This blog is the third of a four-part series on the sexualization of our culture. We’d recommend skimming part one (where we challenge the youth ministry nation to rethink our approach to teaching sexuality to our students) and part two (where we ask you to do some honest reflection about your own understanding of sexuality) before diving into this installment. But that’s up to you 🙂
We regularly remind our students that the decisions they make today shape who they’ll be tomorrow. This statement is easy to apply to sexuality, but we must take seriously our responsibility to teach about sexuality in a way that helps our students today and prepares them for tomorrow. We would encourage you to consider the truths below as you think, talk, and teach about sexuality with your students.
- Sex is about oneness. One of the central Hebrew words for sex is “yadha” or “yada” (Strong’s 3045), and it’s basic meaning is “to know.” We understand it to be a complex word describing fully knowing someone and being fully known by someone. The marriage relationship should involve three dimensions of knowing (and three forms of oneness): emotional, spiritual, and physical. The order of these three dimensions is important, because physical oneness is best when it flows out of an already-connected heart and soul. Physical oneness is amazing, but unfortunately, few people experience sex in this God-designed pattern, so few people experience oneness the way God intended.The problem with culture’s order which puts physical oneness first is that even if we ignore it, a spiritual connection still happens during sex. Two souls are becoming one. And when this intimate connection is shared outside of God’s design, the “one flesh” is torn. When flesh is torn, there is pain and brokenness and scarring. And if oneness is experienced with multiple people, there are multiple instances of pain and brokenness and scarring.
- Sex is about wholeness. “Shalom” is a familiar Hebrew word with a wonder of meaning. In addition to “peace,” and “flourishing,” shalom means “completeness or wholeness” (Strong’s 7965). In the garden of Eden, God invited Adam and Eve to experience shalom in every part of their lives. Jesus re-extended that invitation in his life and resurrection. Sex is one way humans experience the “wholeness” of shalom with one another … two souls touching … shared space … the two becoming one flesh.Experiencing sex according to God’s design requires commitment, patience, and self-control – three values hardly celebrated in today’s culture. In popular culture, we are encouraged (perhaps even expected) to begin with physical oneness. And if the physical connection doesn’t feel like it should, we can readily find advice on, “How to Spice Up the Bedroom,” or, “Ten Ways to Please Your Partner.” Many people experience feelings of disconnection after sex because they’re only enjoying physical oneness. The solution isn’t learning better technique, it’s trusting God and his design for the good gift of sex he created us to enjoy.
- Sex is about pleasure and purity. You may find the marriage of these two words – pleasure and purity – a bit strange. If so, you’re in good company. Many people in our churches have inherited a puritanical belief that if something feels good, it’s wrong. This belief is sometimes easy to spot, but at other times it’s subtle and sinister and enslaving.Here’s a little test to see if you’re affected:
Imagine you’re seated at a table, and on the table are two plates. The first plate is overflowing with a beautiful kale salad. The kale is fresh and skillfully chopped. Lining the sides of the plate are bright red tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and newly skinned carrots. A light sprinkle of lime juice gives just the right amount of kick to make the flavors come alive. The second plate holds a most decadent ice cream sundae. Home churned vanilla ice cream rests atop two perfectly ripe, lightly fried bananas. The chef soaked fresh strawberries in some sugar overnight, and the syrupy goodness is covering the ice cream. The dish is topped with the creamiest whipped topping you’ve ever seen and two bright red cherries with steps still connected.
Which plate do you associate with God’s plan for sex and which plate do you associate with culture’s view of sex?
Most students (and adults!) we’ve talked with about sex are quick to point to the kale salad as representative of God’s plan and the ice cream sundae as representative of culture’s view of sex. We know the kale is good for us; we dress it up with nice (and healthy) things to kick up the flavor a bit, and we have the discipline to almost convince ourselves we like it … while we’re watching our neighbors go to town on the luscious ice cream sundae. We chew our kale with a smile, but we can almost taste the sugary goodness on the next plate, because even though it’s not at all good for us, we know it tastes so much better.
We believe most people view God’s design for sex the same way: it’s OK, but it’s good for us. But the real fun is found by doing things the way culture says we should.
The truth is just the opposite.
God created sex for us to enjoy – for procreation AND for recreation. Spend some time reading Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) in your Bible in all of it’s sugary goodness. These words reflect God’s plan for us to experience amazing, pleasure-filled sex on all three levels: emotional, spiritual, and physical. You can be the best lover in the world, with great techniques and lots of “steamy tricks” learned from society’s experts, but outside of God’s design and apart from Christ, you will never experience the true “yadha” and “shalom” of sex that God intended.
Next week we’ll wrap up the series with what we believe are the two central challenges our students face as they strive to live into God’s plan for their sexuality.
What do you think?
– Tim and Tasha
Need help teaching students about sexuality from a biblical perspective? There are great resources on this topic from Simply Youth Ministry. Check out Pure Sex and other resources for your youth ministry!