There is a deep sense of confusion today, especially among many young people, about sex, love and relationships. Everywhere I go, students ask me questions such as:
- “When am I ready to say, ‘I love you’?”
- “Is it okay to date a non-Christian?”
- “How do I love my LGBTQ friends?”
Students often turn to Google for answers more than they consult Scripture. While many students know what the Bible says about sex and relationships, few know why God gave the particular commands that he did. My hope is to bring clarity and conviction to young people about God’s good design for sex, love and relationships.
My first audience was my own teenage kids! I have a teenaged son and daughter (plus another son in elementary school). I figured that if I could write a book that was both interesting and helpful for them, given all the challenges and pressures they face, then other young people may want to read it as well. My daughter actually read an early version of the manuscript and—fortunately—loved it. We had a wonderful conversation about it. My hope is that young people will read it and consider talking not only with their friends about it, but also with trusted adults. If they do that, I really believe it could help set them up for relational success in their current and future relationships. God’s plan truly is the best.
Whether it’s fame, success, power or influence, everybody is chasing something. Whether people realize it or not, at the heart of this search is the desire to be truly loved and accepted. Yet, the world offers a false view of love that won’t truly satisfy the heart or the soul. True meaning in life comes from seeking to love God and love others.
Consider the contrast between the ways of the world and the ways of Jesus: The world tells you to live for yourself; Jesus says to die to yourself. The world says to do whatever you want; Jesus says to cultivate the right wants. The world says to love yourself; Jesus said to love others as you love yourself. The world disregards truth; Jesus claims that truth only comes through knowing and following him.
The book challenges young people not to seek a worldly definition of love but to accept the greater challenge of Jesus, which involves focusing on building his kingdom.
In previous generations, the culture was at odds with the Christian faith in a variety of ways. But now, Gen Zers are told they are evil and homophobic if they hold the biblical view on sex and love. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of voices within the church who are challenging the historic Christian view on sex and marriage. For instance, many are claiming that God is fine with same-sex unions as long as they are loving and faithful. This can be appealing to the hearts of young people, who want to be loving, but are not grounded in a scriptural view of sex and marriage. We must help this generation know not only what the Bible says about relationships, but also why God’s design is best for them and for society as a whole.
Our culture has adopted a sexual ethic rooted in consent. As long as sexual contact is consensual, and no one gets hurt, then it is fine. Sex is considered merely a recreational activity totally divorced from commitment or childbearing. As long as it feels good, you can do whatever you want with your own body.
Many times the church responds with Scripture, which is good, but it fails to show why God gave us the commands that he did. In my experience, few young people truly have a biblical view of sex that is rooted in understanding God’s character and the goodness of his commands (e.g. Deut 10:13). We must not only resist the sexual ethic of our culture, but we must also resist the temptation to give students a legalistic response that is rooted in rules alone. My hope is to help students see that sexuality is one important aspect of following God with one’s entire life.
At the heart of the sexual ethic of Jesus is his command to love God and love others. Sexuality is one important way, amongst others, that we are to show love to God and others.
To help students see that the ethic of Jesus is best for society, I ask students to imagine what would happen if everyone followed his teachings. What would the world be like if sexual activity was reserved for the union of one man and one woman in marriage? Well, there would be no pornography, divorce, abortion, degrading sexual jokes, deadbeat dads, sexually transmitted diseases, or men leaving their wives for younger women. Pretty good world, isn’t it?
Let’s consider two. First, one of the most damaging ideas is that sex is not a big deal. At the heart of the sexual revolution is the idea that sex is just a recreational activity that has no deeper meaning. As a result, many young men and women have given themselves away sexually and then experienced considerable pain in their lives. Sex is certainly not the biggest idea, but it matters deeply what we do with our boies.
Second, the church has often downplayed the importance of singleness. In previous generations, we have put too much focus on marriage but not equal focus on the beauty and goodness of singleness. The Bible says that both are beautiful ways of serving God. Sadly, this has resulted in alienating many singles and also sending the false message that marriage is the key to ultimate fulfillment. We need to recapture what both Paul and Jesus taught about marriage and singleness (1 Cor 7; Matthew 19).
If you feel broken and hurt by sexual sin, please know that my heart goes out to you. You are not alone. You are not used goods. Jesus died for you and promises to wipe your sins away if you will simply ask (1 John 1:9). Like the father of the prodigal son, God loves you deeply and yearns to see you experience the freedom that comes from accepting his forgiveness. Your past does not have to determine your future. There is hope. I promise.
First, I hope readers will walk away with a deeper sense of God’s goodness and the reasons why he gave us sex, love and relationships. Understanding his bigger plan helps give students confidence to live out their faith with conviction. Second, I hope they will walk away with the ability to stand strong for a biblical view of sexuality today. Students need to realize that they are not alone, and that it is possible to live the sexual ethic of Jesus today. In fact, not only is it possible; it is actually wise and good to follow his commands. God cares about them and has their best interest at heart. Third, I hope they will walk away with a deeper understanding about some of the difficult issues of today, such as LGBTQ relationships, and how to think Christianly about them and how to better love their friends who see the world differently.