The Direction of Purity
- Joshua Harris Author and Speaker
- 2000 10 Oct
Last year I was a guest speaker at a Christian music festival in Pennsylvania called "Creation." I was there to speak on the topic of purity in one of the seminars taking place on the side of a wooded hill. Minutes before I spoke, I started to get nervous. Part of my message contained a challenge to girls to dress modestly. I had shared it many times but always in nice, air-conditioned churches where the audience was fully clothed. It was a different story at an outdoor festival in the middle of summer. Here under the hot sun modesty was literally "not cool."
The area around me was swarming with sweaty people trying to find solace from bottled water and snow cones. Many of the girls wore short shorts and bikini tops. The thought of talking about modesty to a crowd dressed like this made me feel sick.
I knelt down next to a tree, opened my notebook, and removed the page that contained the section on modesty. I don't need to share this part, I thought. It will offend them. The message will be better without it. Then the justifications started rolling. The sinful part of me that wants everyone to like me started to justify leaving out that section. They'll think you're judgmental if you say that, it reasoned. They'll roll their eyes at you. They'll snicker.
But a moment later my conscience kicked in: You're more worried about impressing this crowd than you are about pleasing God. I hesitated. With a groan, I put the page back into my notebook. God, I prayed, I want to say what You want me to say.
The message went well. When I came to the dreaded section, I was honest with the crowd and told them my temptation to leave it out. "But you know what?" I said. "I want to be more afraid of God than I am of you." To my surprise they applauded. Then they listened.
"You really have no clue," I said to the girls, "how hard it is for a guy to look at you with purity in his heart when you're dressed immodestly. If you could get inside a guy's head for a day -- or even ten minutes! -- I believe it would significantly change your wardrobe. And if it didn't, what would that say about your heart? It's your heart that I want to encourage you to examine. I'm not here to start measuring skirt lengths. The question is, what is your heart's motive? Do you want to stir up lust in a guy?"
I closed with this encouragement: "Ladies, we live in a day and age when you're bombarded with the message that your value is in the way you look -- your body and your appearance. All that I can say is that if living a life of obedience before God in the way you dress meant that you never caught the second glance of another guy, it would be worth it. Because your value is not in the attention of any guy -- your value is in that Christ loves you and died for you and that you are His daughter. That's your value! And your true beauty comes from a heart and life surrendered to Him. That is true beauty!"
Afterward I had countless guys and girls come up and thank me for sharing that material. I cringe when I think of how close I came to disobeying God and leaving it out. For me, that message was a way to watch out for other people's purity. You'll have your own opportunities. Don't let them slip by -- be bold! Let's obey God and love our brothers and sisters by making their purity our responsibility.
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