Jan

07

2013

Barton Gingerich|10:00 PM CT

The Millennial Generation's Acceptable Sin

Every human institution and society has its own list of sins and virtues that contradict the law of God. With the rise of the Millennial generation in evangelical churches, a vice is creeping up into the realms of acceptance, indifference, or at least resignation: fornication (i.e. extramarital sex or unchaste living).

A few decades ago, this was one of the main issues that evangelicals hammered in their social witness. The skeptical news cycle and entertainment industry mocked this often; they saw pleas for chastity as a laughable result of pietistic sexual repression and no small bit of hypocrisy. Theological leaders and other influential voices chided their fellow believers for obsessing over a select set of sexual taboos.

Now, however, the exhortations have eased off. Commentary from Tim Keller at the latest Q Conference in New York is quite telling. "We're not doing well on the sex side," he confessed. Talking about his church, Keller said, "We're just like the rest of the city. If I preach like that [on sexual ethics], everybody gets real quiet."

Similarly, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy discovered 80 percent of unmarried evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 had engaged in sex. Using a more stringent definition of "evangelical," the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) recently reported that 44 percent of millennial evangelicals had sex outside marriage. Of course, just because Christians oppose sexual immorality does not mean they never struggle with it. Nevertheless, in this sort of moral environment, harping on moral sex lives is analogous to starting an abolitionist church in the antebellum South. Thanks to the public liturgy of Hollywood and our own human inclinations, fornication has been normalized and poses a massive obstacle to effective pastoral ministry.

Shut Up and Stay Out of Sex Lives

More disturbingly, many young evangelicals are trying to loosen the standards of the moral law to fit their desire to become sexually active before committing to marriage. Some are direct, telling the church to shut up and stay out of their sex lives. They say that Jesus wants his followers to pursue justice, provide for the poor, minister to the outcasts, and otherwise love their neighbors as themselves. They claim Christ did not send his disciples out to be the sex police, and the early church focused instead on counter-cultural community-making.

Of course this argument is contradicted by the historical evidence. For example, Polycarp (student of St. John the Apostle) instructed women to be "loving all [others] equally in all chastity." Likewise, he urged young men to be "especially careful to preserve purity." Speaking of Valens (a man estranged from church discipline by his indiscretions), Polycarp taught, "I exhort you . . . that ye be chaste and truthful. 'Abstain from every form of evil.'" In the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, the author famously describes Christians: "They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh." The Apostolic Fathers and their standards for the ancient church are clear. We must not form the past and its teaching to suit our wants.

Costly Toll on the Soul

Other young evangelicals, however, are truly struggling with sexual morality---and often losing. I refer especially (but not solely) to pornography, in which one commits adultery in the heart. The toll this battle takes on the soul is costly. Perhaps this is why the popular folk band Mumford and Sons's music resonates so strongly with Christians. The group's lyrics often explore fall, redemption, grace, and love. For instance, band leader Marcus Mumford asks in "White Blank Page":

Can you lie next to her
And give her your heart, your heart
As well as your body
And can you lie next to her
And confess your love, your love
As well as your folly
And can you kneel before the king/And say I'm clean, I'm clean.

For too many young men, wracked with regret over their defeats and struggles, the answer is an ashamed "no."

Beware Acceptable Sins

Young evangelicals must choose their master. Right now, too many follow their appetites and desires. They are bending God's own standards to satiate their libido. Perhaps fear and repentance would not be amiss here---numerous portions of sacred Scripture indicate that sexuality expresses God's character as carried out in his image-bearers. The cost of trespassing providential limits is too high. Beware your acceptable sins---they are the ones that will kill you. When a society caves in to one particular sin and twists the gospel to defend it (e.g. the antebellum South with slavery) that vice will become a canker on the soul and will eventually bring it to ruin.

Christ Jesus lived a pure, spotless, and (notably) chaste life to buy his Bride on the cross. He proved his authority and victory in the resurrection. At Pentecost, he sent the Holy Ghost to empower and enliven his apostles to carry out a very special work. His disciples would be instruments to make a people for himself.

To this end, the single soul as well as the called-out community are sanctified. They war with the Devil, the world, and (especially relevant) the flesh. God grants his enabling grace to the saints that they might instantiate the renewed creation: husbands and wives bound in perfect unity or the celibate set apart for special kingdom service. This involves every part of human life, manifested in appropriate ways: the economy, almsgiving, kind acts, pursuit of political justice, and---yes---even sexuality.

Barton Gingerich is a research assistant at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He holds a BA in history from Patrick Henry College and is a member of Holy Trinity Church in Fairfax, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter at @bjgingerich.

  • http://howardmerrell.blogspot.com/ Howard Merrell

    Excellent.
    Unfortunately, all you say is true. Even in our "Bible-belt" community, pastors, like me, are told in so many words, "Just leave it alone."

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  • http://www.wineandmarble.com Hännah

    Hi Barton,

    Congrats on getting featured here! That's great.

    I have to question your scholarship though. None of the original source quotations used refer to fornication. Purity could mean any number of things, depending on the context. Abstain more often refers to food and drink and you haven't given us any part of the original text to demonstrate that it was about premarital sex. Loving all others equally in chastity probably means not being promiscuous? And your final quote, while a great proof-text against infanticide, really doesn't have anything to do with this topic.

    In general, you're probably right. But I wish you had presented it in a defensible way.

    • http://www.juicyecumenism.com Bart Gingerich

      Hannah,

      I'm pretty sure the terminology is holistic. When you look at the Old Testament imagery of, say, trespassing the fasts that are owed to the Lord or idolatry, they are explicitly tied to images of sexual impurity (especially adultery, which, if we take Christ's teachings seriously, means fornication, since it's sin against our spouses-to-be). In other words, it's not an "either/or"; it's a "both/and." That's why the "common table, no common bed" argument is so powerful: be generous to the poor AND be chaste. We generally want to condemn predatory greed OR aberrant sexuality. The Church as God's people are called to both. I think when we're asking, "How much can I get away with, God?" we've already chosen a bad path.

      The Greek and Latin translations (I used Philip Schaff's Ante-Nicene Fathers texts) I'm sure provide fodder for linguists more qualified than myself. If you read these epistles, you'll notice they're very brief, brisk, and short. They mostly quote large portions of New Testament writings. Thus, when painting the image of churchly holiness, they tend to smash things together more than Pauline and Johannine epistles that most American Protestants are used to. But the teaching's there; it wasn't added later.

