Purity isn’t for me. No, really—it isn’t.
There seems to exist some disillusionment for those who have reached what we could call “the other side of purity”. I’ve seen an article or two from people in my own generation bemoaning the fact that saving one’s virginity for the wedding night just wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The reality that came after saying “I do” just hasn’t seemed to measure up to the ideal they were promised by their parents and youth pastors. Somehow these people who once made a commitment to purity now regret following through with it.
Maybe they were given all of the practical considerations and potential blessings of purity as though they were promises: avoiding STDs and unwanted pregnancy, having the potential for a very special physical relationship in marriage free from comparison with and the baggage of past “experience”, having a sense of self-respect, keeping your parents and church leaders happy (because the Bible says so!), making sure you don’t waste your gift on someone who doesn’t really love you, and, let’s not forget “married sex is the best sex”. In the minds of all too many teens and young adults, this boils down to: you will be healthier and happier if you wait. None of those are necessarily bad considerations or potential outcomes, mind you, but perhaps, neither are they proper motivation for a lifetime of purity.
I would offer that those who are disillusioned with the results of waiting didn’t understand what purity is for in the first place. Their complaints seem to be along the lines of “It didn’t work out for me like I thought. It didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would.” But, as the title of this article suggests, purity—in the Christian sense—isn’t for me.
My husband and I were recently asked to speak to a local youth group about how the Lord worked to bring us together (especially since our story is quite different from the way many people go about finding a spouse), so the issue of purity has been fresh on my mind for the past several weeks.
One of the discussion questions my husband tossed out that night for the teens to consider is, I believe, a very fitting one for any godly discussion of purity: What is the most important thing in the world to you?
I’d be interested to hear answers to that question from those who regret their past purity.
Hopefully those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior would at least know that the answer ought to be God Himself, or some variation including loving, serving, or glorifying Him. After all, the Bible says “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism suggests that the “chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Once you know that is the correct answer, it’s pretty easy to come up with—but a whole lot harder to say honestly, isn’t it?
Riding that train of thought a little further, the greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is this:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Here’s something to consider: If this is the greatest commandment, perhaps we should understand God’s call to sexual purity in light of it. Could it be that the goal of those “lesser” commands is in fact to obey that first one? Let’s review a few passages and see:
Now flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
“Youthful lusts” stand in opposition to the pursuit of “righteousness, faith, love and peace”, and this is to be done with others who “call on the Lord”—the Lord and His goals for us seem to be the focus.
Finally, then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God…that you excel still more…For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality…For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
We are exhorted to walk in a way that pleases God, here and also in Colossians 1:10. The strong message of this passage to the Thessalonians is that our sanctification, or being “set apart” unto God, is not only pleasing to God but is also somewhat synonymous with sexual purity. In other words, good luck being set apart for God’s purposes while clinging to sexual sin. Sexual purity is so important because sexual sin is so at odds with our greatest goal: loving and glorifying God.
And perhaps the strongest statement yet:
…the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:17-20
This passage sets up a two-fold view of our bodies:
1 – There is a sense in which our bodies have dignity and we can disgrace them by acts of sexual sin (“the immoral man sins against his own body”), so arguments for purity that involve a sense of self-respect and dignity are actually, in my opinion, rather appropriate according to this verse. But…
2 – The strongest point to be made in this passage, however, is not that we sin against ourselves, but, if we are Christians, that we sin against the very purpose for which we have been rescued by Christ—to be a set-apart vessel, a temple for the Holy Spirit. Sexual sin is clearly at odds with glorifying God in our bodies, because our bodies are not ultimately ours, but the Lord’s, for Him to fill and abide. What could be more dignifying than that?!?
In my study of these passages, among others, I don’t see God holding out any carrots in order to twist our arms into sexual purity. There isn’t any bait-and-switch, as if God were to say, “Do this and you will be happy, healthy, whatever you want—but eventually I’ll tell you that I really I just want you to glorify Me.” God’s word is actually quite straightforward. If these passages tell us anything, they tell us that purity isn’t about us, it’s about God.
So to those who are young and wondering if sticking it out for the long haul is worth it: yes, it is. Not because it will ensure “your best life”—now or later—but because it is God’s good will for you and it pleases and honors Him. The commitment to set apart your body for God’s service will be a testimony to a world that His ways are better than theirs and that you are willing to wait for God’s good gifts in His good time.
To those who are not so young anymore and wondering if marriage and family will ever happen for them or if they will have lived a life of purity “for nothing”: take heart, it is not for nothing. It is for God and for your eternal delight in Him far above anything else. This will speak volumes of the value of your God above anything this world can offer. It may be a hard and lonely road, and it may be that you don’t see a reward for it in this lifetime, but “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown to His name” (Hebrews 6:10).
To those who have not lived a life of purity and wonder if they can somehow make up for their sins: no, you can’t. But Jesus already did. He died for sin—for all kinds of sin, including the most perverse and unfaithful. Look to the cross, cast your cares on Jesus, believing He died for your sin and rose from the dead. He lives now to intercede for all who trust Him. So trust Him. And dig into what God’s word says about how to live with a goal of pleasing Him—and walk now in purity because the death of Jesus has made you clean and His Holy Spirit gives you new life.
To those who are married and think that the pursuit of purity is behind them: it’s not. Purity is just as important in marriage as it is when single. The goal is still the same—to glorify God with our bodies—only, in marriage, this includes both nurturing our relationship with our spouse and guarding our minds and bodies from temptation to sin. The fight isn’t over; it just looks a little different.
And finally, to those who think that their commitment to purity before marriage has let them down: it was never meant to be the key to temporal happiness anyway, though it certainly can contribute to it. If you’re a Christian, purity wasn’t ultimately about you at all, but about God. Try not to be resentful towards those who may have misled you into believing the whole point was to be healthy and happy—they probably meant the best for you. Instead of looking back in resentment, open up God’s word to see more of what He has to say about it. If your attitude has been sinful, selfish, or self-righteous, repent. Jesus died for those things, too. And don’t let go of purity—just recognize it isn’t an end in itself or a means to merely temporal ends. It is a part of living life to the glory and enjoyment of God.
I have, of course, only barely scratched the surface when it comes to what the Bible says about sexual purity, nor have I even really shared my own experience in the matter, but I hope that I have at least demonstrated the central purpose for the Christian’s call to purity, which is the very purpose for life itself: to love and glorify our Creator God. If I have as my greatest aim something other than that, my lifelong commitment to purity will quite likely be fraught with disappointment. Because, after all, purity isn’t for me.
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17