Teens & Sex: The Moral Purity Challenge
By Stephen Arterburn
Recently, Jim spoke at a large high school in central California on the subject of sex and dating. In a school poll taken before he spoke in favor of abstaining from sexual intercourse until marriage, the kids were asked to choose one of the following:
1. I will choose to have sexual intercourse before marriage.
2. I will choose to not have sexual intercourse before marriage.
3. I am undecided.
When school counselors tallied up the results, 68 Percent of the student body were undecided! After Jim’s presentation, only 24 percent were undecided. The vast majority chose abstinence. They made a commitment to wait until marriage. Many kids don’t take the “sexual-purity challenge” simply because it’s not offered to them. Let’s look at what one husband and wife are doing in this area.
The Sexual-Purity Challenge
As busy parents, John and Carolyn do a marvelous job when it comes to helping their three beautiful daughters deal with one of the most dominant issues of life: SEX. Along with several thousand other concerned parents, John and Carolyn are offering the “sexual-purity challenge.”
Between the ages of 10 and 13, each daughter has accompanied her parents on a special weekend outing. Each one picked the place to stay (within financial reason) and whatever fun experience she wanted. Tawnie chose a play in Los Angeles. Stephanie wanted to hang out at the beach. The youngest, Amber, chose a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game. How’s that for diversity
During each special outing, John, Carolyn, and one of the girls played hard and ate fun food. The theme of each weekend was the sexual-purity challenge. They talked a lot about the birds and the bees. They listened to a tape together and read a chapter from Jim’s book Radical Respect. Each daughter was different. The two more outgoing girls talked and talked, asking questions that made John and Carolyn blush a little. The quietest child listened, took it all in, had a great time, but didn’t say much.
On Sunday, before they returned home, John and Carolyn asked each daughter, “Are you willing to say to God, ‘I commit my sexuality to you and will refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage’ ?“ Each girl said yes without pressure, and the parents gave each daughter a little necklace as a reminder of taking the sexual-purity challenge.
Let’s be honest. Will every kid who made a decision at school or with parents to remain abstinent until marriage actually do so? No. Depending on which poll you look at, at least 50 percent of the teenagers in the United States have already had sexual intercourse by age 18. But “everybody” isn’t doing it. We parents need to help our kids make the right and wise decision to refrain, and our efforts will make an impact.
A couple who attended Jim’s youth group decided years later to get married. Jim had the privilege of doing their premarital counseling and performing the wedding. During the counseling, he always has a session on sex. Frankly, couples usually squirm a bit in that session. In today’s world, most people who enter a marital relationship after age 18 aren’t virgins —including Christians.
Derrick started the session by saying, “I know we are going to talk about sex today, and we wanted to tell you a story.” Immediately Jim got ready for a negative one. But to his surprise, it was quite positive. Derrick continued: When Jennifer was in tenth grade, she sat in a Sunday school class you were teaching, and you asked the group to make a commitment to remain sexually pure. She made that commitment and kept it. At camp a few years before that, you were giving your “sex talk” and asked us to wait until marriage. At that camp, I made a commitment to do just that. Just yesterday, Jennifer and I were talking about the fact that we are the only virgins we know and how even for us it hasn’t been easy. I asked her what kept her from “going all the way.” She told me her Sunday school story. I told her my camp story. We sit here today to tell you this stuff works!
Jim’s response? Not surprisingly, he got choked up. Jim speaks to more than one hundred thousand students a year about sex, and he still finds the latest statistics hard to believe.
• Twelve million teens are sexually active. Eight out of 10 males and seven out of 10 females report having had intercourse while teenagers.
• If present trends continue, 40 percent of today’s 14-year-old girls will be pregnant at least once before age 20.
• By age 20, 81 percent of today’s unmarried males and 67 percent of today’s unmarried females have had sexual intercourse.
• Fifty percent of all sexually active 19-year-old males had their first sexual experience between the ages of 11 and 13. Among nonvirgins, 50 percent of the boys and 18 percent of the girls first had intercourse at age 18 or younger.
• Seventy-four percent of teenagers say that they would live with someone before marriage or instead of getting married.
• More than 500,000 babies are born each year to unmarried American girls under age 18. Furthermore, about 80 percent of these teenage mothers are from low-income families.
• Teenage mothers cost taxpayers about $16 billion a year in welfare benefits alone. (The cost in dollars is only a minor aspect of what happens in the lives of pregnant teenagers and teenage married couples. The emotional and spiritual damage done to sexually promiscuous young people creates even greater damage.)
Contrary to what many kids learn today, there’s no such thing as “safe sex.” The safe-sex movement in our world has relegated sex to an action without taking into consideration the emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues. The sexual-revolution crisis is perceived quite differently today, depending on people’s perspectives. The popular, secular view is that the crisis is the “result” of promiscuity: AIDS, venereal disease, and unwanted pregnancies. However, the Christian perspective is concerned with the development of healthy morals and values—right and wrong—and deals with the issues of sin and obedience to God. The Christian view of sex takes into consideration a responsibility for one’s actions and people’s relationship with God.
