via Focus Magazine, No. 98, April, 2008.
Sexual purity. What virtue is more difficult to instill in our teenagers than purity of heart? No one needs to tell you we are living in an ultra-sexualized culture where your teenagers will be continually surrounded with sexual temptation. This roaring lion (I Peter 5:8-9) is a computer click, radio station button, and TV channel away. Many of the ones your teens will spend the day with at school are not only sexually active — they are advertising themselves as so. It is no wonder we are losing more teenagers to fornication than any other temptation. I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old son and a sixteen-year-old daughter, and I share your concern — yet there is good news.
Recently I attended two weddings where the bride and groom experienced their first kiss together on their wedding day upon the words, “You may now kiss your bride.” The first time I attended such a wedding, despite being relatively well acquainted with the family, I did not know until sometime after the wedding that this vibrant, college-age couple had made such a goal. With the second couple, I only knew of their commitment to this atypical standard because we are very close friends with the family. Both couples were clearly motivated by a sincere desire to honor God and one another by making this sacrifice. Neither reflected an arrogant or “holier than thou” attitude. How admirable.
Shortly after one of these weddings, my daughter posted a little survey on her blog, which read,
[This couple] courted for a year and didn’t kiss before they were married…. What are your thoughts on what is appropriate physical affection before marriage? How will your children be raised to date/court compared to how you were raised? Do you ever wish your dating/ courting years were more or less physically involved?
As would be expected, responses varied greatly. One stated she could never resist kissing because she enjoys it way too much. I could see her point. What is not to like? Another respected those who chose not to kiss, but had once broken up with someone because she realized by kissing her boyfriend she was not physically attracted to him.
A mother of a bride wrote,
Not kissing before marriage was her choice, not our rule. But she came to the decision after reading about courtship, and deciding that purity begins in the mind and heart, and they need to be educated. [My husband] and I dated for a year before we were married, and did kiss. After reading the same things [my daughter] did, educating myself and looking back, I wish we had waited too. It’s a piece of your purity that is precious and should be saved.
How wise for this mother to realize that the only way her daughter was able to successfully achieve her goal was that it was deeply part of her own heart, and not something that was only valued in the hearts of her parents.
One young bride wrote,
[My husband] and I didn’t kiss before “you may kiss the bride” …it made our dating relation-ship unique to the others that we have had and made our relationship so much more than physical attraction. It also made our wedding day even more anticipated. However, I don’t believe that it is wrong to kiss your boyfriend/ girlfriend… but I wouldn’t change our decision if I had to do it over again!
She went on to explain that both she and her husband had previously kissed other people. How encouraging to be reminded that although a girl has kissed in her past, if she decides to save the rest of her kisses for her future husband, she can!
Another bride also had wise advice for those who would start afresh:
[My husband] and I kissed before we were married — but at a point in our relationship, we had to make the decision that we needed to stop because it was becoming a focus in the relationship. As we got to know each other better and learned to balance stuff in our relationship, we were able to gradually reintroduce it. … [My husband] was the only guy I’ve ever kissed and I feel like it’s a very special thing. I think it depends on the individual couple — if kissing is the focus of the relationship, it’s not a good thing. I think I definitely want to teach my kids that they shouldn’t devalue themselves or the importance of relationships by kissing every person willy-nilly.
What are some practical steps successful parents have taken to encourage purity in their teenagers?
- Nurture a chose relationship with your teens and enjoy your relationship with them. Your opinion should be the most important influence as they are deciding whom they will date, and how they will date.
- Sit down with your teens and discuss or even list the ways teens show affection in their relationships and where they have determined to draw the line to keep their own hearts pure. Lack of communication, gray lines, and blurry standards can lead to compromise and excuses.
- List with your teens all the blessings and benefits you can think of for guarding one’s purity, and as many specific consequences for sexual compromise you can think of.
- Delay dating years as long as possible. When your teens do date, consider confining it to double or group dating, or better yet, primarily in the presence of family.
- Read books with your teens such as Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye (also available on DVD), which is really more about dating wisely than not dating at all. Another popular Josh Harris book is Boy Meets Girl. You probably will not agree with everything the author proposes in either book, but many successful families have found these books chock-full of practical, wise advice and motivation to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 12:1-2).
- Only allow media and technology in your house that does not put a stumbling block in the way of your teenagers. If you allow a MySpace blog, visit it frequently, and let them know in a friendly way you will be doing so. Many Christians are allowing http://www.pleonast.com as a safer alternative. Avoid televisions and computers in bedrooms. Even with parental controls and blockers, the spiritual disadvantages often far outweigh the advantages.
- Many families present to their teens, on the birthday that marks for them the beginning of their dating years, a “purity ring” symbolizing their son or daughter’s promise to God and himself or herself to remain pure. It is often given by the father and is worn until it is replaced with a wedding ring. The ring is saved as an heirloom to give to the son or daughter’s own child one day. While the ring obviously has no inherent power, like a wedding ring, it is a reminder of a very holy commitment.
I see guarding the purity of our hearts when we are so very much in love with our future spouse as one of the most challenging expectations from God. Yet the reward of choosing to replace physical intimacy with emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy during courtship has a definite advantage. It prevents the natural progression of lust, which by its nature grows more and more alluring. Not playing with lust also gives couples better clarity as to whether they are together for more substantial reasons than sexual chemistry, thus allowing a deep, real love to develop. Although it puts stress on the relationship to deny oneself the fun of kissing, it is less stressful than feeling guilt, being dishonest with parents, and trying to stop the lust that can feel like a speeding train, which so often follows kissing. No one is saying that it is always sinful to kiss, yet many wise young people are discovering a clear spiritual advantage to staying off “first base” altogether, in order to avoid “second and third base.”
Each and every one of us was created with no greater desire than to love and be loved. God promises in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” The two couples whose weddings I attended are beautiful and refreshing examples of love, self-control, and the full joy God wants for each of us. The word of God is powerful and by it you too can raise teenagers whose faith is stronger than the pull of sexual temptation.