Many of us have seen the medieval contraptions called chastity belts. And frankly from the looks of them, why would we want to teach our children anything about chastity? It looks painful and out dated, even torturous. But the Scriptures have much to say about chastity. Take for instance, 1Thessalonians 4:3-4,
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.”
Chastity is the act of learning to control our bodies and sexual urges so that they are used in appropriate ways. First and foremost this involves teaching our children about the beauty of sex when exercised in a marriage between a husband and a wife. The scriptures are clear that one man and one woman are to be united in a covenant relationship that is consummated in a sexual union of the two.
and [Jesus] said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:5-6
But chastity is more than that. Chastity involves teaching our children how to guard their hearts and minds so that they aren’t given over casually to those who won’t cherish them. Chastity desires for our children to use and clothe their bodies in ways that honor God and refrain from treating them as sexual objects. Our bodies are meant for holiness not for sexual stimulation or for drawing attention to ourselves. (This is not to say that sex is bad, quite the opposite. It is wonderfully enjoyable and a good gift when shared in a committed marriage relationship.) Our beauty should be that of Christ Jesus and good works, not outward adornment and provocative fashion.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1Peter 3:3-4
So how do we instill this spiritual formation topic in our children? In the same way that we instill all the rest: By prayer, modeling, good reflection upon the choices we are making, and some socratic teaching in order to help our children understand why we do what we do.
Begin by praying for a heart to understand chastity and a desire to see it in your life. Then look in the closet and reflect on the fashions present. Are they fashions that display your sexuality, that invite stares or looks? Are they fashions which you secretly hope will catch other’s attention? How about the fashions in your children’s closets- what are they communicating about the body? What messages are the television, movie and music programs that are in your home sending? Are these messages consistent with chastity or antagonistic to it? Do your children understand why fashion is so powerful?
After these things, begin asking the next round of questions. What does dating say about chastity? Are the dating expectations – kissing, hugging, cuddling, etc – things that enhance or tear down the holy use of our body? Have frank discussions with your kids about these kinds of topics. Lead them in finding answers that are consistent with God’s Word.
As parents engage in these kinds of reflections and discussions, God will guide them and teach them about the joy of the chaste life.
Some great resources for understanding chastity and its opposite, lust can be found in:
- The Heidelberg Catechism’s question 108 and 109 and Ursinus’ commentary on these questions.
- Thabiti Anyabwile has an excellent article entitled Lust and Chastity
- Here’s a good article by the Catholic church on Chastity
- Here are some Scriptures on Chastity