      However, the image of these early church teachers is the same as St. Paul's. Trying to remove the tittle that affronts us is erroneous. I think it's poor scholarship to assert that these warnings in the ancient harried church don't apply to fornication. It's not like the fathers or the apostles were trying to fool us.

    • Gene Ricky Shaw

      I understand your argument, but when people have sex outside of marriage, it often leads to promiscuity. I was 17 and my girlfriend and I thought we would get married, so we had sex. Naturally we broke up, so I said the same thing with the next girlfriend. Meanwhile, I was drawing further and further away from the Lord until I finally renounced him. I didn't come back to the Lord until my late 30s, and I finally declared I would remain chaist until I was married. Four years later (in my 40s), I got married, and my wife and I went out of our way to remain chaist so we could please God. And now I see the value of it.

      Better late than never.

  • Anar

    I'm a millennial and recently just got married. Both of us waited until marriage to have sex and it was well worth it. I think it is important to focus on how good of a decision that was. We need to sell that as the counter-cultural, enjoyable and beautiful decision it is.
    The media promotes promiscuity like they would sell snake oil. It is not all that hard to see through.

    Also, yes, chastity is God's law, but that means it can also be used for the sin of legalism (the previous generation's acceptable sin). The answer to any of these is focus on the gospel of grace.

    Following chastity comes with many blessings. We need to sell it to the culture while not selling legalism. Don't say no to sex, say yes to real, organic, holistic, better and more fulfilling sex!

    • Melody

      Anar, I have no doubt it was worth it and that it was a good decision. But the whole saving yourself for marriage thing presupposes people will get married. For a lot of us that isn't something we see happening. The focus can't be on, "It'll be worth the wait on your wedding night" for people who don't expect to have one - purity has to be it's own reward.

      • Gene Ricky Shaw

        Melody - most people will get married, it's just a statistical fact. I got married in my 40s and I didn't think it would happen. And I'm not sure if I see your argument - are you saying that people who don't think they're going to get married someday should give up chastity?

    • John S

      I agree with what you say about it being worth the wait, and the blessings of waiting, and that we should promote sex as God's good plan within marriage. However with delayed marriage and 'everybody's doing it' and 'no consequence' sex it's hard for young men especially to believe it's worth it. I agree with the article also, and quoting church fathers and musicians can be helpful.

      But something is missing and should never be assumed. Let the lion out of the cage. Let God's Word speak and convict and change hearts. Doesn't matter if people don't want to hear it, preachers and teachers and parents must teach God's Word (just one example below as there is none in the article). Doesn't matter that it could result in legalism, it's God's command not man's and apparently cheap grace is the current, dominant error.

      The question of Lordship of Jesus, of loving Him with all our selves, whether it feels worth it or not, must be asked because Jesus calls us to it. There is a denying of self and a taking up of the cross daily involved (along with a pursuit of satisfaction in God) not just a wait til I'm married and that will solve my sex issues. There is a fierce battle involved and we must be encouraged to stay in the fight til the end. Sexual tempation and sin don't automatically go away with marriage. Jesus is the ultimate issue here, not sex. My 2 cents.

      Eph 5:[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [7] Therefore do not become partners with them; [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light.

      • Emily

        "The question of Lordship of Jesus, of loving Him with all our selves, whether it feels worth it or not, must be asked because Jesus calls us to it."

        Exactly.

        I have to disagree with you, Anar, as well. While I think we do need to respect and cherish God's good gift of marital sex, it is unwise use it to try to compete with the world's idea of sex. Promising Christian singles that sex will be so much better than anything the world has to offer if you wait is simply wrong--because that is a lie. And it's not an idea that the Bible advocates. I think Lauren Winner's take on the issue--that chastity is a spiritual discipline that God calls us to practice that really is good for us whether is seems so or not--is a much better way to approach the issue.

      • Anar

        Melody, John, & Emily,
        Thank you for the responses and the additional perspectives you offer. Let me add some more of what I was thinking to see if it clarifies.

        "Promising Christian singles that sex will be so much better than anything the world has to offer if you wait is simply wrong--because that is a lie."

        I specifically put 'holistic' sex for a reason. What I meant by that is our lives, our histories, our whole interaction together, the societal support of marriage, and the role it has for procreation, all contribute. This big picture in mind does make the one-man-one-woman monogamous (or celibacy) model much better than anything the world has to offer--I don't think this is a lie. Yes, there are ups and downs in certain moments, but the whole design (considering the goodness of who has Lordship) is much better than counter-designs such as a one night stand or long term cohabitation could ever be.

        I think it is good to include longterm thought in how it supports the blessings there are in following God's design for both marriage and life. There are trials, but being able to count it all as joy makes life better than life with the sex the world has to offer.

        "with delayed marriage and 'everybody's doing it' and 'no consequence' sex it's hard for young men especially to believe it's worth it."

        I don't think it is that hard to believe following the crowd is not always best. There are many clear examples for young men where popular opinion is faulty. Also why not just get married earlier? What is preventing that?

        "Doesn't matter if people don't want to hear it, preachers and teachers and parents must teach God's Word (just one example below as there is none in the article). Doesn't matter that it could result in legalism"

        But teaching God's Word very much involves teaching against legalism. If one teaches in a way that promotes legalism, they are not teaching God's Word. God's Word should not be compartmentalized. It is ALL profitable for training in righteousness to equip us for every good work.

        We need to include Song of Solomon when discussing the Biblical view of sex.

        Look how Eph 5 uses "thanksgiving;" this is what I was aiming to express in my initial post.

        • Melody

          What prevents getting married earlier is that it's a life-long commitment and most of us feel the need to be pretty sure about our choice.

          It's incredibly frustrating to have people who got married straight out of high school or college say, "Just get married" when singles are looking around and seeing no real options.

          • Anar

            I think the root of that problem may be lack of community. With stronger and more connected communities it would seem there would be more options for singles.

            Also maybe the word needs to get out that there is no way to be pretty sure about such a choice. It is good to assume there will be tension and the will be times when one needs to work through problems.

          • Gene Ricky Shaw

            Meoldy - I go to a church where there a lot of good single women dedicated to the Lord and much fewer available men. I know they're frustrated about it at times, but as a man who waited until his 40s to get married, all I can offer is this: trust in the Lord and seek his righteousness above all else. I know that probably doesn't sound too reassuring at first, but if God has a husband in mind for you he will reveal this man to you in his own timing.

