Destroying Myths about Sexual Purity

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.

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5 thoughts on “Destroying Myths about Sexual Purity

  1. I’ve been reading your articles and they’re absolutely awesome, so I wanted to ask you a question to see if you could give me some insight. I’ve always, as many Christians do, had the idea that it is wrong to have sex before marriage (as well as all that you spoke of in the article). In a Bible study, a friend of mine brought up the idea that he could have sex with his girlfriend because the way he believes God defines marriage is through the act of sex, and he knows that she is the one he wants to marry and he loves her. So in that case, he believes that even if they aren’t married yet the way Americans define it, or on a piece of paper, they’re married in their hearts between them and God. And it sounds strange to me, but every time I think of something to say back, it’s just avoiding the actual question. I’m just totally confused. So I wanted to ask you, is this scriptural? And is there any safe way to say the idea is either right or wrong? It seems risky or unwise, but I don’t actually know if there’s any way to draw a line and say “no”. Thanks in advance!

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    • Hi Allen, thank you for your comment. The first thing I would say is that God doesn’t define marriage through sex. Otherwise a man would be married to every prostitute he slept with or a rapist would be married to the victim. Even if you expanded your definition to, “marriage is defined by God by sex in a loving relationship,” that definition would still miss the point, and it certainly wouldn’t be biblical. An important element of sex from a Christian worldview is that sex is an act of renewing your covenant with your spouse. If there isn’t that covenant between the two of them (the promise of fidelity while both parties are living) then you are essentially ruining the sacredness of sex. Your friend might say, “Yeah but we’ve promised never to leave each other,” then my follow up response would say, “Then why aren’t you married?” Marriage is more than a piece of paper. It is binding you to that other person until one of you dies. It binds you legally, financially, physically, and spiritually. If you aren’t willing to go through the usual channels to “be married” to one another, then you probably aren’t really committed. Because at the end of the day we all know that your friend could walk away from his girlfriend and it would be totally legitimate, because there isn’t a real commitment there. Also, marriage and sex is a pretty big deal because of how it relates to Christ and his church. Marriage is so deeply ingrained in the Bible that when you start to pull it apart, you begin to unravel some of the deepest theological concepts in Christianity. Briefly stated, the only avenue for sexual expression, according to Scripture, is in marriage between a husband (male) and a wife (female). The covenant and everything else is implied. You can’t get around it without devaluing scriptural authority. The simple response is, “Is this woman that you’re having sex with your wife?” If his answer is “no,” then our question is answered.

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  2. Zack, first I really like your articles. However, do you really think you are going to find employment after seminary in a Baptist organization. You will be called an apostate and a heretic.

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    • Alan, thank you very much for reading. I would certainly hope that nothing I say on this blog is heretical (and if it is, I would hope someone would lovingly inform me). I’ve been surrounded by some really good men who are Southern Baptist. Like any denomination, we aren’t perfect (we seem to be a bit slow on learning how to engage the surrounding culture, for example), but I tend to be optimistic about it. So while we’re really slow in some areas, we’re tenacious in other areas that I think are important.

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