Warning: This post gets graphic about halfway through. It is based completely on a text of the Bible, but if you have difficulty seeing what we do to Jesus by being sexually loose, don’t read it.
Hot. Sexy. Steamy. Flirty. Tempting. But one word that doesn’t get picked for glossy magazine covers? Pure. When it comes to thinking about purity and what that means for us as Christians, we are a hot mess. Should we cover every square inch of skin and be shrouded in fabric? Do we need to look like the world, short shorts and belly buttons and all? How exactly does the cross inform our bookshelves, movie queues, and wardrobes? Can’t we play a part in the hookup culture? And come on, it’s the 21st century! Who cares what I text my boyfriend or binge watch on Netflix?
Purity is a huge—if not the biggest—issue in the modern American church. Before going any further, here are a couple of basics to serve as a foundation:
-The heart comes first. Jesus made friends with prostitutes, serial divorcees, and adulteresses. Over and over, you see Him love them, meet their needs, show them mercy and compassion, and then, only after establishing a healthy relationship, does He guide them toward letting their inward identity shift dictate their outward behavior. Examples? The woman at the well, the alabaster jar incident, the lady caught in adultery. A girl’s skin shouldn’t matter nearly as much to you as her soul. It doesn’t to God.
-Legalism is one of the biggest turnoffs ever. The theological definition is “dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith.” Just because someone shows up in little more than a bikini does not automatically mean she’s going to hell (and there will be a tragic number of women who were always careful to cover themselves who won’t spend eternity with Jesus). Love should characterize how you interact with everyone, regardless of how well she wants you to get to know her cleavage.
With these concepts understood, how you dress is an indicator of your heart. As believers, we are expected (even—dare I say it?—commanded) to protect our brothers in the faith by not flaunting what we’ve got. While some baby Christians might get frustrated with this boundary, it’s more fun to think of it as a challenge: how can I look nice (or even drop-dead gorgeous) without causing someone’s mind to go where it shouldn’t? You don’t have to trade faith for cute shoes. Show culture how classy women can be. Redefine what’s attractive. Maybe showing off your chest, stomach, and thighs just reduces you to a shell of a person as far as others are concerned. Let your heart and mind shine, dazzling everyone around you, while keeping their eyes off of what belongs to you and your (future?) husband.
Clothing is just one aspect of purity. What goes into your mind makes its home in your heart and comes out of your mouth and is shown by your life. If you feed yourself a diet of dirty movies, explicit music, or raunchy books, you are filling up God’s temple (He lives in you, remember?) with junk, cramming His home with things He brutally died to set you free from. Before I start to sound preachy, let me confess: I watched a TV show months ago that I later had to repent of. The farther it got into the season, the worse the content became, until the final episode made me sick at my stomach as I knew God was grieving over it. I made up my mind that regardless of how many more seasons came out and how neat the plot was, it wasn’t for me. I haven’t looked back since. Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and let your spiritual health win over how immersed you are in the culture.
Relationships are another sticky area. It’s so hard in today’s world to come out unscathed! But I promise (and more importantly, God promises) that it is possible. You need to assess your biggest temptations and put up strategic guardrails to keep you in a place God will love to pour out His blessing on your relationship. 1 Corinthians 6 paints a vivid picture of what we do when we get into sexual situations outside of marriage. Paul argues that since Christ lives in us, when we hook up with someone other than our spouse, it’s like we are forcing Jesus into bed with that person against His will, like we are assisting in the raping of Christ. It’s in the Bible, and frankly, we’ve sugarcoated it for far too long.
God is not against sex—not at all! He’s the One who created it, for crying out loud. Think about that. God is the mastermind behind every best moment of the sexual process. Who wouldn’t want to know that God? He intended it to be practiced only within the context of marriage, forming bonds between the souls of a husband and wife for the rest of their lives. This is the sexual relationship He pours out His goodness into. This is where we return to the Garden of Eden, where spouses are naked and without shame. It’s here that we can be seen, known, and loved in a unique way that somehow brings us closer together and closer to Jesus at the same time, a holy moment of fun.
Maybe we shouldn’t ask, Exactly how far can I go, but instead ask, Exactly how much can I look like Jesus? I’m not saying throw your TV out of the window or anything. But if God really has called you to live a pure life at the deepest core of who you are, what changes do you need to make? Is it time to purge your closet or bookshelf or movie queue? Do you need to start spending less time with certain friends who encourage a worldly mindset instead of thinking like Christ? Should you break up with your boyfriend because you can’t keep your hands off of each other?
Yes, I admit this can sound a bit over the top. But it’s a matter of perspective. Think about this: in the span of eternity (visualize a billion billion years, and then multiply that by a billion more, and then imagine that’s a drop in the ocean of what will actually be), your life is a speck. The God over that infinite stretch of time has chosen and adopted you to look different than everyone else so that you can help others get to know Him. If they don’t get to know Him before their speck of time is over, they will spend the rest of eternity in a place of gruesome torture. And we’re not talking only about billions of people you’ve never met, though those certainly count—it’s your friends and family, too. With that on the line, does throwing out an outfit or breaking up with a guy really make that much of a difference? We are in the midst of a cosmic war. Let the little things go and live fiercely in love with the heart of Jesus.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
All of us who look forward to His coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
(1 John 3:3)
Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
[Young men should] reverently honor an older woman as you would your mother, and the younger women as sisters.
(1 Timothy 5:2)
And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.
(1 Timothy 2:9-10)
Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.