            Again, getting married late in life, I know it can be frustrating. Being a single man with a libido and a high speed internet connection it was hard to avoid temptation. But keeping my own eyes on God's plan for me is what kept me pure.

            And now I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, and I am 100% convinced that the Lord has chosen this woman for me. Seek him first above all else and God will reveal his plan for your life. I believe this with my whole heart.

        • Emily

          Thanks for this response, Anar. I think that your clarified thoughts here are absolutely right.

          I think because our concept of Good is warped, it is easy for people to misunderstand the claim that marital sex is better than extramarital sex. I think we always need to clarify the word "better" in this context, as you did very well in your response. The Christian teaching that I received before marriage about sex never made that clarification (actually, I'm not sure that my teachers had a clear idea of that concept themselves), and consequently I was completely unprepared for the very real and painful struggles that are often part of a marital sexual relationship.

          Nonetheless, marital sex *is* better than extramarital sex even if it doesn't *seem* better right now. Practicing chastity *is* good even though it doesn't necessarily *seem* good. Lauren Winner's book 'Real Sex' makes this point eloquently.

          And I definitely agree about 'Song of Solomon.' Oh, I think there are so many problems with Christian sex education... a in-depth, frank study of that book could help so much. You should write a study guide! :)

  • Marilyn Williams

    Thank you so much for this article. At 62, and never married, I have become increasingly aware that Satan seems to be destroying so many people through this wondrous gift of sex which God gave us-but for the right time, and people in committed marriage. I spent 12 years totally apart from God and sexual sin was rampant-God has forgiven me and given me new life in Christ. But sexual sin leaves some stuff that has to be dealt with. It is my heart's plea that the church take up the task of teaching young people that this sin is IN our bodies and it ruins a lot of things. We need to help them know that they will not "shrivel up and die" if they put off sex until marriage. But they also need practical help dealing with the temptations-and an openness so that it can be talked about without fear. Bless you

  • http://www.ironworkspikechurch.org Jack

    The very first fact millennials seem to need to hear is that no one gets to choose their own morality. That morality is objective and authoritative, not subjective based on free-will choice.

    • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

      Agreed, Jack, there is a great need to be clear on this just as Spurgeon was clear on a pet sin of our generation of evangelicals.
      http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

    • http://campuskritik.blogspot.com Malte

      Jack, as a millennial I'm not sure many of us believe morality is 'subjective based on free-will choice'. Rather, I think the shift has been from an ethic based on the married-unmarried distinction to one based on mutual consent (both unmarried and married). As such, for Christians who want to reassert the illegitimacy of premarital sex a more useful way forward is to stress how sex is only truly loving in a lifelong commitment.

  • Amy Mc

    First of all ~ Thank you for a wonderful article!

    I would like to point out that we as the church are not helping this matter. There is this new push, "It's all about grace! It's all about grace, It's ALLLLLLLLLLL about grace!!!!!" NO! NO IT'S NOT! It is NOT all about grace. Grace is a GIFT! Elevating the gift above the giver is idolatry! It is all about GOD! And God has rules. When we are willing to ignore those for some new found push to make the most important thing a gift vrs the giver we have brought an unbalanced teaching to our people and our children. This is just a small glimpse at our future if we continue to make it unnecessary to strive to live by God's standards.

    DeYoung is right, there is a hole in our holiness and this is what our next generation will fill that hole with if we don't change course.

    • Anar

      But the gift is of one substance with the giver. They are both equally important.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    I don't think this problem is new, or at least not recent in the making. I grew up in the "Bible-belt" South; I'm 48 now. I do not ever remember hearing once a pastor or youth pastor say simply, "No sex before marriage." When sex was addressed, it was addressed in such round-about terms as to leave doubt exactly what is being said. I've heard preachers say, "Don't be doing what you're not supposed to be doing!", leaving it up to our imagination as to what we're not supposed to be doing. The older generation of pastors rarely directly addressed sex. And example of their attitudes is seen in how Mark Driscoll's direct (and Biblical) instructions are labelled "pornographic" by traditionalists who think it's a virtue not to directly address the issue.

  • http://thethoughtsithink.wordpress.com Candace

    One, I would like to know where he is getting his information or if he has proof of the "many young evangelicals are trying to loosen the standards." A link to a study of some sort would be helpful in making claims like that.

    Two, I think an honest discussion about sexuality is needed in the church. How are twenty something singles (or older unmarrieds, or teenagers) supposed to handle their sexual desires and urges? I don't think it's enough to just say, stop doing this, without giving a better option. Do we talk about the fact that in the days of the Bible, most were married shortly after puberty? Do we talk about masturbation as a legitimate option for satisfying one's sexual desires before marriage? Do we talk about healthy co-ed relationships that are emotionally and spiritually satisfying without needing to be sexual?

    I think there's a lot more to this conversation than just, "Hey, this is bad, stop doing it." If Jesus came to show us another way, then there's got to be another option in this discussion.

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

      "I would like to know where he is getting his information or if he has proof of the "many young evangelicals are trying to loosen the standards."

      He probably started here,with Mark Regnerus' research on the sexual ethic of teenagers in 2007, "Forbidden Fruit",http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=WW320947&p=1006327

      who would be the millennials Barton describes today. And examplars of this attitude are rife in the Emergent arm of the church.

    • Anon in VA

      There is another option. Marriage!!!!!

      Why are we surprised that we fail to stay sexually pure while we simultaneously delay marriage?

      I know marriage isn't a panacea to sin or temptation -- temptation will always be with us -- It is a lifelong struggle. But marriage is God's answer to our sex drive. We are doing this to ourselves and we only have ourselves to blame.

      • jason taylor

        Marriage is not "another option" because it requires the aggrement of another party which is often not so easy to get as you seem to think.

      • Melody

        That's great anon, I'll just run right out to the quicky-mart and find myself a responsible, christian man. We'll get married this weekend and have a passionate, yet stable, marriage for the rest of our lives.

    • Anar

      I agree,

      Ephesian 5:4 says "instead let there be thanksgiving"

  • Yonaton

    Thank you for writing this article! I appreciate you discussing this topic. I pray more pastors will preach openly from God's Word about glorifying God with our sexuality, whether married or single. This will be blunt, but needed by someone: when the church leaders fail to talk about sex, especially in today's culture, they are failing their job as shepherds.