Unfortunately, most young people receive their sex education from the media. As mentioned previously, the average high school student had the opportunity to watch 14,000 acts of intercourse or innuendo to intercourse on prime-time TV in 1991, and he or she will watch an average of 10 hours a week of MTV this year. Kids today are fooled into “instant intimacy” because of such blatantly promiscuous sex. Television, movies, and much of rock music glorify sex and fill kids’ senses with activities, images, and remarks about sexual activity while downplaying the responsibility that sexual activity requires.
However, even more unfortunate than the media’s treatment of sex is the fact that only about 10 percent of children today receive positive, Christian sex education. Did you? Probably not. Even with the outstanding material on sexuality available to families and churches today, it’s sad to say that we, as Christian parents, have done a poor job overall of helping our young people deal with this dominant issue. Sexuality isn’t an easy subject to discuss with our kids but it’s unfortunate that so many parents and churches have remained more or less silent.
Our silence is really hurting this generation of young people who desire to hear the truth. Many kids have learned myths rather than facts about sex and its powerful consequences. An entire generation of young people has been left to experiment and learn about sex on its own. The lack of positive moral standards and basic understanding about sex often leads young people to participate in premature sexual activity.
You Can Make a Difference
We believe that most parents really desire to talk with their kids about sex. Unfortunately, most parents didn’t receive positive, healthy sex education when they were growing up, so they have few or no role models to guide them in helping their children. If you’re one of the vast majority of parents who care deeply about their children and yet aren’t exactly sure what to say about sexuality or how to bring up the subject, don’t be alarmed. Here are a few suggestions:
Be Willing to Talk About Sexuality
Kids need adults — especially parents — who will talk openly and honestly about sexuality and will listen. By doing so, you may prevent your kids from having some very negative experiences. You will also be giving them the gift of a healthy attitude toward sexuality and encouraging them to use one of God’s most special gifts to us as He intended.
Parents always ask us, “What do we say to our children, and at what age?” To answer that question, we want to tell a joke.
One afternoon, seven-year-old Johnny came home from school, walked into the kitchen, and asked his mother, “Hey, Mom, what’s sex?” Her face tuned bright red, but not wanting to appear too shocked by the question she fumbled for the right words to say. Where my husband when I need him? She thought. This question was supposed to come about six years from now!
Composing herself, she asked Johnny to sit at the kitchen table, poured him a glass of milk, and placed a plate of cookies in front of him that he happily received. She then proceeded to explain every detail of the birds and the bees to Johnny for the next 45 minutes. Johnny didn’t say a word; he just ate those cookies! When she finished telling Johnny basically everything she knew about sex in explicit detail, Mom took a deep breath and said, “Well, Johnny, do you have any questions?”
He looked up, puzzled, and said, “Yeah, just one. How am I supposed to put all that on this soccer application where it says; Sex, M or F, please circle?”
Of course, Johnny’s mother misread his question, but her situation illustrates a key point. As parents, we need to discuss sex in a positive, healthy way with our kids. However, sex education must be age appropriate. Our secular media and even our public school system have given kids too much too soon. It’s like feeding a piece of steak to a baby who has no teeth. The baby chokes. But the opposite extreme is also dangerous. Some parents wait until it’s too late. Let’s quickly review a few more facts.
More than half of the high schoolers in the United States have had sex, according to a Centers for Disease Control survey. The following breakdown by grade reveals how high the percentages are;
• 9th grade —40 percent
• 10th grade —48 percent
• 11th grade —57 percent
• 12th grade—72 percent
When Jim speaks to junior high and high school students about sex, he encourages them to write out questions. Here’s a sample of the questions asked recently at a “Handling Your Hormones” youth event that more than 800 kids attended at Chuck Swindoll’s former church in Fullerton, California. (Most of the kids were Christians.)
• How far is too far?
• Is it possible to get the pill without your parents knowing?
• How often do married people usually have sexual intercourse?
• Is oral sex okay?
• How do girls masturbate?
• How do boys masturbate?
• At what age do boys have their first erection?
• When is a girl’s most dangerous time of the month? Is the pill expensive? Is the pill dangerous?
• What types of VD are there?
• I’m afraid of AIDS. What can I do to not get it?
• If you participate in oral sex, are you still a virgin?
• Will God condemn you if you have premarital sex? Will He forgive you?
• What can a guy do if he has a problem of lust toward other guys? How can you handle it without having to be gay?
• Does God forgive Christians who have had abortions?
• After someone has been sexually abused for years and hasn’t told anyone about it, how can someone try to forget and deal with it?
As you can see, kids aren’t just interested in the biological aspects of their sexuality. These types of questions are always asked. Interestingly, in recent years, kids are asking more and more questions about sexual abuse, homosexuality, pornography, oral sex, abortion, and birth control.
Teach Biblical Sexuality
We believe that today’s generation of kids actually desires morals and values. Growing up in a basically value-neutral society hasn’t given kids a healthy sexual foundation. A 17-year-old woman recently told Jim, “This is the first time in my life I’ve ever heard that God wants me to abstain from intercourse until marriage. Now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense.”
