For the past four weeks now we have been going through a study called “Dating by the Book”. It is not your typical TLW material in that, its focus is not on remaining a virgin until marriage but rather building your relationships in Christ as the foundation, so that you can keep His commandments rather than just telling kids to not have sex. For the past few weeks we have been looking at what dating really is and what our motivations for dating are. I polled several people from years gone by and found out that the motivations for dating have not really changed much in 40 years. Motivations included: happiness, loneliness, and sex. Does this shock you? I wish I could say it does me. Read what Dr. Anthony Bradley says about abstinence pledges:
Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked in too many churches and in too many college ministries all over America to know that an adolescent abstinence pledge, outside of a passionate pursuit of the Triune God, is about as trustworthy in the long-run as pledges to call home every Sunday, to drive under the speed limit, to never abuse alcohol, to never lie, and so on.
It may be the case that the best way to settle the confusion over the effectiveness of abstinence pledges is to admit that they are well-intentioned but do not produce the intended long-term results and should be terminated.
If five years after their pledges, those who pledge and those who do not are no different in their rates of premarital sex, sexually transmitted infections, or participating in certain sexual acts, then what’s the point of these programs? Why do churches use them? Outside of a commitment to Christ (John 14:15-31) these programs can be reduced to nothing more than rhetorical exercises.
Perhaps this why Jesus recommends that men and women seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). What if teens were encouraged to devote their lives to the Kingdom in all areas of life, including their sexuality? Jesus-loving baptized teens, living out the implications of frequent partaking of the Lord’s Supper, carried by the Holy Spirit, is the 2,000-year-old practice that never needed an extra-biblical religious ceremony.
Does true love really wait? I believe if the foundation for true love is rooted in Christ, it does. Does this mean those who have not abstained don’t love Christ? Not completely. It means that they have allowed something else to fill the void where Christ belongs. And before I get all the hate mail let me also say this applies to other areas in our living not just in premarital sex!
On the idea of abstinence pledges and ceremonious ring services, in which I have put my youth group under previously, these “ordinances” only seem to make the parents and youth pastor feel better about the great job they’re doing! Nowadays, I personally would rather see a youth’s relationship with Christ become firmly rooted in Him, and once that happens, there is no need to worry so much about the other things. I was once given a great piece of advice in regards to teaching youth and addressing their behavior: “Work on heart change and the Lord will handle their behavior. “ I have seen the results of teaching to change behavior, and teaching to change the heart, and the latter wins every time.
If you have a youth going through our study, please know that we are teaching God’s commands regarding their body, but it is not our focus. The focus is turning their hearts toward Him so that they want to keep their commitment to Him.