Christ-Centered Sex Talks
Over the years, I’ve talked with children who said they had the “sex talk.” Some have spoken of it as like a pep talk while others have told me what they think with a distasteful tone of disapproval. They say, “I know I should be more careful. But everyone in my school is doing it. So what?” “Why make it a big deal if you can always use protection?” “What’s wrong with me loving someone deeply enough to have sex?”
Though we might struggle to admit it, such forward-moving questions are loaded with power. The child’s inner confidence echoes a bravado that claims a greater knowledge than the wisdom that you—parent, teacher, or leader—yearn to provide.
In a world of TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, our voices are dim. The destabilizing winds of our culture push and pull us and our children; we feel overwhelmed, without much to hold on to. Tired of arguments and restless with debates, we sigh—we love our children and care for their future that seems, at times, so uncertain. To a degree, we’ve all been defiant to our parents, teachers, and leaders. I remember standing as such a son to my parents when I would sarcastically tell them to “go to sleep” or “talk to the walls.” I believed they had nothing to offer my selfish self.
Furthermore, our society continues to march toward an increasingly relativistic moral structure, in which making absolute judgments on topics like sex is off-limits. We live in a world that’s more affirming than discerning, defiant instead of obedient, and hungry for self-praise rather than ready for self-sacrifice.
Nevertheless, as believers, we’re called to proclaim the gospel, fighting boldly against Christ-opposing lies. For Christ Jesus is the source of all truth. In him, we can live in this world without fear and model a Christ-centered life before our children.
Just as raising a child requires continuous engagement in their lives, how we talk to them does, too. Rather than a one-and-done sex talk (which often has peculiar and questionable timing), we need an ongoing dialogue with our children that stems from our humble allegiance to our Father in heaven whereby we decrease, and he increases (John 3:30). A Christ-increasing relationship has his love as the core, giving meaning and direction to how we nurture our children. By God’s grace, may they realize—even by the tone of our voice—the importance of listening to us as they see Jesus through our lives.
Yes, a Christ-increasing life is vital. We don’t emphasize this enough! We become preoccupied with the means to an end and forget to acknowledge what truly matters in the care of our children: Jesus Christ. We should consider our relationship with Jesus and pay close attention to how we live as believers before considering how to engage in ongoing sex talks with our children. Are we wholly dependent on the gospel for such talks? Our children will be the first to see the work of the cross manifest in our lives—or not. Whether as parents, teachers, or leaders responsible for them, our life is an inevitable witness. Our time will pass away, but their memories of us and, most importantly, our standing before the Lord, will remain. Just as we were once the ones looking up to the adults in our lives, so will they do the same.
Therefore, how can those of us entrusted with their care prepare for ongoing sex talks in the context of a continuous relationship that fosters life in Christ? We must decrease, and decrease, and decrease—and Christ must increase, and increase, and increase evermore in our lives (John 3:30).
Some of us grew up in a home where the topic of sex was not common. Whether considered “taboo” or ignored altogether, sex was not discussed or brought into the light. Some of us hoped this uncharted territory would be addressed by our educational system, counseling sessions, and youth pastors. But the hesitation driving a parent, leader, or teacher to avoid an awkward conversation with their child comes from uncertainty. They acknowledge the subject’s importance but resist the impending discomfort of discord or friction.
Nevertheless, beloved brothers and sisters, we must stand as those who rely on the Spirit of God. We need to come to our children from the context of serving the Lord with all humility, tears, and trials (Acts 20:19a). As those shaped by that reality, we testify about Christ and thus speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15a). Although sex talks won’t always be pleasant or timely, the goal is to point to Christ at each turn our children make in life.
Hear Paul D. Tripp on speaking the truth in love:
“Effective biblical confrontation often begins before we speak. How we live with one another from day to day sets the stage for the way our words will be received. There is no separation between our daily lives and God’s redemptive work. We don’t advance our own wills in ‘normal’ situations and self-consciously serve the Lord in ‘ministry.’ This divided world is a fabrication of the Enemy. ¹
This foundation of speaking the truth in love is about how we live beholding God’s redemptive work in our lives. That should be the driving narrative of the sex talks themselves (which often seem confrontational to the one who listens), helping us engage our children without fear.
Yes, if we are to faithfully prepare our children to talk with and hopefully listen to us, Christ’s redeeming work must shine in our lives. Take the initiative to speak lovingly about Christ’s redeeming work and how he ordained the world to be.
Remember, this is good news for us, sinners! What better picture of life in Christ is there than parents walking in daily repentance and faith? If you feel defeated sexually, burdened by guilt, and hypocritical—if you think this conversation cannot even begin because you feel unworthy, dear brother and dear sister, you are not alone. Know that the realization of that is a gift of God’s Spirit, making your sin visible like scarlet. And know that the power of God to forgive promises your sins are made white as snow through the perfect, redeeming work of Jesus Christ (Isa. 1:18). Your faith in his promises and walking in his light will guide you, even through your broken words, as you speak with your children about the forgiveness you have sought and received.
The problem is when there’s a discrepancy between our confessional and functional theology—what we say and what we do. We cannot expect children to listen or join a faith-driven, spiritual conversation when we don’t live as those who are redeemed. We must face the call to “only let [our] manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27) and strive to accomplish such a call as believers who daily behold and rest in the redeeming hope of the gospel: Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23a).
Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, we are to be imitators of God, walking in love just as Christ loved and gave himself up for us (Eph. 5:1). As we look to Jesus, we are to consistently commend him, so our dialogue displays the gospel and speaks the truth in love. If we’re going to have sex talks with our children in a Christ-increasing, Christ-redeeming, Christ-honoring way, we need to be like Christ. We need to stand as those who bear the cross and love their own to the very end, just as Jesus did (John 13:1). Without such a foundation, there can be no Christ-like relationship with our children.
Praise God, this rests not in our own strength, maturity, or ability. Jesus is the one who lived and loved perfectly, always centered on and obedient to the Father—and his perfection covers us. As you talk about sex within the context of a Christ-centered relationship, rest in Christ’s perfection. Jesus says, “you therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) and just as “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (James 2:23), believe in Jesus! He is the One who is for you and with you, especially as you speak to your child.
The hope is that our children will perceive these sex talks not as a “one-and-done,” circumstantial matter, but as gospel truths spoken in a love organically connected and matured as we, by the Spirit of God, live as those who adore Jesus Christ.
¹Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 2002), 221.