Recently, my family walked past a Victoria’s Secret store (which was across from the kids’ playground). I was behind everyone, helping our youngest child keep up, and couldn’t help but notice how the older kids’ eyes were instinctively drawn to look at the pictures of nearly nude women hanging in the window.
My wife and I called their attention away from the display, and after we passed by, we stepped aside to talk about why it was so instinctive to look at those pictures and what we could learn from it. Here are a few of the things we discussed:
1. Understand true beauty
One of my daughters asked, “Do people only want to look at girls because they are pretty?” I explained that it is natural to be attracted to beautiful people, but I also assured them that their bodies don’t have to look like a model’s to be beautiful. The world lies to young ladies. We live in a world that tells us that beauty has a certain shape, a particular weight, and specific kinds of curves.
God tells us something very different. God created each of us uniquely in a way that is beautiful to him (Psa. 139:13-16). Our bodies are crafted as God has designed, and we should never feel pressure to conform to what others say is beautiful (Rom. 12:1-2). Certainly, we should take care of the bodies we have, but if we do so to tempt others to desire us in sinful ways or to receive sinful affirmation, we dishonor God and use other people.
I assured them that God and I think they are beautiful just the way they are. My wife and I pray they will always believe it.
2. Honor women
I told my son that God gave him a natural desire to be amazed by and drawn to women. Attraction in and of itself isn’t wrong, but we must be careful to not respond to it sinfully. Women are never to be treated as objects to look at.
I explained to him that the women in those pictures are people God created, just like his mother and sisters. God calls men to respect and protect women (1 Tim. 5:2), and we honor God by showing them honor, not by treating them like a piece of meat—and that begins by the way we choose not to look at them (Matt. 5:27-28).
Sin takes good things God created and twists them in a way that tempts us to look away from God.
I desire to instill in my boys the truth that developing friendships with women is a healthy part of being a man. I never want our boys to fear women or perceive them to be dangerous. Sure, they must be on guard against temptresses (Prov. 5-7), but not all women are seductresses. Our pornographic culture has so twisted things that many young men don’t know how to relate to women.
For example, I was recently walking with a young man who had been looking at porn daily for months. When we passed by an attractive woman, he had a physical reaction in which he spun his head the other way and began to walk sideways with his back toward her. I appreciate his desire to not look at her lustfully, but that is not the kind of response men are to have toward women.
Godly men respect and protect women, not use, abuse, or demonize them. I pray my sons will be better young men than I was.
3. Sexual nudity is a gift for your spouse
There is something about a naked body that draws our attention. Hollywood producers know this, which is why they mingle pointless sex scenes into their stories. It’s also why we have stores like Victoria’s Secret. Sex is a good gift given by a good God (Prov. 5:18; Song of Sol. 2-4; 1 Cor. 7:1-5; 1 Tim. 4:3), but sexual nudity isn’t something to be treated cheaply (Prov. 5:15-17).
With that in mind, I explained to our kids that looking at someone’s naked body, even if they say it’s OK, doesn’t honor that person. God has given that person a body to share in that way with a spouse, if God gives them one. I asked them how they think daddy would feel if mommy posed in one of those pictures? They all agreed it would make daddy jealous, and it would embarrass them. I didn’t teach them that; it was inherent in them. Why? Because their divinely-designed conscience knows it.
When God made Adam and Eve, they enjoyed life together naked and without shame (Gen. 2:25). Husbands and wives are free to look at and enjoy each other’s bodies, but God is not pleased when we take what he has not given to us. Looking at nude (or nearly nude) pictures of other people is wrong because God has not given those people to us as our spouse. Sex is sacred, and we must treat it as a special gift.
I assured our kids that most people wouldn’t agree with those ideas about sex, but that God created us, and he knows what is best. I pray they will trust God more than I did in my younger years and be spared the pain of living against God’s design.
4. Why we want to look
Finally, I explained that the reason we’re drawn to beauty is because God is beautiful, and we’re created to enjoy him (Psa. 27:4). All beautiful things in this world serve as little signs that point our hearts toward amazement of and love for God (Psa. 8). The beauty of sunsets, flowers, or physical figures are intended to make us marvel at God’s good and wise designs.
Satan, however, hates us to think about God in that way. Sin takes good things God created and twists them in a way that tempts us to look away from God. The models pictured in the window of that store were created by God to reflect his image and point people to him. Satan desires to distort God’s design, though, and use them to draw their hearts and all who look at them away from God.
I pray that my children and I will continually grow in our ability to discern the difference between what God says is beautiful and what the world says is beautiful.
In the end, my desire is not for my kids to be little legalists who are shackled with rules about not looking at certain things. Instead, I want them to be enlightened to the fact that we don’t look at sinful things so that we can more purely see and enjoy God (Matt. 5:8). I also pray that my children will look to Jesus, the one who died and rose for all the times they will get it wrong, and delight in his grace—the most beautiful gift of all.