It’s important for kids today to realize that the Bible speaks to important issues of the day. God created sex, and He views His creation as being very good. He wants the best for His children; that’s why He places limits on premarital sexual activity.
Here are six Scripture passages that directly speak to our children (and us parents) about sexuality. We took this from an excellent article in Discipleship Journal by John Nieder:
Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:18-25:
1. God created two distinct sexes.
2. God told the man and the woman to have children.
3. The man was created incomplete and in need of a helper.
4. No other creature could meet the man’s need.
5. God made a woman to meet the man’s need (and vice versa).
6. The man and the woman were supposed to join their lives and their bodies for life.
7. The sexual relationship was commanded before sin entered human experience.
1. Inappropriate sexual desire can lead to sin.
2. Wrong friends encourage wrong behavior.
3. Sexual sin often involves deception.
4. We should avoid potentially compromising situations.
Intense sexual desires can cause irrational actions.
When lust is fulfilled and desires diminish, the ensuing guilt may result in hatred. Once the immoral act has occurred, irreparable damage has been done.
Alienation, hatred, and even violence can result from sexual sin.
1. Children should follow their parents’ wisdom.
2. We should watch out for and avoid sexual temptations and sensuous allurements.
3. Sexual sins have terrible consequences.
4. We should flee temptation.
5. Sexual immorality can lead to disease.
6. Sexual intercourse should occur only in marriage
7. Marital love is to be enjoyed.
8. God watches everything we do, including our sexual activity.
1 Corinthians 6:9-20:
1. Sexual sins can be forgiven.
2. Our bodies are devoted to God, not to sexual immorality.
3. Our bodies are important enough to be resurrected.
4. We should flee, not fight, temptation.
5. Sexual sin hurts us and can harm our bodies.
6. God owns us.
7. Jesus died to purchase us, so we should honor Him with our bodies.
1 Corinthians 7:1-9:
1. Unmarried people have a greater freedom to serve God.
2. Sex outside of marriage is always wrong.
3. The solution for passion is a marriage partner, not a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
4. God wants married couples to have free access to each others’ bodies.
5. Men and women, husbands and wives, have strong sexual desires.
6. A couple’s spiritual union should be more important than their physical union.
7. Free access to one’s spouse reduces sexual temptation.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8:
1. Living a pure life pleases God.
2. God’s will is that we avoid sexual immorality.
3. God wants us to learn how to control our bodies.
4. Our methods of controlling our desires must be holy and honorable.
5. The way we control our bodies will differ from the methods of unbelievers.
6. Gratifying our sexual desires outside of marriage offends and detracts from the other person.
7. We shouldn’t take advantage of another person in order to satisfy our sexual desires.
8. These standards come from God, not from man.
9. If we disobey these instructions, we reject God.
The Bible isn’t a sex manual, yet it’s very clear on certain sexual issues. Far too many kids today believe that God is the great killjoy when it comes to sex because they honestly don’t know what the Bible says about it. A whole group of kids today has heard only what appear to be negative verses or unreal expectations when biblical sexuality has been discussed.
As parents, we must present biblical sexuality positively. God created sex. In the confines of marriage, it is wonderful. He put sexual boundaries in the Bible because He loves us and wants the best for us. Far too many young people are moving into marriage with a great deal of sexual-related baggage from previous relationships. God knows how devastating that baggage can be.
Following are questions we ask young people who have been having sexual intercourse or who are close to compromising their virginity. We’re convinced that any couple contemplating premarital intercourse should look at and deal with these questions honestly.
1. Will premarital intercourse lessen the meaning of intercourse in marriage for either of you? (Notice that in all these questions, both people are included in the decision-making process.)
2. Does your conscience make you feel uneasy during or after sexual intercourse? Could this be the Holy Spirit challenging you?
3. Are you both equally committed to each other?
4. Are you totally convinced in your hearts that the other person is “the one” forever?
5. What do you believe the Bible has to say about premarital sexual intercourse? Here are a few verses to look at: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20; Ephesians 5:3; and Acts 15:20.
7. Will having sexual intercourse before marriage damage in any way your relation ship with each other?
8. Could premarital intercourse damage your communication or result in either a loss of respect for or mistrust of each other?
9. Will premarital intercourse help, hinder, or not affect your spiritual relationship with each other?
10. Have you thought through the possibilities of parenthood and marriage because of pregnancy?
11. What are your motives for having sexual intercourse? Are they pure?
Find Positive, Healthy Resources to Share with Kids
There are many excellent resources available for kids and parents on this subject. Use the gifts and abilities of others to help your child receive appropriate sex education.
We know there’s hope. As parents, we can make a difference! Please don’t leave all the responsibility of sex education and prevention of pregnancy to people who care less about your kids than you do. Listen to the words of Alice, age 18:
6. You both seem to desire God’s best for you. Will having sexual intercourse affect your usefulness to God or your relationship with Him?
I really believe I’ll be a virgin on the day of my wedding. My parents were always open about sex with me. They challenged me to give my body to God. I’ve done that. It’s not always easy, but my commitment is strong, thanks to the input I received from my folks.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”