Sexuality and Sex Education: A Christian Perspective

6987482795_c355d9c121_mTwenty-one years ago I wrote a piece on sex education, later adopted by the Canadian General Conference of the Free Methodist Church in August, 1993. Some time ago I reviewed that piece and decided to borrow from and adapt it for 2014, believing it still gives a needed Christian perspective to a subject even more controversial now than then.

My intent here is primarily to present concepts that should precede and undergird what is taught in the church about human sexuality. Here’s part of what I wrote, with minor edits:

The task of sex education is to help growing children, at the level of their understanding, to acknowledge that their sexuality undergirds and shapes their view of the world. Sexuality is not one aspect of being human that can be separated out and experienced in isolation; it is integral to the whole of our humanness.

In today’s society there are sharply conflicting views on sexuality. The issue is not so much what information is taught; it is what assumptions underlie the information. Christians believe humans are more than animals who are socially advanced and intricately developed, and who must respond to “natural” urges; they are unique creatures among God’s creation, bearing his image and accountable to him for their behavior.

The modern mind often begins by asserting that sexuality can be shaped into different exceptions, options, and variations and therefore is offended at and even intolerant of age-old understandings. So, it may be enraged at the claim that a family made up of a mother and father and children still provides the best environment for wholesome education about sexuality. Such education begins in the loving attitudes of parents to each other and the respect they show one another and their children from infancy onward.

Christian education about sexuality is based on the revelation that God created humankind to be male and female, each bearing fully his image (Genesis 1:26,27). From birth onward this differentiation of humans into male and female has serious implications. Teaching about sexuality should help us to understand and rejoice in what God has created us to be.

This education can be enhanced in the home by the use of Biblically-based literature, and Christian audio and video presentations. The anatomy and physiology of sex may best be taught in a gradual way, according to a growing child’s ability to understand. Sex is not taught as a mere biological function of the human body. The Christian faith maintains that there is a mystery to sex – a spiritual dimension – and sex educators must respect this

What about homes that are not headed by father and mother? Single parent families are increasingly becoming a part of Christian congregations. Foster families have also increased in the mix. These represent families or children often brought into these circumstances against their own choosing. They carry on nobly and are often filled with love and grace.

But such parents need special support from a caring congregation. And children in such families benefit from the influence of Christian men and women who, in the normal flow of church life, become role models. The same resources in literature and other teaching aids, as well as courses offered by the church, are to be made accessible to these families.

Children today are exposed via media, movies, online, and some school lessons to the notion that we have progressed past older views of sexuality, and, for example, that now same-sex marriage is to be celebrated equally with traditional marriage. It is an agenda being pressed forward forcefully.

In both church and Christian family, children need to be taught the biblical underpinnings for the orthodox Christian view of the past two thousand years: marriage is between a man and a woman. That is crucial. But at the same time, we must both teach and demonstrate the way of love towards persons in these alternate lifestyles whose paths we cross — without in any way endorsing the lifestyle.

The church must also continue to teach, against the strong opposing cultural tide, that sexual intercourse belongs within marriage. . . .and that marriage is between a man and a woman. At the same time, in our broken society the church needs to reach out in ministry as well to those victimized by others or by their own sexual wrong choices.

In all this, in both intact and sundered families, the undeserved generosity of God toward sinners – his grace – must be emphasized. It is grace that gives the gift of human sexuality to begin with. It is grace that enables those who affirm this gift to remain sexually pure. And for those who have failed, God offers the grace of forgiveness and the assurance that in Christ, wholesome attitudes toward sex can be recovered and purity restored.
 

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Photo credit: Mark Dayton (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “Sexuality and Sex Education: A Christian Perspective

  1. noticed it’s recently come to mean a person’s sexual orientation.

    Since sex is traditionally and rightly secret and private personal activity between a wife and husband in the privacy of their home, it’s not easy to talk about.Yet it often has to be talked about.With no experience of marriage I can only come at this subject from a philosophical point of view,though of course I come from a family,am the result of sex.

    Children need some kind of sex education.Marriage guidance counsellors,therapists and doctors & other medical professionals are often called upon to help when things go wrong.

    Furthermore marriage is of the utmost importance to the church. In the Roman Catholic church it is a sacrament.In Protestant churches marriage is not a sacrament like Lord’s Supper and baptism,but it is of God and part of the church..Since sex can be a very important part of marriage and essential in marriages with children ,sex too must be of great concern to the church.

    In the Old Testament God gave commandments about marriage and sex.In the New Testament Jesus spoke about sex and marriage.No pastor can ignore sex in his or her ministry.

    I strongly agree that sex education should help growing children ‘’ at the level of their understanding’’

    I was told the bare ‘facts of life’ at the age of 9.To be candid, the knowledge disturbed me , coming close to traumatizing me.To a 9 year old it seemed indecent and unhygenic

    I think this was because I was simply told the mechanical facts of intercourse,focussing on the means not the end. Perhaps if I’d been told about what happens after – the union of seed and egg, the three trimesters of gestation,then birth and early infancy and babycare ,I would have seen the bigger picture. Childish disgust would have turned to awe.For, when later ,aged 14 I learned in human biology about pre birth human development ,I found it inspiring and wonderful.I was awed .

