The stage was set for the fight of fights. Crowds from both sides gathered around the field of battle and the tension was mounting. On one side, the champion stood tall and intimidating … seemingly indestructible. On the other side stood a boy, not even able to bear a man's armor.
They exchanged words … typical of such battles. Then, in the time it took to throw one stone, the champion lay dead on the ground and the boy stood victorious.
You know the story of David and Goliath. But do you know the story that preceded it? Perhaps not.
This was not the first battle of David's young life. No, he had stood in defense of defenseless creatures at least two times before (1 Samuel 17:34-37). And God used those smaller battles to prepare David for this great one.
In our times and in our culture, there is perhaps no greater battle for our children to fight than the battle for their own purity. Regardless of how old your child is or where your child lives, the battle is real and it is coming.
As parents, we have the awesome task of preparing our children for this battle. It is our responsibility to play an active role in setting our children up for success.
God's call to our children—to us all—is a high call. Practically speaking, it is to remain sexually and morally faithful to one's spouse—or, for our children, one's future spouse. To prepare our children for a lifetime of purity, there are at least three building blocks we should employ. They are all appropriate, regardless of age, and they are all possible to accomplish.
Building Block One: Guard the pathways to their hearts
Proverbs 4:23 tells us, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." While this responsibility will eventually fall on each of your children individually, it falls on you right now. The bride in Song of Solomon reminds us three times, "Do not awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4).
If we are to guard the hearts of our children, we must know the pathways that temptation takes to try and attack the heart. In general, there are three.
We must guard their eyes. One way that temptation enters the heart is through the eyes. The very first attack on the heart, described in Genesis 3:6, came through the eyes: "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes … she took from its fruit and ate." David declared that he "will set no worthless thing before [his] eyes," which means he would not allow himself to look at anything unclean or vile (Psalm 101:3).
Today, in our culture, we must decide what we will place before our children's eyes. Will they watch TV, movies, or play video games? If so, which ones? Will we train them when to close their eyes or look away? We must admit that a television show is more than entertainment … it is heart-shaping. So, too, with movies and video games. We must honestly look at what we have been permitting up to this point and discover the effects these things are having on the hearts of our children.
We have tried, for example, to teach our children that if something inappropriate comes on television, we always have the option of closing our eyes. Our oldest child, Nathan, who was 5 at the time, took us very seriously.
My wife and I were out at a ministry event and her parents were watching our children. Grandpop and his two grandsons were snuggled on the couch watching America's favorite pastime—baseball. During a perfectly wholesome game, a completely inappropriate commercial came on the television. Immediately, and unknown to my father-in-law at the time, Nathan closed his eyes. But, out of the corner of his eye, he was peeking at his grandfather.
When, to his horror, he saw that his grandfather's eyes were not closed, Nathan reached over and covered them with the simple statement, "BaBop … this is not good for your eyes." I pray he always gets it that clearly.
We must guard their ears. It is widely acknowledged that advertisers are targeting children at progressively younger ages. A quick look at the preteen pop industry is evidence of this. Between lyrics and alluring music styles, our preteens are being introduced to seduction at a very early age. Add to this an array of radio programs beckoning for their hearts, and you will quickly identify the ears as a main thoroughfare to the heart.
Over time, our own ears become calloused to what should otherwise convict and offend us. Words of great offense lose their sting because we've heard them over and over and over again. As parents who are entrusted with the hearts of our children, we need to listen with younger ears. We need to hear what our young ones are hearing. We cannot afford to allow into their ears all that enters ours. If there's a battle and the ear is a main battlefront, then we must take up the challenge and fight to guard their hearts.
We must guard their mouths. Simply through osmosis or group dynamics, your children will pick up words and sayings that could shock you out of your skin. I'm not talking about outright cursing; I'm talking about phrases that are far beyond their ability to use intentionally. Like when your 3-year-old responds to your directions with, "Whatever!" Or, when your 2-year-old crosses her arms and snorts like a bull when you tell her to do something. I'll never forget the first and only time that I called my father my "old man."
