This week, I was teaching a workshop on sexuality to some teenagers and I said “Sex is a great thing!” About three of them giggled. A few of them blushed and many looked at me as if I had said some unpardonable words. After some further interaction with them, I realised that most of them had lived all their teenage life being warned through fearful statements about sex. Some common fear statements are:
- Don’t have sex because you will get herpes
- Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant
- Don’t have sex and you can’t be a father
- Don’t embarrass us; you know your dad is a church deacon.
Those statements are rooted in fear. They instil dread in the child and obedience is achieved only through scaring the child. The problem with fear is that it is lazy. It does not pursue critical thinking. We easily forget that teenagers are not the nine-year-olds they were a few years ago whom you tell jump and they ask how high. The teens want to know why we are jumping in the first place. And because their simple questions confound and confront a status quo that never gives good reason, the reaction is scare them until they ask no more questions. The longer we interacted I also realised that some of them had been warned about sex through prideful statements such as:
- You don’t want to end up like your pregnant cousin, do you?
- You are better than those uneducated people in the slum.
- We are Christians; we don’t do what those heathen do.
Few see the sinful pride in those statements. The teenagers are warned by being told there are losers in this society to whom they are morally superior. These fear and pride tactics may produce some level of self-discipline and obedience but they leaves the teen’s heart unchanged. When the teen grows into their late-teens, it dawns on them that fear and pride are mere parental tactics to inflict a moral code they do not fully understand. So when their hormones are doing the bazokizo and nobody is watching, the teens’ unchanged hearts do the exact opposite mama told them!
I understand that well-meaning parents just want their kids to finish high school and campus without hiccups. But when the teens learn that decisions made out of fear and pride don’t work and that sex is really a fantastic thing, then they wonder what will hold them back when they are out of home and living in a hostel all by themselves.
The church should not use fear tactics when addressing sexuality to teenagers. Neither should they use pride tactics. Am I dismissing the importance of addressing the consequences? No I am not. In fact it is good practice to think of the consequences of our sins before we indulge in harmful activity. However, to even think like that, you need to be passionate about your moral compass in the first place. Handed down beliefs don’t work. Beliefs must be believed and they must be loved, not through brainwashing but through critical thinking. It is no wonder that the LORD himself calls us to think critically as he calls us to obedience. Isaiah 1:18 says “Come let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as snow; though they are as red as crimson; they shall be like wool.”(NIV). God’s calling us to think about disobeying him and he assures us that if we think, we will obey willingly and not out of fear or pride. Research the Bible and seek the number of times the LORD says, consider, ponder, examine or reason. Even Jesus in Matthew 22:37 challenged us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. We are good at the heart and soul- but we forget the mind! If our father in heaven engages our minds to train us, why would we not deal the same way with his lovely teens? God wants us to passionately follow him and not do it fearfully or pridefully. After all, what joy is there in a coerced bride walking down the aisle? Passion, Beloved! Passion! The tragedy is that we have teens who have cultivated a moral compass out of fear and pride and not out of passion. They are constantly told what they ought to stand against and not what they ought to stand for.
I am merely drawing our attention to a more pertinent matter; while it is important for everyone to be aware of how consequences can ruin a life, it is more important for people to know how passion can build a life. Passion trumps everything! We must teach our teens to make decisions out of passion and never out of fear and pride. Passion is inspiration and inspiration is what changes hearts- never fear and pride. Passion will let the kids know that they don’t need to fit in when they can stand out. Passion will make them ride against the waves when everyone is going in the opposite direction. Their friends will tell them they can use a condom but passion will enlighten them that there is no condom for their soul.
Understandably, it is easier to use fear and pride as opposed to passion because of two things. Firstly, fear and pride don’t take time. They are quick fixes. Passion on the other hand, takes time to teach and train. It can take years and still show signs of sloppiness. Many people are too impatient to make disciples out of teenagers. They want instant 6-week program results that will align their teenagers fast and easy. And by the way, there is nothing wrong with the 6-week or 10-week programs in themselves. They are good. But they take the face of fear and pride when they substitute years of training and discipling the teenagers. These programs ought to be additions to passion-cultured teenagers. The second reason it is easier to use fear and pride as opposed to passion is that it does not demand a moral behaviour out of us. You see, Beloved passion must not only be taught, it must also be caught. In short, teenagers must not only hear it but they must also see it in the lives of those who give it to them. So parents resign the work over to pastors. Pastors resign the work over to school teachers. School teachers resign the work over to motivational speakers. And as the kids are tossed to and fro, they hear all these things but they see none of the people practising them. The youth pastor is making out with his fiancée. The school teacher is hitting on the teenager. The motivational speaker is allergic to truth and the parent is known better than they think. The ministry to teenagers in the area of sexuality calls upon us to uphold the same standard we teach and not merely impose it.
Well what does passion look like? Firstly, passion must be grand! It must trump fear and it must trump pride by the mere size of its proposal. It must make a glorious demand. Secondly, passion must be authentic. It must make sense and not simply demand to be followed because it said so. Thirdly, passion must persuade. It must display the unconsidered benefits that pride and fear are always blind to. And the benefits do exist, both in this life and the next. Fourthly, passion must be everlasting. It must outlive the teenager. It must be healthy enough to leave a legacy even when the teen is long dead or long-lived as an old man or woman. What does passion look like? Jesus gives a grand proposal to follow him and leave everything behind! Jesus makes an authentic call by living out the words he preached. Jesus makes a persuasive beckon by promising us joy inexpressible and a revitalised dead life. Jesus makes an everlasting pitch that last till eternity. Parents find that hard to teach. Teachers find that hard to accept. Motivational speakers find it financially unrewarding. And sadly some Pastors do not even believe it. Grand, authentic, persuasive and everlasting inspiration is Jesus Christ willingly giving up his life on the cross, not just for the world generically but for the teenager specifically. If they were the only human beings in the world that needed a saviour to die for them, Christ would still do it. He loves them. If they grasp how infinitely loved they are despite their gravest wrongs, how unconditionally accepted they are despite their deepest flaws and how unshakeably secure they are despite their weakest faith, they will grasp how passionately obedient they can live for the One who gave it all for them. Teach teenagers the true Gospel and watch them stand for purity on their own accord. When the days that truth becomes a rare commodity, may these teenagers remember your name.