    So I think it’s very important to pitch sex education with sensitivity,carefully taking account of the age and maturity of one’s audience.Also to present not merely the objective biological function coldly, without giving the whole picture.There should be emphasis on the warm hearted human dimension ,the place of the heart .Also there should be emphasis on the spiritual otherworldly dimension of the spirit.Does not the Bible point to a mysterious ,inexplicable thing that will happen when the two kinds of mankind,male mankind and female mankind ,unite to become one flesh.

    It’s as if the one flesh spoken of in the Bible ,becomes more than the sum of it’s parts.Sometimes a husband will speak of his wife as his’ better half.’,or a wife will speak of her’ other half.’It’s almost as if humanity was divided in two equal parts long ago and there is an imperative to become whole again.Male is only half and female only half. By sacrificing independance and serving the other half in humility , two halves can become one flesh and gain wholeness it seems.It’s almost as if the male self and female self must sacrifice the self and let the self die a little to make something bigger. From that united whole one- fle,children can be made and nurtured That too involves further sacrifice and surrender – this time from the united couple,to make something yet bigger again – a family.

    All this is beyond comprehension to anyone but God.But there seem to be implications. In Genesis God created man from dirt.Then from His creature man ( the bone next his heart –the rib) ,He created Wo – man.Maybe this is why a wife is called the better half.Male man was created from dirt.But female man ,more refined was created from better – humanity itself. But Genesis tells us male and female were created equal,both in the same image of God.Different but equal.

    From the united whole,the one- flesh,children can be made and nurtured That too involves further sacrifice and surrender – this time from the united couple, who must now make sacrifices and be of service to and for their children , making something yet bigger again – a family.

    This is how it seems to me,on contemplation . That a marriage of the two halves of God’s human creation must come from love. ‘ Love comes from God’,the Bible tells us ( in 1 John 4:7).So at every stage and in every way all comes from and is dependant on God . From there children are born of love and a family is created of love

    Pastor,in your book ‘God’s House Rules’,at the start of chapter 4 you warn against confusing ”loving” with ”making love”.

    ”It is hard to talk about love,even in Christian circles,without sexualizing it in some way.Our whole culture has been sexualized.The evidence is so glaring that it hardly needs to be reviewed here.Suffice it to say that we hace drugs to avoid pregnancy,drugs to heighten desire,,abortions to terminate unwanted pregnanciesand commercials that sell everything – from automobiles to refrigerators – with the claim that they are sexy.Each of the above provisions can be used to free humans to follow their desires without unwanted consequences.Except that with the freedom they provide we have an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases about which little is being said ,and perhaps most sognificantly ,a disillusionment on the part of many about heterosexual love.”

    The whole of Chapter 4 ‘Husbands Take The High Road’ is, in my view, essential reading in todays world.

    Love and respect,as you indicate,Pastor,in ‘God’s House Rules’ are the bricks and mortar of any family

    How often in the modern world, love is mistaken for sex. Yet I notice most love is divorced from sexual urges and has nothing to do with sex.My assumption is that sex is a means of perpetuating the human race and a means of binding a woman and man,a mother and father, into one flesh , a loving spiritual union .That union is then in place to ‘create’ head and lead children.The ideal human group to provide shelter and nurture of children – a loving union of wo-man and man,the two halves,wife and huband, joined in one-flesh and their offspring : the family. The ultimate family!

    There are different kinds of families.The church,the body of Christ, is a family – the family of God.Each local church congregation,each denomination is a kind of family.A football team or an ice- hockey team are a kind of family.The more mutual love and respect for one another ,the more succesful they will be.In a way each workplace is a family of co-workers.

    But there is only one kind of famly that can produce new people – children.That is a combination of man and woman : in a Christian society – a monogamy of one man and one woman in loving respectful,tolerant,forgiving and understanding union.

    The first family – Adam and Eve with Cain and Abel then third son Seth ( after Abel’s murder) , was just such a monogamous family of husband, wife and children. Later after the Fall, weird polygamous families,very dysfunctional arose,as can seen in the Old Testament.Mary ,Joseph and Jesus in the New Testament,are again a monogamous loving family.

    Genesis reveals humanity was created both male and female,both equal before God,both equally in His image. This equality and this quality of being in His image should clearly guide how marriage should be and how sex should be.

    Sex is a mystery.If it weren’t pleasant perhaps the motivation to perpetuate humanity would be less.I don’t know,but surely the pleasure of sex must transcend mere physical pleasure As you say,Pastor,sex is surely more than a bodily function.Is it not an overwhelming spiritual experience which raises mere sexual congress into loving union.I should think so.A spiritual dimension , beyond objective analysis,cannot be reduced to factual description.It is beyond undestanding,shrouded in a cloud of unknowing.

    Today,as you say Pastor ,are homes that are not headed by father and mother? Single parent families,foster families,all needing Christian support. Pastors can give guidance and support .Caring congregations can give support.And I know a worldwide Christian group which exists to promote stable marriage and family life.This is Mothers Union.

