“What is our agenda as we deal with our teenagers and sexuality? We want to be realistic about who they are, about the world they live in, about the contradictory voices they hear . . . But we especially want to be sure that our realism reflects the hope of the gospel.” (Paul David Tripp, Christian counselor)
“Realistic about who they are.” The pre-teen and teen years can be a confusing time, with the changes in their bodies and their emotions, an awakening romantic interest in the opposite sex, and emerging feelings of sexual arousal.
“The world they live in” sexualizes them from childhood and tells them that they are free to do whatever they want. It doesn’t tell them what the consequences of acting on this freedom could well be. Or what is right and wrong.
In this context, how can they develop a sense of “healthy” sexuality so that they can flourish in their relationships as teens and believe in their hearts that sex should – and can – be saved for marriage? First, we have to help them to think about sex, and to think rightly about sex:
Sex is good – a gift of God, intended for the closest possible union of two individuals, for enjoyment, and for the creation of new life. On the seventh day of creation, after God had created male and female, he “saw all that he had made, and it was ‘very good’” (Genesis 1:31). The emerging sexual feelings and the attraction of teen boys and girls for each other is good, built into them by God. They can thank him for them.
Sex has boundaries. When God brought Eve to Adam, Adam was ecstatic with joy and desire, because Eve was “taken from” him – “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This is why, the Bible tells us, a man and a woman long for reunion with their ‘sexual other’. So “a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Sexual intimacy is only for marriage.
But males and females need each other, even in the teen years! Socially, helping each other, because they are different — complementary to each other. God created Eve because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Male and female each supply strengths lacking in the other.
The way our bodies work confirms what the Bible tells us. Jesus and the Apostle Paul both quote the Genesis “one flesh” passage about sex bonding two people together (Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:8, 1 Corinthians 6:16). Science says the same thing: when two people have sexual intercourse, or even touch each other intimately, their brains release chemicals that bond them together, and create trust. This is good if they are married but emotionally devastating for one or both when a temporary relationship ends.
The gospel provides hope. In the Bible teens can find what is right in relationships, how to avoid the pitfalls, how the Holy Spirit helps, and forgiveness and restoration when they have gone astray.