The Promiscuity of Purity

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.

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Make it Reign!!!

Has someone ever invited you to go out to dinner with them? I don’t mean on a date. I mean that someone asks to take you out as an act of kindness, offering you community and potentially a free meal. Now, wouldn’t it be pretty shocking of them if the waiter asked if your meal is all on one check, and they turn around and said that you are paying for your own meal? Didn’t their inclusive invitation also include the meal?

Getting asked to go to lunch after church is like the only positive side of being a poor college kid. I think people can see a college kid’s skin become jaundice from the malnutrition brought by cafeteria food and ramen noodles. It would be a travesty if these people took advantage of the power that they knew they possessed. A college kid knows they don’t deserve a free meal, but it would be a let down and a tease to take them out with the expectation that their meal would be paid for and to not pay for it.

In the second half of the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul starts talking about Adam and the Fall. Many people like to think that Paul’s main focus here is on original sin, but really he is talking more of the result of Adam’s sin – death (Romans 5:12-21). Death is something that all people face. Blue Oyster Cult was right that we shouldn’t fear the Reaper – Death will come for us one way or another. And we just thought that they gave us the yearning for “more cowbell.”

I think a problem many people have is that they are afraid of death. That is pretty rational. But I think that the problem is even more escalated in the American Christian community. We want to escape death. The problem with this is that death can’t be escaped. Even before God gave Moses the Law, people felt the affect of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:14). And Death has been personified here as real as the Grim Reaper has in our culture. It is reigning as though it is king (Rom 5:14). And all people must serve him.

At the first part of Romans, Paul also explains this problem with mankind. There has been a deviation since creation (1:18-32). And from 1:18-3:20 Paul only makes one mention of Jesus Christ (2:16 in passing). Paul has been presenting the dark backdrop of the predicament that humanity is in. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul is now driving home the solution to the problem of what was first addressed in Romans 1:18-32. God has offered us the gift of grace through a faithful, righteous, and obedient act – Jesus’ death on the cross (Rom 3:22, 5:19, 21).

These are the high notes that illuminate this dark backdrop of death. It’s as though Paul is painting a masterpiece of cosmic proportions! Death is the dark backdrop of the past, and grace is the light in the foreground! We have a free gift offered to us that is way better in every way than the consequence of Adam’s sin (5:15). One person’s actions brought about death for all people. But everyone’s actions of sin caused God to do an action that would allow them forgiveness and reconciliation (5:15-17)!

We have the opportunity to be put in a right relationship (3:22) – in reconciliation with the Creator, with whom we have numerously offended (5:11). This logic makes no sense! Why would someone offer people who continually wrong Him forgiveness? One man sinned and brought death to many, but, even though many sinned, one man died so that they all could be seen as “innocent” in the eternal court of law!

So, in the end, Death is the kind of friend that invites you out to lunch and does not pay for your meal. Grace is the kind of friend that will go out of their way to bring the meal to you.

Where Death reigns as a king, demanding everything from those all around him, Grace, through Christ, reigns in a way that leads to life. This isn’t a spiritual life. This is the defeat of Death! This is the resurrection of the dead that happens at the end times (1Cor 15). Christ not only died an obedient death that he didn’t deserve, but he defeated death by rising from the dead! This is why death has no sting!

Do you want justification or condemnation? Do you want to live with grace or in sin? Do you choose to be with Christ or with Adam? What do you choose – life or death?

[References: World Biblical Commentary (Dunn), Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Witherington), Paul for Everyone (Wright)]