    I support and take special Lord’s Supper with the Mothers Union.I am not a parent and never entered marriage.I was blessed to care for two children 5 days a week,from babyhood, while their parents built their careers. I tended them when sick,was blessed to see their first steps and hear their first words,helped educate them & supported them through infant ,primary and secondary school into university..I bonded with the eldest on her first day after birth,I heard the birth cry of the younger,since I was present at her birth ,looking after her older sister.

    Both girls say I am like a second mother and second father to them,so I relate to those I share bread and wine with at Mothers Union Lord’s Supper.I feel very at home at Mothers Union.Often I’m the only male present though men are warmly encouraged to participate and join in.Until 20 years ago,when womens ordination was passed in the Church of England,a male pastor had to preside at Mothers Union Lords Supper.

    Mothers’ Union’s aim is to promote marriage and bring Christian support & care to families of all kinds,which includes those new families you mention, Pastor – those without a mother and father at their head.Mothers Union is part of the Anglican Communion but I am sure other churches ,particularly the Free Methodist Church ,through Life and Light,have similar bodies doing the same work.

    Our Mothers Union is a Christian fellowship of over four million grassroots , locally-based, people building stable family life within local communities.The aim is to achieve this by three means. By prayer for loving relationships. By charitable giving aimed at strengthening family life on the margins. By campaigning for social justice for families and greater recognition of the value of stable family life.
    Mothers Union is parish based and supports ministries.It publishes the newsletter ‘Families First’.
    Pastor ,we in UK now have same sex marriage. A bill supporting this was presented to our Parliament by the current Conservative government and passed. The Anglican church is the established church of UK,the Queen it’s head as Defender of the Faith.The Anglican church does not marry people of the same gender. I know of no church here which does.But people of the same gender can be married ‘civilly’ at registry offices.

    I understand same sex marriage began in USA and Canada but I may be mistaken. .I believe some churches in USA do marry people of the same gender.I think maybe the Episcoplal church does in some parishes.I seem to remember some African churches in the Anglican communion objected to a US bishop being in a same sex marriage though I’m sure the marriage was celibate,without sex,purely a loving affectionate arrangement between two friends.

    I’m not sure,but I think these ‘gay’ marriages or same sex marriages are not marriages of sexual congress.Of course there cannot be children.I understand they are ‘marriages’ in the sense of loving relationships of deep affection between two friends ,non sexual .

    I think of the dear and close friendship between the ordained Anglican minister John Henry Newman who became Cardinal Newman on entering the Catholic church ,and his fellow convert,the Revd Father Ambrose St John. On Ambrose’s death Newman said

    “I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one’s sorrow greater, than mine.”

    The two theologians shared a house and loved each other as dear friends .According to Cardinal Newman’s wishes ,he was buried in the same grave with Ambrose.The pall bore Newman’s cardinal’s motto Cor ad cor loquitur (“Heart speaks to heart”),and John Henry and Ambrose shared the same memorial.

    The friendship between these two Christian men was so dear and close as to be almost like a husband and wife.But not in any way sexual.That any could even think that must have been abhorent to them.Yet I believe some did wrongly think it. My belief is that many same sex ‘marriages’ are not marriages in the heterosexual sense ,but in fact deep loving friendships.But I cannot say for certain.For who can or would want to pry into a persons private life ?

    However I have heard people say there is a ‘gay’ gene.I understand Archbishop Desmond Tutu believes as much after he reviewed scintific evidence.If this is so ,and people are born with desires to have sex with those of the same gender,they cannot be judged for having the desire.Of course ,being human,we do not follow our desires.That would be disastrous.We cannot be ruled by the flesh.To do so would even bring harm to others.

    Even so I have met Christians in a same sex partnership.Whether or not they have sex I don’t know nor want to know.As Christians they have the Bible to guide them.

    Of course,I understand some Christians do things which they know from the Bible are wrong .The Bible itself says all are sinners.Every Christian has sinned ,the Bible says.Only our Lord was sinless.
    We must read our Bible honestly,living by it even if it’s not what we want to hear.As regards sin I believe we should focus first and foremost on ourselves,being careful to take the mote out of our own eye.So by our own life we can promote God’s Will.

    Pastor,it is so good what you say about demonstrating love to those whose lifestyles seem to us to be alternative to Biblical guidelines.We must be true to our convictions and our convictions must come from our faith and our true reading of the Book which we hold true.But we must be loving ,especially loving ,to those who are broken or have fallen or failed.They need our love most.

    There is a devalued sex ,a tiny little diminished kind of sex that is so loveless and wrong as not to deserve to be called sex.It is tawdry,harmful,it divides and bears no fruit but only harm,disease and misery..It encompaseses such harmful things as rape,prostitution,abuse,pornography and a whole world of hurt.

    The sex that is part of love in marriage is so big ,so great , so mysterious ,so blessed as to be known by it’s fruit – children and family.It unites, is bright and good.It is transcendent,love made physical,love made flesh! It is Godly,in God’s image!

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