    Please think about what that means.

    Thanks again for writing.

    • Felipe

      I agree with Rodri. It is not enough to say that something is "bad." In my own experience (admittedly not all encompassing) all of the reasons for waiting that I was given during high school paled in comparison to the temptation I was facing. I was told that pre-marital sex was a sin. However, all of the explanations revolved around how it would hurt me or other people. That waiting will somehow turn out for my good in the future.

      Newsflash, telling young adults that they will have something special in the future if they wait isn't very compelling if it is clear they can also have something "special" now. The only truth that has helped me fight temptation is a high view of God's holiness and a desire for purity for HIS sake. I was taught that purity was for my own benefit. While there are benefits to staying pure, only purity for the glory of God has any chance of standing up to constant, powerful, temptation.

  • Rodri

    I grew up in the Church, with a family committed to Christ and church leaders who worked wholeheartedly in support of youth ministry. Even after committing my own life to Christ, this is something that I've struggled with; while I absolutely take responsibility for my own actions, I think church leaders need to be better equipped to deal with this HEAD ON. I'm 25 years old, and I can only say that I now understand because I started seeking answers on my own. I'm so grateful for Boundless.org and GoodWomenProject.com.

    It's not enough to say that sex outside of marriage is a sin and to show teens pictures of the effects of STDs. The church needs to address fully WHY it is sin (all the spiritual, physical, emotional aspects); how being in a longterm, committed, loving relationship is not the same as being married; pornography; and how one can deal with temptation... especially as we find ourselves getting married at older ages. I think it's also crucial to validate the struggles of women. So often we hear about how men struggle with lust and men struggle with pornography, so women don't receive the spiritual guidance they need, because for some reason it's assumed they don't have the same struggles.

    • Matt

      Amen & Bravo!

  • The Jones

    Whenever I think about how hard it is to practice chastity in today's culture, I read Matthew 19, especially verses 10-12, have my socks blown off by it, and then realize how woefully inadequate our present attempts to achieve it are.

    I wonder if people could explore the option of early marriage, via 1 Corinthians 7. I think somebody has already written on this, and he found heavy resistance to this idea. Ah, here it is: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/august/16.22.html?start=7. But good thoughts.

    • Anon in VA

      Yes, Regnerus' article on early marriage was excellent, but I found the resistance upsetting. There was a lot of "young adults need to get careers/education first, need to mature and be ready for marriage, etc." And the dirty little secret is that a lot of this thinking is being encourage by Christian parents who can't conceive of their kids marrying before 28 or 25. Sure, some maturity before marriage is absolutely wise and reasonable, but the pursuit of "maturity" and "readiness" can also quickly turn into an aimless path of selfishness, careerism and idolatry. Our grandparents married young and grew up together. Why can't we?

      • Melody

        And it is usually done with the thinking that they have to be financially secure first. Where is the reliance on God? How much has the American dream interfered with the way we raise our children?

  • Matt

    Some good points already here, but just a few things to add in defense of my generation (I'm 28 & 5 years married) w/o excusing our sins. First, I plainly disagree that we want the church to shut up about sex. In my experience, our generation's main complaint about our parents is that they left too much unsaid about a Godly approach to many things: politics, religion, money, & especially sex. I agree with the commenter that identified legalism as the prior (Christian) generation's acceptable sin. We don't want the church to leave it alone, we desperately want the church to engage honestly, openly, & Biblically with sex. If, however, the church's only way of dealing with the topic is curt, dismissive, unscientific fear-mongering and legalism, then yes, we'd rather the church shut up. Sadly, the church has been buried in either this latter mode or silence for my entire lifetime, so my generation has had little practical guidance on this topic aside from secular culture. It can hardly surprise our elders then, for our generation's practice to unfortunately hew closer to culture than Scripture.
    Now, none of this removes our responsibility. And I'm becoming more encouraged that those in my generation are seeking after God's ways and able to be open about this topic. God's laws bring blessing when obeyed & consequences when not. And yet there is still more grace when we repent - which the church seems intent on minimizing on this issue. I sincerely hope our elders can put away the pretend shock and elevation of "decorum" over pressing into how we should live so that my generation and younger ones may have an open and truly Bible-based environment in which to understand sexuality. The old tropes about abstinence, purity, "saving it," etc are tired and too reductionist to be meaningful. So a final encouragement, pastors: be bold! Preach the Scriptures & do the work to make it real & practical in the lives of your congregants. Even the "fornicating millennials" will appreciate it.

    • http://thethoughtsithink.wordpress.com Candace

      Agree agree agree. I'm 27 and have been married for four years, was a virgin when I got married, and, while I so appreciate having been a virgin and only knowing my husband in this way, I realized how unprepared I was for sex and talking openly and honestly about it with my husband. Sure, this could be blamed on my parent's unwillingness to talk about it, but I think it also has to do with the dismissive nature of sexuality conversations in my youth group and the church communities that I grew up in. If we truly believe that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage, why not have honest, open discussions about it in church?

      • Emily

        Me too, Candace! 28, married for 3 years. Was totally unprepared for sex. Unfortunately, the teaching I received about sex from church and Christian women was not simply unhelpful; it was damaging. I would really like to see more churches address this problem.

    • Emily

      Amen!

  • zilch

    The church is fighting a losing battle here: we evolved to produce children through sex, and sex is thus more powerful than any church or other system of morals. The best we can do is try to make sure that we love.

    • Gina

      Guns are also powerful. I don't hear anyone arguing that we shouldn't apply morals and ethics to how we handle that issue.

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  • http://www.thedispersion.net Jack

    I wish the church would forsake legalisms and preach to younger generations about biblical sexuality. For so many churches all they tell kids is don't have sex until you are married. That is a part of what the bible says but not everything. We should tell kids the whole story, what sex is, why God made sex, why we stay pure, and how to be redeemed if you are not.

    • Matt

      You concisely said what I was trying to say in my rambling. Agree 100%.

    • Oswald

      Jack, well said. Young people need to really know the God of the Bible. To know Him, is to love Him, and to respect Him.

