"I’m a Christian, but I don’t understand why the church creates so many rules for sex," 17-year-old Alex says. "Where in the Bible does it say it’s off-limits for singles? And what if I don’t ever want to get married? Does this mean I’ll have to remain celibate?"

Katlyn, 16, echoes Alex’s questions and adds, "I’ve seen so many marriages fall apart; I don’t want that kind of pain."

Compromising values and mistrusting marriage

When it comes to matters of the heart, too many churched teens are compromising Biblical values and caving in to popular culture. They mistrust the institution of marriage, are confused about sex and relationships, have loose dating morals and rely on emotions instead of Biblical guidelines.

Immersing their hearts in scriptural truth and setting godly standards for love, sex and marriage are some of the most important steps Christian teens will ever take. Does your child’s view of relationships come from God or from the world?

What you need to convey to your teen

Here are three crucial messages parents must communicate:

1. "Respect the opposite sex."

During the teen years, your children are learning how to relate to the opposite sex, and they’re defining what qualities are important in a future spouse. Most likely, they’ll someday put it all together and find a person whom they’ll love as their marriage partner. An important key to unlocking this dream is found in mutual respect. Now is the time for them to practice how to respect others – and be respected.

2. "View holy matrimony as a sacred lifetime promise that men and women make before God."

Model this through your own marriage. Teach your teen that the marriage covenant cannot be viewed as simply a legal arrangement – one that can be amended (or ended) at a later date.

Explain that, too often, "as long as we both shall live" is replaced with "as long as we both shall love." Yet viewing marriage as a mere contractual agreement results in misery for everyone involved – friends, family and especially children.

3. "Know the secret to lifelong love."

In the Bible, the word love often refers to action – something we do rather than something we feel. John 3:16 is a good example. In other places throughout Scripture, love is defined as selfless giving to others or as demonstrating kindness, patience, humility and commitment in relationships.

Help your teen understand that the kind of love we share with a marriage partner goes beyond emotions. This love involves commitment. It means putting the needs of another above your own: "It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:5-6).

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used with permission.

Michael Ross

Michael Ross, a former youth pastor, was a popular youth speaker and editor of Breakaway magazine, a publication for teen guys by Focus on the Family, at the time of publication.

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