Helping Our Teens Navigate the "Love is Love" Culture
There are a couple of things I need to say from the start. The first is an issue I discuss in THIS BLOG about being sexually abused as a child and a pre-teen. The second thing is that I am not an expert in the field of psychology, psychotherapy, neurology, or the like. What I am able to do is to share in light of my experiences and according to what is shared to us through the scriptures.
I will conclude by saying, most importantly, that we are called to LOVE one another. Love does not mean whole-hearted agreement, acceptance of, or adherence to a set of morals, values, or principles held by others that are in opposition to your own. That being said, we are called to love our neighbor as we love ourself. This means that we act in love, whether we agree or not and our following Christ and choosing standards that are founded in God's Word should NEVER lead us to the conclusion of hatred, animosity, or arrogance. If you have arrived at one or all of those positions, you have forgotten the point of Jesus mission to come to this earth and to walk among us. Jesus never acted in nor promoted any of those ideas.
From "Ghosts from a Shameful Past" I explain part of my story:
When I was just 5 years old (pictured left) I was sexually exploited by the husband of a babysitter and her son. I think about what 5 year olds did back then, play with cars in the dirt, play cops and robbers, and dance like nobody's watching. 5 year old little boys shouldn't be introduced to pornography, they shouldn't be touched in their bathing suit areas, and most of all they shouldn't be made to feel like it's their fault. Yet, these things and much more DID happen.
Later on another pre-teen in our neighborhood, just two years older would sexually exploit my confusion and would leave even more guilt and scars for me to deal with.
I was about 9 years old. An age when sleepovers shouldn't mean you cower in fear hoping that the boy who has, invited himself over again, would make his presence known in the middle of the night. They are terrible, but these are just memories. Incapable of hurting me now. I get to choose how I deal with them when they rear their ugly head or whispers their vicious lies that I am beyond God's help or incapable of loving anyone else in a healthy way. In an effort to prove my healthy sexuality I would pursue unhealthy physical relationships with the opposite sex just to "prove myself." See? I'm not gay, but the reality was, I wasn't healthy. Shame is a dangerous tool of the enemy and cause us to not only hide our past, but overreact to it.
I am not the only to go through this kind of experience. Statistically a few of the people reading this right now have gone through some similar type of sexual, mental, or physical abuse as well. I bring this up, only to highlight that "feelings" are complicated enough without abuse, but when you add any type of abuse they can escalate and even cause. a higher degree of confusion when forming your identity as a teen. I am not talking about male and female, your sex, I am talking specifically about the way that you will view your sexuality (For a better understanding about gender check out the article below. 1) and who you are attracted to.
Love. Is it a feeling or choice?
The first hurdle that needs to be cleared is potentially the argument whether "love is a feeling or a choice".
There is no shortage of people who accept that love as a feeling and think nothing more of it. They can feel it in their hearts, and they know when they know. Love isn’t complicated; it’s simple. As Disney reminds us, "Just follow your heart." Counting on the feeling of love to carry the relationship is like relying on your passion to keep you faithful in a relationship even when things are difficult. It's been 25 years for Kristin and I, I can assure you that it's not enough to just feel something.
Viewing love as a feeling also keeps people stuck in toxic relationships. They trust their feelings over their situation and circumstance and stay in damaging relationships because of their intense feelings of love.
The internet is full of articles praising the idea that love is a choice. Love is a decision you choose daily to show your partner you love them. It’s not about having a feeling it’s about recognizing you love your partner regardless of how you feel and showing your partner that you love them.
What CULTURE Emphasizes
The most common sexual ethic of our day is that of "I feel therefore I am" or that of "You can’t choose whom you love; just be true to yourself.” Or, “Stop hiding your feelings and embrace who you really are.” These statements serve to promulgate the public opinions that your sexual desires are what actually define you. Your desires determine your definition and your sexual attraction determine who you are at your core.
The Bible, however, does not teach, “I feel, therefore I am,” but rather, “I feel, therefore I need.”
In short, being human in a fallen world means being attracted to things that are contrary to human flourishing in God, things that oppose God’s good plan for us.
In the summer of 1967, the song “All You Need Is Love” was released by the Beatles' and quickly became one of their biggest hits. But for many people, it’s not just a great song — it’s a philosophy. Think about the amount of Pinterest Boards that are adorned with the letters and logos of this famous phrase and ideology.
We base a lot of ideology, politics, and personal ethics on the assumption that a given course of action is loving. We use hashtags like #LoveIsLove and #LoveWins as though they settle the matter and we all know what we’re talking about. Love is not as straightforward as we tend to think. What we think about Love should be grounded and rooted in the Biblical foundation of Truth that we get from the Bible. The New Testament declares in 1 John 4:8 that "God is Love" not the pejorative: Love is love.
Love outside the person and work of God can end up being very selfish and grounded in the perception that this other person can meet my needs. Check out this video from Rabbi Abraham Twerski about "Fish love." He explains that the other person becomes the vehicle for my gratification and desires and THIS is not love because love should be based not on what I am going to get but on what I am going to GIVE. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16 NIV).
So What Is the Foundation of What is Truth?
