Q. I have friends who are sexually active. I care about them and I think they’re good people, so I don’t want to insult them. But how do I encourage them tactfully to reconsider their behavior?
A. Thanks for your question and especially for your concern for your friends! Let me offer a few thoughts.
I’d say that it’s a good thing you don’t want to “insult” your friends as you say. Usually, how we say something is just as important as what we say. If your friends feel as though you don’t understand them, are judging them, or are angry at them, they might not listen to you. But what you have to share with them is very important for them to hear! Having a sexual relationship outside of the context of marriage is not part of God’s plan for anyone. Let’s look at both the message you need to share and how best you can communicate it to them.
God made sexual intimacy a very good part of His creation. In making us sexual beings, God made it possible for husband and wife to unite themselves in a deep, permanent, and exclusive way. He also made it possible for husband and wife to share in His power of creation when this sexual exchange bears children. But sex should be shared between two, only when there has been this permanent and exclusive commitment that is also open to children.
It’s important to know that sex is also, in a sense, a “language.” As a language, sex is a way for a couple to communicate certain truths to each other. These truths cannot be separated from sex because God is the one who designed sex. One thing that sex says is, “I’m committed to you for life!” Furthermore, it says, “I’m committed to you and you alone for life!” The main problem with sex outside of marriage is that it is a lie. Two people who are not permanently and exclusively committed to each other in marriage ought not say, with their bodies, that they are. When this happens, the act of sex confuses things a lot! And deep down, I think everyone knows that. The problem is that, sometimes, these good desires, meant to be shared with one’s spouse, will do great damage when used in any other way. In fact, I’m quite confident that your friends, or anyone having a sexual relationship outside of marriage, knows that what they are doing is wrong. And, of course, we can’t forget the fact that sex is also made for the possibility of children. So, in essence, when two have sex, they are also saying that they are ready to have a child if God so chooses to bless them with one.
But communicating this to your friends is, perhaps, the most difficult part. What I’d say is that you start by telling them that you care about them, and for that reason you are concerned about the choice they are making. They might not accept what you are saying at first, and might even get a little mad at you. But, as long as you try to talk humbly to them, clearly, gently, and with a smile, you might have a chance at making a difference.
Even if your friends don’t listen to you right away, I wouldn’t feel too bad. Offering your loving thoughts to them might plant a seed that will take a while to make sense to them. So keep at it, be consistent, be loving, and, most importantly, pray for them. And remember that they really do need to, and probably want to, hear what you have to say.