  • http://www.saintsandsceptics.org Graham and Nicola

    To quote the NAE website -

    "This study for the NAE represents the attitudes and opinions of Millennials who attend a Protestant church once a month, believe they will go to heaven when they die, because they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and strongly hold these statements:
    o The Bible is the written word of God and is accurate in all that it teaches
    o You have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today
    o Eternal salvation is possible only through Jesus Christ
    o You, personally, have a responsibility to tell other people about your religious beliefs

    Which is fine, as far as telephone surveys go, but not a rigorous definition of a committed evangelical. It rules TD Jakes and Jehovah's Witnesses in, for example. And it certainly rules in many "nominal" Christians, especially in the Bible-belt.
    There is cause for concern - but as global warming sceptics like to say "more research is needed in this area."

    G&N

  • Luke

    I direct an organization that promotes sexual integrity in the lives of young people. We speak in schools and churches, etc. I have not found young people to be combative, or to communicate anything like "stay out of our bedrooms." The question for me is, once they've invited you in, do you actually have anything meaningful to say.

    I don't know of many Christians who can communicate a Christian sexual ethic that goes beyond lawbreaking (the story is way bigger than this) or has much theological depth. The story God has written about sex and marriage is pretty incredible (and it's not "wait until you're married, because then it's going to be awesome) and compelling. I think we need to learn to tell and live that story. And it has to go way beyond, "don't fornicate because that's God's law."

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  • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

    No amount of Law code can ever restrain, correct, or renew the heart of unregenerate man. In fact, the more Law you give him, the more he thinks he can do it or bend it. This is the sinister nature of Law's function as a "ministry of death and condemnation" (2 Cor 3). It kills a willing victim.

    But the new man who is filled with the Spirit of God needs no Law code for the regulation of his heart (Gal 5:18, Gal 5:22-23), for the love of Christ controls him (2 Cor 5:14).

    Our churches need to stop preaching self-centred moralism/law and start preaching Christ - ravishing the hearts of the saints with His person, His work, His Grace, His indwelling Spirit of Power, and His redeeming Love!!

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    Preach the Law...and preach it hard.

    It's all there in the Book. We get it in our lectionary cycle, whether we want it or not.

    And then, when no one is left standing (except for Jesus), preach the Gospel. With NO strings attached!

  • Oswald

    Several times in Rev 2 and 3, what God says He has against the churches is the practice of sexual immorality, tolerating 'that woman Jezabel' who promoted sexual immorality, etc. Looking the other way is not helping much, is it? New ways of preventing pregnancy is just a way of covering-up the obvious. The culture has gone wild. I heard T. Anyabwile speak about the culture at a conference once and he said we can't just try to change the culture, but we must build a culture of our own in Christianity. It's the hearts of the young people that must be won. Rules don't do it. Also, an example must be set. We can't continue to be openly attracted to exposed flesh, etc and thereby 'telling' young people this is a good way of getting attention.

  • Akash Charles

    why is this suprising??

    so many feminists encourage such behavior by justifying it and still call themselves evangelical
    some of them believe one cannot evangelize without affirming free sex

    these men and women are leaders of so many churches
    the Devil is playing a very smart game

    • Reve

      Not sure what your intent was, but blaming this on feminism is actually quite misogynistic. Women and women's issue are ultimately to blame for all the lack of teaching and also sexual immorality within the church? I think that's hardly the case.

  • Stephen Stull

    As a millennial I'm offended at the suggestion that this is uniquely "our" problem. That is a very ignorant statement. Perhaps I should drudge up pictures of the 60's and 70's? Sex has always been an permissible sin! To think otherwise is to ignore history. Read Corinthians! They knew something about impurity!

    What would really make a large difference in millennials lives is the church leaders actually being honest about their own immorality. Talk about how sex before marriage affected your marriage; how you struggled with intimacy and still deal with lust even at places like church where you are supposed to be leading the flock. Explain how you feel shame when you have a sexual thought about a single woman at church, or how you've thought of other women when sleeping with your own wife. What are the consequences of those actions? Why are they evil? How do they diminish God in your life? Or perhaps those sins are also permissible?

    The problem isn't millennials, the problem is our pride. We think too highly of our reputations to be weak in front of other and bare our sexually immoral sinful self because we fear men. We should fear God, then the hearts of millennials will follow.

    You say millennials say "shut up and stay out of our sex lives". but I say "show compassion, love and forgiveness and you will see a generation changed" Millennials come to me with their sex issues because they know that I am there to encourage them toward righteousness not throw the book at them. I tell them Christ knew your sins and died for you anyways, now show him your gratefulness by seeking him instead of seeking sexual immorality. That is the message that works!

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  • Greg Hillendahl

    Thanks for the article. I think part of the issue deals with a lack of emphasis (both preaching and living) in our churches on a devotion to Christ of the kind that the Apostle Paul had and advocated. In 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23 he said that all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable or edify. We as evangelicals need to be vigilant to ensure that we focus on the priority of the gospel and our devotion to Christ. If that’s missing, then one of the results is just what Barton is writing about. In those same two chapters Paul also spoke to the issue of immorality. Our bodies are not our own – they are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Since we have been bought with a price, our clear focus should be on glorifying God in our bodies (6:19-20). Please pray for the Los Angeles Co. jail system. We volunteer chaplains seek to present Christ as the only one who can truly satisfy our deepest needs: the true bread of life. Thanks again.

  • Caleb

    I am a 19 year old millenial and I am single and attending a prominent Bible College. I echo a lot of what was already said on this board, particularly the emphasis upon an alternative to unhealthy sexuality. Also I identify with the idea that sex was simply not explained to me growing up in the Church. The extent of my understanding was a vague notion that sex was bad outside of marriage and that pornography was bad. I longed for someone to honestly address the issue, but nobody ever did. I have struggled with sexual sin pretty much since I hit puberty. I hear two distinct messages when it comes to sexual purity, either the simplistic "do not do this" or the altertnatives which seem to be mostly consisting of "getting married young isn't so bad" and "they did it back in Biblical times." These two propositions do not aid those struggling with sexual sin, simply telling one to stop without giving a realistic alternative is doing nothing and adding unnessary pressure to be in a relationship is foolish. I like what Piper said about this whole issue, that we need to invest our sexual energy elsewhere, namely in Christ. Though I have a supremely difficult time understanding what that actually means in practicality. There has to be a new way to approach this issue, its not a new problem as many of my parents generation struggle in much the same way that my generation does. It seems as though the Church doesn't have a viable option for people who do not see marriage on the near horizon and who are dealing with sexual sin. In as much as we can despise cultural norms sometimes, we must understand it's not likely for evangelicals to be married young anymore. It's likely that I won't be married for another 5-6 years, this of course depends on a large number of factors, but people simply aren't getting married young anymore. How will the Church respond to this changing cultural norm? I don't have much of a solution to this problem, merely the suggestion that conversations help and we need a people dedicated to the deepest form of grace that emanates from Jesus.

