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.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How to Help the Wrong Candidate: Vote Third Party or Don't Vote!

Two problems can influence the coming elections. Okay, I know there are more than two, but only two that I’ll address in this blog! One is voting for a third-party candidate; the other is not voting at all.

In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush for President of the United States. Clinton won 370 electoral votes to Bush’s 168. Interestingly, however, he took only 43% of the popular vote, winning the popular vote by a plurality, not a majority. Bush took 37.5% of the popular vote, and third party candidate H. Ross Perot took 18.9%. Perot, however, did not win a single state and therefore did not carry a single electoral vote.

Electoral vote
States carried
32 + DC
Popular vote

Perot effectively split the conservative vote. I’m not saying Bush would have won if Perot had not been on the ballot because I have no way of knowing how (or if) those 19.7 million voters who voted for Perot would have voted. Nor am I making any moral evaluation of any of these three candidates. I’m simply using this election to illustrate that the problem with third-party candidates is that they rarely have enough support to carry the day and win the office. So, when we vote third party, we effectively vote for the candidate we least want to win. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say the candidates from the two primary parties are Smith and Jones. One is more liberal; one is more conservative. You as the voter tend to be either more liberal or more conservative, so given just these two candidates, you would likely vote for the one that more aligns with your views. But the election is muddled – Candidate Fankhauser is also on the ballot. You are convinced Fankhauser better represents your views. Fankhauser could lean towards either the liberal side or the conservative side – the argument doesn't change. So, rather than use the labels liberal / conservative , right / left, democrat / republican, I will use the labels north / south simply to show that the candidates tend to be opposites in their overall views.

The ballot has Smith (North), Jones (South) and Fankhauser (also South). You are convinced Smith (North) is by far the worst of the three candidates. However, you are also convinced that Jones (South) is not the best candidate. You are convinced that Fankhauser (South) is the best candidate for any number of reasons. Maybe he is more southern than Jones (or less); maybe he alone holds to a particular view important to you. However, no poll shows Fankhauser having even a ghost of a chance of winning. However, he can carry some votes of those with a southern view. Effectively, he takes votes away from Jones, helping Smith (north). If ten people vote, 4 for Smith, 3 for Jones and 3 for Fankhauser, Smith (north) wins, even though the southern view captured more votes. And if I’m Smith, I love the idea of Fankhauser being on the ballot! (By the way, I realize that some of those who voted for Fankhauser might have leaned more to the north, and would vote for Smith and not Jones had Fankhauser not been on the ballot. But usually a third-party candidate negatively impacts one side far more than the other).

I can hear some teeth gnashing, because you may conclude (rightly) that I think it is better to vote for Jones, even though I think Fankhauser is the better candidate. Shouldn't we vote our conscience? Shouldn't we vote for the one we think is the best candidate?

The answer is yes… and no. Support your preferred candidate through the process, but if it is obvious he (or she) has no real chance of winning, it is sometimes the better option to vote against the worst candidate (in this case, Smith) than for my preferred candidate  by voting for the candidate that at least has a shot of carrying the day. No vote is ever wasted (i.e., we should express our opinion in the ballot box), but sometimes a vote can be ineffective. If keeping Smith out of office is a primary goal, then voting for Jones more effectively moves toward that goal. If I am okay with Smith in office, or if I believe Jones is equally bad, then voting for third-party Fankhauser poses no problem. That is rarely the case, however.

My point in all this is to vote effectively. Sadly, sometimes the vote truly does boil down to a lesser of two evils. Neither candidate is ideal. But often splitting a vote by voting for a third-party candidate who has no hope effectively puts the greater of two evils in office.

And that brings me to the second problem: not voting at all. If I really believe that both candidates are bad, and I choose to stay home and not vote, I again am effectively helping the greater of the two evils. In this case, only Smith and Jones are on the ballot. Let’s look at two scenarios: (1) I don’t like either candidate, but I am more concerned about Smith getting into office than Jones. I choose to vote for Jones, effectively cancelling out one vote for Smith, making it just a bit tougher for him (or her) to win. (2) I don’t like either candidate, so I don’t vote. Therefore, the vote that I cancelled in the first scenario stands uncontested, making it easier for Smith to win. Not voting helps the “more evil” candidate.

Here’s the bottom line. We should vote, and we should vote our conscience. However, as part of that “conscience” I need to include thinking about the effect of my vote. By not voting or by voting for a third party candidate who has no chance, I effectively help the candidate I consider “more evil”.

I have carefully avoided specific candidates, parties, or offices. The logic of my position is independent of those issues. If I am more liberal and the third party splits the liberal vote or if I am more conservative and the third party splits the conservative vote, the logical outcome is the same. The split vote helps the other side. Vote wisely!