Our culture is shaping my children. At least, it is trying to. Actively. Nowhere is that effort more evident than it is in the area of sexual ethics. The vision of gender, sexuality, and marriage the world hopes to form in my kids is formidable. Certainly it departs from the biblical vision for those things in profound and irreconcilable ways.
As parents, my wife and I are chiefly responsible (on the human level) for shaping a biblical view of these realities in our kids. What does that look like? How does that work? Well, there are countless ways this plays out in our everyday lives. However, we intentionally look for ways to speak to these five truths in our day-to-day rhythms and routines.
1. Boys and girls are different by design – and that is good. Male anatomy is different than female anatomy – and that is good. The things boys tend to think, do, and feel are also different than the things girls tend to think, do, and feel – and that is good. In these distinctions, we reflect the design and intent of our Creator – and his design and intent are, according to Scripture, very good (see Gen 1:26-31).
Our culture suggests that gender is a societal norm, something that we learn from the society in which we live. The Bible teaches that gender is a gift from God and a calling from God. It is one of the ways we reflect God’s beautiful creativity and design. It also clarifies for us our calling. While men and women are created equally in the image of God, Scripture tells us that men and women have distinct roles in the family (Eph 5:22-33) and in the church (1 Tim 3:1-7). Therefore our God-given gender gives us a sense of purpose and direction in life. If our gender is an ambigiuous, self-determined or societally-shaped concept, we are robbed of the real joy that comes from knowing the purpose for which God created us.
2. Desire is normal. It is not something to be ashamed of or embarassed by. In fact, it is a gift that reflects the way God has created us to fulfill the mandate of Genesis 1: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). God could have created humans to reproduce by a process no more pleasurable than peeling an orange. He chose to create humans who reproduce by fulfilling their sexual desires in a covenant relationship with one another. Desire is not bad. It should not be squelched, but it should be controlled.
When Paul describes humanity’s descent into depravity in Romans 1, note the place unrestrained desire has in the way we plunged into the abyss of sin apart from grace:
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity… (Rom 1:23-25a).
When our desires are submitted to the authority of Christ, they can be a means of grace and a path to joy. When our desires control us, and we submit our decisions to them rather than Christ, they can lead to ruin and despair.
3. Sex is precious. Simultaneously, our culture undervalues and overvalues sex. We overvalue sex when we treat it like it is something we must have to be happy, or to be human, or to express ourselves. We undervalue it when we treat it like it is cheap, like it is “just sex.”
In its God-given context, sex is a precious gift from God that he intends for our good and for his glory. The marriage covenant is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church (Eph 5:32-33). It is intended, ultimately, to display the glory of God and the grace of Christ in the gospel. Sex is the act of covenant renewal within the context of marriage. We simply cannot value sex – or marriage – too highly. They are precious.
Tim and Kathy Keller, in their book The Meaning of Marriage, put it this way:
Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.” You must not use sex to say anything less.
4. God is the creator of gender, sexuality, and marriage. They belong to him, not to us. Therefore he determines what they are and how they should work.
Scripture is full of the tales of people who confuse stewardship with ownership. Consider the story of King Nebachadnezzar in Babylon. One day he walked out on the roof of his royal palace to pontificate on his greatness: “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30). Scripture says that as Nebachadnezzar was speaking, God rebuked him and drove him to live in the wilderness like a wild beast.
Coming to his senses, Nebuchadnezzar repented and said: “I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan 4:34). The moral of the story: We must remember our place. The clay does not question the potter. Creation does not question Creator. As the Creator of everything (Col 1:15-17), Christ reigns supreme over marriage, sexuality, and gender. We do not.
5. God is more committed to our joy than we are. Christ reigns supremely over marriage, gender, and sexuality, but he does not wield that authority to our detriment, but rather for our good. God knows better than we do what will bring ultimate, everlasting joy. He paid the immeasurable price of the life of his Son to bring us into his presence wherein we find fullness of joy and eternal pleasures at his right hand (Psa 16:11).
While we think we know what will make us happy in life, God truly knows – and he is eternally committed to bringing us joy and happiness if we submit to him. This is true especially of things like gender, sex, and marriage. Going our own way – doing what is right in our eyes – will never fill us the way we hope it will fill us. The longings of our hearts cannot be satisfied through unrestrained sexual freedom, or self-determined gender, or our own construct of marriage. The longings of our hearts can only be satisfied by the presence of God.