Sex, drugs, and social status. As a youth pastor, it’s important to talk about these three topics. When I think about them, two words come to mind: Good and Fire.
Sex, drugs, and social status are really good things. Just like fire.
Fire is a part of some of my favorite memories. At the end of a great week of camp, one of the best experiences is to get a group of good friends around a raging fire to sing songs and tell stories about the week. The French call it a bon fire, a “good fire.” Another great fire is when the family gathers on the deck and listens to the burgers sizzle over the flames of the grill. And then there are those times, at the end of a bitterly cold winter day, when there is nothing better than to snuggle up in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace and become mezmerized by the glowing dance of the flames.
Fire is good.
There is another picture of fire. The hysterical mother stands by the curb, screaming. The police have to hold her husband back to keep him from rushing toward their burning house. “Where is Johnny?” she cries out in agony. Tears streak through the soot on her cheeks. She slumps to the ground as the weight of the reality falls down on her. Johnny didn’t make it out. The fire consumed him along with their home and everything they own.
Fire is deadly.
What makes the difference? Are these two different kinds of fire? No. Fire is fire. What makes the difference between a bon fire and a house fire is one simple word. Boundaries. When fire is contained within safe boundaries it is good, beautiful, constructive, and life-giving. When fire crosses those boundaries it becomes a destructive force that destroys everything in its path.
Sex is good.
God created it. There is no greater expression of intimacy than when a man and a woman come together in mind, spirit, and body and express their love and commitment to one another. The result of this love is life itself. A baby. A beautiful, bright-eyed, crying, screaming, pooping, change me, feed me, hold me, stay up all night with me, pay for all my food, clothing, shelter, entertainment for a minimum of eighteen years, little baby. When you are ready for that, you are ready for sex.
Sex is like fire. The boundary that makes it good and wonderful is the boundary of marriage. It is only within the confines of a true, life-long commitment that sex can be all it was meant to be and bring about the life that it was meant to bring. True intimacy, the relationship between a man and woman, and between parent and child, is complex and difficult, and can only be strong and healthy when held together by a commitment that goes beyond emotions and hormones.
Sex outside of marriage is like a raging fire that devastates everything in its path. Like playing with matches, it might be exciting at first. But, in the end, it leads to emotional pain, sexually transmitted disease, and unwanted pregnancy which leads to either abandoned or murdered children.
Sex is good. Save it for your spouse. He or she will thank you.
Drugs are good.
Drugs are chemicals derived from plants and other naturally occuring things. God designed them. Their purpose is to promote life. In the ancient world, fresh, clean water was hard to find. Alcohol mixed with the water would kill the harmful bacteria and make the water safe to drink. Science has proven that small doses of red wine each day promotes heart health. The fermentation of grapes and grains was a necessary and helpful part of creating a safe society. In the high Andes mountains of South America the Inca people chew on the coca leaves to provide a mild stimulant. This helps them to survive the extreme altitudes. The seeds of the poppy plant produce a substance called morphine that alleviates the pain of suffering patients.
These drugs are good. The boundary for drugs is medicine and the the other-oriented motivation of preserving health.
When drugs cross the line and become a tool for self-indulgence, escapism, and “social lubrication” then they become a destructive fire. Alcohol suspends judgment and leads people to do things they would never do in their right mind. Ask any police officer and they will tell you that the vast majority of criminal acts were committed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The healthy dose of alcohol becomes a beer bong game and college students die of alcohol poisoning or kill innocent people in a head-on collision. The mild stimulant of the coca leaf gets refined and processed into cocain and a long string of addicts sell their bodies to get it. The pain-relief of the poppy seed gets refined into heroin and hurting people become willing to shoot needles under their tongues to get one more escape from reality.
Drugs are good. Use them to get healthy, not to escape reality or be “cool.”
Social Status is good.
God created us to be in community. We need each other. Life is beautiful when individuals use their gifts and strengths to contribute to the good of the community and to counterbalance the weaknesses of others. In a God-centered community, social status means you are a welcomed member in a community, not better or worse than anyone else. You are simply loved and you belong.
When social status crosses the line and becomes a raging fire is when we use the weaknesses of others, exploit them, and crawl on their backs to get what we want. People who seek to be the “best” or “popular,” at the expense of others, are people who are scared, insecure, and focused only on their own needs. When a society upholds social status seekers as good, thus perpetuating the exploitation of the weak, the society becomes full of selfish, self-serving individuals. A society like that is a society that will destroy itself quickly. When times get tough, which they always do, the self-serving people will turn on each other and it will get deadly.
Jesus came to show us what social status really looks like. He was the only human being that ever actually deserved to be worshipped. And yet, despite all his privilege and power, he chose to be a humble servant to the poor, the sick, and the outcast. He became a servant to the point of laying down his own life. When a society is built upon leadership that is servant-minded, then that society will be strong and survive any storm.
Sex, drugs, and social status. They are good. Enjoy them. Keep them in their boundaries and they will bring you life!