Disclaimer: Please note that the purpose of me sharing this is not to cause drama or discourage anyone, but is to hopefully encourage all of us to really consider some of the statements we make as believers in Christ that may be well-intentioned.
Purity is a topic that is often discussed in the Christian community – especially in relation to waiting until marriage. While I am all for encouraging people to wait until marriage and do things God’s way, there are some things I’ve noticed in some purity ministries that can help more than harm and veer on the fine line of biblical versus unbiblical doctrine.
“I’m saving my purity until marriage”
Typically, when I hear the word “purity” being brought up and discussed, it’s spoken about as this thing that is primarily a physical concept. We often hear people encouraging others to remain pure until marriage and keeping their purity until marriage. While the intent of it might be well-meaning, for someone that is new in the faith or not actively reading scripture, it can easily be interpreted as purity only pertaining to what is physical.
“I am waiting until marriage, so that means I’m pure – right?”
Sorry to say, but nope. You can wait until marriage and abstain from physical intimacy and still be impure. Why? Because purity is a heart matter. Purity is is much deeper than abstaining from certain things or certain words. Purity is a matter of our hearts and what’s in them and is not something that we ourselves have the power to maintain, but I’ll get into that later.
Think about it this way – someone could be waiting for marriage and yet on the inside, lust for a crush. Someone could be waiting for marriage and yet in their hearts be actively thinking of ways to murder someone. Okay, maybe the latter isn’t the best example, but my point is to say that you could be physically abstaining from certain things, but still struggle with these things in your heart.
Additionally, the threat of impure thoughts doesn’t end when you say, “I do.” Many married couples have often attested to the fact that just because they’re married, it doesn’t mean they still don’t have to guard their hearts from certain things to keep them from lusting after another person or developing inappropriate relationships with them. Some people get married and are still unfaithful to their spouse, sadly.
For example, without going into detail, I found out someone I know was being abused by a pastor of a mega church in the south. She was the pastor’s wife and she left after he nearly killed her. While he’s in front of his congregation preaching to them about different things, he being unfaithful and abusive to his wife, sleeping with other women in the church behind her back. My point in sharing this example is to say that he was married, a pastor of the church and still disobeying God. He waited until marriage, had a family, was a pastor supposed to be leading people to Christ, but his heart on the inside wasn’t changed. He hadn’t truly accepted the Lord as his Savior and therefore his “transformation” was shallow. He appeared to be transformed by Christ and to be pure, but his heart wasn’t/isn’t. Therefore, purity doesn’t end when you get married and marriage doesn’t secure your purity either because it goes deeper than what’s physical.
“When you honor God with your body then and only then, will He honor you with a spouse”
This above quote is another one that I hear often that while could be well-meaning, is not really biblical and can actually be discouraging.
Think about the disciples in the bible, who were seeking to honor God with their lives and bodies, but died alone. Were they not loved or favored by God?
This can be discouraging for people who are single or have been for a while because it makes them think that their singleness is punishment for their seeming lack of obedience, struggle with lust, or what have you. Rather than giving these struggles to God, they begin to berate and condemn themselves for it. That because they slipped up in an area or because they struggled with inappropriate thoughts that God hates them and they are undeserving of a spouse.
It has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do and everything to do with God’s plan for our lives. This thinking encourages us to view God has a vending machine instead of the Holy God that He is. It encourages us to view Him as someone who give us what we want, if we do this thing, and that’s dangerous thinking, friends.
One of the wonderful things about God is that He is incredibly merciful and powerful. There are plenty of people who have been intimate before marriage or struggled in the area of physical purity that God has not only redeemed and saved, but who are now happily married just as there are people who waited until marriage that are. We should seek to remain pure to glorify God and because we love Him – not as a means to marriage.
“Because I held restraint and waited until marriage…”
If I am being honest, I used to listen to a few ministries that promoted behavior modification without realizing what it was and how it’s contrary to the gospel. You see, behavior modification teaches that we as believers have the ability to change ourselves and that we should ultimately do so. They begin using language like, “I restrained” and “I ended relationships” without acknowledging that it was the Lord that gave them the ability to do so. You may also recognize the same in some other phrases that night be uttered:
“How can you expect God to love you if you…”
“You have to stay pure until marriage or God will not bless anything you do”
“Don’t think impure thoughts at all.”
As with all of the above examples, the intent is probably well meaning and while I believe that it is important to not do these things, but I think when these things are preached without also preaching the gospel along with it, it promotes the idea that we must do these things on our own and that by extension, Christ didn’t have to sacrifice Himself because we can do these things. I know that’s a run on, but you see what I’m saying?
Yes, we should seek a lifestyle of purity and yes, we should seek to obey God’s commands, but we should seek God and His kingdom. We should seek Him and spend time in His word, because if we’re not careful we could become more consumed with doing things than we are with spending time and building a relationship with Him.
Remember the parable in the bible where God talks about how not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven (paraphrased Matthew 7:21)?
“Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;” – Matthew 7:21
What He’s saying is that someone could be seemingly following the commandments, but not have any real change in their heart and no real relationship with Christ? I’ve felt especially convicted by this recently because it’s so easy to get so consumed with serving and forget that God wants a relationship with us.
We should aspire to live a pure lifestyle, but our desire to do so should be out of our desire to please God and out of the work He’s doing in changing our hearts – not simply to appear to be holy or righteous.
The transformation that occurs in our heart as a result of accepting Christ is what helps us to abstain from these things and gives us that desire to obey and honor God. It’s God who gives us that strength and it’s because of the work of the Holy Spirit working in our heart that we can do this. It has nothing to do with our own strength or desires because as sinners, we inherently desire sin. It’s because of Christ and His workings in us that we begin to abhor it. Teaching purity as something that needs to be done without the power of Christ is futile because it is impossible for us to truly honor God – with our hearts, bodies, minds, etc – without having a true transformation and relationship with Christ. We begin to look and behave like who we hang around and the same goes for our relationship with Christ. It is because of Him and only through Him that we can abstain and remain pure.
So what are you saying?
I am not saying that we should ignore following the commandments or that we should not care, not guard our hearts or anything of that sort. I’m not saying that all purity ministries are pointless or that all preach the wrong messages. I am definitely not saying that as believers, we should go around and abuse the grace that Christ has given us by willingly participating in sin. Absolutely not. Christ implores us to sin more, but Christ also implores us to seek Him above all else. Christ also implores us to repent and reminds us that we’re all still sinners being worked on by Our Savior. Christ also encourages us to share the gospel.
I am saying that we should be careful not to only tell believers what they shouldn’t do without sharing the invitation of and pointing them back to the cross. Someone could easily abstain until marriage yet have absolutely no relationship with Christ and not have grasped the gift of salvation.
Purity is important and I think it’s awesome that there are so many ministries encouraging other believers to resist the temptation. I also strongly believe that God has gifted people in this area and has placed them in particular environments to do just that, so this post isn’t saying that we should forget about purity ministries and that they are completely pointless. In fact, I’ve seen some excellent ones out there where the messages are always encouraging and point to the gospel. However, if we’re preaching that purity is only physical, that purity is a means to marriage, and that purity is something we ourselves can uphold, we’re missing the mark and walking on a line that could veer us over to the side of unbiblical doctrine.
It’s God who changes hearts. It’s God, who can purify our hearts and when preaching purity, we must be sure that we’re pointing them to Christ and encouraging them to seek Him – entrusting that the work He’s started in us He will finish.
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