A thought began to unfold in my mind while I was in prayer one day. A troubling thought that has caused me many tears over the last few weeks. First, some background: I am currently in southeast Asia, speaking to parents, teens, and young people about issues of purity and sexuality. To say I talk about sex a lot is an understatement. I have spent a decent amount of time in southeast Asia and have gotten a glimpse of the different lifestyles, religious practices, and mindsets prevalent in this region. Perhaps it is the nature of the ministry work I am involved in, but one thing in particular sticks out to me about this region: there is a lot of sexual abuse. Some people are even sold into slavery and abused to death. It happens more than anyone likes to admit or fully grapple with. I know this is not news to anyone.
And I know it is not just this region that struggles with this problem. More and more, the books I read on the subject of purity coming from the States include pieces about sexual abuse – how to overcome the shame of it, what to do if it is currently going on, etc. Obviously this a problem that is increasing and people are looking for answers to prevent it and overcome the damage it inflicts. Let’s just say it’s a big deal. Because it is. I hope you don’t know the pain of sexual abuse, but I know that if you are living and breathing in our day and age, if you yourself have not been sexually abused, you know someone who has. This is a reality of our time.
So back to my prayer time the other day. The thought that came was something along these lines (it kind of formulated into a more coherent thought as the day progressed and more insight came in waves): There are so many people in the world who do not have a choice about when, how, and with whom they will experience sex. Their choice has been taken from them. And they were robbed of an experience that, by God’s good and perfect design, is supposed to be beautiful and consensual and pure. (Yes, if that last word threw you, I said pure. Sex is supposed to be pure and holy and good.) What an abused person wouldn’t give to have that choice back
Alternatively, you have those who seem to despise the gift God has given us in sexuality according to His design and willingly give things like virginity away as if they could not get rid of it fast enough.
Now please don’t get me wrong: I am not saying being a virgin on your wedding day is the be-all, end-all mark of a pure person. What I am saying is that people in developed, “freedom-of-choice” nations (such as America) are treating God’s gift of sexuality as a light thing. They don’t respect it at all. And whether they realize it or not, they are perpetuating the justification of sexual abuse against other people. (Because sex isn’t that big of a deal, right? And looking at pornography only involves you, right?) Simply put: sometimes the people who have the luxury of choice when it comes to sex treat it lightly and, therefore, abuse it.
I can only imagine how this must grieve God’s heart. Here He has generously given us the gift of sex and we royally misuse it. What’s worse, not only does using sex outside of God’s guidelines hurt us physically, emotionally and spiritually, but we miss out on the unmatched blessing of sex according to God’s design. That thought alone should make us want to weep. This is a simple and inferior analogy, but bear with me: It’s like settling for a temporary supply of strawberry-flavored candy when you could have had a lifetime supply of real strawberries instead.
When I think about what youth (and adults) do in the States – the predicaments they get themselves into drinking and partying and putting themselves in dangerous situations, what influences they open themselves up to through media and technology – I want to throw up. And then tell them how naïve and selfish they’re being. I realize this is not the best tactic to turn them away from this lifestyle, but this is my knee-jerk reaction.
The day I had this thought I was standing in a worship service in Singapore. Suddenly a wave of sadness and desperation fell upon me. I wept before the Lord. For several hours, I couldn’t stop crying. I felt what I can only imagine was a severely toned-down version of the sadness He feels over this situation. The verse came to mind from Ezekiel:
“And you are different [the reverse] from other women in your harlotries, in that nobody follows you to lure you into harlotry and in that you give hire when no hire is given you; and so you are different.” (16:34, AMP)
In the “free world”, you don’t need to kidnap us or drug us or lure us by promises of job opportunities or better circumstances to get us to enter into a lifestyle of impurity. You don’t even have to pay us – in fact, we’ll pay you.
If I had to paraphrase that verse from Ezekiel and put it in modern context, that’s how I would word it. And I’m sorry to say it applies all too well. It doesn’t just apply to American culture, either, but American culture is the top one that is exported around the world. It is the most visible and, for better or worse, the most influential. I love America. I really do. I’m proud to be an American, but we have got some serious repenting and changing to do. We have got to stop being so selfish.
So, what can we do? Where do we start? I’d like to propose we start treating our sexuality with the God-given respect and care it deserves. We should come before the Lord, asking Him to show us where we need to repent. Where have we been influenced by the lie that sex isn’t worth that much or sex outside of God’s design is just as good as the real thing? We should get to the root of these issues and ask God to show us what to do from there.
If we are serious about helping other people who have been sexually abused or trafficked, we have got to deal with our own attitudes toward sex.
– Megan Briggs