Teaching Children about God's Design for Marriage

“Mommy, how do you get a baby in your tummy?” If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance you’ve been asked many sweet, innocent questions like this one that are hard to answer.  The questions aren’t hard to answer because the answers are complicated, but they can feel hard to answer because of the importance of the topic. When explaining topics related to sex and marriage to our children, it is always a balancing act.

We consider their maturity level and weigh it against the things they are being exposed to already. We want to shield them from topics they aren’t ready for while equipping them to know what they need to know to be safe and healthy. These questions have always been tricky ones for parents to navigate, but today they may feel even more challenging.

Perhaps you’ve been honest and up-front, answering all of your children’s questions about sex with age-appropriate, accurate, informative responses. If you are like me, you’ve also given your children the biblical framework for the responses. Your answer to the baby question may start with, “When a man and a woman are married …” Later, your daughter meets a woman with a child who is not married, and she asks you, “How did she get a baby if she’s not married?” Or your son has a friend at school with two dads, and he comes home wanting to know how that works.

The Challenge

Let’s face it, the world’s message on sexuality tends to sound more attractive than the Church’s message. Who would want to hear, “There are boundaries and rules to be followed, for your own good. This is how God wants men and women to behave,” when they could hear, “The most important thing in life is your personal happiness. You do you, and as long as no one gets hurt, that’s perfectly fine”?

Older Christians may remember a time when there was less friction between the world’s view and the Church’s view, but for my entire life (as a millennial) the battle lines have been drawn. There’s God’s way versus the way of the world. The culture versus the Church. Things have changed faster than I could have ever imagined as a kid, and it’s easy to look around and think the Church is lost. I grew up at the height of evangelical purity culture. The message “God doesn’t like that” came through clearly on everything from sex before marriage to pornography, divorce, cohabitation, and homosexuality.

Many members of my generation have grown up to reject these boundaries. Our culture has preached a more seductive gospel: Believe in yourself. Be true to who you are. Don’t worry about God—He wants you to be happy (if He exists). People who judge you are hateful. God isn’t like that. God is love. This message sounds better because it is what itching ears want to hear.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4)

This message allows us each to do exactly what we want to do. It also allows us to feel righteous in our own eyes and in the eyes of those around us. Of course, the problem lies in the fact that this message is not the truth.

When we turn to our children to answer their questions and teach them the truth, we are faced with tension. We must not equivocate about God’s Word, but we don’t want to set them up to think of themselves as superior or to say hurtful, judgmental things to people who need God’s love. 

God’s Truth Is Beautiful

One of the primary reasons my husband and I wrote Male and Female: Embracing Your Role in God’s Design was because we wanted to teach and articulate the truth of God’s Word regarding human sexuality in a way that was beautiful, positive, and helpful. We wanted to do more than say, “Since you’re a Christian, there are some rules …”

The Bible is not a book of old rules that those of us who believe must follow to get into heaven. The Bible is the true story of our God who created a beautiful world, declared all of His creation good, and, when sin entered that world through the disobedience of the first man and first woman, chose to rescue everything—all of creation—from the heartbreak and brokenness that would follow. God’s Word tells us that our creation as male and female and the gift of marriage are both a part of the perfect design as it existed before the fall, and a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22–33).

There is something significant about our sexuality that points to and is redeemed in Christ. God’s design for each of us is part of the story of creation, who we are made to be, redemption, and how we share God’s love with others. God’s design isn’t about following rules to show that we can “be good.” It’s about pointing us to Christ.

To give the next generation of Christians honest, true, biblical, and grace-filled answers to their questions about sexuality, we need to know what the Bible says and how God’s Word on sexuality connects to the Gospel. We need to know that the Law of God is good both because it is how God designed us all to function and because it points us to our need for Jesus. All of Scripture points to Jesus and to His work on the cross.

Sharing God’s Design with Our Children

In the study guide in the back of Male and Female, we answer a question about how to teach the next generation what the Bible says about homosexuality while at the same time raising children who are compassionate and respectful to all people, even those who may be living a gay lifestyle. This is what we say:

One thing we’ve noticed is that when you teach kids that something is right and something else is wrong, they can tend to boldly proclaim that truth to other people in a way that is not always tactful and kind. This can turn well-meaning Christian kids into effectual “bullies,” which is certainly not our intent as Christian parents! … What we have told our children (and plan to tell them as they grow older and ask more questions) is that God has a beautiful design for His creation, that marriage would be between a man and a woman, but that not everyone knows God, and even some other Christians who know God and love Him don’t know about the beautiful design. Our job is to show everyone Jesus’ love by saying kind things and including them, even if they don’t live their lives according to God’s design yet (Male and Female, p. 162–63).

This strategy applies to other challenging questions as well, and it is not limited to parents. All Christians have a responsibility to model the faith, mentor the next generation, and set an example of repentance of sin and dependence on Christ.

We humbly hope that our book may serve as a useful tool in this process. We wrote it as a Bible study exploring the way our maleness and femaleness fit into God’s story of redemption. When we speak to our kids about God’s will for men and women, we want to do so in a way that is Christ-focused and biblical. When we present these truths to young adults, we want to be able to answer their questions by pointing them to Scripture and to Christ and what He has done for them. And when Christians of all ages struggle with the realities of our sinful, fallen world, we hope that our lives and attitudes reflect the character and love of our Savior and point others to Him. 

Scripture: ESV®.

Read about God’s design for marriage by ordering Male and Female: Embracing Your Role in God’s Design. 

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Written by

Christa Petzold

Christa lives with her husband and four children in Bartlett, Illinois. She has an MA in Theology, a BA in Mathematics and Lutheran Secondary Education, and is coauthor of Male and Female: Embracing Your Role in God’s Design . She spends her time homeschooling, teaching theology, writing, and learning as much as she can about church history. Find her at christapetzold.com.

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