    • Rodri

      Yes! "I longed for someone to honestly address the issue, but nobody ever did." -- this was the case in my life and in the life of my friends at the time, and I just see it continuing to happen.

      Most young people are not saying "shut up and stay out of my sex life." Most people are saying, "PLEASE, just walk me through all of this." And as well-intentioned as parents and church leaders are, they simply aren't doing it. We really need to look at the full picture, instead of simply blaming this generation for adopting this as an acceptable sin.

  • Lily

    I cannot tell you how timely this article is! I lead a girl's prayer group within my church and in recent weeks have come to find out that several of the girls (between 18-23) are sleeping with their boyfriends. For some reason there is a disconnect between their hearts seemingly for the Lord in the things they say they want and this pattern of "fornication" in their lives. I am crying out to the Lord for wisdom in how to broach this subject with them and truly appreciate Barton's thoughts on the subject.

    I am 36, never married, still a virgin (by God's grace alone!) and understand probably more than some the difficulty of keeping oneself pure before the Lord, and not solely in a physical sense, in this day and age. And I agree with what many have said: it's not enough to push abstinence because "sex before marriage is wrong" or like Melody said, "It'll be worth the wait on your wedding night." What if it's 30 years before that? Or what if you (or I for that matter) never marry? "Purity has to be it's own reward" (so good Melody!)

    I can tell you I never ever expected to be in my mid-thirties and unmarried and for over a decade have watched my friends marry, one after the other, whilst I am still waiting. And at times, it has NOT been easy.

    John S stated it so well: "The question of Lordship of Jesus, of loving Him with all our selves, whether it feels worth it or not, must be asked because Jesus calls us to it. There is a denying of self and a taking up of the cross daily involved (along with a pursuit of satisfaction in God) not just a wait til I'm married and that will solve my sex issues. There is a fierce battle involved and we must be encouraged to stay in the fight til the end."

    THAT is the crux of the matter...the LORDSHIP of Christ in our lives. God did not create us for sex - He created us for Himself. So if I never marry (which means no sex for me) He will have to be enough and after all these years I can unequivocally say HE IS. And there are wonderful rewards and blessings (hello,outside of sex!) that follow obedience to His word. And ultimately, HE is our reward!

    Please pray for me as I seek the Lord for wisdom in sharing all of this (and then some) with my precious girls in the coming weeks!

    • Brent Reilly

      Lilly, thank you for your post. I'm preparing to preach from 1 Cor 6:12-20 this Sunday and your words moved me to tears. I've been meditating on Paul's teaching in v.14, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body," and in v.19-20, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Your statement that "God did not create us for sex - He created us for Himself" succinctly captures the essence of Paul's words. Thank you and may God give you grace as you share His Word and your heart with those young women.

      • Lily

        Thank you for your encouragement Brent! I am moved by your words as well and will be praying for you this Sunday as you share!

        Blessings!

  • http://www.corinthtoday.org paul cummings

    I appreciate the article and another part of it that I wonder aloud about is the "new timing" that is expected in many millenials lives...
    I went to college, got engaged at 21 and was married the summer after graduation at 22. As a male, waiting and keeping myself pure from the onset of puberty to marriage was something I failed at and continually struggled with, sin and repent, sin and repent...
    Now however many millenials have put marriage on the back-burner, even if they do have a Christian Courtship oriented relationship...because they're going to wait until grad school is over, or until they're financially settled or they've "travelled" some...
    and marriage is pushed back to 25 and 26...
    Keeping purity in your life for that long is like trying to hold back the tide to an extent. For a male, this pushes the sexual purity mark to somewhere close to 15 years in some cases.
    I'm not meaning that you should get married so that you can go fulfill yourself sexually, just pointing out that if you know you're going to marry your significant other, waiting to marry so that you can accomplish some other worldly things, will surely end in a compromise of Christian purity in your relationship.

  • David

    As an Evangelical and fellow Millennial myself, I second Stephen Stull's comment. In some ways articles like this one exacerbate the ever-growing gap between our generation the previous one. The tone comes off as, "My goodness, these young people not only break the rules the way we might have (but rarely admit to), but at least we pretended to like the rules!"

    Yes, we know what the rules are. The problem is not that we are unaware that our parents, our pastors, and the Bible don't condone fornication. Some of us are even aware that a holy life is theoretically more satisfying than pre-marital sex and/or pornography. But frankly, we would be much more helped if our leaders explained how the grace that comes from the cross can transform us. That is, if you are going to tell us to resist the incredible pull of sex, then you are going to have to offer us something EXTREMELY compelling in its place, not simply going over "the cost of trespassing providential limits." The thing is, you do have something extremely compelling to offer: the love poured out from the crucified Son of God, exemplified in the lives of Christians who are willing to share the way sin has broken them and how they have experienced the transforming grace of Christ. That was the only way my wife and I resisted pre-marital sex while we were dating/engaged, and even then we stumbled in other ways. But if the options are enjoying the pleasures of the body versus moralistic hand-wringing, I'd take the pleasures of the body every time.

    • http://campuskritik.blogspot.com Malte

      As a fellow millennial evangelical I'll second that, David. Thank you.

    • http://www.beggarsdaughter.com Jessica Harris

      Well put.

      I was asked recently to speak on the topic of why Christian young women aren't abstinent. A room full of older women were just confused as to why saying, "God doesn't approve of this" wasn't good enough for the Christian young women they encounter.

      I told them, "we are the True Love Waits generation. We grew up with Joshua Harris, Rebecca St. James, purity rings and conferences. This message is not new. The problem is, we were taught abstinence, not purity, and there is a difference."

      Purity is not about not having sex. Purity is about loving, worshiping and serving Christ. I can scare anyone into being abstinent, but purity has to be a choice of the heart. Instead of teaching purity, far too much time was spent scaring millenials into being abstinent, and guess what... they aren't scared anymore.

  • Dawn

    I think, as others have said, that sexual sin has always been an ongoing temptation in the lives of Christians. What has changed significantly over the last several decades is our culture' s approach to it: fornication used to be seen as seriously wrong, and now many Christians take it lightly or assume that "it' s here to stay".

