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Ever since Terry, Shelley, Heather and I started singing together in Point of Grace, we've shared a passion for inspiring teenage girls. We've dreamed of having a slumber party or a special "disciple now" just for them. That desire grew into our ministry Girls of Grace, a weekend event that allowed teenage girls to come and hear about issues that are important to them. The verse we chose as our vision statement is 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourselves as an example to those who believe."

Among other things, I knew God wanted us to address purity. It's a huge issue in our sexualized culture. Every day teenagers are faced with pictures of what they're expected to look, dress and act like in order to be accepted. They take cues from fashion advertising, TV shows and People magazine's annual list of the sexiest men and women alive. Worse yet, we have become numb to what sexual immorality really is. I think about my 5-year-old and the amount of skin he sees on girls in public. He has no clue what is and isn't appropriate. The sad part is that, even at church on Sunday, we often see standards of modesty no different from what we'd see at the local cinema on a Friday night.

Most girls don't set out to be impure in their dating lives, but they somehow decide that physical affection will satisfy their heart's longing for love. It's a lie, but they buy it because they haven't been told often enough about the only love that will truly satisfy. Don't get me wrong, young women need to hear from us that sex is a good thing. It's not dirty. God created it to enhance the exclusive bond of marriage. Countless teenagers—Christian and not—would agree, as abstinence has become very popular. It's a "cool" stand to take. But even teens who claim to be abstinent are being lured into sexual compromise.

What's happening is that, although more kids are abstaining from intercourse, they are pushing the boundaries in other areas. Oral sex is a perfect example. Did you know that, according to a Seventeen survey, it's likely that half of all boys ages 15 to 19 have received oral sex? It has also become a fad in middle schools. Deborah Roffman is a human sexuality consultant to 15 schools on the East Coast. She says, "I'm receiving an increasing number of inquiries about incidents of oral sex among young adolescents, both at parties and occasionally at school. Kids are not just asking about oral sex anymore. They're talking about it, some are doing it, and adults are clueless."

A high school freshman in Baltimore told the Washington Post, "I knew a couple of kids in seventh grade who were doing it. By eighth grade there were a lot more. In ninth, it's not like everybody is doing it, but it's much more common."

Don't assume it's not happening among churched students. Satan is very clever at deceiving God's people. They justify in their heads that they are sexually pure when they're actually far from it. The heart has been tarnished and the exclusivity of intimacy has been cheapened. Furthermore, while teens assume that oral sex will protect them from sexually transmitted diseases, many STDs can be passed along orally. And what about the emotional scars of inappropriate contact? True abstinence means refraining from all intentional sexual contact intended for arousal. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus goes further still, condemning inappropriate thoughts. Teens need to be reminded that the mind and heart are where purity begins.

The Bible tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul and mind. Our Savior loves us and makes us complete. When we understand that He has a better plan—crafted out of deep affection for us—we can trust Him to provide what we need when we need it. That includes sexual intimacy.

Published June 2003