Protecting a Child's Sexual Innocence
Parents must use the Word of God to strengthen a child's sexual conscience. The guiding principle that parents should instill in a boy is this:
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
1 Corinthians 7:1
For a girl, there is another guiding principle:
There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
1 Corinthians 7:34
You as a parent should be aware that two threats to a child's innocence are especially dangerous.
1. During early adolescence (ages 11-15), a child is very vulnerable to direct seduction, for three reasons.
- Sexual drives develop faster than the ability to handle them and to resist sexual enticement.
- A young teenager still has much of the submissiveness of a child, especially in relation to an adult seducer.
- A young teenager is very naive, both about facts and consequences.
You must, therefore, be very careful about who gets close to a child during these years. It is best, however, to avoid judging other people's motives. In trying to identify who might be a threat to your child, you are likely to fasten evil suspicions on the innocent and overlook real culprits. So, as a matter of policy, you should structure your child's world so that he or she is never left alone with anyone outside the family.
2. During middle adolescence (ages 16-20), the great danger is premature or misdirected love. When affection springs up between a boy and girl who are too young to consider marriage, they may fall into harmful snares. One is sexual intimacy. Another is redirection of their lives away from wholesome pursuits into preoccupation with each other. Another is the mouthing of commitments and professions of love that they will later either abandon at the cost of learning how to be faithless, or maintain without ever seeking God's will concerning a mate. It is therefore the duty of parents to keep their children out of romantic entanglements so long as they are unready for marriage. The only way to thwart premature love is to postpone dating, and the romantic dalliance it encourages, until it can play a part in serious courtship.
Choosing a life partner is one of life's most important decisions. Before parents consent to a marriage, they must satisfy themselves that the marriage was made in heaven. One test is whether both young people have made prolonged and earnest appeals for divine guidance. Another test is whether the marriage will help both become better servants of God.
One problem in our society is that young people are growing up too soon. It is a well-established fact of psychobiology that regular exposure to sexually charged conduct, words, or images awakens a child's sexual consciousness and stimulates the production of hormones that hasten his sexual maturation. The age of puberty is decreasing because children today are bathed in a culture preoccupied with sex. In the midst of this degenerate culture, a Christian parent must build a high-walled cloister of innocence for his child. It is not even good for a child to read or see stories about romantic love. Let a child read genuine children's literature, in which boys and girls regard each other only as people.
Protecting a Child from the Mass Media
The first Psalm issues a strong warning against worldly influence.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Today, the most detrimental worldly influence comes from movies, TV, popular music, and popular fiction.
When my wife and I were in our middle thirties, our lifestyle changed drastically. Although both of us had accepted Christ in our youth, we had been living away from the Lord for many years. We had been ignoring the Lord, but He had not been ignoring us. Through warnings and mild chastenings He had been calling us back to Himself. But gentle methods had not brought us to repentance. Finally, He let us have a taste of divine judgment. As a result, the blinders fell from our eyes, and we could see that the end of our path of disobedience would be disaster. So, we decided to look for the path of obedience. Immediately we began to examine our lives with the intent of eliminating every practice displeasing to God. Within a short time, we stopped drinking wine at supper, we quit going to movies, we threw out a ton of books and records, and we sold our TV. Since 1979, except for what I have involuntarily seen at the doctor's office and similar places, I have not, so far as I can remember, watched a single network drama, sitcom, game show, or talk show.
When I look back at the worldly practices we forsook many years ago, I can honestly say that I do not miss them or regret giving them up. On what basis did we decide that they were unacceptable? We found that each of the practices we cast aside was indefensible in light of one or more of the following four questions.
What does God think about it? Consider Jesus' question,
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
This verse teaches that a true believer in God seeks the honor that comes from God only. So, to reach a right verdict about a doubtful practice, I cannot look at what I think, or you think, or anyone else thinks. The only opinion that counts is God's.
As we search Scripture, we find that God clearly gives His view of some doubtful practices: of drinking, for instance (Prov 23:29-35; 20:1). But other doubtful practices, such as movie-going, were not known in Bible times. A good way to decide whether a practice is right or wrong is to ask the question, Could I with a clear conscience enjoy it in the presence of Jesus Christ? If He visibly manifested Himself to me as I engaged in the practice, how would I feel—glad for His company or embarrassed? When, many years ago, we subjected movies, popular music, and TV to this test, we found that much worldly amusement is, frankly, pagan junk. At least it was in the late 70s. Maybe it has been getting better. (You know it has not, else why did you laugh?)