    One thought that has been on my heart a lot lately is that I as an individual have allowed too much worldly entertainment in my life, and after a while that has an impact on one' s thinking, in this area as in others. We should be careful about how much worldly entertainment we take in. This does not mean strictly unwholesome fare, either; even "family" entertainment is worldly if it comes from a secular perspective. (It' s not so much what it has in it as what it doesn't.)

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  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

    "... fornication has been normalized and poses a massive obstacle to effective pastoral ministry."
    "... evangelicals are trying to loosen the standards of the moral law to fit their desire..."
    "Beware Acceptable Sins"

    Yes, this is a very real problem, much like earlier generations of evangelicals have done other sins. Spurgeon speaks best to those sins: http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

    And check out the early churches stand on that issue:
    http://christianpacifismblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/pacifist-quotes-2/

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  • Thomas

    It may be true that the “Millennials” have more casual views about sexual purity than their forbears.
    But the pop christianity of our day is extremely misguided when it asserts that because of the inroads of postmodernism, etc., the church must reinvent everything to reach this generation.
    News flash: The “Millennials” are not unique; they are lost sinners, just like the baby-boomers were before them, and the “Greatest Generation” was before them.
    The Scriptures still speak to all men: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Cor. 10:13
    “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” – Heb. 4:15

  • Adam

    For those who feel totally unprepared sexually going into marriage or recently married. Don't buy into the lie that proclaims you should be a master in the bedroom before marriage. There is too much emphasis on performance. God didn't give Adam an instruction manual with Eve. He just said be fruitful and multiply and they figured it out. Unashamedly.

    Marriage provides the sacred opportunity to holistically devote yourself to another person. Marriage will show you that there are a ton of other areas you were not prepared for as well, besides sex. It also provides the safe and committed environment to work it out. Leave room for growth and take away the pressure to "perform". Yes, the church can help people prepare for marriage and in the midst of marriage, but you can't expect the church to help in areas that can only be learned through experience.

  • shary

    In the past generation anything that could be imagined as sex was sin. There were no teachings what sex was, just a lot of rules, don't hold hands, don't kiss, don't sit so close your bodies touch, 6"apart is good, etc. People realized much of this had nothing evil about it, so the just dumped it all. They also saw either themselves or their friends sexually abused often by church leaders, then the other leaders covered it up. Asking the victims to forgive after all these leaders had done good work for the church. Why do we blame the young generation when we the older generation by our actions taught that sex outside of marriage was fine as long as you did a lot for the church? If the church wants to see purity among the young they must stand up to the past sexual sins they are covering up now.

  • sda53

    Too many churches have become people pleasers and social clubs. God's discipline should always be taught along with his love. We are dropping the ball in so many ways. Sending money out of country to feel good when we have people but mostly children in need in our neighborhoods. We no longer send a bus to transport children to church that have no way with parents who work all the time to survive or just don't attend. We are too good to associate with the lower class. Everybody is somebody now and our arrogance will be our undoing. We teach by example. Just a grandmother's view.

  • Tim

    My wife & I have thought about how someday we will have to teach our 4 yr old and 9 month old about God plan for sex in the backdrop of our permissive culture. I can't even imagine what the conversation is going to go like. But I do know that we will lead with our story.

    My wife & I are in our mid thirties & have been together about 10 years. We gave our lives to Christ about 4 years ago, and have since learned about the wrong turns we took in life in regards to sex. As a single man I was never very promiscuous, but I spent a lot of time fascinating about sex & I probably never went more than a day without looking at some type of pornography. My wife was not promiscuous either, but was involved with a boyfriend who was emotionally abusive with sex. Coupled with the fact that she had some history of sexual abuse as a child, she left that relationship with emotional scars.

    When we began dating, we quickly started having sex and soon moved in with each other. Despite our pasts we had a very normal relationship in the eyes of the world. Physically, it seemed like we were a perfect match. The trouble didn't really start til we were married.

    Quickly my wife became less and less interested in sex. As this was going on, I started to use pornography as an outlet for my lust. After a few years we started losing intimacy & fighting often about sex. At some point sex became a chore for my wife, where tension & anxiety made it painful & difficult. But she was able to power though so we could conceive our children. She refused to deal with the bigger issue & I became more resentful. This all came to a head soon after we found God. Without the Spirit I honestly don't if it would have worked out.

    Today we are closer than ever. Our intimacy is incredible and I couldn't ask for a better help meet in a spouse. It's still physically difficult for my wife to have sex, but we have found ways around that. This only came about because we both put our issues on the cross. I no longer use pornography or gratify lust & she no longer tortures herself for her past.

    We have learned that God's best for sex is in the confines of a covenental marriage. Sex is an action for procreation and to strengthen the bond between man & wife...'marriage glue' if you will. Sex in any other confine invites calamity into your life by taking you out of the shadow of God's protection.

    Every person my age I know bears the scars of sex outside of God's will. Whether it be emotional, psychological, or physical, sex has caused so much more pain & hurt than the moment of pleasure it provides. In fact most see these wounds as necessary scars of life. I wholeheartedly disagree.

    I will tell our story to our children. I'll tell them that sex is good & a product of a righteous God. I'll help them understand what sex was designed for & how beautiful it can be. And I will be upfront on how the world views sex, how permissive the culture is, & how misuse invites so much darkness into something so good. I'll encourage them to avoid the hard road in life that scars and show them the light. And if they stray, I'll love them and encourage them to seek healing at the cross.

    Hallelujah, what a savior!

  • Dan Trachl

    The Bible is clear on this. Any sexual act not between husband and wife is an immorality and an adultery against God. Pornography is adultery and prostitution all in one tidy package. The Church (and I mean ALL Churches that preach the word of God) MUST condemn this if they intend to remain true to the Lord our God. The problem we are faced with is that our society has taught us for the last 50 years that marriage is both irrelevant and unnecessary. It is up to us in the Church to SPEAK THE TRUTH.

    The Bible does not condemn sexuality nor does it require chastity - the Bible requires those who would have sexual relations TO MARRY and be fruitful and multiply. Yet there are far too many within the Church who have conformed to the ways of the world which tells our young men and women that they CANNOT MARRY UNTIL THEY HAVE "GONE TO COLLEGE" AND BECOME MONETARILY WEALTHY then they can marry sometime between 25 and 35. With that thought firmly in their minds we send our young men and women to a College that puts them all together in dormitories and tells them to do whatever they like because abortion is legal but marriage is a trap. And we wonder why our society is falling into darkness? Is it any wonder why so many young people fall away from the Church when it is the members of the Church (parents and society figures) who tell them they must be chaste for 10 years before marriage is acceptable?

