In 2009, the Vermont legislature, who had recently legalized same-sex marriage, was back at it again. This time they were introducing legislation that would legalize “sexting.” This is a practice among teens who use their cell phones to transmit to each other adult content conversations as well as transmitting sexually explicit photos of themselves to each other via their camera-phones. Up to now, these teens were being charged under the child pornography laws, even if the sexting was done among consenting teens. This law would protect teens from prosecution if they are from ages 13-18 years old. It had so far passed the Senate and was then in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee to consider testimony for and against.
This is obviously a very silly law that was trying to be passed. Instead of trying to protect our children from lowering their inhibitions, these legislators are aiding and abetting teens in potentially destroying their childhoods. Just like marijuana is widely argued to be a “gateway” drug to other more sinister forms of drugs like heroin and cocaine, so too can sexting be considered a gateway to worse forms of sexual promiscuity. With sexting, a teen can take a photograph with their phone, in the privacy of their own home, and send it to other teens without having to be “live and in person.” But do we really think that will remain in private, or do we think that once the fear of being explicit in private subsides, the next step will be to be explicit in the presence of their friends. With each fear that is cautiously approached and conquered another step further into deviance than the one before is often taken. Ultimately, teens will be engaging in many acts that have potentially very costly consequences.
Sexting is a newly discovered activity that has only come to light in the last few years or so, but I’m afraid this will open the floodgates for a slew of teens who are neither physically or emotionally ready for the challenges they face in being sexually active. The latest numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation reports a DECREASE in the numbers of teens having sexual intercourse for the decade ranging from 1993 to 2003. The percentage decreased from 53% to 47% but that number predates the sexting phenomena. I’m afraid that putting no restrictions on activities like sexting will only take steps backwards and we will probably see by the year 2013 that the numbers of teens having sexual intercourse will increase once again.
The first area of education that teens need is to recognize the difference between Biblical love and the concept of “falling in love” (for a more detailed look, see “And They Lived Happily Ever After“). This feeling of infatuation (falling in love) is fleeting, usually lasting about a year into the relationship. This is the time that most couples can’t see themselves being with anyone else and have purposed in their hearts that “this is the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.” At that age, the odds of their marriage coming to fruition is extremely unlikely. Factors that are usually failures for a relationship reaching marriage are numerous, but among them, are two that relate perfectly to teens. First, they are under the age of twenty, and second, neither has finished high-school. So more than likely the person a teen is being sexually active with will not end up being their spouse later down the line.
The Bible clearly speaks of sex in both a procreation sense (Genesis 2:24-25) and a recreation sense (Song of Solomon; Proverbs 5:18-19) within the context of a committed marital relationship. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is termed fornication in the Bible. The word fornication is translated from some Greek words. These two Greek words are pornos (denoting a man who engages in fornication) and porneuo (a verb meaning to commit fornication). Obviously those two words are the basis for our English terms pornography.
Sexual purity was of such importance in the Old Testament that girls who were not virgins at the time of the wedding were considered harlots and stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:21-22, 24). The New Testament is no less stern when it comes to dealing with fornication. First Corinthians 6 tells us to “flee fornication” and Ephesians 5:3 suggests to us that there shouldn’t even be the slightest inkling of fornication among us. Joseph displayed that courage with Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:12. One commentary explains that Joseph didn’t flee out of cowardice, but rather fled to preserve his honor to God, to Potiphar, and to himself.
Paul understood in 2nd Corinthians 11:2 that he had to protect the church from falling away from Christ in order to present her to Christ as a chaste virgin. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, displays God’s heart toward purity among the unmarried. Paul understood the church to be the Bride of Christ, whose affections were to be toward Christ and Christ alone. If God expects that of His church, and we are members of His church, then it stands to reason that God expects us to be spiritually pure toward Him in preparation for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and sexually pure with our bodies until our own marriages.
Now, I know how young adults and teens think…I was once there myself. I can remember sitting in my pastor’s office in Maine asking him a totally serious question. “If fornication means sex before marriage, is doing everything short of sex wrong?” Yes, I asked that question, and here’s the gist of what he told me. He said that even if you look at fornication as meaning sexual intercourse before marriage, and fornication being a sin, why would you put yourself in a situation where you are doing everything short of fornicating and allow the devil to tempt you further and further. He basically warned me that the eventual end of dancing on the line would be ultimately committing fornication. And of course, he was right.
