Unless you are living in an isolated cabin in the woods, you've heard of Divergent. It's the next Hunger Games (which was the next Twilight). The Divergent series is the current fad among a wide range of ages and groups- starting as young as 6th grade (maybe even earlier) and as old as your grandmother. I'm 29, so I fall smack dab in the middle of those ages- and yes, I've read the books. All three of them. I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat. I empathized with the characters- I felt their pain, joy, anger, and apathy. It's an exciting, epic tale... but if you don't watch yourself, you'll get so engrossed in the excitement of the dramatic tale, you'll overlook some major issues that are smack dab in front of your face.
I met with a dear friend this morning, who also happens to be a mom. Her and I chatted about this book series and the probable affects it will have on a very popular group of young readers: middle school girls. Ministering to these girls (ranging from 11-14) is my job, so it's not uncommon for me to put myself in their heads as I do life. This is the rage. Every girl has read it and talks about it non stop. And this worries me.
Towards the middle of book one (Divergent) you can almost here the song "Let's Get Physical, Physical" playing in the background as Tris and Four make out. It's not the first time they make out, and it's not childs play. Hands are going up shirts and pieces of clothing are coming off. But, don't worry, they don't have sex. That's not until book three (Allegiant). Young, hormonal, adolescent girls are reading these books that have page after page of detailed emotion, thought, and physical feelings as a 16 year old girl and 18 year old boy kiss and cuddle and touch each other. You read about hearts that are pulsating, faces that are flushing, lips that are mingling, and hands that are wandering. As they "grow" in their relationship, the physical intimacy just gets deeper and deeper. They talk about "stopping" or how difficult it is to "practice self-control." To the point where they stop stopping and fulfill all their desires by having sex. It doesn't describe the physical act explicitly, but it's implicit on every page. They're "in love" and it is "so right."
Parents: this is what your daughters (and sons) are reading.
Sure, it's about 5% of the material as a whole. There's so much adventure, so much drama, so many issues dealing with human nature and anger and selflessness and intelligence and betrayal and love and family. I was on the edge of my seat. It is exciting! You get 95% of awesome, so what's the big deal with 5% of not awesome?
Because God cares about that 5%.
In Ephesians 5, Paul is admonishing the church in how they are to walk as children of God. In verse one he says to be "imitators of God, as beloved children." He adds to that (in verse three), "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints." Some translations say "let there not even be a hint of sexual immorality among you."
- Jesus continually brought the issue of sin back to the heart. In His sermon on the mount, He restates over and over that simply looking at a woman in lust is adultery, being angry with a brother is murder, etc. We are called to, at all costs, pursue purity and holiness. In what we read, what we listen to, what we watch. Those things are what fill our hearts.
Three times in Song of Solomon this command is given to the maidens of Jerusalem, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases." (SS 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4)
- We live in a culture that wants to grow our little girls up way too quickly. I think Solomon understood that too. He is begging these young girls to refrain from physical intimacy until it's time. Don't stir those desires up, don't awaken that until it's time. And that time is marriage. It's not time when you're 12 years old.
Proverbs 4:25-27 says, "Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil."
- When I read this I think about Jesus and how His eyes were continually fixed on His Father during His earthly ministry. We ought to imitate that. We're called to imitate that. Hebrews 12:1-2 instructs us to run with perseverance and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. When we enter into sin, no matter how "small" it appears, we waver and swerve, we lose our focus on Christ and our path gets shaky.
Psalm 119:9 says, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word."
- This young man pursues purity by not only looking to Jesus, but meditating on truth. When temptations and struggles come (which are bound to because we're sinful) this young man is grounded because he isn't guarded by his own cheap desires, but by Christ and ultimate truth. The things of Christ fill his heart, not things of the world.
In our culture, this is so difficult, I know. It's so hard to pursue righteousness and holiness when it appears that peoples ideas of morality or holiness seem to differ so much. It's hard to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and follow your convictions when you feel alone and isolated for those beliefs. It's hard when all your friends are doing something, or reading something, or wearing something that you can't or choose not to. You feel like an outsider, like you don't fit it. I get that.
This command of purity is not a joke to God. And it shouldn't be a joke to us.
- If you're a parent reading this and your kids have read these books, but you haven't, I would encourage you to read them and then discuss them with your child. Don't shy away from talking about physical intimacy and sex- they need to hear that from you, not from the thoughts or practices of fictional characters.
- If you're a parent and you're contemplating letting your kids read these books, please prayerfully read them first and see if this is content you want in your young man or woman's minds.
- If you're an older adult and you've read them or are reading them, don't think you're somehow outside of or greater than stumbling sexually in your thoughts because of a teen book. I had to really watch myself and search my heart that I wasn't fantasizing about something I shouldn't or being envious because some characters had something I wanted.
- If you're a young adult and you've read these, I would encourage you to chat about it with your parents or a mentor in your life. Ask for prayer and discernment in what it means to guard your heart and eyes and mind and what it means to dwell on Christ and things that are above (Colossians 3)
We are called to righteousness and holiness because it's what's best. God doesn't withhold from us or call us to something that is silly or unimportant. It's of utmost importance. Persevere! In the end, you won't look back and regret that you didn't let yourself experience more of the temporary pleasures of this life. You'll look to Jesus and realize that He was the greatest pleasure of all.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.