Having teenagers has taught me more than a few lessons. For one, it’s been extremely humbling. I’m not perfect, and my kids aren’t perfect. Between my four teenage boys, we’ve seen a lot of things go down. Another lesson is how they are growing up in a completely different world than the one I grew up in. When I was their age, we didn’t have cell phones. We had to make a plan at school, show up at the determined time, and hope the plans hadn’t changed. My kids are on their phones every minute of every day. Their plans change on a dime and they’re in constant communication with their friends. They most likely have unfiltered access to the Internet and to pornography. They are bombarded with messages from our culture about sexuality – messages that are very different from the one we’re teaching them.

Last week I wrote about God’s design for sexuality and marriage which He laid out for us in the Bible. I believe in this design and think it’s important for parents to teach it to our kids. Knowing God’s design is the first step. Next, it’s crucial to understand the culture and context in which our kids are growing up and how that affects their views on these issues. Here are a few things parents should understand about our kids’ culture:

The culture is extremely ambiguous.

Our kids are very sensitive to the fact that people they know and love are gay or having sex outside of marriage. They don’t like to hear that these loved ones are living in sin. Let’s face it, our own children may be struggling with sexual sins and they don’t want to feel condemned. This is all a result of our culture’s moral ambiguity. No one wants to hear that what he or she is doing is wrong. We all want wiggle room. I realized this when I preached what I thought was a very clear, sensitive, and compassionate message on homosexuality in our church. I knew that in a body as diverse as ours, this would be personal to a lot of people. To my surprise, the reaction of the teenagers in our church was, “Our pastor is a bigot!” I thought in a conservative church like ours, they would be on board with the message and what the Bible teaches. But today’s culture is so morally ambiguous that right and wrong is not clear to them.

The culture provides unprecedented access.

Modern technology gives our kids access to porn and sex information not so readily available in our day. It also gives them access to points of view that are at variance with what the Bible teaches. They can Google “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” and come up with all of the very best arguments of theologians and preachers who say that the homosexual lifestyle and Christianity are compatible. With a few keystrokes, they can find recognizable – and in their minds, credible – preachers and theologians who will agree with the point of view that they may already willingly embrace.

The culture promotes radical autonomy.

One culture tells our kids that their choices only affect them, not anyone else. The truth is that our choices ALWAYS have an effect on those around us. Sin splatters. The sins of the father splatter to the third and fourth generation. So do the sins of the mother. So do the sins of the children. They just splatter. In my own family, when one of our kids sin and get into a mess it affects our entire family. It affects our marriage, our other kids, and our whole family dynamic. There are no decisions that only affect us as individuals.

Our kids are immersed in a culture that promotes radical autonomy, provides access to pornography and questionable theology, and is extremely morally ambiguous. This is why we need to be prepared to talk to them about marriage and sexuality. As parents, we can’t ignore the subject in our homes and allow culture to teach our kids. We need to tell them God’s design for marriage and sexuality through an ongoing conversation that is clear and honest. More about that next week!