Oh, God promises to make an escape for you to avoid giving in to the temptation (1st Corinthians 10:13) but why put yourself into a place where you need that escape route. If you’re going to go out alone as a couple, go to a busy place and don’t end the night being alone together. Don’t believe you are stronger than temptation. Don’t tempt the promise of God in 1st Corinthians 10:13, because that promise is solely dependant on you being proactive in taking that escape route away from temptation. Remember, Joseph was first tempted by Potiphar’s wife with flattery (Genesis 39:7) then with long drawn out invitations (vs. 10) and she eventually ambushed him when there was no one left in the house and they were alone (vs. 12). Who knows how strong the temptation was for Joseph, but he fled. He used God’s escape route from temptation and ran through it.
But many teens today aren’t running through that escape route from temptation. They believe sex is a rite of passage. Today it’s as casual as going to McDonalds® to eat. Late summer, 2008, there was a school in Massachusetts where several girls made pacts to get pregnant. The school nurse was interviewed and revealed that these girls were going into her office for more pregnancy tests than usual, and what really concerned her was the fact that if the tests came back negative, the girls were sad. This goes back to the point about teens not being emotionally ready to engage in sexual activity. High school girls, willing to have sex, to have babies because they thought it would be exciting.
That tidbit aside, the research actually reveals that 70% of these teens thought it was not right that high school age teens have sexual intercourse and a majority of teen boys and girls wish they had waited until they were older before becoming sexually active. Well, wishing on things that cannot be can lead to depression. But depression is not all pre-marital sex can lead to.
Some obvious risks to sexual activity are pregnancy (34% of young women get pregnant before they reach 20 years old), sexually transmitted diseases (infecting about 4 million teens each year), date rape, a bad reputation, and physical abuse (women who cohabitated [assume fornication] were nine times more likely to be killed by their romantic partner than women who were married). God wants sex to be preserved for marriage and if it’s not, you’re left to suffer some ugly consequences.
Do you realize that with respect to the top two fears of sexually active teens, which are STD’s (98%) and pregnancy (94%), that being sexually pure eliminates those two risks completely. Seriously! If you don’t engage in any sexual activity, you cannot get pregnant…0% chance! Also, if you stay sexually pure until marriage, and you marry someone else who believed the same way, and then you stay monogamous in your marriage, you can have a baby when you want to and you’ll never have to fear an STD like AIDS or Syphilis or any other.
Babies are a handful and they are life-changing beings. STD’s can be fatal, in the case of an HIV infection. Some lesser-feared STD’s can cause renal complications, pelvic infections, which can lead to infertility, and there are even some STD’s that can cause blindness in babies during the birthing process. Doing it God’s way eliminates all these risk factors. God doesn’t want to hurt us by waiting to enjoy sex. He wants us to wait for the proper circumstances to enjoy sex to the fullest.
Look, this world is not helping our teens. Whether it’s by making sexting legal, or now, the Food and Drug Administration trying to make the “Morning After Pill” available to 17 year olds and younger without parental consent, our teens are being destroyed. Teens are bombarded with sex even in their own magazine articles. Television sitcoms have numerous sexually explicit situations. There is no longer a stigma for teens who become pregnant. Some high schools have even begun offering daycare for the baby while the mother finishes and earns her diploma.
It’s a largely amoral world we live in and a spiritual battle for our kids is being waged. David Gibbs, who is a preacher and lawyer with the Christian Law Association, told a story about his wife during a men’s conference several years ago. He said his wife would write a prayer for each of her children every day. The next morning she would write different prayers than the day before. David Gibbs asked her why she would go through the trouble of writing new prayers for each of her children every day. She simply responded, “The devil is after my children.” She now does the same for her grandchildren. I guess the responsibility falls on us, the parents, to protect our children…but not through the conventional wisdom of the world, but rather through prayer and the utmost unrelenting desire to keep them safe from themselves and others.