I heard something interesting from a person who spoke with me during the recent Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) homeschool conference.
This person was a retired homeschool parent who was interested in my “Fiercest Blaze: Guide Your Child’s Christian Sex Education” book and spoke frankly to me about how their family had handled sex education back in the day.
“Looking back on it, we probably didn’t address the topic enough,” this person said.
I really appreciated their honesty and transparency with me, as well as their wisdom in sharing this experience with the next generation. We can all learn so much from one another, especially when sharing our challenges, mistakes and regrets!
Something else that really caught my attention was the Scripture verse that another person quoted to me as reasoning they had heard within the Church to avoid discussing sexual matters with children:
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please.” (Song of Songs 8:4, KJV)
Because this verse is so famous, I’ve included several other versions of it below (you can see more at https://biblehub.com/songs/8-4.htm):
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (NIV)
“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!” (New Revised Standard Version)
“Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.” (Christian Standard Bible)
This was probably my first time hearing that verse quoted in the context of Christian sex education for our children.
My immediate reaction was, Is this verse applicable to the way we should teach our children about sex? Here are my thoughts for why it shouldn’t be.
Reason 1: The ‘stir not up love’ context is not parent to child.
In this passage, the woman (the beloved) is talking to her peers, the young women in Jerusalem at that time.
Just before this verse, she is talking about her lover, how “his left hand is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.” (I don’t know about you, but these seem like pretty “arousing” and “stirring up” words to me!)
Could it be that we really do have a principle here, an instruction that we as parents should not “stir up” or “arouse” love in our children until the proper time (whenever that might be)?
I personally don’t see such a principle, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this could be meant as advice for us parents. If that’s the case, I have further questions:
- How does telling our children about sex arouse or stir up love? If I’m telling my children about managing finances, or cultural trends, or any number of other grown-up matters, I don’t expect the conversation to be stirring up emotions that are inappropriate for them to have. Granted, the conversation of appropriate sexual relations is a lot more challenging to have with our kiddos than a lot of other topics! But I don’t see the automatic connection between sex ed and arousing, or stirring up, love before its proper time.
- How will we (as parents) know when is the appropriate time “when love pleases”? If this is really an instruction for parents, then we should hopefully have some idea as to when is the proper time for love to be stirred up, awakened, or aroused. But how are we to know, if we’ve never discussed the matter with our children? From my experience, if parents are reluctant to bring up this topic with their children, then children will be just as reluctant (if not more so) to bring up this topic with their parents.
Reason 2: The Bible does discuss sex ed – often in the context of parent to child.
If I could choose the most important factor about a healthy sex education, I’d say it should always happen within the context of relationships, ideally from loving parents to their children.
This is something I’ve seen throughout Scripture, where many of the most specific “sex ed” passages I can find are of a father addressing his son (Proverbs 5:1-20, Proverbs 6:20-35, Proverbs 7:6-27), or a mother addressing her son (Proverbs 31:2-3).
Likewise, when the apostle Paul takes the Corinthian church to task over sexual immorality, he warns them as “dear children” because he is their spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:14-16).
Unfortunately, not every family shares this openness and transparency on sexual matters, but I would argue that this is more cultural than Scriptural (Corrie ten Boom explores this more in her book, “The Hiding Place”).
Reason 3: Taken in context, this verse is about romantic love – not parental guidance.
I love Song of Songs for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the warm celebration of romantic love between a man and a woman.
For full disclosure, I read the Song of Songs for the first time at a young age (probably around 8 years or so). It was during my daily “quiet time,” which my mom gave us at the beginning of each homeschool day – from 8:45 to 9 a.m., before we started our other topics like math and language arts.
My parents never stopped me from reading the Bible at my own pace and on my own initiative. They never put up boundaries or obstacles to my reading certain passages, even the very tragic ones (the story of Tamar comes to mind). If I ever had a question about what I read (and I often had many!), my mom and dad were always there to answer them.
I remember even then, at that age, wondering at how frank the book was about sexual matters. Part of me knew this was something that I couldn’t fully understand at this point! And yet, I enjoyed the feeling and experience of peeking into a world that was above and beyond my comprehension.
Have you ever felt that same sensation, perhaps reading a novel with some deep and interesting theme, or suggesting answers to questions you had never yet asked? For me it was one step to savoring this book of the Bible over and over again – especially as I matured. Even now, as a married woman with children of my own, I still love returning to this book with a deeper appreciation than ever before.
In conclusion, let’s not use this beautiful Bible verse as an excuse to avoid the topic of Christian sex education for our children. The stakes are too high for us not to discuss sex frankly with those precious souls whom God has entrusted to our care.