I still remember the conversation. We were sitting in a coffee shop, three married women with zero kids between us, talking about purity. All of a sudden one of the women exclaimed, "Can you just imagine trying to teach your kids to be pure? Where would you even begin?" Three years later, another mom looked at me and said, "I had sex as a teenager. Honestly, I don't even think it's possible to raise sexually pure kids. If it is, I have no idea how to do it."
Both of these women were right about one thing: in and of ourselves, we are incapable of raising pure kids. The Bible teaches us that God is sovereign (Ps. 103:19), He has ordained all our children's days (Ps. 139:16), and they will be held accountable before Him for their own lives (2 Cor. 5:10).
But does that mean we have no role in the process? Au contraire! We are still called to train, shepherd, and instruct our children (Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:4). Before I get ahead of myself, let me admit something—my kids are young. They're not going to prom next week; they're packing their teddy bears for a sleepover at Grandma's house. Clearly, this is one article I'm not qualified to write as a parent!
So let me write it as a child. It wasn't that long ago that I was a teenager, wrestling with sexual purity. By His grace, I believe my parents were the most influential tool God used in helping me stay sexually pure. From their example, I want to share five principles with you. How do we raise pure children in an impure world? First, we must . . .
1. Equip them with a gospel-centered WORLDVIEW regarding sex and marriage.
It's tempting to take a spitball approach when it comes to teaching kids about purity. We present a list of isolated truths about babies, STDs, and future spouses. But our children don't need a handful of toppings; they need the whole pizza. Like every other issue, they need us to put "sexual purity" into the context of the gospel.
They need to understand that long, long ago, way before sexy Sam Jones was their chemistry partner, God created all of humanity for one purpose—to glorify Himself. He was the great Love our hearts were made for . . . except we rebelled. We ran, and He chased us. He rescued us on the cross, and when we surrender to His grace, we are united with Him in an intimate and everlasting way.
That's what sex is really about! In Ephesians 5:31–32, Paul writes, "'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." There is no episode of Grey's Anatomy that will teach our teenagers that sex is a picture of the profound intimacy between Christ and His Church. That's why we have to do it. All this to say, we must . . .
2. Give them a GREATER appreciation of sex.
Hang on a second. Isn't that like giving an Eskimo more snow? I hear you. The truth is none of us want sweet Susanna to wind up pregnant with syphilis and a broken heart. So the temptation is to give our kids a lower view of sex, to emphasize its dangers and dampen the appeal. But what we actually need to do is give them a higher view of sex. We need to take their narrow perspective of this feel-good thing and stretch it to include the eternal design of a vast God. We need them to be awed by the fact that sex is a sacred gift, invented by the Creator to unite two people in the deepest way possible, as an expression of worship.
I still remember the moment I realized that Christians are more passionate about sex than non-Christians. I was in high school when a friend told me that she thought the concept of an "open-marriage" was no big deal. "You're telling me you wouldn't mind if your husband had sex with other people?" I asked. I'll never forget her response. She said, "Jeanne, for you sex is this big, special thing. You're waiting to do it. You're making a huge deal out of it. I don't see it that way. For me, it's just sex." Our culture may be saturated with sex, but it hasn't given us a greater appreciation of it. It has only made it cheap.
3. Treat them as IMAGE-BEARERS of God.
Next on the list is a principle especially dear to my heart. As a student pastor's wife, I frequently counsel teenage girls. Over the years, I've stumbled upon a startling reality. Many girls with the most serious external sins don't cry about their bulimia, cutting, or bisexuality. When you peel back the layers, they often cry about their fathers. Many of them don't believe that their fathers love them.
Once when I was counseling a girl like this, the most absurd memory popped into my mind. I remembered being a teenager, working on the computer one afternoon with my feet on the desk. My dad walked by and said, "Look at those cute toes!" At the time, it embarrassed me. Oh my goodness, Dad, I'm not three years old.
But sitting in my husband's office counseling this broken girl, I realized just how deeply I have always been assured of my father's love. There's never been a moment when I doubted that even my toes were precious to him. And without realizing it, I carried this confidence into my relationships with guys. My father didn't just teach me that I was made in God's image, he treated me like I was. And somewhere along the way, I believed I was worth respecting, because the first man I ever loved treated me that way.
4. Assure them of your UNCONDITIONAL forgiveness.
While I think of my dad when it comes to self-esteem, I think of my mom when it comes to forgiveness. Of all the "purity chats" I had with my mom, the conversation that stands out the most to me wasn't about staying pure, but about failing to be pure. My mom said, "I want you to know that if you wind up pregnant or make every mistake there is, I will always love you and be there for you." Looking back, I realize she chose to motivate me the way Christ does, with a relationship, not with fear and the pressure to perform. Which brings me to my final point.
5. Be APPROACHABLE regarding any and every topic.
In other words, let them know that nothing is off-limits when it comes to talking with you. Kids often test the water before diving in. I remember a friend telling me that he once asked his dad if he ever had "weird" dreams . . . you know, like about girls?
At the time my teenage friend was probably doing a whole lot more than just dreaming about girls, but he was lobbing a softball-question at his dad. His father frowned, barked, "No!" and that was the first and last conversation they ever had about purity. Suffice it to say, having a voice into the lives of our kids begins with having an ear into their world.
Can I Get It in Writing?
So if you and I employ every one of these principles, will it guarantee that our kids are protected from the pain of impurity? Unfortunately, no. We're called to faithfully shepherd our children, but the results are always in God's hand . . . which is really the best part.
If God could turn the greatest persecutor of the church into the greatest missionary for the church, He can use the most sexually active teenager to one day impact the world for Christ. And He can use an imperfect mom with a painful past to begin a legacy of godliness in her family. We serve a gracious Father who delights in using foolish, weak, and lowly things for His great glory (1 Cor. 1:27-31)!