Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Young Adults, Sex with "strings," and later marriage: Part II

This is another response to the article from my last post on Christian young adults not connecting sex with marriage, and living no differently than their non-Christian peers. 

The article, as previously mentioned, close with some questions: 

So what should a Christian parent or youth pastor do? How do they convince more young Christians to wait until marriage, or should they stop even trying?

First of all I do like these questions. I especially like the order of parents, and then youth pastors. I look back on my youth ministry days (and I'm still obviously involved in it now), and it does seem that one of the common denominators with those youth who walk with Jesus when they are young adults (and I've seen PLENTY who aren't walking with Jesus now), is that they had Christians parents investing in them. They didn't "farm" out the discipleship to the youth pastor. Instead they partnered together as a team.

And in this case, I think parents have a great opportunity to help shape a biblical sexuality. More than they think. So talking with kids about sex and sexuality is a good thing. A thing that shouldn't be abdicated. Even the parents on the show Parenthood try do it, even though the daughter is reticent.

Pastors and other leaders in the church have a part to play as well. Last year we went through a book in a series of Little Black Books called Sex. It was well written, "down with the times," Reformed, and helpful to produce some discussion in our 9th-12th graders. I think parents could go through such a book as well. It's important that neither the church nor the parents run away from this issue. Silence and assumption don't produce mature disciples. Neither does giving youth and young adults "Nike" messages: JUST DO IT! Jesus, and our laboring relentlessly with His energy produces mature disciples (Col 1:28-29). Particularly in this area.

Should we try to convince young adults to wait or stop trying? I think its a fair question to ask. Some things youth do are not necessarily sinful. Instead those things aren't helpful. Texting 24-7 might be one of those things. But instead of saying NO, we might try to redirect, or instruct, or limit, or whatever you as a parent feel convicted. It does have an affect on their relationships, but its not something that we necessarily need to draw a line in the sand over.

But sex outside marriage is clearly outside God's design. So we should make a go at "convincing," them to wait. Here are some thoughts.

1.) If the marrying age is increasing now, then should it be that much of a stretch to think that the "acceptable" dating age should probably also increase? Again, dating ages are ultimately parents decisions. But instead of taking cues from culture, why not consider delaying dating since marriage is being delayed? Many folks, even those in their church, date vicariously though their kids. Obviously parents have to nip this in the bud. If that's the case, then I think the goal of delaying dating a bit, is certainly feasible.

2.) Earlier marriage? Some have made a move towards getting married younger so that they don't "burn with passion" (I Cor 7). I guess the jury is still out on whether or not these marriages will really make it. Paul said it was better to marry than burn with passion, but I'm not sure that he was trying to nudge us to necessarily marry early. I wouldn't want to have put Amy through my prolonged serious depression years (she still got to experience some-she's a real trooper), so age 26 seemed to be good for us. However, if couples are ready to actually leave and cleave, then go for it. But on the flip side, while it is better to marry then burn with passion, it is worse to marry and then divorce.

3.) Is later marriage a good thing? While it benefited us to marry at 26 (almost 27), I think our general delaying of marriage as a culture does fuel the pre-marital sex epidemic. Getting married in college, or before, may not be ideal. But waiting until everyone is financially independent, and then waiting to have kids once you are financially ready, is a recipe for disaster. Watch the movie Idiocracy for a possible result to that!
4.) Pre-marital sex does leave scars that you will deal with in your marriage. People will compare experiences. People will bring past physical and emotional experiences into their marriage beds. Youth need to learn this stuff NOW if they will escape this alarming trend when they are young adults. There are consequences to pre-marital sex which go far beyond STD's that will bring harm into your marriage. Christ's righteousness means that we have a Christ covered slate, not just a blank slate. But Christ's righteousness does not level all consequences. God's grace can curb the consequences of sexual infidelity, and redeem sexually broken folks (which is really all of us if you want to be honest), but there is reason why He says "Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live...(Deut 30:19)." Sin is death.
5.) Church is a place of sexual brokenness. If you mess up sexually, even though you may experience consequences, you can experience grace. If the church expresses grace to sexually active Christians, then there is hope for change. If sexually active young adults don't feel the church is a place for those struggling sexually, then they won't be showing up on Sunday. And then there will be no hope for them. They need to hear Jesus preached and applied each week and surround themselves with fellowship. Even if young folks are not broken by their sin, if they are connected to the means of grace (word, prayer, fellowship, sacraments), brokenness is possible. But if they sense a "if you screw up, you're out," then those will be the last words we hear.
6.) Sexual infidelity is not THE sin. It's bad. It's highlighted here as being a sin against our body (I Cor 6:18). Yet just before it is also counted among swindling, idolatry, greed, drunkenness, and stealing as precluding Kingdom inheritance (I Cor 6:10). Of course Paul is writing to people who are struggling with these sins. He is telling them that their lives WERE dominated by such slavery. Now they are washed free and waiting. And struggling. So we should be frustrated at the sins of others. But we must not elevate or ignore other sins in ourselves and other folks.

7.) Only grace will produce sexual healing and fidelity. Steve Brown includes a great illustration in his book Scandalous Freedom of Abraham Lincoln redeeming a slave. The slave girls says, "I'm free to leave?" Lincoln tells her, "Yes you are." In the end, the slave wants to go with Lincoln. Experiencing grace makes you want to follow Jesus. Grace motivates and empowers you to follow God's commands in all areas of life.

These are just some thoughts which I hope will help us think through, instead of run from, or give up, on this important issue.

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