As guardians of their hearts, we must identify these things as "weeds"… then pull them out. We cannot allow our children to practice sin. Because, as we all know, practice makes perfect. We cannot always stop what comes out of their mouths. But, once it's out, we can curb how often it is repeated or rehearsed.
Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). As we see these weeds growing out of our children's mouths, we are able to get an accurate picture of what is going on in their hearts. How we respond to that will either pull the weed out or drive its roots deeper. Either way, it is the practice of their lips that makes the difference.
Building Block Two: Open and honest communication
Good and honest communication can only take place in an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability. And this, Moms and Dads, takes time and consistency.
Developing this atmosphere means listening to your children when they have something to share with you. It means considering them and their concerns more important than the dishes, the garage, or your own hobbies. It means being available to them on issues and concerns that matter to them.
Healthy communication, just like in marriage, is a two-way street. When I see something troubling the hearts of my children, I do my best to share with them a story about myself when I struggled with the same thing. While this seems a noble pursuit, let me tell you … it is very humbling.
One of my children struggles with impulsive anger. For the longest time, I tried to get him to talk about it and could never get anywhere. By God's grace, one Saturday afternoon in the aftermath of an outburst, I took about 40 minutes and told him what I was like when I was 4. But this was not the humbling part. I then shared with him how, in some ways, Daddy is still like that. I still want my way and I still can get filled with rage when I don't get it. Suddenly, I went from someone who was standing above him to someone who was in this with him.
What does this have to do with purity? This type of communication lays the groundwork for similar conversations when the stakes are higher. You cannot stand above your children for 11 years, and then expect them to be vulnerable with you in their sexual confusion. This is not a switch you can simply turn on when puberty starts. This type of vulnerability flows from a lifestyle of trust and communication. That must occur now.
Building Block Three—Modeling a life and a marriage of purity
It has been said that you cannot lead where you are unwilling to go. In order for Moses to lead the Israelites through the desert, he himself had to be in the desert. He was not permitted to enter the Promised Land, so Joshua needed to take them instead. Likewise, we as parents must be willing to live up to the standard to which we call our children.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees when He saw that they were not living up to the standards they placed on the Jews. In Matthew 23:4, He exposes them with these words: "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger." Carrying the weight of a pure life in the midst of this culture and climate of opposition is a heavy burden. We are right to teach our children how to deal with this type of burden; we are wrong when we fail to bear the same weight with "so much as a finger."
If we are to model a life of purity, we also need to always treat our spouse with love, respect, and honor. While this is not a direct tie to issues of sexual sin, it is a direct tie to the fruit of a pure life. We challenge our children to wait until they are married and to share sexual intimacy with their spouse alone. When they look at us, they need to see something worth waiting for. If all we do is fight, complain, backtalk, and backbite, we are displaying a poor prize at the end of the path. As we live faithfully and purely toward each other, we bring God great glory and provide our children with great hope.
The foundation must be sure
In the parable of the wise and foolish men (Matthew 7:24-27), one built his house on the sand, and the other built his house on the rock. They endured the same trials and storms, but only one house stood. Why? It all came down to the foundation.
Parents, we have a God-ordained opportunity to lay a rock-solid foundation for our children. The key is getting started before the storm hits. Waiting for adolescence is too long. Today, get started laying a solid foundation and pray … your children need it and they are well worth it.
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.
1. With your spouse, read “How do I teach my children about sex so that they will stay pure until they are married?” Discuss this article together. Prayerfully decide how you should develop and implement a sex education plan for your family.
2. Is it time for you to explain the facts of life to your child? Read “Laying a Foundation for a Child’s Purity.”
3. Understand why parents need to help their children navigate the sexually-charged adolescent years. Read the article “Hooked: The Bonding Power of Sex” and listen to authors Dr. Joe McIlhaney and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush explain the link between sex and attachment.