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Have We Made an Idol Out of Sexual Purity?

  • Debbie Holloway
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  • 2014 Jul 30
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“If you grew up in church,” writes Debra Fileta at Relevant Magazine, “you’ve likely heard one of these  horrific analogies somewhere along the way:

Your sexual purity, once it’s given away is like...

‘Tape that’s lost its stickiness.’

‘Paper that’s been torn.’

‘Gum that’s been chewed.’

‘A gift that’s been unwrapped.’

While I get the mentality behind these messages, my problem with these analogies, and in fact, this entire discussion, is that it presents ‘purity’ as a one-dimensional physical act.

First you have it, then you don’t. Vanished. Gone. Over. Done with. In a blink of an eye, the prospect of being ‘pure’ and holy has been wiped away.”

As someone who also grew up in church, it’s hard to argue with Fileta. It’s pretty easy to tell that in the unofficial church hierarchy of sins, sexual sin ranks as pretty dastardly. It was even apparent in the way my parents and most of my friends’ parents censored movies. Violence? Meh, as long as the kids aren’t too little and nothing’s too graphic. Language? That’s worse, but still manageable. Make sure to cover their ears if the ‘F’ word is used. But sex in movies? Nope, no way – they’re leaving the room. Even if sex wasn’t explicitly shown, your face was still covered with a pillow the minute things got steamy.

But now many authors like Debra Fileta are writing that this portrait of virginity as the end-all, be-all can actually be quite harmful – even to the point of making an idol out of sexual purity.

Whitney Hopler, in her article How to Find Sexual Wholeness as a Woman, reminds us that sex should never define us.

Base your identity on who you are in Christ rather than on the roles you play in life. Your circumstances – single or married, mother or not, paid or volunteer worker – don’t define you. What does define you, from God’s perspective, is your identity as someone made in his image who he loves completely. So remember how valuable you truly are whenever you make choices about how to express your sexuality.”

In another article, Hopler covers the principles of the book True Purity: More than Just Saying "No" to You-Know-What. The book reminds us that there’s “a better way to pursue purity” than just obsessing over virginity.

“From God’s perspective, purity involves much more than what you do in one area of your life; it has to do with what you choose in every part of your life. Achieving true purity is possible, but not through your own efforts. Instead, you need to rely on Jesus every day to empower you to live in purity. Then your quest for purity won’t be frustrated by your failures; it’ll be a sign of Jesus’ successful work within you.”

She goes on to advise:

Recognize what true purity is, and why it’s important. Purity means choosing to love God more than you love anything or anyone else, and expressing that love by wholeheartedly devoting your life to God. It’s important to pursue purity because the more pure you become, the more you’ll grow into the person God intends you to become.”

Debra Fileta rounds out her Relevant article by explaining,

“Our purity is not simply a product of the status of our physical bodies—but more so, it’s the condition of our souls, souls that are meant to be completely, utterly and only intertwined with the person of Jesus Christ.

We spend so much time discussing physical purity, without challenging this generation to live a life that is so Spirit-filled, Christ-centered and God-breathed that purity is just the natural overflow…

…Don’t allow anyone to define you by anything less than God’s goodness and grace. And then go, and be transformed.”

What has your experience been of how the church deals with sexuality? Do you feel defined by your sexual experiences, or have you been encouraged to find your identity in Christ alone? What does ‘purity’ mean to you? Share your thoughts with us below!

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com.

Publication date: July 30, 2014