    If we refocus the goal of our children's lives on marriage and children of their own (being fruitful and multiplying for the glory of God) and take the focus off of the goal of "money and status" then we will have taken the first step in ending the tyranny of immorality.

    1 Cor 7:It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

    Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers."

  • Oswald

    I think one reason more churches don't preach against sexual immorality is that, because of their own moral failure or near-failure, pastors are not convinced that moral purity is possible and may be too much to expect from the young people in our culture today. There are many voices in our culture, some with good-sounding reasons to follow them. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death". Prov 14:12

  • Anon

    My wife of 10 years and I didn't wait to have sex until we were married. It hasn't had any noticeable affect on our relationship with either each other or God whatsoever. Most of my peers report the same thing.

    The problem is age and hormones. Puberty onset is what, 13? 14? Then we're told to suppress all those hormones and base urges for how many years? 2,000 years ago those urges had to be hardly suppressed at all since marriage age was mid-teens. In the 50s we only had to suppress them for 3 or maybe 4 years. Now we're waiting until our mid-20s to get married if not later.

    Getting married before the age of 20 is considered foolishly young even in most christian circles. We're told to "get our lives together" before committing to a relationship. What do you expect? You can't have it both ways. You can't reasonably expect people to fight these urges for decades.

    Furthermore, I just don't see a problem with it. In most cases it doesn't affect the relationship negatively.

    • http://www.breakpoint.org Gina

      You can't reasonably expect people to fight these urges for decades? Many of us have done just that. I'm 37 and celibate. Many of my friends are even older than I am, and celibate.

      Reason is an important part of faith. But it's not the only part. There's also the part where we do what God tells us to do, simply because He tells us to do it.

      • Anon

        Marriage is not, and has never been, a way to protect against the harmful, bad and dangerous potential of sex (just read the Bible if you want a few examples).

        By telling people to just wait until marriage, we are literally pushing an idea that has never worked in all of human history, instead of supporting tried-and-true policies that could mitigate the harm of a sex-obsessed, but pleasure-starved, culture.

  • Joey

    Yup. Huge problem. It's a struggle for pretty much every guy I know, myself included. It brings so much hurt, shame, and it destroys the fabric of my moral conscience to the point that sometimes, though I try to fight, I get to thinking that there's nothing wrong with it. Got therapy going and blocking programmes installed, but I need Jesus to change my heart and thoughts, and for the Holy Spirit to help me fight daily in my struggle with lust and porn.

    • Oswald

      Joey, praying for you; for Jesus to change your heart and the Holy Spirit to help you fight.

  • sda53

    I have been reading the posts and I understand this is the hardest thing to deal with when young. The only thing that helped me was remembering when in the heat of the moment (years ago now) to live my life as if I were being watched ever moment. I was told this when young. It was the only thing that helped with this and thinking before I spoke most of the time. All is easier as we get older. It is not the unforgivable sin and causes many problems. Love is a choice we make each day to stay in love with our partner. I am growing old alone for my husband forgot he was married and started dating and I did not know anything until he was actually planning his next marriage. I think it was harder on the children long term than me. His started with porn which is another problem in our country. We must discipline ourselves to teach our young. Abortion due to wild abandon and for birth control is horrible. Be wiser than the serpent. Doing what is easiest at the time may be the one thing we can never get over. Living a God pleasing life is not easy in the flesh but the reward is more than we can comprehend. God ask us to do our best and love him.

  • Marion

    When I was young a counselor told a bunch of us young evangelicals that the sex act was a creative act and therefore, if we were not married, that we should get creative. Now that I am a widow, after 48 years of marriage, I find that advice very helpful, even as it was so long ago.

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  • William Reed

    My history: Became a Christian in the mid 1970's Married at age 33 in the late 1980's. I NEVER heard anyone say that you should not have sex before you get married. It was not till the early 1990's that I heard this teaching on sexual morality. Did church leaders think that the culture or parents would teach this? Step one is all churches should teach this to the entire congregation, young and old. It is not just a subject for teenagers. Step two is to stop using code words for this teaching. Stop saying "purity". It is meaningless to most people. It needs to be taught and the explained in the most simple language that anyone can understand. Start saying "Sex outside of marriage is against God's law for all people, young and old" Too many Christians do not know or fully understand this concept. We need to teach it and explain it fully.

  • tony

    I think you mean well and what you say may be true, but who cares anymore. You cannot not put sex back in the bottle and the tide has turned from just men wanting it to woman wanting one night stands. I think must people who have not had sex may not be that all around good looking anyway.
    So God made this good thing and then advised us we can only have it one way.. Ok that's not loving to me that is mean, what about people who may never be able to find a partner? I guess you would say no issues God will fill that spot for you. Please" you wonder what more people think this is a joke!

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  • Lisa

    In reality, it is the failure of the Church to ground their sheep in solid biblical theology that has influenced the decay of which you speak. Even a simply "almost" platonic yet romantic kiss violates what God says in His word. And the Church has been participating in that type of immorality for countless decades."Small expressions of big sins are still sin." (Hiestand & Thomas) If there is one book beside the Bible that I would urge Christians to read this year it is this:http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Dating-Relationships-Fresh-Approach/dp/1433527111 Built on the foundation that there are 3 types of relationships:neighbor, family and marriage, this book clarifies the boundaries of each category, and is rooted in Scripture.

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  • http://prushton.wordpress.com Philip Rushton

    I think C.S. Lewis' words add something important to the conversation. He writes:

    "The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."

    I like how he does not dismiss the importance of talking about sexual sin - "of course, it is better to be neither." However, his point suggests that some of the more dangerous "acceptable sins," are the self-righteous pharisaical behaviors of church people. I actually hear the conservative church talking about sex all the time - it is these deeper spiritual sins of self-righteousness that seem to be the real problem. Perhaps that is why Jesus seems to confront the religious insiders more then the prostitutes and sexual sinners in the gospel. We can't dismiss this issue, but we need to broaden the scope of what we call sin. Perhaps if we recovered this type of humility inside the church we would actually get a hearing in our culture about the dangers of sexual sin.

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