Love should never lead us to living in ways that are contrary to God's Word. Period. His Word is the foundation of what we believe, His Truth revealed to us through His love letter, the Holy Bible. However, in order to confront these Truths, the first thing that will be argued is the infallibility of scripture. It must first be attacked, disparaged, belittled as archaic, contradictory, and not relevant to today's culture. Something that was good for people "back then" but not now. We are, they would argue, more sophisticated and capable of deeper thoughts and experiences that are too complicated for the scriptures to explain. That is why, rather than being looked up to as people with standards and morals, Christians are now viewed as backward, archaic, and slapped with labels like "intolerant." The answer is to do our homework about the Bible and its' reliability.2 According to a Gallup 2017 poll, only 24% of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God. If Satan can get our kids to believe that God's Word is no longer relevant then he can get them to dismiss the values and morals promoted in its' pages and it's standards for godly living can be ignored as well, trading truth for "what I feel is right." It's why the startup company Alabaster decided to design what they felt was a more modern and visually interesting version of the Bible and marketed it towards users of Instagram all in an effort to entice Millenials into religion.
What DOES the Bible Say
For Paul, gay and lesbian sexual acts are “contrary to nature” — literally “against nature.” At its heart, sex misuse is the toxic runoff of idolatry, but the manifest wrongness of the act is in leading its actors to use gender for anti-natural sex acts. Such abuse of creation is nothing short of rebellion against the Creator.
Women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26–27
This natural "design" proves to be a firm baseline for objective Christian morality. For Paul, the strength of the Christian view of sexual expression is its physical, not emotional, patterns of the physical creation. "You cannot argue against the ability of a man and a woman to be able to create a baby. Gay and lesbian sexual acts are “contrary to nature” — literally “against nature” in that they are unable to in themselves, create life. At its heart, sex misuse is the toxic runoff of idolatry, but the manifest wrongness of the act is in leading its actors to use gender for anti-natural sex acts. Such abuse of creation is nothing short of rebellion against the Creator." says author Tony Reinke.
For Paul, he clearly orders all human sexuality and gender expression by the possibilities of procreation. Gay and lesbian sex acts break the natural pattern. Thus, they work against nature. In fact according to studies, this focus on the sexualized nature of these relationships may be one of the contributing factors as to why same sex marriages face greater rates of "cheating" according to LGBTI news.
God could have designed for the act of sex in countless other ways, but he chose only ONE way: for two physically matured humans of complementing genders, each with unique DNA, forming a new family unity, and beget a child of the same human likeness — who will, upon conception, be given his or her own unique DNA and one of two genders, while still carrying the characteristics and likenesses of both parents.
This couple following in the pattern of millions who have gone before creates a family unit. Marriage calls men and women to move away from seeking out selfishly motivated casual sex into the selfless maturity as sexual beings living in God's natural pattern of life. Furthermore, this helps us understand why some groups seek to "dismantle the nuclear family". In order to continue this global design, the family unit holds together through sexuality. “A married couple does not know each other in isolated moments or one-night stands,” writes ethicist Oliver O’Donovan. “Their moments of sexual union are points of focus for a physical relationship which must properly be predicated of the whole extent of their life together.” This healthy view of sexuality strengthens a monogamous bond and deepens the devotion of that couple as they welcome each child into the family. This healthy sexuality is a means of procreation as it also establishes the covenant of unity for the couple. This is the beautiful design and purpose of the Creator.
“What marriage can do, which other relationships cannot do, is to disclose the goodness of biological nature by elevating it to its teleological fulfillment in personal relationships,” writes O’Donovan. “Other relationships, however important in themselves and however rich in intimacy and fidelity, do not disclose the meaning of biological nature in this way. They float, as it were, like oil upon water, suspended upon bodily existence rather than growing out of it.”
What this all means is that a child is a fulfillment of sexual expression, not a disruptive intruder. When a marriage creates and delivers a child, this pattern of human sexuality shows its natural order, and from that order all other sexual ethics flow.
In our current cultural context, we recognize that a marriage between a man and a woman both honors and celebrates God's design for nature. Procreation is pro-creation as it advances and flourishes our human sexual practices, helping us to realize what is natural and what is unnatural.
What God shows us will always be more loving than any alternative we might come up with. Obedience to him will never mean we end up loving people less. We might feel like that in some cases, but that is probably because we are wanting to love someone in the wrong kind of way, and God isn’t so much calling us to love them less than he is calling us to love them differently, which will really mean loving them better.
We can only say “All you need is love” when it is the love of God, shown in Christ, that we are talking about. Love is love may justify counterfeit love. God is love leads us into something far better.
Here is a link to what Biblical sexuality should look like in the church: https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement
Download it here: https://cbmw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Nashville-Statement-with-Scripture-Ref-1.pdf
Articles of Interest
1. Sex, Gender, Sexual Identity
2. Is the Bible the Infallible Word of God?
What Biblical Sexuality Looks Like: https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement
--- Homophobia Has No Place in the Church: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/homophobia-has-no-place-in-the-church
--- Human Sexuality: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/precious-clarity-on-human-sexuality
--- Is Anyone Born Gay? https://www.desiringgod.org/topics/homosexuality/articles
--- When Friends Become MORE Than : https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-new-kind-of-couple
--- Full List of Related Materials: https://www.desiringgod.org/search/results?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=gay+love+#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=gay%20love%20&gsc.page=1