By guest blogger, Shannon Bond.
Love is very misunderstood. Most teenagers understand love as a feeling, identifying it with the emotions. When a relationship feels good, teenagers feel like they are “in love.” These relationships are lacking in commitment and sacrificial love. Teenagers need help understanding the different dimensions of love and their proper expression.
Both the Greek and Hebrew languages have multiple words translated into English as “love.” The Greek words are agape, phileo, storgeo, and eros. The Hebrew words are raya, ahava, and dod. Both phileo and raya portray a friendship type of love. Both agape and ahava portray a deeper, self-sacrificing love of commitment. Both eros and dod portray erotic, sexual love. In the Nooma short film entitled “Flame,” pastor and author Rob Bell says,
We have our raya flame. We have our ahava flame. And we have our dod flame. One flame burning all by itself will never be as hot as all the flames burning together. I mean, we were created for all the flames to burn as one. When you separate the flames, it can never really satisfy. It’s like your living outside how God wired you to live.
Teenagers, much like the rest of society, are quick to jump straight into eros/dod without including agape/ahava or phileo/raya. The emotional damage from this type of sexual activity is deep and slow to heal. Nonetheless, media messages bombard teens with “Everyone is doing it. It’s a natural part of growing up.” The messages have an underlying assertion that teens who are not having sex are abnormal.
Youth workers and parents combat this lie by explaining the biblical words for love and their appropriate expression in the lives of their teenagers. Teenagers do not understand how all three of the “flames” of love burn together as one. They need mature adults to model this for them and mentor them as they develop friendship love and experience the emotional fulfillment it brings. Foster writes, “Loving does not need to be genital to be intimate, and the capacity to love is vital to our sexuality. And so the single person should develop many relationships that are wholesome and caring.” Furthermore, he states, “The single person’s sexuality is expressed in the need to experience emotional fulfillment. The decision to reserve genital sex for marriage is not a decision to remain emotionally unfulfilled. Warm, satisfying friendships are legitimate ways single people can express their sexuality.” Teenagers have to be taught how to have healthy friendships. It is natural for friendships with people of the opposite sex to have an erotic dimension. Teenagers need to learn that they need not act on those feelings.
Furthermore, youth workers and parents combat this lie by teaching and mentoring teenagers in knowing when it is appropriate to make a deeper, more meaningful commitment in a relationship. Deeper commitments bring couples closer to eros, so students need help to establish and to commit to following biblical boundaries for their relationship. Despite all of the media messages pressuring teenagers to have sex, teenagers need to be taught and reminded that not everyone is having sex — plus, God does not intend for them to outside the bond of marriage.
- Rob Bell, Flame. Disc 2, Nooma, DVD (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).
- Richard J. Foster, The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1985), 115.
Shannon Bond is in his first year as the youth minister at First Baptist Church in Bangs, TX. He is married to the former Stephanie DeBoom of Copperas Cove, TX and has three children: Raegan (6-year-old daughter), Sydnie (4-year-old daughter), and Joey (2-year-old son). He is a student at Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, TX. Before becoming a youth minister, Shannon spent 13 years as a teacher and coach.
Posted on June 25, 2008