Sex is one of the most basic of biological functions. It’s how the human race is propagated from one generation to the next. So why is this natural function causing people to get sick and even die?
Several decades ago educators and sociologists argued that sex education in public schools would curb rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies. People were told that they could avoid harmful consequences of sexual behavior by practicing “safe sex.”
It would seem that the fear of STDs would cause teenagers to think twice about engaging in any sexual activity, but the statistics prove otherwise.
According to a U.S. News and World Report article titled “Risky Business,” “Kids from all walks of life are having sex at younger and younger ages—nearly 1 in 10 reports losing his or her virginity before the age of 13, a 15 percent increase since 1997 … Some 16 percent of high school sophomores have had four or more sexual partners” (May 27, 2002).
The most frightening of all sexually transmitted diseases is AIDS. Once a disease common to mainly the homosexual community, the majority of AIDS cases are now transmitted though heterosexual contact.
AIDS is truly a global problem. Some 40 million adults and children are infected with HIV or AIDS. Five million people were infected in 2004 alone.
There is no more tragic example of the scourge of AIDS than in Africa, where an estimated 28 million people are afflicted with it. According to The Economist, in some villages of southern Africa virtually every person between the ages of 15 and 45 has already died from complications due to AIDS. This leaves elderly grandparents to raise little children with no real means of economic support.
Where is God in all this suffering?
Why does God allow such horrible diseases? How can a loving God allow innocent children to be born infected with the HIV virus?
The Christianity of the Bible has solutions for today’s problems, but few people, even many professing Christians, want to apply those principles.
Sex and marriage were created by God as the most fundamental of human relationships. In the Genesis account of creation God gives the instruction that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 Genesis 2:24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall join to his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
American King James Version×). It’s true that all mammals reproduce through a sexual union, but the “one flesh” concept particular to human beings transforms this biological function into a mental and emotional experience.
The apostle Paul writes about the uniquely human aspect of the “one flesh” experience in Ephesians 5:28 Ephesians 5:28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.
American King James Version×: “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it …”
God didn’t create sex to make us sick. He created this union to be a special aspect of the relationship between a man and woman united in the sacred covenant of marriage. A sexual relationship in marriage is not only for reproduction, but is meant to produce a pleasure bond and emotional attachment between two people who are committed to each other for life. Adultery is condemned so strongly in the Bible because it damages this unique and beautiful relationship.
At the heart of the frightening growth of STDs is society’s disregard for the special relationship of marriage. Any solution to the AIDS epidemic must begin with the promotion of the concept of the sacredness of marriage.
And it must start in the Christian world! How can non-Christians see the benefit of God’s instructions regarding sex in marriage if Christians are no different from the rest of the world when it comes to sexual immorality, homosexuality and divorce?
The failure of public schools to curb harmful sexual behavior proves that solutions promoting information without moral responsibility don’t work. They simply propagate the diseases and emotional trauma they were intended to alleviate.
When will educators acknowledge that failure? Will it ultimately take the number of AIDS victims in the United States reaching the catastrophic levels of much of Africa? Will it take 30 or 40 million people infected with HIV to turn the heads of those who refuse to accept that this isn’t just an issue of biology but an issue of why human beings exist and what our purpose is in life?
Teenagers at risk
Christian groups, and even some educators involved in public school sex education, are promoting abstinence as the only really safe sex. But what is abstinence? That may seem like a strange question, but for many teenagers abstinence has come to mean avoiding full sexual intercourse by substituting other dangerous sexual activities.
U.S. News and World Report states: “What nearly everyone agrees on is that STDs and risky ‘anything but intercourse’ behaviors are rampant among teens—and that what to do about it is a very complicated question. Across the country, clinicians report rising diagnoses of herpes and human papillomavirus, or HPV (which can cause genital warts), which are now thought to affect 15 percent of the teen population. Girls 15 to 19 have higher rates of gonorrhea than any other age group. One quarter of all HIV cases occur in those under the age of 21.”
This same article contains an interview with a worker at an adolescent health clinic that treats teenagers with cases of gonorrhea of the throat.
The San Antonio Express News reports: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, sexual activity among teens has declined 14 percent since 1995. But health experts note that this survey did not ask about oral sex. And that many teens are turning to oral sex in the misguided belief that it’s not ‘real sex.’
“A recent survey by Ansell Healthcare, manufacturers of LifeStyles condoms, found that one-third of teenage girls said that oral sex is not sex. Twenty percent of teens had oral sex by age 15, half by age 17.
“In some circles, say health officials, oral sex is almost obligatory, like a good night kiss.
“According to a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, 20 percent of 12-to 17-year-olds believe that oral sex is safe sex. Even more—36 percent—of 15- to 17-year-olds thought so.”
