It’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of particular paradigms that surface under the wide umbrella of Christian thought. I remember the first time that I read the Bible all the way through—I expected to find all sorts of images of heaven and hell, the antichrist, the mark of the beast, the rapture, virginity, how sex was bad and rock and roll and alcohol were evil. My discovery was a bit different from what I expected. Now obviously these ideas aren’t pulled out of thin air. People do not typically come to conclusions about certain subjects for no reason at all. My surprise, however, was that nearly all of these hot topics that I had grown up hearing about had been sadly misrepresented by the Christian media.
Social media gives us an opportunity to see what people are saying around the world. I’m always intrigued by articles on sexuality written by Christians—simply because I honestly want to know what they’re going to say. As of late, these articles have become increasingly tricky—I would dare say, deliberately titled in an obscene fashion—in order to draw readers in. I Regretted Saving Myself for my Husband, or I’m Married and Seeing Another Woman, and various other related titles that people use to drive home a point about sexual practice or removing obstacles that prevent intimacy in your marriage. There have been some very good points made in some of these articles about the importance of striving for a healthy marriage relationship; I commend any Godly wisdom that people boldly share with world. Unfortunately, for every good article about sexuality, behind it we’ll find a dozen other articles that people repost that espouse ideas that have absolutely no root in Christianity. Most of these ideas people believe to be Biblical, because that is what the surrounding Christian culture has adopted and presented dogmatically. Where these ideas come from, I don’t know. But many of them do not find their roots in Scripture. What’s worse is that many of them feed the wrong ideas into people’s heads that actually hinder them understanding the gospel, or cause them to adopt pharisaical attitudes that Christ deliberately speaks against. Ask many Christians what they think about sexual purity, and you’ll probably find that their answers are rooted in pop culture—not the Bible. For starters I’m going to take one example that I’ve run across frequently in the church. Later on I may add additional blog posts on the topic, but for now we’ll start with one of the biggest myths:
Myth: A person who does not have sex before marriage is pure.
This is one of the most popular of the unbiblical views on sexuality. It does not take into account Christ’s teachings on lust, or the Biblical view of fallen man. Furthermore, it fumbles around when the subject of rape is presented, or pornography, or general human lust that doesn’t lead to sex. It seeks to create loopholes in a system of legality that looks a bit like this: “Well, this may have happened, but at least it wasn’t sex. So I’m pure.” In light of Christ’s teaching, this is bad thinking. It’s also bad theology. When humanity plunged into the darkness of sin, we literally took our gaze off of God and placed it onto his gifts as suitable objects of worship. Specifically, human sexuality became an object of corruption. We now find ourselves intrinsically impure; not simply because of what we practice, but because of what we desire. In light of the gospel, this idea of purity equating to virginity should be thrown out of the window. There is simply no connection. The bar that Jesus Christ holds humanity accountable to—the reality of the situation—is far too high for anyone to achieve. That’s the point. Pure people do not need a savior. The law acts as a mirror—by it you see the dirt on your face; but you do not use the mirror to clean off your face—you need someone to clean it off for you. That is where Christ steps into the picture.
So do we label a person with years of extensive pornography consumption, pure? Do we label someone with unrestrained lust, pure? Do we label victims of rape, impure? Do human beings start out pure and then become impure? It’s easy to get wrapped up in romantic ideas that have no foundation logically or theologically. I’ve been astonished by the belief of second-virginity which seems to, yet again, miss the point and place chastity on the throne of the human heart as if virginity was an end to itself. It’s a bit like saying “Cheer up, you’ve been ruined; but we weren’t keeping track that time.” The mind boggles. We’ve lied to thousands upon thousands of people by convincing them that the end goal of purity was purity itself. It cannot be said enough, that purity is a journey, and that the end of that journey and the reward of that journey is seeing God.
If we’re going to teach people about the Biblical perspective on sexuality, we need to take the emphasis off of the idea that no sex leads to purity. That’s both unhelpful and theologically bankrupt. Purity is itself a pursuit. When the Bible talks about purifying yourself—and if we specifically add sex to the equation— the result is that all sexual expression (that means lust in any form) finds its outlet exclusively in marriage, for the purpose of drawing nearer to God. The discussion could end there. Purifying yourself is cutting out things that are contrary to holiness that hinder us from seeing God. Pick a sin, any sin, and the reason to remove it from your life is always first and foremost to draw near God. When any virtue becomes an avenue for showing off our clean, little faces, it spoils itself as a result. This was the problem with the Pharisees, and it’s a millstone that many people in the church have tied around their neck.