Sexual purity for today’s Christian
Marriage was designed by God, who gave the gift of sexual intimacy to the husband and wife so that marriage is strengthened and made fruitful through bearing children. God intends His church to receive His blessing through right relationships between the sexes. A godly church will be marked by sexual purity of thought, word and action.
Today the church is surrounded by a society intent upon destroying the sanctity of marriage and sexual intimacy. The process of destruction has been progressive. The liberalisation of divorce in the 1960s was followed by the acceptance of sex as a recreational activity devoid of moral restraints. We now face the threat of redefining marriage which would be a blasphemous rejection of God’s ordinance and will bring chaos to the God-given order of complementarity between husband and wife.
These changes have also affected the church, which sadly often reflects the changes in society a few years later on. Some churches see marriages under threat from infidelity, parents confused about their role in guiding their children, and young people falling into temptation. There may be a creeping acceptance amongst the congregation of what the Bible states is clearly wrong e.g. cohabitation and homosexuality. We must ask ourselves what to do about this sad state of affairs, that Christians should not bring disgrace to His name.
Learning from Proverbs
Based on the teaching of the parents to their son in Proverbs 1-8, here are four factors that must be urgently addressed if God’s people are once again to know His delight and blessing.
Know and apply God’s law
Recognising the vulnerability of their son to sexual sin, the parents of Proverbs 1-8 repeatedly exhort him to heed God’s law (e.g. Prov. 7:2). Perhaps because of a fear of being seen as legalistic or a desire for acceptance by the world, Christians have tended to neglect the importance of personal sanctification through the application of the Ten Commandments to all aspects of life. We need to be clear that God’s ways are different from the world’s ways. Christians are to ‘Be holy as I am holy’ (1 Pet. 1:16). Holiness includes obedience to the commandment concerning relationships with the opposite sex, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. We need to consider carefully the breadth and depth of this commandment, which forbids all thoughts and activities outside marriage that deliberately promote sexual arousal. Parents and ministers have an important role in teaching the extent of this commandment.
It is often in sexual matters that the reality of our young people’s faith is first tested. Satan will seek to entice them to sexual immorality through the godless influences of our culture. He may also attack when they leave home for university. How important is the protection that comes from a firm biblical understanding of right and wrong in sexual behaviour. Young people can be encouraged to consider that, however enticing sexual immorality might seem, they will only be blessed by obeying God. They must remember that God’s law is as a fence to keep them out of danger, rather than a burden.
Young people will be strengthened in their resolve to remain sexually pure by the witness of faithfulness and unconditional love in their parents’ marriage. They will also be immeasurably helped by the example of God-given and distinctive roles of husband and wife.
Recognise and root out things that threaten sexual holiness
The father of Proverbs 1-8 warns his son to avoid likely temptations to sexual sin (5:3). Technology and immoral media have brought into our homes an immediate and alluring means of temptation. Perhaps this most obviously takes the form of pornography and the abuse of social networks, but it also comes in more subtle guises such as assumptions about the normality of cohabitation or homosexuality. Have we been as keen to destroy such threats to our sexual purity as King Josiah, who, with zeal, ground the idols of Israel to dust (2 Kings 23:6)? Have we been willing to ‘test everything’ and ‘hate what is evil’, even if it means inconvenience and the loss of some channels of leisure?
The books we read, songs we listen to and the company we keep will subtly affect our thinking. If, as parents, we don’t take the time to anticipate and filter what our children are reading and watching, how can we truly be testing everything on their behalf? This takes time and trouble. There is no short cut to, for example, watching a newly released film before they do, and, if there are parts that need explanation or placing in a biblical context, then watching it again with them! Parents need to take active steps to protect their children from the particular temptations of the internet by applying high security settings and limiting use to visible locations within the home.
Choose our friends carefully
The writer of Proverbs reminds us of the value of Christian friendship: ‘The sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel’ (Prov. 27:9b). How important is the accountability and wisdom of faithful friends in maintaining sexual purity in this tempting world. The father of Proverbs 1-8 warns his son to avoid bad influences, including those who pretend to be friends (Prov. 1:10-18). Nowadays such influences are not limited to those whom you meet face to face. There are everyday opportunities to interact with, and therefore to be influenced by, those who do not love God. These media include texting and social networking, which pose a particular threat to women who tend to be more relationally driven than men. Those with jobs that take them to an anonymous hotel life, need to be especially careful of whom they meet and how they relate to those of the opposite sex, remembering that ‘Like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place’ (Prov. 27:8).
Realise the world’s ways of avoiding sin’s consequences are ineffective
The father of Proverbs 1-8 repeatedly warns his son of the dreadful consequences of sexual sin. ‘He does not know that it will cost him his life’ (Prov. 7:23). Though God does not treat us as our sins deserve, God promises unwelcome consequences if we break His laws (Deut 28:15). The world says that if you use a condom, you will not get pregnant or catch genital infection. God holds such expectations in derision (Ps. 2:4), and has determined that the safe sex approach would be a flawed and expensive failure. Not only do condoms fail for mechanical (breakage rates of 1-2%), social (young people often forget to use them) or microbiological (infective agents often lie outside the area covered) reasons, but their promotion has encouraged immoral activity by giving the incorrect impression that it is possible to sin without consequences. Today we see rates of STIs and out-of-marriage conception at an all time high.
Other attempts to soften the consequences of sexual sin include the introduction of vaccination against genital warts infection, aimed at reducing the incidence of cervical cancer (which is almost always a sexually acquired condition). Christian parents need to reject such a programme, which is contrived by a sinful world intent upon ignoring the right means of avoiding STIs and unwanted pregnancy through keeping sexual intimacy for marriage. Rather than seeking these false means of protection, have we been bold in warning our children about the reality and seriousness of the consequences of sexual sin?
Chris Richards is a director of Lovewise.
Lovewise is committed to providing resources and presentations for young people on the biblical understanding of marriage and sexual purity. A range of resources for parents, ministers and teachers may be viewed on www.lovewise.org.uk. There is a Welsh language version of one of our main school resources.