I have been brewing on the sexual abstinence rally at our local high school. I do not wish to take away from what was a needed and well-presented challenge, so I will not address the rally in particular.
My thinking relates more to our long-term strategy for challenging teens, particularly those who follow Christ, to remain sexually pure. The standard reason we are given from well-meaning evangelicals for remaining pure is that we are valuable. The biblical teaching is that we should remain pure because he is valuable. There is a radical difference between the two.
Christian teenagers need to hear that the very reason for their existence is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. You cannot adopt that worldview if your greatest pleasure in God is that he makes much of you. He created us to find pleasure in making much of him. Is it possible that we have youth-grouped a generation of children into theological ignorance?
It is a man-centered theology which says that Jesus came and died because we are so special. This is error. Jesus came to please his Father and to rescue people who had no worth apart from him. You do not have to learn to love yourself in order to love others. The Bible says we very naturally love ourselves.
Our selfish generation must come to terms with the truth that we must be holy --different, entirely "other"-- not because we are valuable but because our Savior is valuable. We are called to be holy because he is holy. We are called to be holy because he is our greatest treasure. When he is not that treasure, young people are in bed in their hearts long before they violate their abstinence pledges.
How does this look in shoe leather for ministry to teens? For the promiscuous girl coming to our Crisis Pregnancy Center for a pregnancy test it means that her counselor points her to a Savior who is all about his own glory rather than about filling her emptiness. The picture to be painted is not of a pale, anemic Jesus waiting outside the door of her heart to be let in along with all her other gods (Revelation 3:20 is about a group of believers, not a sinner’s heart). The accurate picture is of a condemned sinner on the outside of the only ark of safety with a flood on the way. Sinners who repent do so because they recognize the worth of Jesus and their own corruption, not a Jesus who came to bring people personal fulfillment.
Can that message be delivered in the context of love? It has to be. For the abstinence instructor, giving the earthly “acceptable in public school” reasons for abstinence (avoiding STD’s, unwed pregnancies and disrespect) is helpful for public health. It is a good start at neighbor loving. Let’s do that, but not stop there. A God-centered theology demands that we present a Jesus who is glorified by those who give up the lusting that leads to fornication and the anger that leads to murder. We do our community a favor by promoting outward abstinence. We do our community an eternal favor by promoting a Savior who enables inward transformation.