by Taigen Joos
This article first appeared in FrontLine May/June 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
Having attended public schools throughout elementary, junior high and high school, I can empathize with Christian teens in the public school system today. Though today’s public school system offers some activities in which Christian teens can participate without compromise, certain other activities deserve to be avoided. For instance, should a Christian attend the high school prom? This is an issue that today’s Christian teenager needs to view from a Biblical perspective and respond to in a God-honoring way. Consider the following Biblical principles regarding proms.
The Christian Teen Should Listen to God-Honoring Music
God has much to say about the music a Christian should listen to and promote. One great passage on the subject is Psalm 40:1–3. In these verses the psalmist praises the Lord for his salvation and declares that God has put a “new song” in his mouth. This “new song” principle is explained more thoroughly in other writings, but it is clearly identified with the new life of the believer.
Likewise, passages such as Ephesians 5:19, 20 and Colossians 3:16, 17 underscore that the Christian is to live his life in obedience to the Holy Spirit. True obedience involves all areas of life, including music. God is pleased with music that glorifies His character. The Christian teenager should strive to fill his mind (not to mention his CD racks) with this kind of music.
The Christian Teen Should Be Concerned with Modesty
Despite a society that encourages teenage girls to reveal more and more flesh, God expects them to dress differently. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul instructs the women of the church to dress themselves in “modest apparel.” The word “modest” means decently and well arranged. However, this word applies to more than mere dress standards. It also deals with an inner attitude of the heart. A woman’s dress standards and lifestyle should reflect the submission and decency in her heart. The goal of her dress standards should not be to stay in step with the latest fashion trends, but to reflect a proper opinion of God and to guard her own body from being on display for lustful eyes.
Lest guys assume they are off the hook, this principle also applies to them. The word that is translated “modest” for women is the same one translated “of good behavior” for men in 1 Timothy 3:2. The context here speaks specifically of pastoral qualifications, but all men who would be godly should pursue these qualities. Paul emphasized that this mindset concerning modesty is valuable for both men and women.
Another application of modesty involves the issue of dancing. Even a quick glimpse provides abundant evidence that the style of dancing associated with rock music opposes the principle of modesty (as well as other principles). As Tim Fisher states in The Battle for Christian Music, “Rock-related dancing stands in clear antipathy to biblical ideals of truth, humility, reverence, chastity, submission, selfcontrol, holiness, and love. Therefore it would be more than mandated to expel this brand of bodily expression from any participation in Christian culture.” Rock-related dancing promotes lust, immoral thoughts, and easily leads to immoral acts. For both the Christian man and woman, modesty is the best policy, in both dress standards and behavior.
The Christian Teen Should Avoid Places of Temptation
In every Christian life, a battle rages between the flesh and the Spirit. Scripture commands us to not make any provision to fulfill the lusts of our flesh (Rom. 13:14) and to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation because, though our spirit is willing to do right, our flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41). We are also told to walk in the Spirit (i.e., obey Scripture) in order to starve our fleshly desires (Gal. 5:16–25). A Biblically wise person will not willfully visit places where he knows there will be fleshly temptations; he will instead allow the fear of the Lord to guide him on the right course (Prov. 14:16).
The tendency for Christian teens is to conclude that their willpower alone is enough to fend off any temptation. But the Bible warns of this kind of pride and gives the proper response to temptation—run! (See 1 Cor. 10:12, 13; 2 Tim. 2:22.) Christians should not play games with temptation.
The Christian Teen Should Be Concerned about His Testimony before Others
The Christian teen must be mindful of his testimony before his unsaved friends. Paul took care that the manner in which he ministered would not hinder the gospel message (1 Cor. 9:12). We should mirror that same attitude. Believers should strive to live in a way that will underscore the gospel message, not detract from it. The message of the gospel might be offensive, but the messenger of the gospel should not be.
The Christian Teen Should Try Not to Offend Fellow Christians.
Matthew 18:6, 7 reveals that God does not look favorably upon those who cause others to stumble into sin. Some people are constantly looking for leadership. Encouraging others to Christlikeness—not pulling them down in fleshly living—is the goal of Christian leadership. Every Christian teen should desire consistency in godliness in order to encourage godly living in those who follow him (Heb. 10:23–25).
The Christian Teen Should Practice Personal Holiness in His Lifestyle
Throughout the Scripture, the holiness of God is obvious. God is absolutely set apart from all sin and evil. Beginning at Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden because of their sin (Gen. 3) and continuing to the eternal punishment of the Devil, his demons, and all unsaved in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19–21), the Scripture continually reaffirms God’s holiness. But holiness is not some irrelevant theological term. Rather, holiness applies very practically to Christians’ lives.
First Peter 1:15, 16 tells the believer to practice personal holiness in his entire lifestyle. Holiness is not an option; it’s a command from God. Second Corinthians 6:14–7:1 also commands us to separate from “unrighteousness,” “darkness,” and “the unclean thing.” We cannot ignore this command without seriously damaging our Christian life. Because of who God is and who we are as His children, we should strive to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The Christian Teen Should Seek to Glorify God with His Whole Life
Of all these principles, this one is the epitome. God created mankind for His own glory and pleasure (Rev. 4:11). However, man chose to rebel against God and glorify his own fleshly desires. This sin broke the relationship between God and man, making a way of reconciliation necessary. This reconciliation would be accomplished through the promised Messiah (Gen. 3:15), Jesus, the eternal Son of God (Matt. 1:21). When a person repents of his sin and trusts only and completely on Christ to save him from his sin, he has a right relationship with God and can fulfill his purpose for living: to glorify God.
Our purpose is to present a proper view of God and point others to Him. Life is not about elevating self; it is about elevating God. Therefore we should be concerned about what God says in His Word and His desires for us. As we do this, His Word will permeate our lives, and our thoughts and feelings will adjust to match God’s Word. Then we can say with the psalmist, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Ps. 34:3).
Paul commanded the Corinthian believers to glorify God with their bodies (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). As believers, we do not belong to ourselves, but to God. Our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; therefore we should glorify God through our actions. Later, Paul says that this principle should govern every aspect of the Christian’s life, even the trivial, routine things like eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31).
All of these principles apply to the question of attending a prom. Does the prom promote God-honoring music? Does it encourage Biblical modesty in dress and behavior? Is it a place where you can be free from the snares of temptation? Would participating strengthen your testimony before saved and unsaved friends? Does it promote personal holiness? Does any element of a prom exalt God and give the right opinion of who He is? The objective answer to all of these questions is “no.”
God wants believers to “approve things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10). Simply stated, the worldly practice of the prom is not one of those excellent things. Steer clear of the prom and plan better, God-honoring options for celebrating. You will never regret it.
At the time of writing, Taigen Joos was an associate pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Scarborough, Maine. He is currently the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Dover, NH.