Yesterday I talked about purity. It seems like sometimes we, as the church, are saying the wrong things and maybe even making it more difficult for young people to keep themselves sexually pure. Sometimes we place a lot of emphasis on virginity, and forget about practical instruction on how maintain that virginity. And I really think that causes so many young people to feel condemnation and shame. As youth leaders, we get really excited when kids make the right choices. When they sign those purity cards we display them proudly, and then we go about our business and they go out into a culture that glorifies easy sex. They can't get away from it, and we fail to provide them the tools they need to stay pure in a sex crazed world. Because of that we have failed them. Practical instruction is needed here, way more than a whole stack of signed purity pledges.
Where do we start?
King David said he would set before his eyes no vile or unclean thing. That's good advice for us today. We've got to be real with ourselves. Just don't even go there, mentally of physically. So you're dating someone and it's getting serious? Set up really clear boundaries. Don't spend time alone. Stay in public. That sex drive God gave you? It's really strong, he did that for a reason. It's how babies are made so we won't become extinct. Have a healthy respect for that sex drive. You know it's there, but you don't have to feed it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. And then take these words from Paul to heart: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) Your brain is one of the most powerful things you have concerning your sexuality, so guard your thoughts vigilantly. This is true if you are still waiting for the one, or you are already married. Because us married folks don't get a free pass on purity. We still have to walk this out and protect ourselves for sexual temptation, just like anyone else does. If you're on a diet you don't spend your days going to bakeries. When I had to stop eating gluten I didn't buy donuts to sit around at home, because I knew the temptation to eat them would be real. And I knew it would be really hard to stick to it. And that's the thing. Be very careful about who you form relationships with, also be very careful about what you do and where you go once you do start a relationship. Because going to the clubs, or bars, or to other places that promote a promiscuous lifestyle won't help you to maintain your purity.
Watch out for temptation
Pray for God to remove sexual temptation from your life, and be willing to take action if he's the one asking you to be the one to remove things. That stash of magazines? The internet browsing history? Those movies? You know the ones. Those are not even close to God's heart for your sex life. Don't leave the donuts on the counter, don't give the devil an opportunity. We are told that no temptation has seized us that hasn't seized other people, and we are also encouraged that God will always provide a way out. That way out almost always requires us to take an action. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Recognize that you might mess up and that it will be okay. God loves you wildly and and deeply. No matter what. "I'm convinced that neither death or life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, not any powers, neither height or depth, or anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38) Remember that not committing certain specific sexual acts isn't the goal, having a heart pure before God is. The right actions will always follow a pure heart. Even King David committed adultery. And even then God was still able to say that he was a man after his own heart because what David did after he messed up put him in right standing with God. He blew it and he knew it, so he made it right. He confessed his mistake and moved forward with God. Because here's the thing, we will mess up in life, whether it's about our sexuality or our nasty tempers. And when we do God offers grace and forgives us. The enemy only offers guilt and condemnation. So take a stand against the enemy, we are all damaged in one way or another, but we all have the gift of God's grace available to us.
Don't let get too hung up on that future spouse
You know it's been said: we have to save ourselves for our future spouse. And of course it's true. But our actions today, or lack of, will not doom us to a miserable marriage or guarantee us a happy one. So think about your future spouse, but don't think about them too much. The point is that there is a lot of emphasis placed on how your actions today will affect your future marriage, and that's true, to a point. I think we can trust that God is working in your future spouse's life even as he works on yours. I remember feeling so much guilt for my young mistakes with boys, and always feeling plagued by the thought of my future husband's reaction when he learned about them. Here's the honest truth, I spent way too much mental energy worrying about that thing that was completely out of my control. When the day came for some honest conversations with him before we were married he took the news with grace and love, because he is a good man and he knew that the woman who sat before him that day was not the same girl who made the mistakes she made a long time before. We all have our issues, we are all damaged in some way or another. We get the opportunity to practice lives of grace all the time. Did some of those mistakes affect our marriage? Yes, they did. But we could say the same about different mistakes he made. Are we still happily married and enjoying a good sex life? Yes. Has it been easy? Nope, but marriage never is. So don't spend too much time mourning your past and worrying about your spouse's reaction to it.
The bottom line is this: life is hard enough as it is, without all the extra confusion out there over purity and virginity and all of that. But I feel like we need to be very careful in how we teach our young people, and the greater body of Christ, about sexuality. I would hate to have a teenager sign a purity pledge, or pledge to virginity without being involved in a long term discipling, mentoring relationship. Because we are doing teenagers, and our children, a great disservice by asking them to pledge themselves to purity without giving them the tools to be successful. The reality of it is that this is an area that nearly everybody struggles with in some way or another. Married folks, young teenagers, young adults, and singles of every age will deal with issues regarding their sexuality. There is a real enemy who would use all the discussion to distract from the simple fact that God calls all of us to purity in every area of our lives. If we are teaching a life style of purity then abstinence will naturally follow. But, it's not just about out sexuality. If God is asking us to do this we have to know that we can, because he would not ask us to do something impossible. He's not asking us to grow wings and fly; but he is asking to put him first, before our sexuality, before our relationships, before everything. It is isn't easy, but it's not impossible either.
So what are your thoughts on this? How do we teach young people, and not so young people, to live out purity? And what would you want your kids to be hearing from their youth pastors about sex?