Read Part 1 of Harrison’s article, “The Philosophy of Sex”, here.
Too often we believe that pleasure is not on the menu for Christians, or if it is, it’s like you’re swearing and getting away with something. The truth is, scripture holds pleasure in high regard, even to the point of hedonism, and only condemns the perversion of our pleasure.
Romans 1 says it well: we suppress the truth because of our desire for pleasure (v. 18). Often kids know what’s true or what they should do, but they (and we) easily lose grip on those convictions because culture tells us we should love pleasure the most. Look no further than Las Vegas and every spin-off movie that portrays that kind of life-style: pleasure is the holy grail. Romans 1:25 says that we tend to worship the created creature rather than the Creator. Sex becomes what we worship – something every boy draws in his school notebook and finds on the internet, and I can’t speak from the girls’ perspective, but I assume it’s on their minds too.
Did you know God says we should love pleasure the most too? I love that the Bible fights fire with fire. The idea of Christian Hedonism is that God is out for our ultimate pleasure, just like the world is. But he says “my pleasure is better than the world because it’s more than pleasure, it’s joy.” We have the opportunity to ask students: what’s the difference between instant gratification (short pleasure) and lasting happiness (joy)? Which would you prefer? How have you experienced the two? We also can fit in bits of testimony: we all have bad habits that give us quick pleasure, but they come at a cost. Mention the ways God has been good to you in giving you joy, helping you to leave emptiness and find meaning and those amazing days when you know you’re not wasting your life.
Side note: I’m not saying that seeking pleasure is our ultimate good, but seeking the ultimate good – God’s will – leads to more pleasure. Some people are inclined to believe that Christians are supposed to seek God’s will as a sacrifice, which means we never pursue our own pleasure because that’s selfish and isn’t what a missionary would do. No wonder people can be bored with the church or never want to step foot inside. But that’s an incorrect interpretation of Rom 12. It’s not a living sacrifice that leads us to obligation, duty, and rainy days, but a giving up of cheap pleasure (sitting in the mud of sin) for the ultimate pleasure of having purpose (a holiday at the sea – see C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory
For the married youth ministers among us, it’s another great idea to use our own marriages as a platform. I hope that we have the kinds of marriages where we don’t make the spouse out to be the god or goddess, but that they are an arrow that points to the true God worthy of worship. And that the love we need and grew up pining for as teenagers is the love of God – it’s the same love that we experience and find in our partner. It’s all wrapped up together. Which is why the last thing I will recommend is that you should have a Valentine’s day party in your youth group and just pass out “God is love” hearts instead.
At the end of the day, we all want relationships because we all need love. Youth leaders have an amazing opportunity to show kids that God is the source of that love, and technically, he is all we ever need because he brings the relationships and joy to us. Kids can so easily find their identity in being able to attract the opposite sex or in making people laugh before they even know what “identity” means. Getting them to realize they have an idol like that is a tall order – in fact it’s impossible if God is not speaking to them. So as youth leaders, we can’t forget to be praying that God would speak to the kids. We can’t do this ourselves.