A Life That Honors God
A Conversation With Rebecca St. James
September 1, 2004 - Earlier this year Australian-born Rebecca St. James toured Europe with the True Love Waits organization, which urges young people to save sex for marriage. In a Reuters interview in London, St. James said, "I'm 26, I'm a virgin, and I'm going to stay that way until I'm married." St. James also said that in her experience with sharing her message with teens, many are coming to realize that abstinence is smart for several reasons. Here St. James talks with Decision about why she feels so strongly about her message, as well as practical ways to live it out.
by Jim Dailey
Q: Your recent comments on the role of abstinence among teens caused quite a stir.
A: Yes, we were in Europe for a concert when Reuters news service interviewed me. I talked about abstinence and my own vow to stay pure. Purity is an area that young people need to be encouraged in because there is so much pressure to compromise. But there is a growing respect for virginity, chastity and abstinence in this country and around the world. I am encouraged by the response to that message and that it's getting out there more and more. Parents are constantly coming up to me and saying, "Thank you for talking about this issue." I really hope and pray that young people out there are listening.
Q: In your book, "Wait for Me," your message is to stand strong for purity. How did the Lord develop this in your heart?
A: It is a very natural thing. I gave my life to Jesus when I was eight years old. God started to lead me into music at about age 12. My parents had talked to me about waiting and the importance of saving sex for marriage. When I was about 15 or 16, I was at a True Love Waits rally, and I saw a couple hundred young people taking this stand for God. I thought it was awesome and wanted to take the same stand. After that, I performed at several True Love Waits rallies. Young people are encouraged to know that they're not alone in this area. I continued to talk about it and years later ended up writing a song and then a book about it. I continue to share about purity because I feel called to it, and I see that there aren't many people out there speaking about this issue—young, single people taking a stand for purity. I feel such compassion for my generation because, I think, largely, they are being ripped off. They are being sold a lie that you can do whatever you want—but there is a huge cost for living so liberally. I want to warn them of the consequences and say, "Hey, don't go this way. Here's why God's way is the better way."
Q: Ultimately, that commitment is to Christ.
A: I think it's a matter of saying, "OK, if I'm Christian, I want to please God with my life and live in a way glorifying to Him." That's my passion. Establishing boundaries is crucial as well. Talk to the person you are dating or courting about your commitment to purity and make sure both of you are committed to the same goal.
Two things can help you to stay pure and true to that commitment. First, God is watching all the time. Ask yourself, "How would God feel about what I am doing right now?" Second, "Am I glorifying to God in all my actions?" Pray for strength to stand strong. Pray with your friends, and stay accountable to others in your life who will ask you about the purity of your relationships. Even if I'm in a room with a guy, I'll keep the door wide open so that anyone can walk in, and I'm not inviting temptation.
Q: The pursuit of purity has some very practical applications, doesn't it?
A: We must live above reproach! Some time ago I had the opportunity to sing at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's headquarters. While there I was able to tell the staff how much I admire Mr. Graham's consistency, his love for Jesus and his integrity. I have heard, for example, that he won't ride in a car with a woman unless someone else is present. This impressed me so much that I decided to take a similar stand. One time, when a driver came to take me from my hotel to the concert hall, I sent him back to get a third person to ride with us.
And recently I went to a single guy's house to work on a song. But I didn't go alone. He and I both understood that we needed someone else to be there. Even in that instance, where I am a songwriter and I need to write with other people, I am protecting myself and living above reproach. It's not that I didn't trust this guy. I just wanted to live above reproach so that no one can look at my life and say, "Oh, she walked into a guy's house alone!"
Q: What do you think youth are struggling with today, and how does the Gospel minister to them?
A: I notice that girls are dealing with appearance-related issues. In July I was in Panama with about 800 girls. Some are cutting themselves because they feel so badly about themselves or are so emotionally shut-down that they just want to feel something, even if it's pain. Some of them are struggling with anorexia or bulimia; abuse—feeling a lack of trust in men because they've been abused. Some are struggling with homosexuality. These are big issues. The church needs to be strong about addressing these issues and speaking to youth on the hard stuff. It's easy to think that these kinds of issues are happening outside the church, but they are happening inside the church, too. Young girls are struggling with their appearance and immodesty because they see so much immorality portrayed in media. They think it's OK. One of the things I talked about on this trip was modesty. Youth need to find their sense of security in God, knowing that they are extravagantly loved by Him.
Q: Your family was very involved in helping shape your hunger for God. How important is Family in creating the right context for moral purity?
A: My family has had a major influence in my life. I am the oldest of seven kids, and we have a remarkably close family. In my teen years, I felt like I could talk to my family about anything. My parents were open and honest with us. A lot of young people don't have that kind of connection with their parents, or their parents aren't Christians or one parent is out of the picture. In that situation, I really encourage mentoring. I encourage young people to find an older person of the same sex within their church, whom they can go to and with whom they can share their struggles and ask for wisdom. Grandparents also can be a real encouragement in a young person's life.
Q: Isn't a heart for God the essence of holiness?
A: Some of the teens I know are seeking God and having a devotional life. It might be a little up and down, but I am seeing young people seeking God. For me, too, it is a challenge. We all live such busy lives. Our schedules are crazy, and we have a lot of expectations from people around us. But for me, unless I fill up on God daily and seek Him, my spiritual life is going to go backward. Our relationship is going to become less intimate. I don't want that. I want my relationship to be growing. Not only do I know that if I don't spend time with Him, seeking Him, my relationship with Him is going to be hurt, but also I know that I will have nothing to give to the people around me.
Young people at school have a calling to be lights to those around them and to be different and to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Cf. Romans 12:2). I really want to encourage young people to be strong in God and to be seeking Him and knowing that they have a calling right where they are.
Q: Your stand for moral purity has made you a very visible role model. Are you happy to assume that pressure?
A: I am very happy to take that role because I see so many damaging role models out there. As the oldest of seven kids, I've always had a sense of responsibility. In a way, it's just an extension of an already existing sense of responsibility. Now, it's just in front of millions of people. The other thing is, I want to live my life for God. I want to live an honoring and glorifying life for Him. By increasing my platform, I am just increasing that sense of accountability. I like the extra accountability encouraging me to live even more radically for Him.