But these practices are not safe! Cathy Novak, director of education for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation told the Express News: “Unprotected oral sex is not safe sex. It can lead to sexually transmitted diseases of the mouth and throat.”
Also, for young people who decide to engage in sexual intercourse, there is always the danger of unwanted pregnancy. Of course, statistics don’t even begin to measure the emotional price young people suffer from premature sexual experiences.
What can parents do?
How do we protect our children from STDs? It really is going to take a change in perspective and some real dedication and work on the part of parents. Public sex education has failed, and teaching abstinence without understanding the Creator’s purpose for human sexuality leaves young people confused and frustrated.
What can parents do to combat the sexual pressures our children face? Christians must begin by developing a positive, proactive approach to teaching children about sex. It can be difficult for parents to accept that their children are sexual beings.
The basis of all Christian sexual education is Genesis 1:27-28 Genesis 1:27-28 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
American King James Version×, which states: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply …’”
Unlike sexual behavior in animals, God created human sexuality for more than just reproduction. Human beings are created in the image of God and capable of empathy, cognitive understanding and love. God designed the marriage relationship to produce an emotional, physical and spiritual bond between husband and wife as the basis of a healthy family.
We see the importance God places on human sexuality by reading the instructions given in the Bible. Scripture contains many commands against wrong sexual practices including adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, rape, prostitution, bestiality, incest and even sexual thoughts about someone other than your spouse.
As parents, we must be willing to accept our children’s sexuality, their curiosity and, as they grow older, their attraction to the opposite sex. God made us the way we are, and there is nothing wrong with human sexuality if used properly. Yet if misused, sex can become one of the most destructive, unhappy forces in our lives.
Be aware that each child must be taught individually so that the amount and kind of information is tailored to his or her personal needs at the time.
We can easily go to the extremes of either not giving our children enough right information or giving too much too soon—like the mother of a 9-year-old boy who, when he asked, “Mom, what is sex?,” proceeded to give him a 45-minute lecture on the details of human reproduction. Afterwards, he showed her his school enrollment card with the little box marked “sex” and asked how he was going to get all that in that little box.
A great deal of how children will treat their future spouses is learned by how they see their parents treat each other. Obviously, children shouldn’t be privy to their parents’ intimacies, but children learn much about the special relationship between husband and wife by witnessing the simple affection and care they see Mom and Dad showing each other.
At the appropriate age children should be taught:
• Biological facts about pregnancy and the birth process. Use plants and animals as illustrations. Some excellent illustrated books are available for all levels of physical, emotional and mental development.
• Male and female anatomy.
• Menstruation and puberty.
• God’s purposes for human sexuality in marriage, how it differs from animals, and that the misuse of sex brings tragic results.
• Problems that may stem from sexual guilt, fantasy and pornography.
• Facts concerning STDs and AIDS.
• How to deal with their attraction to the opposite sex and how to avoid sexual situations that could get out of control.
• The differences between male and female sexual responses and how to respect those differences.
• The sexual myths teens tell each other as factual.
Teenagers can suffer from deep anxiety concerning their sexuality. They worry about questions like: “Will I develop normally?” “Does God reject me because of sexual thoughts?” “Why do I have pain in certain areas of my body at times?” “Can I get a sexually transmitted disease from kissing?” “What if no one ever really wants me?” “I’ve made a mistake and had sex; am I now worthless?”
Two areas are particularly vital where parents must communicate about sex to their teens.
One, help them not to fall into the trap of “How far can I go before it is sin?” All forms of physical contact lead to a greater need for intimacy and stimulation. Holding hands may be harmless, but if you hold hands every time you’re with your boyfriend or girlfriend then eventually you’ll want more in the relationship.
A kiss goodnight may be harmless, but it reaches a point when it isn’t enough. Kissing leads to necking, necking to touching in private places. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it becomes difficult to get it back in.
It is important that teenagers see such value in a proper sexual relationship that they are willing to wait until marriage. This means that they should be involved in group activities instead of one-on-one dating where they can more easily find themselves in situations where they are driven by hormones instead of values of right and wrong.
Secondly, it’s easy for teenagers, and adults for that matter, to be in love with the idea of being in love. This produces a fantasy relationship that many times has little to do with reality.
Parents must also be ready to deal with teens who make mistakes. As parents we must never condone our children’s wrong actions, but must gently help them face their wrongdoing and the consequences. We must teach them repentance and the understanding that God will forgive them, show them unconditional love and help them put their lives back together.
One of the greatest blessings from God in this life is the proper relationship that forms between a man and woman who love each other and are united in marriage. Sex was never meant by God to be degrading or to produce heartache or disease.
As parents, we have the responsibility to teach and guard our children. At times this may make us unpopular with them. But for their sakes now, and for their futures, we must take the time and effort to teach them about the proper use of this great gift from God. GN