Proverb 5:18–20 - “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?”
Last month I read yet another report on how culture is being influenced by pornography. That last sentence is just too vague. It was a report on how our sons’ and daughters’ views about physical intimacy are being hijacked, developed and shaped by the digital content they are consuming at a voracious rate and at an increasingly earlier age. Pornographic content is not only readily accessible on the internet via mobile devices, but is voyeuristically displayed on social media ads, during sporting events, award ceremonies and within mainstream movies. I don’t think I need to list any specific move titles or actors. I assume most people can readily rattle off a number of examples of such spiritually and relationally dangerous content.
As much as the recent report broke my heart as I read the first-person interviews of confused and hurting teenagers, I chose to do something other than bemoan the woes of the culture I find myself in and instead asked myself anew, “What does God call me to do about this?” I asked this first from the humble admission that I myself am vulnerable to temptation, and then from the role of a parent with children still at home. From those two vantage points I have a strong conviction that the Holy Spirit has provided His people with a balanced perspective on addressing the topic of human sexuality and Proverbs 5 is one such example that I find instructive.
1. God has appointed parents with the primary responsibility of sharing a Biblical perspective on sexuality with their children.
Like most of the early chapters in Proverbs, this one is instruction from a father to his son (Proverbs 5:1-2, 7, 11-14). The role of instruction applies to both parents (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20-35; 10:1).
I understand that there are generational norms about what parents discuss, or do not discuss, with their children. But I believe this text instructs parents to overcome whatever generational hangups a parent may have and shoulder the responsibility to instruct their children about intimacy.
I understand that this topic can be awkward and difficult. But the level of difficulty does not relieve us of the privilege of instructing our children. I remember when my father sat down to talk with me for the first time and how awkwardly that went, but I love and respect him for doing it.
I heard a speaker say that when his son was a toddler they were watching a sporting event on television when an immodestly dressed woman appeared during a commercial and part of her speech was, “If you don’t teach your son about sex, I will….” The truth of that statement hit him like a ton of bricks. Our children's attitudes and ideas about physical intimacy will begin being shaped by what they see in the home, but as they mature physically they will need additional information and guidance. If parents passively leave that instructive role vacant, there are plenty of people who are more than willing to step into that void. Our children will find answers. Let’s give them Godly, wholesome answers first! It will not guarantee perfect behavior, but it will give them sure footing at the beginning of adulthood. Even if they don’t accept the instruction, we will have faithfully lived up to our God-given calling as parents.
If you’re trying to find Biblical resources to help you teach your children about intimacy at an age-appropriate level, here is a link to a book series written by Stan & Brenna Jones that our family has found helpful.
2. A balanced Biblical perspective affirms that God has created us as sexual beings and that the gift of intimacy is to be celebrated within the relationship of heterosexual marriage.
In my personal opinion, I think we do a disservice to our children by starting a conversation about physical intimacy from a negative, “sex is bad” approach. Besides, it simply isn’t true! God created man and woman in His image, and in His grace made the reproductive process pleasurable, and an additional way to knit the hearts of husbands and wives together. When God concluded the six days of creation, He concluded that everything was “very good”, which includes physical intimacy!
From a young age, at a level appropriate to their maturity, children should be taught about the bodies God has given them and the various changes they will be going through. They should be taught about the beauty and sanctity of marital intimacy as a gift to be discovered and enjoyed within marriage (Ecclesiastes 9:9). They should be encouraged to appreciate the advice of Solomon’s beloved Shulamite when she said, “Do not awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4), but when they have married God encourages them to enjoy awakening the physical component of their relationship and be in as much awe of it as Solomon was when he wrote, “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden” (Proverbs 30:18-19).
Our children also need to be taught that not every adult gets married, and that men and women who serve God with undistracted service, taking advantage of special opportunities unique to their singleness are pleasing to Him (1 Corinthians 7:25-38)! Until they marry, or if they never marry, they need to follow God’s revealed desire for their purity (Ephesians 5:3).
3. A balanced Biblical perspective warns about the consequences of choosing to engage in sexual immorality.
The Biblical text explains that sexual immorality is outside of God’s will, and has significant consequences. Our children need to be taught to think through the consequences of rebelling against God’s will in the area of sexual intimacy, such as…
- The spiritual consequences (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
- The relational consequences (Hosea 2:5).
- The negative affect on my morals (1 Corinthians 6:16).
- That I am sinning against my own body (1 Corinthians 6:18). There are books written that discuss the effects that sexual activity has on the brain. One specifically examines the negative effects that “hooking up”, casually engaging in promiscuous sex, has on the brain and subsequently our ability to form close relationships.
- It misuses the body that God paid for with His Son’s life and in which His Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
After warning of the earthly and spiritual consequences of sexual immorality, our children need to be reminded that our God is gracious and merciful and no matter what they may do, the blood of Christ can cover it! How you communicate this point with your children is up to you, and should be an integral part of your plan to incorporate the gospel in your parenting. In our family we have the recurring statement that we make regarding every area of life, “These are God’s standards and what we pray you will choose. We know you won’t be perfect. When you make a mistake, let us know as soon as possible so we can take it to God as soon as possible.” Are we giving them permission to sin? Absolutely not! What we are trying to communicate is that we know that they sin, because we know that we sin. And when sin occurs, our home is a place where honest and humble confession is made, forgiveness and grace are freely extended and repentance is zealously pursued! To finish the context of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Forgiveness will not always remove every consequence of a sinful choice, but forgiveness is always available. (My kids have heard me mention enough stories from my studies with men in prison to know that repentance and forgiveness do not remove every earthly consequence.)
Briefly, we parents need to be aware of the very real threat of sexual abuse and both prepare our children to be appropriately cautious as well as learn to be aware ourselves of possible warning signs that something may have happened. We do not need to live in fear, but we do need to live wisely. That includes doing what we can to help both children and adults who have been sinned against in such an intimate way.
To families who have been trying to help each other pursue purity and holiness, maybe you are one of so many who have been exposed to pornography. You are not alone! As parents striving to help your children avoid or escape the snare of pornography, I would encourage you to consider the study Finally Free, by Heath Lambert. Anna and I were in attendance when Heath revealed the first printing of the book and were given a copy for free. I was so impressed with his tactful, practical and Biblically based approach to overcoming the sin of pornography, I share the book with every person who asks me for help with that temptation. God bless you as you rise to the challenge to help train a generation of children whose convictions about purity and sexuality are shaped by a God who loves them!