So just yesterday, I was reading a story over at about an Instagram controversy over a mother kissing her three-year-old son on the lips. According to the story, this is not the first time that a celebrity parent has been criticized for kissing their children. The fact that a mother would be criticized for kissing her toddler on his lips is simply beyond me. To read that some considered her action as “gross” or “harmful” to her son is a sad sign that we live in a world of sexual brokenness.

To suggest that a mother’s affection would harm a son is tragic. In fairness, it is certainly possible that those who objected to her behavior may have been victims of sexual abuse as children. Such trauma (and subsequent confusion) certainly impacts the way people think about matters like affection between parents and children. Yet, while circumstances like abuse may cause some to misunderstand normal parental affection, my fear is that the sexualized culture in which we live has made it difficult for people to distinguish familial love from perversion.

As tragic as it is to have to say it, a mother kissing her young son on the lips is not gross. Furthermore, a father who dances with his daughter, tells her that she is beautiful, and kisses her at bedtime is not “harming her.” Contrary to what the culture might want to teach us, not all affection is nor should be understood as sexual. In fact, most affection should not be bent on ending up in a bedroom. Affection is bigger than sex, and parents need to teach their children this principle.

My heart hurts for the actress who was criticized for kissing her son, but it also aches for the critics that cannot fathom the purity of a parent’s affection for their child. It is a good thing for parents to show their love to their children. Children need to know that they are loved by their parents. It should be strange to us if a parent is not affectionate, especially if we claim to be Christians. Our Father demonstrates His love for us in no uncertain terms (Romans 5:6-8). Let us, then, like our Heavenly Father, love our children unashamedly. Let us hug them, kiss them, hold them, encourage them, discipline them, pray for them, and take risks for them. They are stewardship from God to us. Let us teach them that kisses are not intended for deception (Luke 22:48) or perversion, but instead, for God-order affections (Ephesians 5:22-6:4) in the contexts of friendship and family.

Love your children out loud! Love them affectionately! And kiss them while they will still let you!