Reprinted with permission from Breakpoint, Oct. 11, 2000.

Here's an English Literature quiz. And you might giveit to a teenager you know.

Who wrote these lines? A man and a woman in "naked majesty" were "imparadised in one another's arms," lying "side by side" in the "rites mysterious of connubial love," about which "hypocrites austerely talk," as if such acts were somehow "impure." Having made love, the couple falls asleep "embracing"--"and on their naked limbs the flowery roof showered roses."

OK, who's the author? D.H. Lawrence? Henry Miller?Or how about a devout Christian from 17th-centuryEngland?

The correct answer, of course, is the Christian: thePuritan John Milton. He was writing about Adam andEve, in the classic "Paradise Lost." Your teenager probably wouldn't believe that answer, but then mostadults wouldn't believe it either. And therein lies aproblem.

I want to tell you about a new book that I thinkhelps solve the problem, but let me describe theproblem first. C.S. Lewis wrote that Satan would likeus to either have an unhealthy obsession with him--or ignore him altogether.

Well, we can say the same thing about humansexuality. John Milton knew that sex was God's idea.God created sex for a reason. Satan knows that too.But Satan wants human beings to miss the real purposeof sex. He wants us either to be obsessed with sex,or to pretend it doesn't exist. Either error serveshis destructive ends well.

Now, if anyone wonders about sex all the time, it'steenagers. Confronted with their changing bodies,adolescents can veer destructively from one extremeto another, either obsessing about sex or tryingdesperately to pretend it doesn't exist.

A new book,"Sex and Character," by the insightful writers MaureenDuran and Deborah Cole, helps to stop the destructiveswing of that pendulum. As Christians, Duran and Coleknow, just as Milton did, that one of the mostfundamental and powerful aspects of our being--sexuality--was designed for a purpose. Sex is good because God made it.

But, as Christians involved in teaching aboutsexuality, Duran and Cole also know that human beingsare fallen creatures. The gloriously pleasurable andrenewing experience that our sexuality should havebeen has been corrupted by sin. With frankness andhonesty, Duran and Cole's book "Sex and Character"teaches teenagers about the painful realities ofsexually transmitted disease, acquaintance rape, pornography, unwanted pregnancy, and the downside ofsex before marriage.

As the book's title, "Sex and Character," indicates,Duran and Cole argue that the ability to govern one'ssexual behavior in a fallen world begins with astrong moral character.

How do kids resist sexualtemptation? Not by pretending their desires don'texist, or that their sexuality is bad and somethingto be denigrated. Rather, teenagers need to learnthat the moral traits they most value in others--like compassion, respect, honesty, courage--providethe basis, on a biblical foundation, for a healthyview of sex.

"What God declares pure," wrote Milton nearly 400years ago, is marriage, because marriage is God'sdesign. And the book "Sex and Character" helpsadolescents to understand that design.

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