Monday, October 22, 2012

The Myth of Sexual Purity

Did I pull you in with the title?

It’s not really a myth. It’s just too rare. No surprise, we live in a highly sexualized culture where problems like pornography, pre-marital sex, and a culture sliding away from sexual morality all tug hard against purity.  

Does it matter? Is purity possible?

Imagine an ideal world. No one gives in to sexual temptation. Everyone enjoys sex within the boundaries of marriage, as God designed (yes, I know this is a Pollyanna view, but let me dream). What would happen?

The multi-billion dollar porn industry dries up.
Prostitution disappears.
Sex trafficking ceases.
No babies born outside of wedlock.
With fewer single-parent homes, poverty rates in America decrease.
Abortion rates drop drastically.
Guilt from sexual sin never rears its head.
Marriages become stronger.


Back to reality. The truth is, sexual temptation tugs constantly, and many yield– including a high percentage of practicing believers. We won’t fully see the above results this side of Jesus’ reign on earth when He returns. But until then, we can put a small dent in the problem, one person at a time.

That raises two obvious questions: (1) Can we experience purity, and (2) Do we want to experience purity?

The first question is simple to answer. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). The language here is strong! The biblical answer is, we can. Of course, getting from theory (“we can”) to practice (“we do”) isn't easy, but the truth that we can remains unchanged.

The second question is tougher. Many times when we yield to temptation, we do so because we want to. A friend once said, “If sin weren't fun, no one would do it.” So, I must decide if I want sexual purity to characterize my life and my individual choices. On paper, this seems easy, but on a moment-by-moment basis, it often isn't. Sometimes we want the wrong thing. Like any aspect of my Christian life, the desire to follow Jesus is stronger at some times than others

So, let’s assume believe purity is possible and we want it. But what is “it”?

Too often we limit the definition to what we don’t do. We use words like “flee immorality” or “no sex outside marriage”. Both statements are absolutely true, but they give only part of the answer. Purity is so much more than what we don’t do. Usually (always?) when God says “Thou shalt not”, he also says, “Thou shalt do this instead.” This holds for sexual purity. After commanding us to “flee immorality”, He commands us to“glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

Here’s how I tie “thou shalt not” and “thou shalt do this instead” into a definition of purity:

I experience purity to the degree that I make godly choices
Ø  by avoiding all inappropriate sexual activity;
Ø  by enjoying appropriate expressions of my gender;
Ø  by enjoying appropriate relations with the opposite sex;
Ø  by honoring God, myself, and the other person with my heart, mind, eyes, and actions.

Yeah, I know it’s long. The abridged version is “I experience purity to the degree that I make godly choices.” And, to keep this blog from turning into a book, I can do no more than highlight each piece of the definition.

Sexual activity involves more than intercourse. It includes any activity that, taken to its logical or desired end results in orgasm; any intentional touching of sex organs (even through clothing); any “eyeballing” of someone; or any sexual fantasizing.

Inappropriate sexual activity happens when anything or anyone other than our spouse gets our engine started. Avoiding this is the “thou shalt not.” Everything else is “thou shalt do this instead.”

Enjoying appropriate expressions of my gender recognizes God made us sexual beings. Being male is part of who I am. We have freedom to be “manly men” and “girly girls”, so long as we don’t cross the line into what’s  inappropriate. Use your imagination!

Enjoying appropriate relations with the opposite sex simply means we can enjoy being with the opposite sex as long as we recognize boundaries. “Appropriate” with my my wife differs from “appropriate” with my secretary or my wife’s friends or my neighbor. It means unmarried people can enjoy dating with appropriate touch within the “don’t get your engine started” limit.

Honoring God recognizes that God is always glorified when I choose to follow Him in faith and live His way – in this case, following His way for sex. Always.

Honoring myself recognizes that I am the temple of the Holy Spirit and that I am living as the person God desires me to be.

Honoring the other person recognizes that other person is created in God’s image, and is not an object for my pleasure. Even if “the person” is only a picture, video, or fantasy. It recognizes that the other is someone who may become (or already is!) someone else’s spouse. Honoring the other person recognizes that God gave “rules” for sex to protect each person and to provide maximum possible joy with one another. In other words, I treat the other person like the person God designed them to be.

With my heart, mind, eyes, and actions simply means sexual purity involves my entire being. All of me.

So there you have it – sexual purity in a thousand words (give or take). Of course, I could say much more, especially about practical steps to experience this purity, about how to handle slips (a nice word for “sin”), and so on. For now, all I can do is challenge us to believe purity is possible, to encourage us to want it, and to broaden our idea of what purity looks like. I hope I've helped on any of these three levels.

I’ll close with some shameless self-promotion – If you want more information in general, have any specific questions, or want information about me presenting a sexual purity workshop for your church, men’s group, or school, e-mail me at or message me on Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment