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 says 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 this mean we shrug and say, “Sounds like a lost cause to me!” As Paul would say, may it never be! We are still called to train, shepherd, and instruct our children. Let me pause and state the obvious here: my kids are 2 and 4. 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. These are the five most helpful things they did:
Raise them with a gospel-centered WORLDVIEW regarding sex and marriage. I think 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 they don’t need a handful of toppings; they need the whole pizza. Like every other issue, they need us to put it into the context of the gospel, teaching them who they are, who God is, what Christ did on the cross, and how it impacts sex, marriage, and His glory. All this to say…
Give them a GREATER appreciation for sex. Say what? Isn’t that like giving an Eskimo more snow? The truth is none of us want our sweet children to wind up pregnant with syphilis and a broken heart. So the temptation is to give them 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 God, to unite two people in worship of the Creator. When I was in high school a friend told me she thought 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: “For you sex is this big, special thing. I don’t see it that way. For me, it’s just sex.” It was the first time I realized that Christians are more passionate about sex than non-Christians.
Help them see themselves as IMAGE-BEARERS of God. I once counseled a teenage girl with a laundry list of heartache: cutting, bulimia, bisexuality. You know what she sobbed the most over? Her father. She never believed he loved her. As we talked the strangest memory came to mind. I was a teenager, working on the computer 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 gosh, Dad, I’m not 3 years old. But sitting with this 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. I believed I was made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and worth respecting, because my father–the first man I ever knew–treated me as such.
Assure them of your UNCONDITIONAL love and forgiveness. Of all the times my parents talked with me about purity, the conversation that stands out the most wasn’t about staying pure, it was 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.
Let them know that NOTHING is off-limits when it comes to talking with you. Kids quickly learn to test the water before diving in. When he was in middle school, an old friend of mine asked his dad if he’d ever had “weird” dreams…you know, like about girls? At the time my 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. Having a voice into the lives of our kids starts with having an ear into their world.
If I employed every one of these principles, would it guarantee that my kids are protected from the pain of impurity? Of course not. 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 God who delights in using foolish, weak, and lowly things for His great glory, so together we may boast in Christ alone (1 Cor 1:27-31).
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