Sexual education in the church: What is its role?

sex ed in the church, fiercest blaze

As Christians, we all agree with what the Bible says about sex education – sex is good, it’s ordained by a good God, and it should take place within the boundaries of a godly, mutually honoring marriage between man and woman.

We probably also agree that parents are primarily responsible for educating their children about sex. Consider, for example, how in Proverbs 6:20-35 NIV the context is of a father counseling his son:

My son, keep your father’s command
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
    fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
    when you sleep, they will watch over you;
    when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For this command is a lamp,
    this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
    are the way to life,
24 keeping you from your neighbor’s wife,
    from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.

25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
    or let her captivate you with her eyes.

Whoa. How did we just go from fatherly commands and motherly teachings to captivating eyes and lustful beauties? But wait, there’s more:

26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,
    but another man’s wife preys on your very life.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
    without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
    without his feet being scorched?
29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
    no one who touches her will go unpunished.

30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
    to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
    though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
    whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
    and his shame will never be wiped away.

34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
    and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
35 He will not accept any compensation;
    he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.

Yikes. This is heavy stuff! And yet parents everywhere can relate to the warning that sexual behavior has consequences, often far beyond what we may see or want. Difficult as it is, we must realize that the primary weight, or responsibility, of sex education rests within the family.

But what about the church?

Unfortunately not everyone has the blessing of growing up within a godly, Christian family. What about them? In that case, I would argue, the church can help step up to explain what sex is and why Christians believe the things they do about it – in a humble, winsome manner that glorifies God.

There also needs to be clear guidelines as to how Christians should act sexually, and serious consequences if so-called Christians willfully violate those guidelines. Consider, for example, how Paul takes the early Corinthian church to task for sexual sin (1 Corinthians 5, NIV):

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Whoa! Again, this is a passage that I hear very few pastors explaining from the pulpit today. But I think it’s important and healthy for us to examine the Scriptures to see how the church historically has dealt with sexual sins.

The church should draw a line in the sand – not for telling non-Christians how they should behave, but how Christians should behave:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

From this I conclude that Paul is saying, our business as Christians is not to judge people outside the church, but to judge whether people inside the church are living up to what they say they believe. In other words, if someone says they’re a Christian but is “sexually immoral or greedy” or committing other sins, such as swindling, cheating, and embezzling, the church needs to step up. Such behavior should not be tolerated within the church.

In addition to this disciplinary role, I believe the church should also be a safe, welcoming place for young and new Christians to learn about biblical sexuality. Check out Barbara Kohl’s blog post for more helpful tips as to how this can happen.

By Shanxi

Providing the foundation for healthy, lively & even fun (gasp!) discussions of human sexuality from a Biblical perspective. Sex education made simple. Started by homeschool families, for homeschool families.

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