The truth can set anyone free, but it is not just the truth alone that make individuals receptive to it. It is how the truth is communicated that makes a significant difference.
As a sexual health educator, presenting in primarily public high schools and conveying a counter-cultural message and approach to sex-ed, I often feel as though Jesus is sending me out “like sheep among wolves.” However, He reminds us to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
It is in this pursuit of boldness and wisdom that I find how God seeks to have us do this work: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6). This is how we are called to respond to the many questions and comments we hear from confused students seeking understanding.
A student once asked me during class how many genders there were. He went on to explain that a previous group presented at their school the week prior and shared how there are now 52 different genders. Another student sincerely asked me if she got pregnant through rape, would she HAVE to abort and get rid of the baby? Couldn’t she keep the baby if she wanted to?
Yet another student approached me following the ‘pornography’ portion of the presentation, which exposes the harmful effects porn has on our brain, relationships, and society. His question caught me off guard. He said, “I agree with what you are saying about pornography, but what if my parents are telling me that it is harmless, normal, and even encouraging me to view it?”
In our presentation, we can’t fully address all this complexity, yet these are the questions young people have. They are deeply confused, but asking some incredible, crucial, and mature questions in the face of messages that don’t really make sense to them.
Let me be clear, not every one of our cultures messages are harmful and inconsistent. For example, recent conversations about sexual assault and consent are really important. However, those ideas are presented in the context of larger messages about sex and relationships that are deceptive and harmful.
Questions and conversations like these can be shocking, but we should take them as opportunities for humility and love. I often desire to get my point across more than to love and understand the person I am speaking with and what led them to this place. I am so easily influenced by how our culture aggressively reacts to different or opposing views. We want to be heard instead of listening to others.
I sometimes view people who are different than me as a problem that needs fixing instead of people in need of love. I enjoy sharing the truth, but to do it without speaking in love like God will sound like a noisy gong in the ears of those hearing it (1 Corinthians 13:1). It’s annoying, arrogant, and polarizing. That’s the complete opposite intention I have when sharing the truth and love of Christ with others.
I must consistently remind myself there is a major gap in understanding as students try to determine what they believe about their bodies, relationships, and sex. They are influenced by the beliefs, perception, and assumptions they are being shown and taught on a regular basis by the institutions of our culture, media, the home, and the schools we speak in.
How we communicate the truth of their value and purpose, not just the truth alone, removes barriers to hearing and responding.
Through God’s amazing favor and the work of The Reality Project, we have the incredible opportunity to share the truth with young people in public high schools across the Portland Metro area. This truth can set anyone free if it is shared God’s way: in love and full of grace.
The real question is how can we as churches, Christian communities, and individual followers of Christ do the same, speaking the truth in love and full of grace in response to the many questions our world and culture is currently asking?
— Micah Rydmark, Director of The Reality Project