Purity, Consent, and Sexual Assault

 

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Day 1

Modesty, Purity, and Nudity

“I also want the women to dress modestly… not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes” — 1 Timothy 2:9

In her book Pure, Linda Kay Klein tells the story of a woman named Laura experiencing sexual assault. Afterward, when Laura told her dad what had happened to her, the first thing her dad said to her was, “What were you wearing?” 

When a story of sexual assault is met with a question like that, what’s conveyed is that the one who is raped is to blame for the rape. As Dr. Sellers pointed out in Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, “Purity movement teachings also dealt with lust and modesty in such a way that women were made responsible for how men behaved. They were to wear modest clothing in order to keep men from “stumbling.” This taught women to distrust men and taught men that they were not responsible for their behavior or sexual drive.” 

In Matthew 5:29, Jesus gives a very different solution: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” In other words, we should deal with our proclivities toward stumbling and sin within ourselves not by blaming others, or trying to force those around us into conformity with what we think will keep us pure. Galatians 5:23 lists “self-control” as a fruit of the Spirit within us, not a fruit of others’ modesty. The difference is that one school of thought locates the blame on what the aggressor sees, whereas the other locates the blame within the aggressor, i.e. on how he/she sees. 

Obviously it’s much easier to blame external circumstances for our sin. But we have to teach our young men and women that every individual is responsible for his or her own sexual integrity. Previously, the entire discussion’s emphasis has been drawn from verses like 1 Corinthians 8:9: “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” In context, Paul is talking about whether or not Christians should eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. That doesn’t mean there aren’t principles that can apply beyond Paul’s specific example; but in fact, historical, scriptural, archaeological and literary evidence all point out that nudity in Paul’s day didn’t have nearly the same taboo that nudity has in modern America. 

The awkwardness is that we have invented a new way to stumble — and yet we now live and function within our invention. Inside, many women are condemned for their wardrobe choices, and many men learn that any attraction to the female form is sinful lust. In our Porn, Sexting, and Masturbation track, we make the case that what Jesus is talking about when he uses the word “lust” is not desire, attraction, or even sexual arousal, but rather making plans for sexual gratification which fail to respect the boundaries of marriage. However, if we assume we’ve already sinned in our attraction to someone, we might now sin more deliberately to cover and numb the shame of the first sin (which, again, may not have actually been sin). 

Many women learn through advertisements, TV shows, and movies that their value is in their body and their sexuality, so they display more than they otherwise might in an attempt to demonstrate their value to others. As we disciple our kids in how they see the human body, we should also disciple our daughters that their value does not come from their sexuality, but from the fact that they are made in the image of God and that Jesus died to make them his. 

Others may use the body taboo as a baseline to transcend, maybe pushing the envelope for the purposes of seduction or to sexually signal others. We would argue that any intention to cause sin is sin. But in the #MeToo era of sexual assault, we would also rather encourage our kids to err on the side of assuming that how someone dresses is not a sexual invitation. 

To quote again from C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity: “The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of ‘modesty’ (in one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest’, proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste).” 

On a debate panel, Sheila Gregoire was asked, “What do we do when a woman who is seeking walks into church wearing something really inappropriate, like a skimpy sundress? How do we tell her that she’s a stumbling block?” Sheila’s wise response was to say, “You don’t! Because in this situation, she is the weaker brother. The men are more mature in the faith. It’s her faith that God is most concerned with. He leaves the 99 to find the 1.” 

Action Steps

Sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your son or daughter what they’ve heard in church or in school about “modesty.” Listen for any clues that they’re starting to believe that a man’s sexual integrity is a woman’s responsibility. Ask them whether they think it’s right or not that one person should be held responsible for someone else’s sin. 

Prayer

“Father, what a mess we’ve made of the world you created. Have mercy on us. We need your love, we need your grace, and we need your powerful, transforming redemption. Come into our lives as we continue to seek you and your Kingdom. As you promised, may your Holy Spirit lead us into all truth. Guide our thoughts, words, actions, and tone as we continue to have these conversations with our kids. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

 

Day 2

Three Parent Guides

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20-21

Today we are making three of our best Parent Guides available to you, to help you navigate some of these very difficult issues: our Parent Guides to Modesty, Purity, and Sexual Assault. Each guide is packed full of tools, information, and frameworks to help you navigate some of these complicated and sometimes painful aspects of sexuality. 

If sexual assault is a part of your story, or a part of your daughter or son’s story, first of all, our heart breaks for you. We are not experts in the recovery process that will be necessary to find healing, and we would like to sincerely encourage you to seek counseling for that if you have not already done so. If you’re reading in America and you’d like to explore counseling, here’s a link to the American Association of Christian Counselors, which can help you find a counselor in your area.

Action Steps

Choose the Parent Guide that is most relevant to your current situation. Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. Then, sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, pick a few of the discussion questions from the end of one of them, and ask one of them to your son or daughter. 

Prayer

“Father, have mercy on us — on me, and on my family. This world is so broken and can be so vicious, but in your word you say to take heart, that you have overcome the world. Help us to live and move forward in that reality. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

 

Day 3

Contraception and Abortion

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13

Summarizing research from Douglas Kirby, Donna Freitas, and Karen McClintock in Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, Dr. Sellers points out that: 

  • “…many Christian young adults may have grown up in a culture of abstinence-only sex education, which research shows does not lower the incidence of sexual intercourse and increases the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, thanks to the decreased use of contraception in this population (Kirby 2007, 15).” 
  • “[Christian students] are more likely to delay sex, yes, but when they do engage in sex, they are more likely to have unprotected sex” (Freitas 2008, 124-5).
  • “Research on the effect of the purity pledge indicated a slight delay (12 to 18 months) in the onset of sexual activity, a reduced use of contraception when young persons did engage in intercourse, and a significant increase in shame, condemnation, and self-loathing” (McClintock 2001, 30; SIECUS 2005). 

Sometimes reports like this can fuel a sort of fatalism, which says, “Well, if so many of them are going to have sex before marriage anyway, we may as well buy condoms for them.” But we agree with Nancy Pearcey in Love Thy Body, when she says, “The loving way to treat young people is not to hand out contraceptives, which amounts to collusion in impersonal and ultimately unfulfilling sexual encounters. It is far more loving to inspire them with a higher view of sexuality.” 

Perhaps the real issue with the sort of abstinence-only sex education that Dr. Sellers critiques is not that students were encouraged not to have sex, but that all they heard about sex were catchphrases like “Just say no.” There was no explanation of how their bodies worked, maybe no deeper exploration of the meaning of God’s design, and his higher and more beautiful purpose for sex. Maybe there was no discussion of grace for failures either. 

Some parents may not want to talk about contraception because they don’t want to consider that there could ever be a situation where that information could become relevant for their teens. Others may feel like the consequences of sexual immorality should remain as fearfully high as possible, and so might want to leave this partial solution undiscussed. Others may want to talk about it, but aren’t sure how they could do so without incentivizing their teens to act out sexually.  

Of course, some married couples use contraceptives as part of family planning, so this isn’t just a premarital issue. Regardless, our goal is for you to become your kids’ go-to resource for all their questions about every aspect of sexuality. We want your kids to know that no topic is off-limits with you, and that you can be trusted to give them a real, honest answer about anything. 

Most sources which share information about contraceptives also come with a built-in secular worldview, one which espouses that sexual activity should happen whenever you feel like doing it, and with whomever. But if you as the parent were to breach this topic, you could pre-empt and reframe the conversation. You might say something like, “Yes, there are ways to protect yourself from some of the physical consequences of sex, like accidental pregnancy or STIs, and some kinds of protection work better than other kinds. But contraception only deals with the physical side of things, and we’ve never believed that sex was only physical. It’s also emotional, spiritual, and relational. This is part of why we believe sex should be reserved for marriage, because the consequences of going outside of God’s design go way deeper than just the physical.” 

In an NPR article called, “In Texas, Abstinence-Only Programs May Contribute to Teen Pregnancies,” Laura Silverman writes, “For years, California has invested in comprehensive sex education and access to contraception… There, the teenage birth rate dropped by 74 percent from 1991 to 2012. The teen birth rate in Texas also fell, but only by 56 percent.” 

Although we saw in part 2 of the Sex Talk 2.0 video series that Gen Z’s sexual experience has become more digitized, pregnancy still remains a real possibility. One (difficult) question that’s worth asking is, “If the unthinkable happened, and one of our teens got (or got someone) pregnant, would they know that it was still better to carry the baby to term than to terminate the pregnancy?” Maybe then the baby could be put up for adoption, so a family in a more mature life-situation could give the baby the care he or she truly needed. But if teens believe their ultimate goal should be maintaining the appearance of righteousness before others, in a situation like this, abortion may present itself as a way to keep reality covered up. So then the question becomes, “How good is our community at offering grace for mistakes? Or have we conveyed the message that looking put together is the most important thing?” 

For many Christians, it’s easy to talk in abstract terms about abortion being wrong. It’s much harder to create an environment where teens know that some things are more important than looking perfect. As a friend of ours once put it, the crucial question for parents to ask themselves is this: “Are you raising a sin concealer or a sin confessor?” When it comes down to it, a teen’s willingness to be open about their current life situation hinges on the amount of trust established with the ones who want to know. 

Action Steps

One of the best ways to raise a sin confessor is to model sin confession, which brings to something we talked about in our Laying the Foundation track: sharing your own story. If you haven’t already done so, take some time to think through (and/or talk through with your spouse) the major points of your story that have informed your convictions. How much detail would you want to share if an opportunity presented itself? 

Then, sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your son or daughter this question: “What have you heard or learned about abortion? What do you think leads people to get an abortion, or to decide not to get one?”

Prayer

“Father, when I am weak, you are strong. When I am nervous, you are secure. Thank you that you have come, not just to cover my past, but to lend me power for my future. I pray that your Holy Spirit would prompt me to ask the questions which uncover my son/daughter’s heart. Help me to align myself with you and what you’re doing in his/her life. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

Day 4

Singleness/Celibacy

“For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” — Matthew 19:12

The word eunuch, of course, literally refers to someone who has been castrated, but the symbolic meaning goes beyond that. In his book Theology of the Body for Beginners, Christopher West writes, “In the Christian tradition, a eunuch “for the kingdom of heaven” is someone who freely forgoes sexual relations in anticipation of that state in which men and women “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”” In this way, being “a eunuch for the Kingdom,” or practicing celibate singleness, becomes just as much a witness of God’s love to married couples as the married couple is a witness of God’s love to the celibate single. 

The two lifestyles are two parts of the same picture. The celibate single reminds the couple that the ultimate source of their love is not each other, but the God who loved us first. The couple reminds the celibate single of the goodness and importance of expressing that love in our relationships — whether romantically, in friendships, in our families, or in our church bodies. This is one reason we believe churches should make more room for singles in their congregation — and not just in “singles groups,” where the main goal is for singles to pair up. When married couples and celibate singles begin regularly spending time with one another, both parties have the opportunity to share and live out the sort of witness we’re describing. 

Henri Nouwen puts it beautifully in his book Clowning in Rome: “We are children of God first and we all belong to God first. Everyone does. Those who live consecrated celibacy do not attach themselves to one particular person, and by their lives they remind us that our relationship with God, as the children of God, is the beginning, the source, and the goal of all human relationships. By his or her life of non attachment, the celibate lifts up this beautiful truth about our Christian life.” 

Of course, as eloquent as Nouwen makes it sound, for many of us (especially many hormonal teenagers), the prospect of going the rest of our lives without sexual satisfaction sounds pretty miserable. This is why some of the most fearfully persuasive research about porn use are the studies connecting it to the inability to be aroused or sexually satisfied by anyone in real life. Many porn users are horrified to realize that, though porn may have started as a placeholder for the real thing, it often ends up corroding users’ ability to experience and enjoy the real thing. Along similar lines, the Catholic News Agency published an article called “The new celibacy? How porn may be destroying the impetus for sex.”

All that to say, most human beings are highly driven to seek the satisfaction of their sexual desires. Most people want to have sex with someone someday. Jesus acknowledges this reality at the end of Matthew 19:12, when he says, “The one who can accept [living like a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom] should accept it,” which implies that he knew most people wouldn’t be able to handle it. 

Henri Nouwen was in a unique position to accept this calling, as some of his published letters reveal that he wrestled with same-sex attraction for much of his life. (We talk more about this dynamic in our Gender/LGBT track.) But even apart from experiences like his, 1 Corinthians 7:7 refers to singleness, broadly, as a “gift.” Of course, few people today think of singleness like that. The Babylon Bee satirizes our culture’s response in an article called “Local Woman Looking to Return Gift of Singleness.” The woman’s fictional prayer to God is, “Lord, I know you meant well with this gift, but this is not really something I’m into… And I know my time as a single woman is to be spent dedicating myself to you, but, well, what I really wanted was a dreamy guy.” 

The question is, what does it mean to have the “gift of singleness”? It’s common to assume (with a sense of dread) that if someone has this gift, they’re going to stay single for the rest of their lives. We believe this interpretation reads more into 1 Corinthians 7:7 than is warranted. Unless someone has received a very clear conviction or vision from the Lord that their call to singleness will be for the long haul, we believe that we determine whether we have the gift on a daily basis, rather than a lifelong basis. So the best way to determine whether someone has the gift of singleness is by asking the question, “Am I currently single?” Then, this gift can become an invitation to steward ourselves for that day, instead of an occasion to worry about what may or may not happen in the future. 

Still, the witness of the one who voluntarily chooses celibacy provides an important reminder. It reminds us that, “Yes, romance is good, and yes, marriage is good, and yes, sex is good — but none of these things were designed to fulfill us ultimately. That kind of fulfillment can only come from God, whether we’re married, dating, or single.” And though contentment in singleness shouldn’t be regarded as a means to an end, the one who is content as a single person will be much less likely to cling to romance for a sense of purpose, and therefore much better equipped to enjoy the gift of romantic love if the opportunity does arise. 

Action Steps

Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. Then sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your son/daughter one of these questions: 

  • “How do you think people live fulfilled lives without romantic relationships?”
  • “Why do you think most people get into romantic relationships?”

Prayer

“Father, help me to show my son/daughter that our ultimate fulfillment does not come from starting families or having romantic relationships, but from our relationship with you. Help us not to treat the single life as a substandard life, and not to regard our single friends as having a disease that needs curing. Help us see that love isn’t only expressed romantically, but also expressed in friendly, familial, and spiritual ways with one another. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

Day 5

Purity and Consent

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” — Ecclesiastes 7:18

In our Porn, Sexting, and Masturbation track we mention Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book Shameless, and how we believe her proposed sexual ethic (which de-emphasizes the importance of marriage in order to de-emphasize shame) represents an overcorrection from some of the harmful excesses of purity culture. She writes in a similar camp as writers like Linda Kay Klein (with her book Pure) and Dr. Tina Sellers (with her book Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, though we have found her research and some of her frameworks to be thought-provoking and helpful. This new approach to sexuality is often driven by powerful, emotional stories about people who have been harmed by some experience in church, as opposed to a careful study of what scripture says. We believe these stories should be reckoned with, but without forgetting the impressively consistent witness of Christian tradition that sex is for marriage, and without overhauling the scriptural witness because of these stories. As G.K. Chesterton put it, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” 

Writers like Klein, Sellers, and Bolz-Weber all share stories of men and women who got married but weren’t able to unlearn the negative view of sex they had been taught in youth group. Again, these stories fuel the idea that sex should be liberated beyond the confines as marriage in order to prevent future sexual shame later on (like in marriage). Then there are other stories about people who were taught that if they “remained pure,” God would reward them with an ideal husband or wife and a perfect sex life in marriage. Many who practiced abstinence waited years for their reward, becoming more and more disappointed that God wasn’t delivering on the promise others had made on his behalf. We set others up for faith crises when we start making promises on God’s behalf in this way. As Jason Burtt with Unaltered puts it, “My motivation to live a pure and honorable life is because of what Christ already did, not because of what I want him to do for me.”

Meanwhile, when “purity” was defined in binary either/or terms, some of those who became sexually active before marriage fell into a spiral afterward, acting out a feeling of continuous estrangement from God. If purity is framed as something we’re born with, and can lose — as opposed to something we only have if Christ has given it to us, which he renews in us and empowers us to grow in — we may again be setting up someone’s faith system to crumble. 

One tenet of the new sexual ethic is that any guilt we might feel for acting out sexually is only the result of social programming, not our heart’s sensitivity to the Spirit’s conviction. This is a powerful line of rhetoric, and those who believe it are often empowered to discount many guilt feelings for going farther than their purity culture might have permitted. This is also propelled by a critique on the double-standard that exists for promiscuity between men and women (i.e. it’s okay for men to sleep around but when women do it they’re “sluts” or “thots.”) We agree that the double-standard should be corrected, but believe that a true solution would be greater sexual integrity for both men and women, not a further removal of sexual boundaries for everyone. 

As Katelyn Beaty wrote in this New York Times article, “To be sure, consent is a nonnegotiable baseline, one that Christian communities overlook. (I never once heard about consent in youth group.) But two people can consent to something that’s nonetheless damaging or selfish. Consent crucially protects against sexual assault and other forms of coercion. But it doesn’t necessarily protect against people using one another in quieter ways. I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk.” 

The issue with a sexual ethic that’s only based on concern for each others’ desire in the moment is that it’s short-sighted. A friend of ours told us that the conversation with his fiancée about her sexual history was one of the most painful conversations he’s ever had with anyone. Although the critique of purity culture says that sexual guilt is only social programming, our friend quipped, “Purity culture isn’t what made my heart sink.” 

Of course, there is grace for everything, and nothing is beyond God’s ability to make something good out of it. But the next generation should understand that if we’re sexually active with someone outside of marriage, there’s a good chance that person will have to take those decisions into a marriage with someone else. Someday they’ll have to tell someone else about what they did with us, and no matter how enlightened or progressive someone may be, the vast majority of us still don’t like learning that our romantic partner has been sexually active with other people. Jesus said, “Do for others what you would have them do for you.” The challenge is to help Gen Z see the beauty in and apply that principle, not just for what we want in the immediate moment, but with a view toward the long haul of our entire lives. 

Action Steps

Watch minute 2:11 through 3:54 of this fantastic articulation of the meaning of purity from YouTuber Katie Emmerson. 

Then, sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your son or daughter this question: what do you think Jesus meant when he said, “Do for others what you would have them do for you?” How do you think that applies to romantic relationships? What about sexuality? 

Prayer

“Father, thank you that you do not deal with us according to what we deserve, but according to your unending grace. We ask your forgiveness, mercy, and healing for our sins. Help me as I lead my son/daughter toward sexual integrity and purity, not through uncertain promises of earthly rewards, but because of who you are and because of what you’ve already done for us. Grant us all discernment to see the shallowness of sexual ethics which aren’t based on full recognition of the reality you’ve created. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

Porn, Sexting, and Masturbation

 

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Day 1

4 Parent Guides and a Recommendation

Welcome to our Porn, Sexting, and Masturbation track. To start out, we want to offer you five of our best Parent Guides for discussing these difficult issues. If you aren’t familiar with these products, Parent Guides are quick and punchy briefings on almost 100 different topics. 

We’re giving you our Parent Guide to Sexting, and our Pornography Bundle, which contains three different guides: 1) Understanding the Porn Threat, 2) Talking to Girls About Porn, and 3) Talking to Boys About Porn. 

We know this is a lot of content right out of the gate, and we’re not asking you to read all of it at once (unless you have that sort of time). More than likely, a couple of these will seem more relevant than others in this moment. Take some time to familiarize yourself with that content. 

Also, are you familiar with Fight The New Drug? They’re a completely secular organization committed to fighting the porn industry using science and sociology. They’ve created a really great interactive blueprint for how to customize conversations about pornography for teens, significant others and more, also factoring in whether the person has already seen pornography or not. Definitely check this resource out as well! 

Discussions around porn and masturbation are essential; but they can feel very awkward. For the first couple of days, we just want to give you information and content for you to think about. Then toward the end, we’ll prompt you with some easy questions for discussing this issue. 

Action Steps

Start digging into some of our parent guides. Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. If applicable, share what you’re processing with your spouse. 

Prayer

“Father, thank you that when you call us to a task, you take the responsibility onto yourself for making sure that it can be done. Thank you that you are the God of all truth, love, and comfort. Help me to embody that as I enter into conversation about these issues with the ones I love. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

 

 

Day 2

Desire, Lust, and Covetousness

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” — Matthew 5:27-28

Although the Bible does not directly mention pornography, it does mention lust. So what is lust? First, let’s talk about what lust is not. Many young men and women have had tremendous burdens placed on their shoulders because someone in authority told them the word “lustfully” meant “with sexual desire.” They come away with the belief that any time they look at someone and experience any sort of desire, they are sinning. They may eventually conclude that Christianity is a religion of sexual shame. 

It cannot be overemphasized that none of us would have sexual desire in the first place if God hadn’t thought it was a good idea, and given it to us. As Paul writes in a different context, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). So in the discussion about pornography, we need to locate the sin very precisely. We believe the ultimate issue is not sexual desire, or attraction, but the way porn turns our sexual desire into something degrading, dehumanizing, and addicting. 

When we look at some of the Bible’s original Greek, we find many important nuances around the concept of “lust” which rarely get brought into this conversation. In the Septuagint Bible, the word translated as “lustfully” in Matthew 5:28 is the word epithymeō. This Greek word simply means “desire.” It’s actually the same word Jesus uses about himself when he says to his disciples in Luke 22:15, “I have eagerly desired (epithymeō) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Clearly Jesus isn’t saying that he was having sexual thoughts about the Passover; there just was no different word for sexual desire. So in Matthew 5:28, we can safely conclude that “desire” itself — even sexual desire — was not what Jesus was actually taking issue with. 

So what was he taking issue with? We see it framed most clearly in the Ten Commandments. The Greek translation of the 10th commandment uses the same word, epithymeō. The tenth commandment says, “Do not “epithymeō” (or covet) your neighbor’s house, ox, or wife.” What we learn here is that these two biblical concepts of coveting and lusting are actually the same concept, though we often invent different definitions for the two words. In particular, we tend to define coveting as having desire for something that belongs to someone else and plotting to take it for ourselves. We tend to define lust as any evidence of desire at all, but we have no biblical precedent for defining the term in this way. 

Notice also how the tenth commandment doesn’t just say “do not epithymeō.” Instead, it specifically narrows the focus of what we shouldn’t covet to what belongs to our neighbors: “Do not covet your neighbor’s house, ox, or wife.” So again, we see that the real problem isn’t with desire; the real problem is when we allow our desire to turn into a plot to obtain something (or someone) we don’t have a legitimate right to obtain. Pornography, meanwhile, teaches us to regard all others as sexual objects. It hijacks our desire and turns it into something entirely self-seeking, and often addictive. 

But what is condemned as lust or covetousness always involves more than just sexual attraction to someone — it involves beginning to plot in our minds how we might seduce that person, or imagining how they might seduce us. We might say that sexual desire is the body’s reaction, which is normal, and that what’s being prohibited in these verses is more an act of the will, when plans are made for sexual gratification which fail to respect the boundaries of marriage. 

When your son or your daughter begins experiencing sexual desire, they are experiencing something good, which God has not condemned. Yes, if our desires are deliberately cultivated, enflamed, and acted on illegitimately, we can fall into sin — but we go too far when we label the desire itself as sin. False rules lead to false guilt, and false guilt keeps us from being able to accept the grace that Jesus came to lavish on us. 

If you’d like to read more about this, check out this article by Jason Staples, and this article from My Chains are Gone

Action Steps

After reading this, how would you talk about the difference between desire and what’s prohibited here as covetousness? Spend some time answering that for yourself, and take some time to write out your thoughts. If possible or applicable, discuss your thoughts with your spouse.

Prayer

“Father, thank you that you have made us with desires, just as Jesus himself had desires. I pray that you would help us see how our own desires reflect your passionate heart, and help us see how to wisely steward the desires you have given us. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

Day 3

Masturbation, pt. 1

It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” — 1 Corinthians 7:9

Masturbation is one of the more controversial issues in Christian sexuality, and not one that many people are excited to discuss. But it is an important topic, and one that we’ll approach with the utmost care. We believe that neither porn use nor aiding masturbation with covetous fantasy about someone can be scripturally condoned. However, there is no passage that forbids masturbation itself. Consequently, some Christians believe it should be considered permissible, and others do not. Our goal over these next two days is to present both sides of the discussion, and then invite you to seek the Lord about it and commit the issue to prayer. 

Today let’s look at the case against masturbation.

An article from applygodsword.com makes the case that while masturbation is never directly condemned in scripture, it is “condemned through what is condoned.” We are told that sex is for marriage, and masturbation is often called “solo sex.” In the above verse from 1 Corinthians 7:9, Paul says that the solution for single people who “cannot control themselves” is marriage, not masturbation. This would seem like an obvious place to bring up masturbation as a “way out” if Paul considered it a legitimate option, so the fact that he doesn’t bring it up is telling. 

In our free Sex Talk 2.0 videos, we talked a lot about the symbolism of sex — how it was designed to be a signpost to the blissful union between Christ and his church. But if that’s what sex symbolizes, what would masturbation symbolize? If anything, it could symbolize self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency, the very opposite of what relationships, sexuality, and the gospel are all about. As Viktor Frankl put it in Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning, “masturbation means being content with tension reduction as a goal.” It takes the meaning and purpose God intended for sex and reduces it down to just a release of pressure. 

In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus prohibits adultery and looking at a woman lustfully. This article from Desiring God makes the case that “Jesus appears to link masturbation with lust when he declares that looking at a woman with lustful intent is sin, and then charges his disciples to take extreme measures with their eyes and hands.” Masturbation is (of course) often fueled by the kind of sinful lust that has been explicitly prohibited: using someone’s image (whether mentally or looking at it in reality) like a virtual prostitute for our self-satisfaction. 

C.S. Lewis puts it like this: “For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself… After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.“ 

With all this in mind, a refusal to masturbate can become a symbol of preserving ourselves for the real thing. It can become a way of saying, “I will accept no counterfeits: until I am lawfully married, I will wait to stir up and express my sexuality.” 

Action Steps

Take some time to reflect on what we’ve written here. Do these ideas line up with your own convictions? Were you challenged by anything? Is there anything we’ve left out of this picture? Does this represent how you would want your son or daughter to think about masturbation? 

Prayer

“Father, you created sex, you created pleasure, and you created our bodies. You know best how every aspect should function. As I keep reading, help me to seek your will, your goodness, and your holiness as it relates to this topic of masturbation, and give me insight on how I ought to talk about these issues with my kids. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

 

Day 4

Masturbation, pt. 2

“‘When a man has an emission of semen, he must bathe his whole body with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Any clothing or leather that has semen on it must be washed with water, and it will be unclean till evening. When a man has sexual relations with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both of them must bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” — Leviticus 15:16-19

Today we’re looking at the case for the permissibility of masturbation. In this surprising passage from Leviticus, we see a couple of things. First, when the third sentence specifices “sexual relations with a woman,” this clarifies that the first sentence really is referring to someone by himself. Many people have assumed that this first sentence only refers to wet dreams, or “nocturnal emissions,” but the man is clearly presumed to be awake in the very next portion, so we don’t have a warrant to just assume unconsciousness in the first part. Next, the fact that sexual relations with a woman (aka his wife) and a woman’s menstruation cycle also cause “uncleanness” tips us off that “uncleanness” wasn’t a sin category, but part of Israel’s ceremonial cleansing process (which was fulfilled on our behalf in Christ). 

As we’ve already said, while masturbation isn’t explicitly prohibited (and seems here even to be spoken about neutrally), sinful lust is prohibited, and sexual immorality is prohibited. But our question is about masturbation itself, not about the things which might accompany it. And while masturbation is not explicitly prohibited, one thing that is explicitly prohibited is adding additional requirements for righteousness that go beyond the explicit teaching of the Bible. 

Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commands of the Lord your God that I command you.” Obviously taking away from the Word would make it harder to actually keep its commands (because we would forget them), but we tend to think adding additional rules means creating additional safeguards to secure our righteousness more fully. What this passage points out is that when we add rules, we end up diluting the focus away from what God has explicitly told us to focus on. Colossians 2:23 tells us that these kinds of man-made rules “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” 

Abigail Rine is a professor at George Fox University. She discusses masturbation like this: “For those who plan to wait until marriage to have sex, masturbation can be a healthy way of dealing with natural sexual desire while single. The expectation that young men and women should go ten or fifteen years or more beyond puberty without expressing their sexuality in any way – and then suddenly “turn it on” when married – is, I believe, completely unrealistic and potentially harmful. How can we expect people to embrace the sexual dimension of embodiment in marriage while pushing the message that touching certain parts of one’s own body is inherently dirty and shameful?”

Whether masturbation can rightly be called “solo sex” depends on how we define sex. Is sex “sex” because there is relational intimacy with another person, or because there is genital stimulation and orgasm? In hookup culture the latter part is all that matters, but it seems clear that “sex” as God intends it involves whole-person relationality. But if sex means whole-person relationality, then masturbation is not sex, so therefore it is not “sex outside of marriage.” 

Now clearly, masturbation isn’t the ultimate purpose of sexuality; but neither are wet dreams. The fullest and highest expression of our sexuality is in marriage; but not everyone is married, not everyone will be married, and even those who do marry typically do so at least a decade after their bodies have sexually matured. God does not adjust our sexual maturation date to correspond with the average marriage age of our culture. 

Tara Owens teaches on the intersection of spirituality and sexuality. She describes the issue this way: “It’s easier (and I find the tendency in myself almost every day) to fall back onto the black and white rules that we’re often offered as answer to our struggles instead of doing the hard work of encountering our own desires and longings in relationship with God and others… Taken in this context, masturbation and whether or not it is a healthy expression of sexuality for a particular individual become questions of whether or not the acts of masturbation at a particular season of life are drawing you deeper into isolation from others and from God, or into deeper connection and intimacy.”

Action Steps

As with yesterday, take some time to reflect on what’s written here. How do these ideas either challenge or line up with your own convictions? What life experiences led to those convictions? Spend some time praying and reflecting on how you would want your son or daughter to think about this topic. 

If you’d like some more information to help you think through this issue, check out our Parent’s Guide to Masturbation. Then, when you’re ready, we’ll ask you to share your convictions with your teens. One of the “easiest” ways to discuss masturbation with your son or daughter is as a subtopic of the discussion around pornography. Here are a couple of ways you might incorporate this topic. 

  • If your conviction is that masturbation should not be considered permissible, you could lead with something like this: “The thing about pornography, and masturbation as well, is that they both turn God’s gift of sexuality into something that’s completely self-centered and one-sided.” 
  • If your conviction is that masturbation should be considered permissible, you could lead with something like this: “The issue with porn is not that it leads to sexual arousal, and not even that it leads to masturbation (which I think is usually fine on its own), but that porn turns our sexual desire into something degrading, dehumanizing, and addicting.” 

 

 

Day 5

Integrated Sexuality

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” — Proverbs 11:3

Although there’s quite a bit in Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book Shameless that Axis wouldn’t agree with, this quote gave us a lot to think about: “In my pastoral work I’ve started to suspect that the more someone was exposed to religious messages about controlling their desires, avoiding sexual thoughts, and not lusting in their hearts, the less likely they are to be integrated physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. I’ve also noticed that the less integrated physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually someone is, the more pornography they tend to consume.” 

Alongside Nadia there is a growing number of people whose solution to this disintegration is for the church to embrace a new sexual ethic. This new ethic would prioritize mutual consent and concern over the presence of a marital covenant. According to this belief, we would learn to integrate our sexuality by allowing ourselves to act on our desires when they come, so long as we were in consenting and concerned relationships (regardless of whether or not we were actually married). The idea is that then no-one would have to compartmentalize their sexual self from their physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. So then, once our sexuality had been decompartmentalized, maybe porn would seem less compelling because we had gotten used to more fully realized sexual experiences with real people. This is basically the moral arc of the movie Don Jon

Part of why Nadia and others propose this new ethic is as a correction to some of the harmful excesses of “purity culture.” We believe the new ethic represents an overcorrection. It’s our conviction that sex was designed as a powerful bonding experience for permanent relationships between husbands and wives, and that ideals shouldn’t be altered just because they’re difficult to achieve. But again, while we disagree with the proposed “new sexual ethic,” we do agree that there has been a problem.

The problem is that in conversations about sexual desire, we have often implied that desire is something that must be suppressed. This has often lead to sexual shame, which has made it difficult even for some married couples to enjoy sex the way God intended it to be enjoyed. 

Our task is to help the next generation see that sexuality is a gift from God, and that God is the one who makes others attractive and us attracted. Our goal is not to convince anyone to suppress their sexuality, but rather, to integrate it — to cultivate full-person awareness, and to keep that awareness at the forefront of our minds. So whenever some desire or attraction for someone arises, we ought to be able to think, “Yes, that person is very attractive, and I thank you God that you made him (or her) to be so beautiful.” Then we return to and maintain the awareness that whoever we’re looking at is God’s creation. They are not just a body, but also a heart, a soul, and a spirit, and they have been made in God’s image. 

When we objectify others, we reduce their humanity down to just one part in order to justify using them for our own selfish lusts. Pornography does this, as does hookup culture. Even if a man or woman offers him or herself to us on self-objectifying terms, we aren’t doing them or ourselves any favors by accepting the terms they’ve proposed. Christianity enables us and insists that we regard them with more dignity than they regard themselves. We do not ignore the physical beauty God gave them (again, we can and should give thanks to God for that beauty), but we always bear in mind that we are not just looking at a body, but a body-heart-soul-spirit who is made in the image of God. 

To quote Pope John Paul II, “The problem with porn is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” In the same way with sex itself, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.” 

The framing of all this is that those who indulge in such things are not accessing some higher pleasure. They’re reducing and cheapening the magnificence of the glorious thing that God created to be enjoyed in marriage between a man and woman. 

Action Steps

It’s time to have some conversation. Sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, we want you to ask your son or daughter this question about the opposite sex: 

  • “I’ve been reading some about how technology can affect the way we think about relationships and sex, specifically with pornography. Not that I’m accusing you of anything, but I’m curious if you have any thoughts about it. Do you think it affects the way people see each other?” Then as best as you can, ask follow-up questions from a place of curiosity and kindness, not condemnation. Then segue into some of the things you’ve learned during this track. 
  • Another option: “When your friends talk about girls (or boys), what kinds of things do they say?” 
  • Another option: “What do you think is the difference between attraction and lust?” 

Prayer

“Father, thank you that you created sex. Thank you that you have not called us to suppress our sexuality, but rather to integrate it. I pray you would help our family to grow in our sexual integrity, and give me the wisdom and give us the wisdom and clarity to help cultivate this in our kids. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

Gender and LGBTQ+ Issues

 

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Day 1

Same-Sex Attraction

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” — Matthew 10:16

Welcome to our Gender and LGBTQ+ track. Over the next few days, we’ll be discussing same-sex attraction, transgender identities, masculinity, and femininity. These topics are incredibly relevant for Gen Z, and their attitudes about these things are often very different from how previous generations regarded them. Consequently, the discussion of same-sex attraction has become one of the most complicated discussions in Christian culture. 

Today we’re going to present you with three major views that have been a part of the discussion in Christianity, known as Side A, Side B, and Side X. (Although most of us at Axis have not experienced same-sex attraction, we tend to see Side B as showing the most integrity.) 

Side A is the perspective, held by Christians who experience same-sex attraction, that a scriptural case can be made for monogamous, same-sex relationships (including but not limited to same-sex marriage). This perspective tends to involve assertions that passages like Romans 1:25-26 aren’t actually forbidding committed same-sex relationships, but something more like rape, domination, or pagan worship with temple prostitutes. The assumption is that the culture of Biblical times was so different from today’s culture that to compare what was forbidden then to today would be like comparing apples to oranges. Included in this group are writers and activists like Matthew Vines and Justin Lee.

Side B is the perspective, also held by Christians who experience same-sex attraction, that no scriptural case can be made for same-sex romance/sexuality. Because of their convictions, those on Side B commit their lives to singleness and celibacy for the sake of the gospel, while living in the tension of still experiencing same-sex attraction. These individuals tend to take a much “plainer” reading of the verses in scripture which prohibit same-sex behavior, and appeal to the complementary design of male and female bodies as an indicator of God’s intention for sexuality. Included in this group are writers and pastors like Wesley Hill, Sam Allberry, and Christopher Yuan. 

Side X is the perspective (named for “ex-gay” ministries like Exodus International) that same-sex attraction can be completely converted into opposite sex attraction through therapy and various interventions. This perspective is often blacklisted by those on both Side A and Side B for pretending like the issue is simpler than it really is. This is especially true after the former president of Exodus International made this remark about his former clients: “I would say the majority, meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted, or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”

There are some who, although they have remained primarily attracted to the same sex, have been attracted to one or two members of the opposite sex, and enjoyed satisfying opposite-sex marriages. This is (of course) not the same thing as a total elimination of same-sex attraction. 

Three things add to the overall confusion around this topic: labels, idolatry, and cruelty. First, labels: summarizing research by Jonathan Ned Katz, Nancy Pearcey writes, “from ancient times, the adjective homosexual was used to describe acts that anyone might perform, not an unchanging condition or an essential identity. It referred to an action, not a category of person.” Today, we are encouraged to build our sense of identity around our desires and inclinations. In light of this, one question you might ask your son or daughter is, “How do the labels we accept affect our sense of identity?”

The next difficulties are in the way both Christian and secular culture have tended to idolize sex and romance, treating both as essential to human flourishing. This attitude pushes Christians who experience same-sex attraction toward Side A. At the same time, the cruelty with which some Christians have responded to the LGBTQ+ community pushes others outside of any desire to follow Jesus at all. As Sam Allberry wrote in his book Is God anti-gay?, “…some believers have undoubtedly been abusive in their behavior and language toward gay people, and thought that by being like this they were somehow advancing the cause of Christ. But we must also recognize that such behavior is not itself Christian in any way. It comes not by adhering to the message and example of Jesus, but by contradicting it.”

As Wesley Hill wrote in his book Spiritual Friendship, “A great company of saints testifies to the fact that we can indeed flourish without romance, marriage, or children. I don’t know of one who witnesses to the possibility of our flourishing without love altogether.” What he’s getting at is that none of us can survive without love, but romantic love is only one type of love. There’s also the love of friends, and the love of family (ideally including the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ). All these types of love find their source and are replenished by our primary connection to God’s love. 

There is way more to this discussion, but for now, one final point we’ll make is that at its core, this whole conversation should prompt our own deeper surrender to Jesus first. To go back to Sam Allberry’s book Is God anti-gay?, he writes, “Ever since I have been open about my own experiences with homosexuality, a number of Christians have said something like this: ‘the gospel must be harder for you than it is for me’, as though I have more to give up than they do. But the fact is that the gospel demands everything out of all of us. If someone thinks the gospel has somehow slotted into their life quite easily, without causing any major adjustments to their lifestyle or aspirations, it is likely that they have not really started following Jesus at all.”

Action Steps:

Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. Tomorrow, we’re going to make our Parent’s Guide to LGBTQ+ and Your Teen available to you, as well as our Conversation Kit on Gender. If you’d like to wait until you’ve spent some time with those resources to start a conversation, that’s great. If you feel ready now, then sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, here are some questions you might ask your son or daughter: 

  • “Do you know anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+? What do you think about that?”
  • “What have you heard about the LGBTQ+ community (on social media, or elsewhere)?”
  • “Where do you think our identity comes from?”
  • “How do the labels we accept affect our sense of identity?” 
  • “What is the difference between temptation and sin?”
  • “Do we have any control over the kinds of temptations we face?”

If you’re feeling up to it, you could also ask, “How can we tell which parts of the Bible are binding for all time, and which parts are culturally relative?” Either way, particularly with conversations about LGBTQ+ issues, we would challenge you to listen to where your son or daughter is coming from longer than you may feel like listening. They may not start from the same place as you. Especially with older kids, listening to understand first (instead of to immediately respond) can build a significant amount of trust. As more trust is established, they will want to know what you think. Start to incorporate some of these talking points as they begin to ask you.

Prayer:

“Father, help me my son/daughter to see the way you designed men and women to fit together,  — but more than that, that both of us were made for you. Help me to balance grace and truth as we enter into this conversation. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

 

Day 2

More Axis Resources

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” — 2 Corinthians 9:8 

Today we want to offer you two of our best resources for discussing same-sex attraction and LGBTQ+ issues with your teens: our Parent’s Guide to LGBTQ+ and Your Teen, and our Conversation Kit on Gender

If you aren’t familiar with these products, Parent Guides are quick and punchy briefings on topics like LGBTQ+ (although we currently have guides on almost 100 topics). Conversation Kits are our video-based conversation starts that are made to be watched with teens or pre-teens. One mom, after watching our Gender Conversation Kit with her 12-year-old girl said, “We’ve not only improved our biblical worldview and our compassion for those who don’t share it, but we’ve grown closer as a family.” 

This content is yours to keep, forever. Today, we’re only asking you to read our Parent’s Guide, but if you would like to have something to tee up conversation about this issue with your son or daughter, we highly encourage you to make use of our Gender Conversation Kit. 

Action Steps:

Read our Parent’s Guide to LGBTQ+ and Your Teen. Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. Then, sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, pick a discussion question from page 13 of the guide, and ask your son or daughter their thoughts. v

Prayer:

“Father, thank you that when you call us to a task, you take the responsibility onto yourself for making sure that it can be done. Thank you that you are the God of all truth, love, and comfort. Help me to embody that as I enter into conversation about these issues with the ones I love. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

 

 

Day 3

Transgender Identity

“So God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” — Genesis 1:27-28

As Ryan Anderson wrote in his book When Harry Became Sally, “In biology, an organism is male or female if it is structured to perform one of the respective roles in reproduction. This definition does not require any arbitrary measurable or quantifiable physical characteristics or behaviors; it requires understanding the reproductive system and the reproduction process.” 

For much of human history, this definition (or one like it) was used to distinguish male from female. Today, the Human Rights Campaign defines gender identity as “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.” 

In many ways, the transgender movement is simply one more expression of ideas that had been percolating in pop culture for some time before, especially the idea that our feelings dictate what’s true for us (i.e. that we should follow our heart). Laverne Cox, the trans woman who Glamour named “woman of the year” said, “We have this internal compass of truth inside of us. And that is our job, really, to quiet all this noise around us and listen to that.” 

Gender dysphoria is defined as “a distressed state arising from conflict between a person’s gender identity and the sex the person has or was identified as having at birth.” This experience is often incredibly painful. Some have reported that even seeing their body in the mirror would sometimes be enough to make them become physically nauseous. Because of stories like these, and political pressure not to seem “intolerant,” many doctors face pressure to quickly move anyone who expresses gender dysphoria into hormone therapy, and toward surgery. This is true for pediatric care as well as adult care. Consequently, there are many stories of people who felt pressured into surgical transition (or who felt they had no other option), who found afterward that not only did it not bring the wholeness they thought it would bring, but sometimes they had permanently altered their bodies in the process.  

In 2017, doctors Paul McHugh, Paul Hruz, and Lawrence Mayer submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that reported that, “between 80 and 95 percent of children who say that they are transgender naturally come to accept their sex and to enjoy emotional health by late adolescence.” The experience of gender dysphoria can be incredibly painful, but for most teenagers, it will eventually pass. However, for many who are in the middle of that experience, the decision to trust their innermost concept of gender identity more than their biological sex has often only led to more pain. But how much of gender dysphoria has to do with our perceptions of gender, and how much has to do with our actual biology?

The fact is, the reproductive definition of gender is often 3rd in line behind “our innermost concept of who we are,” and definitions based on cultural stereotypes. Cultural definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman are, for many people, more revulsing than the actual biology of maleness or femaleness. To quote again from Anderson’s book, “We needn’t adopt the overly rigid stereotypes that might lead a boy to think he should be a girl because he is sensitive and artistic, or a girl to think she might really be a boy because she prefers sports over dolls. Acknowledging the richly diverse ways of being male and female can help children more readily identify with and accept their own embodiment.”

Action Steps:

If you haven’t already done so, watch from minute 3:42 through 7:10 of part 3 of our Gender Conversation Kit. In this section, we’ll look at some stories from men and women who decided to transition to the opposite sex, including stories of some who felt pressured into transitioning and came to regret it. 

Prayer:

“Father, help us to love our bodies. Just as Jesus affirmed embodiment by becoming human, help us to affirm our embodiment, and to love our bodies. I pray for those who are experiencing gender dysphoria, that you would bring healing, and integration between their minds and their bodies. I pray for my son/daughter, that you would help them to become so grateful for the gift of their bodies that their gratefulness would easily turn back into praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

 

Day 4

Masculinity

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” — Genesis 2:7-8

In a commentary on this passage, John Eldredge writes, “Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden’s garden. But Adam, if you’ll notice, was created from the earth itself, from the clay. In the record of our beginnings, the second chapter of Genesis makes it clear: man was born from the outback, from the untamed part of creation.” 

Eldredge goes on to make the case that a man’s desire for adventure and exploration stem from a kind of homesickness for the “outback” he was created from. This might look like a literal outdoor adventure, but it doesn’t have to mean that; it may mean some foray into unknown territory in art, sports, theatre, business, or a new level of relationship with someone (like getting married). Jordan Peterson talks about this draw to adventure in terms of the line between order and chaos. He says, “Part of proper being is not merely security, which is what order provides, but also the continual generative excitement that being on the edge allows. And the edge, which everyone knows about, is the edge between order and chaos… The rule is you have to confront chaos and make it back into order. And you must do that because otherwise your life becomes unbearable.” 

For several years, our culture’s main discussion about masculinity and femininity has been about the deconstruction of stereotypes. Much of this has been very good and important. However, one side effect is that now in some circles, it’s difficult to say anything uniquely positive about either sex, and especially about men. When one person says, “Men are made to be strong,” someone immediately retorts, “So, women can’t be strong?” This is certainly a fair question, but of course, it’s always easier to deconstruct stereotypical differences than it is to reconstruct some positive essence of masculinity or femininity in their place. 

God’s design for our bodies and sexuality is not carnal; it is not pornographic; it is good, and it is holy. From that standpoint, consider this quote from Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart: “Our sexuality offers a parable of amazing depth when it comes to being masculine and feminine. The man comes to offer his strength and the woman invites the man into herself, an act that requires courage and vulnerability and selflessness for both of them. Notice first that if the man will not rise to the occasion, nothing will happen. He must move; his strength must swell before he can enter her… The beauty of a woman arouses a man to play the man; the strength of a man, offered tenderly to his woman, allows her to be beautiful; it brings life to her and to many. This is far, far more than sex and orgasm. It is a reality that extends to every aspect of our lives.”

The sexual anatomy of a man may be one the best symbolic portraits of masculinity we have available to us; and of course, it comes “built-in.” Masculinity becomes toxic not when men become powerful, but when men use their power to dominate, degrade, or manipulate. Masculinity becomes restorative when men use their power to protect, to build up, and to confront injustice. We see this sort of boldness from Jesus in Matthew 21:12-13: “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” 

Let’s speak plainly, knowing that in discussions of sex, we’re on God’s turf: an erection is an accumulation of strength, for the purpose of penetration, which has the power to infuse a woman with what she needs to cultivate life. This is part of how the male body reflects God’s image and God’s work in the world. God also breaks through into human history, advancing from eternity, and he does so in order to lead us to life, and along paths of righteousness. That’s not to say that God’s work is sexual, but rather, that our sexuality is a reflection of God’s work. And ultimately God accomplished this work through the person of Jesus Christ, through whom He met his goal for us “to have life, and have it to the full.” 

Jesus showed us the Way of the Kingdom, and now like a pregnant woman, the church cultivates what he initiated. But because Jesus was not only fully God but also fully man, we also find important principles for masculinity in how he lived. He knew when to be bold, as we saw from him in the temple, but he also knew when to be gentle. Matthew 12:20 says about him, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.” Toward this goal, Jesus was utterly self-sacrificial, not only in his death, but also in his life. So, to be masculine means to be self-sacrificial. 

One of the most well-known but least-considered verses is John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” We’ve often heard that “real men don’t cry,” or show any emotion other than anger. But if ever there was a “real man” it was Jesus, and Jesus wept openly with his friends at the death of Lazarus. He wept over the brokenness and pain that runs rampant in this world, and how that brokenness affects all of us. And then, to borrow a line from Dylan Thomas, Jesus “raged against the dying of the light,” and brought Lazarus back from the dead. 

While Eve was being tempted and deceived by the serpent, Adam is completely checked out, and utterly passive. Many men today are following in Adam’s footsteps. But Jesus, as the “new Adam,” is bold, and courageous, yet still always compassionate. Ultimately, all the attributes of Jesus’ masculinity flow out of this fundamental fact, that Jesus lived a life of moral purity. He pursued God at every stage of his human development. To be truly masculine is to do the same.

Action Steps:

Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. If you’d like to wait until tomorrow to read our counterpart on femininity before starting this conversation, you’re welcome to do so. If you are ready, ask your son (or daughter) one of these questions: 

  • “What do you think it means to be a man?” 
  • “What are some stereotypes about being a man that you’ve heard of?” 
  • “If men modeled their lives after how Jesus lived, what would men be like?” 

Prayer:

“Father, thank you for the gift of masculinity. I pray you would help us cultivate that gift in our sons. Help us to affirm them in their masculinity, to show them that it is a good gift that they have been given, and to encourage them to steward it to your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

 

Day 5

Femininity

“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” This is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” — Genesis 2:22-25

Whereas Adam was born from the “outback,” Eve is born out of Adam himself, in the lushness of the garden of Eden. Eve is the glory of Adam’s humanness compounded. As William Blake wrote, “The naked woman’s body is a portion of eternity too great for the eye of man.” 

In her book Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliott writes, “It is a naive sort of feminism that insists that women prove their ability to do all the things that men do. This is a distortion and a travesty. Men have never sought to prove that they can do all the things women do. Why subject women to purely masculine criteria? Women can and ought to be judged by the criteria of femininity, for it is in their femininity that they participate in the human race. And femininity has its limitations. So has masculinity.” 

Although it’s easy to base gender roles in cultural stereotypes (or in the deconstruction of those stereotypes), our goal is to uncover the symbolism of our bodies, specifically in our sexual anatomy. With that goal in mind, what exactly are breasts? They aren’t merely objects for the enticement of others; they are reservoirs of life, with the potential to nourish, sustain, and encourage infants through their various stages of weakness. What is the uterus? It is a sanctuary of sustenance, a safe haven, a place where, again, the weak and feeble can be built up and strengthened. 

This is part of how the female body reflects God’s image and God’s work in the world. In Psalm 119:114, the psalmist writes about God, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 32:7 says, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble, and surround me with songs of deliverance.” 

Our belly buttons serve as a reminder that at one time, none of us could do anything for ourselves. We were utterly dependent on the generosity of a woman’s body for our food and nourishment. The place where our umbilical cords once connected serves as a profound reminder not only of this former state of dependence, but our ongoing dependence on God. As Colossians 1:17 puts it, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” We are sustained in this life, not ultimately by our own cleverness, but by the ongoing work of Christ. 

We are grateful that God has given us these two very different portraits of his character through our male and female bodies. Of course, none of this is to imply that men can’t be nurturing, or that women can’t be strong. We believe that both should be both. In fact, although the phrase used in our English Bibles to describe Eve is the phrase “help meet,” or “helper suitable,” in Hebrew, the phrase is “עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ,” or, “ezer kenegdo.” The Hebrew word “ezer” is used 21 times in the Old Testament: twice to describe Eve, three times to describe military allies, and 16 times to describe God himself. 

As it says in Deuteronomy 33:29, “Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and [ezer] and your glorious sword.” Moses says in Exodus 18:4, “My father’s God was my [ezer]; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” Eve, and women in general, were created to bring the kind of help that God brings — not to be subservient, but to be a strong partner and ally. 

But today, being a “strong woman” is often conceived of as taking some of the bad qualities of a fallen man and overlaying them onto the new woman. This viewpoint says, “If men can be promiscuous, so can women. If men can be abusive and dominant, so can women.” Many women begin to use their God-given sexuality in an attempt to dominate and control men; sadly, this often amounts to self-objectification. 

Sometimes the way objectification is critiqued implies that a woman’s beauty is primarily a problem that needs to be dealt with. But just like God made gorgeous sunsets and breathtaking mountain ranges, He chose to make women beautiful. He could have made women look like minecraft characters, but he didn’t. Yet on the flipside, when young women learn from our culture that their value comes primarily from their sexuality and their outward appearance, they may be incentivized to do things like send nude photos in an attempt to secure an affirmation of their value. Even their closest friends may become competition for the limited resource of guys’ attention. 

Before Jesus was born, almost everything about women was regarded as a problem. A quote from the rabbinic tradition in the Mishnah says, “He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself, and neglects the study of the Law, and at the last will inherit Gehenna.” Just conversing with women was considered a slippery slope to Hell. So when Jesus has his lengthy conversation with the woman at the well, he is flagrantly rejecting the legalism and sexism of his day, and demonstrating a profound regard for the dignity of womankind. 

Christianity is often accused of being oppressive to women, but many of the accusers don’t realize how profoundly progressive the scriptures must have seemed to the culture they were written in. When Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:4, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband,” his audience would’ve been nodding and agreeing. At that time, women were considered property. But then Paul flips everything on its head: “In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” This kind of equality would’ve sounded utterly preposterous to Paul’s audience, but the Holy Spirit was using Him to redeem our human conceptions of gender, bit by bit. 

In a world of war, violence, racism, and oppression, the fully redeemed woman brings her full femininity. She brings cooperation instead of control, consensus instead of competition, and collaboration instead of coercion. Whereas before Jesus walked the Earth, women had been property, or relegated to the sidelines, God placed women at the center of the two greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: it is woman who gives birth to Jesus, and it is women to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection. Jesus allowed women to be his disciples, and even allowed women to support his ministry, which was unheard of at the time. In so doing, God was working to restore women’s status as his image-bearers, and as his beloved children. True femininity lives out of that reality. 

Action Steps:

Write down in your worksheet any points you hope to highlight with your son/daughter. Then sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your son/daughter one of these questions: 

  • “What do you think it means to be a woman?” 
  • “What are some stereotypes about being a woman that you’ve heard of?” 
  • “Does Christianity seem empowering to women, or not? Why do you think so?” 

Prayer:

“Father, thank you for the gift of femininity. I pray that you would help us cultivate this gift in our daughters, and cultivate the proper appreciation for it in our sons. Help us empower them to grow into the young women and young men you’ve intended them to become. Help us to align ourselves with what you’re already doing in their hearts. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

The Birds and the Bees

 

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Day 1


Sex Talk 1.0

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” — Ecclesiastes 3:11

We titled this product Sex Talk 2.0 because Gen Z is facing new challenges and trends related to sexuality and gender. But this content isn’t designed to stand on its own, and without Sex Talk 1.0 the approach is incomplete. So we’re backing up to rebuild the original foundation. Then tomorrow, we’ll give you one of our best resources for how to initiate these conversations for different age groups. 

Even if your kids are still very young, the way we talk to them about their own and others’ bodies lays an important foundation for the future. A friend of ours has two boys named Jacob and Timothy, who are 8 and 5. Usually, Jacob and Timothy both really enjoy wrestling. But one day, after a few rounds, Timothy started feeling very tired. As Jacob kept trying to bring him into headlocks and pin him to the carpet, Timothy started saying, “No Jacob, please stop.” 

But Jacob wouldn’t stop. 

The dad saw all this and stepped in: “Hey Jacob, Timothy very politely asked you to stop. If you’re doing something and someone asks you to stop, you always stop. Whenever someone says that, there’s no waiting, and there’s no question about it. You stop.” So Jacob stopped. 

Later on, as our friend retold this story to his wife, it dawned on him: they had just taught their son his first lesson about consent. 

As more stories of sexual assault continue to surface in the #MeToo movement, the word “consent” has become a cultural buzzword. Sometimes consent is invoked as the single gold standard for all healthy sexuality. We talk more about how our culture frames this discussion in our Purity, Consent and Sexual Assault track; for now, suffice it to say we don’t believe consent is all that’s needed for healthy sexuality, but it is an essential piece that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Maybe you heard about the controversy surrounding the kids’ movie Show Dogs. To prepare for his genital inspection during the dog show, the main dog was encouraged by another dog to mentally create a “zen place” so he wouldn’t react while someone handled his genitals. Toward the end of the movie, the main character “succeeds” by not reacting at all while they’re touched. After massive backlash about the sorts of messages kids might come away with, Show Dogs removed the controversial scenes from all subsequent copies that would be sold or streamed. 

As boys and girls begin to ask questions and explore their bodies, the lesson they need to be explicitly taught is that no-one has the right to touch them in places or ways they don’t want to be touched, and that others have the same rights that must be honored as well. 

Help them understand that this isn’t because those body parts are dirty or bad, but because they are deeply personal. In these (as in all) conversations, we would encourage you to actually use the words penis and vagina, and to acknowledge those parts as part of God’s good design for our bodies. This will help lay the foundation for a healthy experience of sexuality later on. 

Another huge part of this conversation involves helping boys and girls anticipate the changes their bodies will go through. If you have girls, as they approach puberty, help them anticipate that as their bodies begin to produce sex hormones like estrogen, their ovaries will begin automatically developing eggs as preparation for eventually having sexual intercourse. Help them understand that these eggs can be “fertilized” by a man’s sperm during sex, and that these two things together allow women to become pregnant. Then help them understand that if a woman does not become pregnant, and these eggs go unused, each month they break down and flow out of women’s bodies through the menstrual cycle. 

Help them anticipate that they may begin to have intense mood swings around this time, and that this is completely normal. Also help them anticipate that around this time, their breasts will begin to grow, and their hips will begin to widen as their bodies prepare to nurture and rear children, though it may be many years before any children make their debut. 

For boys, as their bodies grow, they will produce more chemicals like testosterone. Help them understand that these sex hormones are produced in the testes, which is also where sperm are produced, which is what enables them to impregnate someone through sexual intercourse. Help them anticipate that as their body produces these hormones, their voices will grow deeper, their bodies will become hairier, and at some point they’re likely to have wet dreams. In some ways the wet dream is the parallel to the woman’s menstrual cycle, as the male body’s way of getting rid of whatever reproductive materials aren’t being used. These wet “dreams” may or may not involve actually dreaming about sexual scenarios. 

And of course, as their bodies start to prepare for sexual intercourse, they’ll naturally find themselves thinking much more about sex and love. Help them understand how the male and female bodies fit together and complement one another, and how sexual intercourse not only produces children, but forms a powerful bond between any two people who are sexually intimate through neurochemicals like oxytocin. 

Action Steps:

Quickly reflect on where your sons or daughters are in their development. What upcoming changes in their bodies or lives should they anticipate? Take note of any points you’d like to make or questions you’d like to ask your kids. Write these down in your official Sex Talk 2.0 worksheet! We’ll give you more tools and frameworks for this tomorrow. 

Prayer:

“Father, thank you that as your word says, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Thank you that you designed our bodies to change so profoundly, independent of our own understanding. I pray you would help our family to experience awe, appreciation, and gratitude for the way you’ve designed our bodies, and that our gratitude would flow back into praise to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

 

 

Day 2


A Parent’s Guide to the Sex Talk

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” — Proverbs 22:6

Today, we’re making our Parent’s Guide to The Sex Talk available to you. This is one of our best resources for helping parents and caring adults contextualize discussions about sex and anatomy for younger kids, and today’s content is available to you there. 

Action Steps:

Read through the Parent Guide, and take note of any points you’d like to make, or questions you’d like to ask your kids. Again, write these down in your official Sex Talk 2.0 worksheet!

Prayer:

“Father, thank you for the gift of sex, and that through it, my daughter (or son) was born. I ask that you would give me discernment on when to begin having these conversations, and that you would help me know how much detail to include, and at what ages. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

Introduction

We are thrilled you are joining us for this incredible journey. Before we get started there are a few things you need to know to be prepared for this experience!

How It Will Work:

  • Deep Dive into Content: The structure of each day will be similar. There will be scripture, content (article, video, audio, etc.) and action steps with questions.
  • Family Connection: Some days are specifically designed for you to connect with your kids on a deeper level through discussions or an activity.
  • Spiritual Growth: Each track has a devotional to encourage you in the hard work you are doing. It is worth it and a step of obedience!

Recommendations:

  • We recommend setting aside about 20 minutes of each day to specifically go through the content and action steps.
  • Set an alarm at the same time each morning or evening to stop and read or listen to the content for the day.
  • There is a lot of information and things to learn. We recommend going through each track with someone else… whether that is your spouse or a friend. You might want to dig deeper into a specific topic and discuss it with them. It is also always good to have accountability through the process.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. We know this topic can be overwhelming, and difficult for everyone involved. Go at a pace that is helpful to you. If you miss a day, that’s okay. Just catch up the next day or whenever you can.

Watch the 3 Videos:

Lastly, we created 3 intro videos for this resource. We recommend taking 30 minutes to watch these before you get started with Sex Talk 2.0!

Video 1 –
Introduction

 

 

Video 2 –
Introduction

 

 

Video 3 –
Introduction