This week I have had multiple conversations with dear friends who have been completely torn apart emotionally. They have cried as they confessed to me what they had done sexually, and told me that they were angry at themselves and afraid to tell me for fear that I would be angry also. We talked it out for a while, cried together, and then parted ways. I decided that I was going to find a book that we could study and read together in order to help us make the “right decisions” in sexually tempting situations. And being the good friend that I am, I promptly went to Barnes and Noble to find such reading material. I sat on the floor of the Christian literature section and read chapter after chapter of different books written on sexually purity, while my back screamed in pain from horrible posture. The search for a good book proved hopeless, because as I read various authors I realized one thing: every single book called for sexual “purity”. The books used terms such as, “sexual integrity”, “chastity”, “cleanliness”, and one chapter was even titled:“hope for those who have already sinned sexually”.
I wanted to straight up scream and pitch a fit in the Christian section of Barnes and Noble. In fact, I almost took out my notepad right there and began a book titled: What The Hell Is Sexual Purity.
“Sexual purity” is a phrase that gets me every time. Not that purity, or even sexual purity is a bad thing in and of itself, when used in its proper context. What bothers me is the way that cultural Christianity has taken that phrase to become a battering ram of judgment and self righteousness – a standard that proves ones godliness or lack thereof.
Most Sunday school lessons on “sexual purity” are often vague and confused, making girls who aren't virgins feel like the scum of the earth while making those who are feel self-righteous and holy. Both of these perspectives are wrong, screwed up, and a direct result of the sexual brokenness that seeps into every aspect of our humanity. I would therefore go on to argue that no man or woman goes to their marriage bed in a manner that is sexually pure, because our brokenness is a part of the sin that infests our soul from day one. As a result, living your life striving for a standard of purity that doesn't exist will only leave you exhausted and unable to fulfill your desires for self-satisfaction. The man or woman who has had pre-marital sex with 50 people is no different than the virgin who saved their first kiss for the alter. Both come to their marriage bed with hearts that are steeped in lust, shame, unfulfilled desires, discontentment, and guilt.
I proceeded to purchase a book called Every Young Woman's Battle. I had heard great reviews on it in the past, and I decided to give it a shot and see if all the hooplah was correct. I am not in any way bashing this book, because I have hardly even finished the first 3 chapters. Ask me next week what I think of it and I might give you a more educated opinion. But at this moment, a few sentences have already stood out to me, and I would like to dissect them and reveal how they embody the popular Christian perspective on sexual purity.
It starts right away in the preface where Josh McDowell makes this bold statement,
“..I'm thrilled that you are holding this book in your hands. I know you are going to discover it to be an invaluable tool that will lead you down the path toward a renewed mind, a strong spirit, a pure heart, a healthy body, and tremendously rewarding relationships with others and with God.”
At first glance, about 400 million questions pop into my head. What is a renewed mind? And what in the world is a strong spirit? I mean it sounds good, but what happened to God's promise that His strength is made perfect in our weakness? While we're on that note, what is a pure heart? The Bible I read tells me that we are all born into utter depravity, and “the heart is deceitful above all things”. But if I can manage to get a pure heart from reading this book then, by all means, sign me up. All of this begs the question: Is my goal in life a strong spirit, pure heart, healthy body, and rewarding relationships?
Nope, not me. That's not my goal. Why? Because my spirit is weak, my heart is dark and sinful, my body is wasting away daily, and my relationships are really tough and painful. But I strive for contentment because I know God is making me holy and beautiful through the trials and sorrow of life on this side of heaven. So no, my hope is not perfection and purity – my only hope is the fact that I am perfect and pure because God sees Jesus when He looks at me.
Mom, don't freak out. I know you are thinking that I've jumped off the deep end and now I'm going to be walking around barefoot and pregnant because I think sexual purity is legalistic and unattainable. Wrong. In fact, grasping a deeper understanding of Christ's sacrifice and my pardon only compels me to live in a manner that obeys His commands and strives for godly purity. But my argument is that all those excellent books on purity and abstinence MUST be prefaced with a solid understanding of sin, forgiveness, and redemption. Because without Jesus, it is all unattainable and legalistic.
So to my friend who feels guilty and used: God loves you. Not only does He love you, but He is proud of you. Last night you may have rolled around in bed with a complete stranger who didn't even know your name, but when God looks at you He doesn't see that. He sees His only Son nailed to a cross, spilling out perfect blood that bridges the gap between God and mankind.
So experience the joy, freedom, and love that God has lavished upon you. And in turn, be thankful and be compelled to live in obedience and accordance to His law. And strive for sexual purity, knowing that Christ has already been pure for you.
P.S. Be on the lookout for a book coming to shelves near you titled What The Hell Is Sexual Purity. The first chapter of the book will begin like this, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest...”