But it still seemed to us that much entertainment of this sort is fairly harmless. The problem was that, like many immature Christians, we did not realize how undiscerning we were. We did not understand that our habitual exposure to the world and its amusements had dulled our moral senses and made us insensitive to God's righteous demands. We did not yet have a capacity for strong meat, in a moral sense.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Now, after we have been feeding for years on God's Word, we have a much better acquaintance with the mind of God, and we recognize His disapproval of many things that looked all right back when we had just emerged from a worldly way of life. But God helped us make good decisions by showing us that every practice must be tested by three more questions besides the first already stated.
What is its effect? In our moral decisions, we must look at the effect not only upon ourselves, but also upon others.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Some professing Christians say that to drink an occasional glass of wine does not violate any Biblical precept. I disagree, but even if they were right—even if the Bible did not openly disapprove of drinking in moderation—it does not follow that drinking in moderation is morally acceptable. When we considered the possible results of drinking only one glass of an alcoholic beverage, we realized that our standard must be total abstinence. The danger in drinking only one glass is that some people are predisposed to alcoholism. It is very difficult for them to control their drinking. The first sip of alcohol may be enough to get them started down the road to addiction. So, if I take a drink, I am running a grave moral risk. It may turn out that I myself am vulnerable to alcoholism. Or even if I am not, my example may encourage a potential alcoholic to take a drink. For the sake of my weaker brother, I will abstain from drinking, lest I be a stumbling block to him.
The second question exposes a serious danger in movies. I doubt that any Hollywood movies are absolutely good in the eyes of God. But suppose there were? What will happen if I go to a theater to see that hypothetical one-in-a-million movie which is OK?
- The effect on me is not good. After going to the theater once, I find it much easier to go again to see something more questionable. As my inhibitions weaken, I may gradually acquire the habit of going to movies of all kinds.
- I create a bad testimony. Anyone who sees me going into the theater may not notice what movie I intend to see, or even if he does, he may not know anything about that movie. So, he may assume that it is no better than the usual Hollywood fare. He may even jump to the conclusion that I am a regular patron of the theater.
- I may be a stumbling block to a weaker brother. If he discovers that I have gone to a movie, he will think to himself that movies must be all right. "If he can go, so can I." But the movie he chooses to attend may provoke him to commit sin. You can be sure that God will hold me responsible.
Years ago, as we went through the process of evaluating doubtful practices, the first two questions led us to reject some, but left us uncertain about others, especially TV-viewing. So, we asked two more questions.
Can it be regulated? Study what Paul says.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Most Christians today make some effort to limit their TV-viewing. But they need to ask themselves whether they should even own a TV. If you have a TV in your home, I challenge you to ask yourself the same question. If you start thinking about disposing of your TV, you will discover that it has a stronger hold on you than you ever imagined. Throwing out that familiar, entertaining, and costly piece of electronic wizardry is not easy. You will not make the right decision unless you face the following question with brutal honesty. Is it possible to own a TV without exposing yourself and your family to bad programs and bad commercials? It is amazing how much filth can come on the screen just while the viewer flips channels. For ourselves, we decided that adequate regulation of the big beckoning box in the middle of the living room is very difficult, if not impossible.
When someone tells me that his TV is used only for watching the news, I grimace inside. First, because much so-called news is really propaganda for irreligion and licentiousness. Second, because I suspect that if I asked his children what the family watches, they would name every program but the news.
Is there a better use of time? The Bible reminds us that to waste time is characteristic of fools.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
After TV was eliminated from our home, we were able to give much more time to family reading and recreation. My two sons took up many constructive hobbies. The older became proficient in bike mechanics and computer programming. The younger spent countless hours developing his musical skills. Both enjoyed soccer and basketball.
There is a natural human tendency to minimize evil, especially when it has a grip on our weaknesses. For the sake of our children, let us not look with indifference on the evil in worldly amusements.