Over the past few years, my now 12-year-old daughter has been exposed to some rather uncomfortable subjects. Prostitution, homosexuality, whoring, menstrual cycles, bodily emissions, and rape have all been discussed in her presence.
You might wonder what type of parents we are. Do we let her watch too much TV? Allow her to listen to the wrong radio stations? Surf the internet without guidance? Actually my husband and I are fairly strict about the influences we allow into our home. It's been one particular outside influence that has reached our daughter.
We take her to church.
We take her to a church that preaches through the Bible. All of it. Even the nooks and crannies we feel quite shocked to hear mentioned in a room full of people. A few years ago, we spent nine months in the book of Leviticus. Nine months doesn't allow you the opportunity to skip the uncomfortable sections.
Another series was on the Book of Hosea. As I sat beside my daughter, hearing the story of Gomer preached, I realized she probably had no clue what the word prostitute meant. Prior to the sermon I never had reason to discuss the topic with her. Our church is now studying Jeremiah, and recently our passage used the word whore. Seven times. I would have carefully shielded my daughter from any other book, show, or song that used that term.
It's not that we're trying to insulate our children from the topic of sexuality. We've always attempted to dialogue openly with them. We believe in starting the conversation early and keeping the conversation going in age-appropriate stages. But while parents have a clear duty to initiate these discussions with their children, they also need the church to provide repeated input and guidance. Deliberate preaching of the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) will naturally encourage parents to continue these important conversations. God's Word is not prudish about sexuality. It is careful to illustrate the pitfalls and the trappings, as well as the beauty and the blessing.
Better in Church
What I appreciate about our church's sermons is that they've forced us to discuss topics we may have otherwise failed to mention. Isn't it better for a young person to hear about prostitution in a church service before hearing about it on a playground or school bus? Isn't it better for them to understand the beauty of marital intimacy through a sermon series on Song of Solomon rather than a teen drama on TV? By bringing these topics into the open light of Scripture, we keep them from being taboo with our children. If God's Word speaks about these subjects, then surely his church can learn to speak of them in appropriate ways as well.
The context in which children learn greatly effects what they come to understand. A friend recently shared how she explained to her daughter the importance of context: imagine putting mustard on ice cream. Two enjoyable items become repugnant when placed together. Similarly, sexuality discussed in the wrong setting becomes distasteful. We should carefully guard our children from images, influences, and books that may shape their understanding in unbiblical ways. However, the church has the ability to provide the proper context for these topics.
Moses commanded the Israelites to regularly read the entire law to the people. He also made sure to include children.
Assemble the people, men, women and little ones, and the sojourner in your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of the law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God. (Deut. 31:12-13)
The first five books of Moses speak frequently about many topics, some of which we might label as adult material. But children weren't excluded from these discussions; in fact, the little ones were specifically invited. It seems the Lord in his wisdom gave his people a place within community to appropriately discuss sexuality. These topics were brought before the entire fellowship and dealt with honestly.
Could it be that we face so much sexual confusion in the church because we fail to preach faithfully through all of Scripture? Society shames sex by speaking of it too often in the wrong context, with smirks and innuendos. Conversely, we in the church often shame sex by failing to speak of it all, missing the opportunities the Word of God appropriates for our instruction.
Perhaps if the church discussed these biblical topics more, children would be drawn to false sources of information less. By shielding these passages from our children, we inadvertently communicate that God's Word and God's people have nothing to say about sexuality. This is an issue for which it's good to recall Paul's exhortation to Timothy: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Faithful preaching of all areas of Scripture produces faithful followers in all areas of life.
Melissa Kruger serves as Women's Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012). Her husband Mike is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children.