It is not an overstatement to say we live in an overly sexualized culture. As a Christian, this is both alarming and disturbing. It is hard enough to navigate these waters individually, but it is even harder to navigate as a parent.
My wife and I have eight children. When our 22 year old was 4, I was not too concerned about her being exposed to inappropriate things online. But I am terrified that our current four-year-old could be. It is amazing how much has changed in our culture in just a little under 20 years. As a Christian, how do we help our children navigate the sexually perverse culture in which we live? The answer is actually pretty simple (simple, not easy).
- Choose to not be controlled by fear
- Have a plan to go after their hearts
- Commit to pray
Second Timothy 1:7 tells us that God did not give us a spirit of fear. First John 4:18 says perfect love casts out fear. Typically, if I am afraid, then I am trying hard to be in control, but I feel out of control. One of the best ways to deal with that control issue is to trust the Lord. It is hard to trust Him when I just want control. The best way for me to trust Him with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6) is to let His perfect love cause my fear to dissipate. If I know He loves me, I can trust Him, and I don’t need to be in control.
This is especially true in parenting. My wife will tell you, regarding our children, I have to constantly release control to the Lord. It is much easier for me to release control and trust God with them when I can rest deeply in His love.
We have numerous demonstrations of His love. He loved me first (He is the one who pursued me). He created me for relationship with Him. Through His Son Jesus Christ, He rescued me from Hell and grants me complete forgiveness of all I have done wrong. It is that type of love I need to rest in so I can say “no” to fear when it comes to raising our children in this fallen world.
We also need a plan to go after the hearts our children. That could look like this:
- Relationally Connect
- Spiritually Invest
- Appropriately Protect
- Enter their world
- Be open about your own mistakes and sins (but not too open)
- Be willing to forgive
We must earn the right to speak spiritual truth to our children. Relationally connecting with them is a great way to do that. One of the ways to relationally connect with is simply by entering their world. In our family that looks like one-on-one dates with a child, family movie nights, family game nights, etc. It could also mean learning to love what they love. For example, many of our older children have been involved in drama and musicals. That means we have been involved in those as well.
Paul told the Thessalonians that he loved them so much he shared the Gospel of God with them. He also shared that his love for them caused him to share his life with them. We must do that with our children!
Relationally connecting is not just about entering their world. It is also about admitting when you are wrong and seeking forgiveness from your children. It also means being honest about mistakes and sins from your past (even when those sins are sexual and produce a great deal of shame). You can share openly about your past and how God has redeemed it without dumping the whole truck and sharing everything. Our children need to know we are human, and we need God’s forgiveness, as well as forgiveness from them.
One of the most important ways to relationally connect with our children is through a willingness to forgive them when they are wrong (especially sexual sin because of the shame it produces, see 1 Corinthians 6). They need to know we love them no matter what, but we love them too much to let them live in their sin. At the same time, if they are going to repent, Romans 2:4 tells us that is going to be result of God’s kindness. One of the kindest things we can do for our children is to forgive them when they are wrong. You can still have consequences for wrong while clearly communicating forgiveness. That’s what God does with us. When we do this, we have a strong chance of relationally connecting with their heart!
There must be a clear cut plan to intentionally invest spiritually in the lives of our children. We intentionally teach them how to dress themselves, learn how to ride a bike and drive a car, learn how to budget, etc. There must also be an intentional spiritual investment plan.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is one example of how to do this. We can love God because He first loved us. We take that love He has given us, and we love Him back with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Then we model loving God like this for our children.
Regarding sexual purity in our culture, my wife and I talk openly about the gift God has given us called sex. Sex is not bad. It is good. It is great. It is a gift God has given us to experience in the context of biblical marriage (one man and one woman for life). When we are loving each other well in marriage, it is going to carry over in the bedroom. And we tell our children this.
I also talk openly with them about my past with pornography. I tell them one of the ways I can love God wholeheartedly is live with firm boundaries. I model this for them. I want them to know these boundaries are good, and when I admit weakness that God’s power is perfected in my life (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
They are hearing about sex everywhere. They absolutely need to hear about it at home, and they need to hear God’s perspective on it. That is one of the ways we spiritually invest in our children in our home.
If we are not careful, living in our sex-crazed culture, we can overprotect our children. This is not healthy and can definitely hurt their emotional and spiritual formation.
As a general rule of thumb in our home, we protect from evil (not from pain). Romans 8 tells us that pain is one of the greatest things God uses to conform us into His Son. We don’t want our children to avoid pain. We want Jesus to meet them in the midst of it.
However, we do want to protect our children from evil. Sexual sin is one of those evils. As a family, we talk openly and often about pornography and sexting and other things online that are sensual in nature. This has played a huge factor in when our older children got their own cell phone, computer, etc. It also played a huge role in how our family navigates social media. Bottom line, have a proactive plan regarding technology when it comes to your children (as well as yourself). Let’s not just throw our kids an iPhone at age nine and hope it works out for them.
In addition, we must be educated on things like pornography. The average age of first exposure to pornography is somewhere between 9 and 11 (depending upon which statistical research you look at). We must talk to our kids about this. A great resource to do this is Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson.
In addition to appropriately protecting through monitoring technology and looking at good resources, we would suggest you have an ongoing dialogue about sex with your children. This is one of the best ways to appropriately protect them in the sexual arena. It is awkward! But it is well worth it.
This is why relational connection and spiritual investment is so important. Those things make appropriately protecting easier (not easy, but easier).
So have that plan:
- Relationally Connect
- Spiritually Invest
- Appropriately Protect
In addition to that type of plan, PRAY!
In Mark 9:29, the only way a demon comes out of a child is through prayer. One of the best tools we can use in the kingdom for our children is prayer. In our family, that looks my wife lying in bed or a recliner and praying for our children. For me, I take prayer walks, and that is when I pray for our kids.
Prayer is especially needed to combat sexual sin. Our culture and the forces of darkness are warring for the souls of our children, and the sexual sin arena is one of those places that the battle is most intense. When we pray, we are doing battle in the spiritual realm! In conclusion, have a clear plan to go after the hearts of your children, and PRAY!
- Parenting as a Christian in an Overly Sexualized Culture - February 24, 2021
- Discovering the Heart Issue Behind the Struggle of Sexual Sin - January 7, 2021
I love this message, Josh!! May the Lord continue to anoint you, as you boldly proclaim His loving truth.