John and I had a complicated relationship. It’s not that we weren’t friends, or had some adolescent, passive-aggressive hostility against one another. We just had a theoretical friendship. Let me explain. We never really hung out that much, but we would carpool a lot. So I would chip in with gas riding home or when we would hang out with friends. But whenever we got to our destination we would part ways. It was an interesting friendship.
You learn a lot about a person when you are trapped in a moving metal box with them for countless hours. You find out their bad habits, their music interests, and eventually you get to the nitty-gritty secrets that nobody else knows. Maybe we just talked to each other about it because we knew once we got to our location, we would part ways and not feel the vulnerability or regret that comes from spilling out one’s heart… We are guys, so we probably talked about that stuff mostly out of boredom.
The conversation that sticks with me the most with John is one that we had that pertained to a girl he was interested in. I didn’t know her at the time, which is why he wanted my opinion on the matter. He knew I would be free of prejudice. He explained how he had a crush on this girl for years, and how there was now hope for them possibly being a couple in the near future. The wrench in the mix for him though was that she wasn’t a virgin… and he was. It was hard for him to get past the fact that she wasn’t “pure” anymore. John was upset that he “waited” for her, but that she didn’t wait for him. I shared with him something that caught him a bit off guard.
Who are we to say that Christ’s forgiveness isn’t good enough for someone?
I have a continuing love/hate relationship with the Purity Culture in the American Church. While trying to strive towards chastity, the people of God accidently replaced it with misogyny and legalism. Don’t get me wrong, I think people should be abstinent until they are married… but my problem is to put a label on the sin as though those who commit it are now dirty, discarded, and unwanted.
It creates cyclical problems of insecurity with no solution for wholeness.
Maybe it’s an argument of semantics, but “purity” is something that once it’s lost it cannot be regained. I remember hearing pastors and reading authors describe it as drinking dirty water or trying to continually rewrap and unwrap a birthday present. And purity rings, though with good intentions and great outcomes, can easily become a judgmental staple of condescending holier-than-thou-ism in the eyes of those who have a past, or those who have hurdles in the present.
We just need to be careful how we present chastity and abstinence.
Purity culture can also easily drift into sexism and misogyny. Purity rings can easily become like shackles on the young women in our church, while men get out mostly unscathed. If young males “stumble in their purity” it is just that – stumbling. But it is our young women who go through a transformation from pure to impure. I can only imagine the psycho-trauma caused from young women trying to remain “pure.”
But Christ has already brought about a transformation, and we have forgotten about it. We have been justified by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22). This is a court term saying that we have a status that has transformed our guilty verdict to innocent. It is saying that despite our guilt, we are now free to go, because of Jesus’ obedience to dying on the cross. Being righteous isn’t about perfection – that is sanctification. Being righteous is about being set in right relationship with a holy God.
It is saying, “The slate is clean. You are free to go.”
Don’t let any culture decide through subjectivity what has been clarified objectively through God. Even if it is the Christian Culture, remember that it can be fallible as anything else in this fallen world. Too often the church says everything it is against, and people forget all that it is for.
Be for chastity. Be for love. Be for forgiveness.
Luckily for John, he got over himself, and he and that girl ended up getting hitched. They are a great couple, and a wonderful godly example to all those around them.
12 thoughts on “The Promiscuity of Purity”
Nice article, bobert.
That was an amazing article. It was very insightful and full of wisdom. Thank you.
“While trying to strive towards chastity, the people of God accidently replaced it with misogyny and legalism.”
“It creates cyclical problems of insecurity with no solution for wholeness.”
“Purity rings can easily become like shackles on the young women in our church, while men get out mostly unscathed. If young males “stumble in their purity” it is just that – stumbling. But it is our young women who go through a transformation from pure to impure.”
BOBBY. THIS POST IS SO GOOD. PLEASE KEEP WRITING FOREVER & EVER. I didn’t hear ideas like this until I moved to NYC & was outside of my brainwashed “church brain” for a while. Words like these are fast-tracks to freedom.
Great thoughts. If I can offer a little pushback, though, I think that while it’s important to stress that through Jesus we are forgiven of our sins, restored to our original position and freed from the eternal consequences of those sins, that doesn’t mean that the present day consequences to our actions go away. If I get angry and punch you in the face, Jesus forgives me, you might even forgive me, but you still have to deal with that black eye for the next few weeks and I still have to work to regain your trust.
Likewise, if someone has sex before marriage and then accepts Jesus’ forgiveness, they are restored spiritually, but will still have to deal with consequences: memories of the event, regret & other emotional pain, comparing their future spouse to their former lover(s), STDs, unplanned pregnancies, etc…
A potential mate would be wrong to not forgive them for having sex before marriage. However, does forgiveness obligate them to look right past all of the other consequences?
I have heard many stories like your friend John’s where the couple was able to work past those issues and that is wonderful and a beautiful picture of forgiveness and restoration.
I’ve also known of people who were not able to work through the emotional baggage or physical issues and decided not to further pursue certain relationships. When you marry a person you take on their issues. I don’t think it’s wrong to decide any particular issue is too much for you to bear.
Steve. I agree with most of your response. I try to keep most of my posts short, and left out some things people might see as important in doing so. If you read, I did say my problem might just be due to an argument of semantics. I do think what I wrote still holds merit.
Not marrying someone because they have emotional baggage is a completely different reason than not marrying someone simply because they aren’t a virgin. Even virgins have emotional baggage (crazy, I know). So to include such a sidebar in this post would mean I would have to then asterisk that with the fact that many people have baggage that they need to get over. I know I’m not perfect. I am just presenting the first step towards wholeness for many young men and women in the church. Getting over the idea of feeling discarded and dejected is the first step towards losing that emotional baggage. From there they can properly accept the fact that their slate is clean and move towards full reconciliation.
I appreciate the response and hope that anyone who reads it sees the importance that comes with waiting, and the precautions they should consider when finding a potential spouse.
And every single person has issues or baggage. You wouldn’t be a Christian if you never had issues. Why? Because Jesus came to save sinners; not those who think they are righteous from their own self-righteousness. We have nothing to boast in but Jesus Christ. If we can’t forgive or show grace, how can we understand what Christ has done for us?
I think this is so well said and so needed to be said.
Many churches create an atmosphere when once the ‘purity’ is ‘broken’ it seems it’s too late and there is no reason to not continue in sin, elevating the ones who haven’t committed that one particular sin over those who have and are yet forgiven. I fear this for our girls especially, who I know sometimes feel that once they’ve become ‘impure’ that they are lost to God.
Fantastic article. Thank you for being willing to speak your honest thoughts, and I wholeheartedly agree with your points here.
Your post is spot on. Thanks for getting this message out.
Dude. thats cool. I approve of this.
thats really cool! thanks for sharing your heart.
I wish that more parents from the “church” would read this.I feel that it can give them a better insight to what the youth/young adults are truly facing these days.I know that I’m on a journey myself to understand the mindset of this generation and pray that God will give me the mind of Christ in loving and guiding my young adult kids. Thanks Bobby boy 🙂