Redefining Purity in Teaching Sex Ed in Christian Education

I came across another youth ministry article today that was addressing purity in teenage dating relationships.  Since getting married I have some very strong feelings about how the Christian sex/dating/marriage education thought-process is missing the target.  Here are just a few of my thoughts:

1.  When I was a teenager much of the focus of "purity" lessons was on the physical aspect of purity, but little was said about the "heart" aspect.  I remember people commenting on how quickly a young man could undress a young lady with his mind, but little was said of how quickly a young woman may marry a young man in her mind.  (And of course nothing was said of how quickly a young woman may undress a young man in her mind or how quickly a young man might marry a young woman in his mind.)  Instead of focusing on what a young woman should wear or how she should keep physical boundaries (which so often is focused upon), shouldn't we address how quickly she commits her heart and her thoughts to a young man?  This obsession or desire often comes before she considers connecting physically with someone.  This is where she bonds - in her heart and mind.  We worry so much about the bond created by sexual intimacy, but what about the bond created by emotional intimacy and mental energy.  Doesn't this bond also create potential baggage to be carried into marriage? "Purity" is not only a matter of behavior, but also a matter of the heart and mind.

2. I also believe we need to redefine "purity."  Instead of focusing on specific behaviors, we need to define it as "living in a way that pleases God."  This is important, because when one freely gives herself physically to her spouse in marriage, she does not lose her "purity."  When we associate "losing one's purity" with certain physical behaviors, a young woman may have a sense of losing "purity" on her honeymoon, even though she has not.  By redefining it this way, we also provide some sense of protection for one's personal worth for a person who has been victimized sexually.  She who has been raped has not lost her "purity" because she continues to "live in a way that pleases God."

3. On more than one occasion I have heard an adult respond to a young person's question of "Where is the line?" by saying, "If you have to ask where it is, you've gone to far."  This is not helpful!  We need to help young people define what is appropriate and what is not.  How are they to know what the line is if they've never crossed it?  Only those of us who are married or who have "experience" know the impact that certain physical connections have, someone who hasn't experienced those physical connections shouldn't be expected to know where the "line" is for themselves.  We invite young people to experiment when we don't explain specifics about the "line" or even how they will know once they have approached or crossed it.  Why don't we talk about passion and explain that there is a difference between a passionless kiss and a kiss of passion, a difference between holding hands and passionately holding hands? Why don't we talk about different forms of physical contact and how they do or do not express intimacy? Why don't we help young people define "the line"?


ks said…
Yeah, and that first point, is really the culprit behind kids losing their "purity" in the first place. If you're holding those relationships in the right place, knowing that they may not be permanent, then you're less likely to do something you'd regret.
These are all SO true. I'm thankful I had a great youth pastor who did explain this well to us.
Churches also need to do a better job preparing teenagers for becoming young adults, who have more freedom and believe themselves to be more responsible. To help them be able to translate the teenage purity talks into adulthood, because there's no knowing when one will meet their actual spouse.

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