the excellent new book by Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick entitled, Mom, Dad... What's Sex? A Gospel-Centered View of Sex and Our Culture. This new book provides families with a clear vision, a winsome apologetic for the Bible's sexual ethic, and practical guidance--everything from social media to porn to same-sex attraction. But to just say that would miss the point. Joel and Jessica's goal is to celebrate Christ, who enters the hot mess of our sexual brokenness and brings redemption. Get this book and let it guide your family conversations.
And as you remind your kids about the good news of God’s love, believe it for yourself. Show them a life lived in his love with confidence that Jesus is the only solution to our brokenness and the only pathway toward purity.