Student Ministry & Purity Culture

Espousing marriage as a satisfying alternative to sexual promiscuity simply leaves students to pop their wrists with rubber bands, hoping to drive away lustful thoughts

“True love waits? Ok. But more than that, true love serves (1 John 4:10-11; Luke 10:27). Sexual sin uses others. So instead of asking students to delay gratification until a far-off wedding day, which may or may not be in the cosmic cards, why don’t we help them discover how to counteract the inward, self-exalting nature of sexual sin?”

 

Recently, the blogosphere has been abuzz with denunciations of the pervasive purity culture hailing from the 1990s and early 2000s, and with good reason. While helpful in some—albeit very few—ways, the oversimplified purity culture, which advanced delayed sexual gratification until a far-off wedding day, was never very biblical and, in the long term, not particularly helpful in facilitating faithful disciples of Jesus. At best, this purity culture pointed out the sheer cliffs and dangers associated with sexual brokenness without providing a helpful path to navigate them.

And if I’m honest, I’ve endorsed this very culture in many conversations with students. But youth are savvy, and with the sobering realities of divorce and family brokenness splattered all over our culture and the church, they have seen through my smoke and mirrors. It might be helpful, then, to ask, ”What should I give students in lieu of a purity culture steeped in delayed sexual gratification and marinated in the false promise of an all-satisfying marriage?”

True love waits? Nope.

While it is certainly true that true love waits for good timing, espousing marriage as a satisfying alternative to sexual promiscuity simply leaves students to pop their wrists with rubber bands, hoping to drive away lustful thoughts through a culturally-appropriated medieval practice.

True love waits? Ok. But more than that, true love serves (1 John 4:10-11; Luke 10:27). Sexual sin uses others. So instead of asking students to delay gratification until a far-off wedding day, which may or may not be in the cosmic cards, why don’t we help them discover how to counteract the inward, self-exalting nature of sexual sin and actually use their gifts to love and serve both their friends and their significant others?

What would dating look like if, instead of asking “How far is too far?”, we asked, “How can I love my brother or sister in Christ to better point them to Jesus?” What if we really helped students steward and use their gifts, whether by serving on a leadership team, cleaning up lunch trays at school, playing in the worship band, or serving as a small-group leader to younger students? An emphasis on serving others will help to counteract the sexual sin that urges them towards isolation and self-exaltation. It might seem strange, but perhaps one of the greatest ways to fight sexual sin is to roll up our sleeves and do good for someone else (Matthew 23:23).

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