I recently came across an alarming statistic reporting that 90% of boys and 60% of girls confess to viewing pornographic material before the age of 18. Considering the likelihood that a decent percentage of the teens interviewed for this study lied about their porn use, it’s safe to say that these numbers significantly under-report the actual number of teens viewing pornographic content.
We don’t have to read findings from studies like this one to know that American teen culture loves—even worships—sex. A quick glance at the programming on MTV or the books on the shelves of “young adult” sections in bookstores makes that quite clear.
What is equally clear is that most parents of teens do not take their responsibility to shepherd their kids’ sexuality seriously. Most parents are terrified to have frank discussions with their kids about love, intimacy, and sex. Helping teens remain as sexually pure as possible requires an untold number of awkward conversations, a staunch commitment to protecting teens from pornography, and a staggering level of courage to fight against prevailing culture. That being the case, parents who take an active role in talking to their kids about these issues and helping them traverse the sexual dangers of teen culture should be applauded.
The primary goal of parenting is not to raise sexually pure teens. God desires much more than that.
In his final address to his Church before ascending to heaven, Jesus calls his followers to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). It is the mission statement for every Christian who has ever lived.
For parents, this mission starts at home. Christians are missionaries, and the primary mission field of Christian parents is the hearts of their children who are sinful from the womb and antagonistic towards God from birth (Psalm 51:5). Christian moms and dads are to regularly preach the good news of Jesus to their kids in words and show the love and grace of Jesus to their kids in actions.
Oftentimes, however, parents become overly focused on morality. They become more concerned with whether their kids are “good” boys and girls and less concerned with whether they know and love Jesus.
This mistake of putting morally acceptable behavior before love of Jesus is particularly acute in the area of sexual sin. All too often, parents who make it a priority to address their kids’ struggles with sexual immorality strive to completely eradicate it from their lives as opposed to teaching them what Scripture says about sexual sin.
They lock down their computers, cable boxes, and video game consoles with parental controls, watch their kids’ relationship status on Facebook like a hawk, and restrict their kids’ freedom to spend time with peers of the opposite sex away from the home in an effort to make it as difficult as possible for their kids to sin sexually. These are not bad things. Most of the time, these are good things. But they are not ultimate things.
Parents are not primarily called by God to put up roadblocks between their kids and sexual sin. They are primarily called to lead their kids into a loving relationship with Jesus. Being a “good” boy or girl is not the same thing as loving Jesus. It is quite possible to be a sexually pure teenager and not give a rip about Jesus.
In order to fulfill their calling from God, Christian parents have to get comfortable with talking to their kids on a heart level about all aspects of life, with sexual sin being a common topic of discussion in the teenage season on life. Far too often, parents find out about sexual sin going on in their kids’ lives, have one unbearably awkward conversation with them about it, and then rely on external forces to restrict their kids’ access to sexual temptation. The reality is that external restrictions don’t change the heart. Jesus changes the heart, and he generally uses his words spoken through one of his followers to do so.
Recently, I was leading a Bible study for junior high boys, and the topic of girls came up. Before long, several of the boys confessed to struggling with looking at porn and masturbating. I asked them how their parents had counseled them in regards to the issue. They looked at me like I was certifiably insane. I asked if they’d ever talked to their parents about sexual sin, and they proceeded to laugh in my face. They thought this idea was so funny that they eventually ended up in a heap on the floor, having fallen down from laughing so hard. After reigning in the conversation, I explained that their sexual sin was disgusting before God but that Jesus loved them to the point of death and had bled and died for their sins. Therefore, they did not need to feel overwhelming shame for their sin anymore. Their laughter quickly became tears of thanksgiving for Jesus’ love. I left the Bible study that night excited for what God was doing in the boys’ hearts, yet sad for the boys’ parents who would have had the joy of watching the gospel melt their sons’ hearts, if only they had been willing to talk to them.
Parents, it is time to have hard conversations with your kids. It is time to talk to them about their sin and the blood of Jesus that covers it. Protecting your kids from temptation is good thing, but it is not the best thing. Raising “good” kids is not the goal. We do not worship “goodness.” We worship Jesus.
Guest post by Reagan North, student ministry director at the campus of Mars Hill Church in Shoreline, Washington,