“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)
For years, I, Laura the good little Christian girl, associated the word ‘purity’ with one thing: sex. Therefore, being ‘pure’ ultimately meant one thing: don’t have sex before you’re married.
I went through True Love Waits.
I wore a silver ring with a heart and cross on it.
And I didn’t have sex before I got married.
But did that mean I was really pure?
(I’ll give you a hint…the answer is “NO IT DID NOT.”)
The biggest problem with my teenage view of purity is pretty straightforward: it communicates that purity is just physical, and that once you’re married, you don’t really have to worry about being ‘pure’ anymore because you’re no longer a virgin. This assumption completely misses the point of why we are encouraged to keep ourselves ‘pure’ in the first place. “Purity” and “virginity” aren’t synonyms. Purity isn’t not having sex, or only having sex with the person you’re married to. Obviously, the details look different for singles and married folks, but there’s so much more to it than just the physical stuff. You might be a technical virgin or you might have only slept with your spouse, and you’re thinking, “I followed the rules! I’m good!” But if your mind is consumed with thoughts about making out with attractive guys, or your obsession with male celebrities’ bodies? Come on now. That’s not purity. Your thoughts are just as important as what you do with your body.
Paul went so far as to tell us in Philippians 4:8 that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, is there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things” (ESV; emphasis mine). THINK about these things! Use this verse as your guide for purity, not what the world tells you is acceptable. Proverbs 16:25 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (ESV). We are in major trouble if we start looking to pop culture for advice about purity. Culture would tell you, “Do what feels right! It’s okay to flirt with that guy you work with, even though you’re in a relationship – you know it’ll never go anywhere; it’s all in fun. And that daydream you had about kissing the guy from your gym? Don’t feel guilty, it’s no big deal. Everybody does it. Oh, and go ahead and watch that movie – those sex scenes aren’t really real, and who cares if they pop into your head later? Besides, *male actor* is SO. HOT.”
Am I stepping on any toes yet?
Let’s get real for a hot minute: guys are not the only ones who struggle with lust. Can I just squash that myth once and for all?? The verse that women love to quote to men about lust applies to us too:
“Everyone who looks at a [man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with [him] in [her] heart” (Matthew 5:28, ESV).
I don’t care if you are single or married: your mind soaks things up like a sponge. If you constantly fill it with graphic descriptions from books like 50 Shades of Grey, sex tips from magazines like Cosmo, and scenes from movies like The Notebook (even if they ‘don’t actually show anything,’ which is honestly a stupid thing to say), you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you’re honest, you know those things don’t lead to a clean thought life.
In the same way that I wish someone had told me why you wait until you’re married to have sex, I wish someone had explained genuine purity to me before I got married. I had no idea that I would still have to actively work on purity of heart and mind while being happily married at the same time. But I didn’t build protective habits into my thought life as a single girl, so why did I expect that things would magically fix themselves after I got married?? Silly Laura. Marriage does not fix you. Only God can fix you.
Ultimately, the reason we should desire to maintain a pure heart, mind, and body is because God asked for it and deserves it. Purity is required of all of us, whether you’re single or you’ve been married for 30 years. As followers of Jesus, we are set apart on purpose; we’re called to something higher, something better! We are supposed to think and act differently from people who don’t follow Jesus, not get swept up in the current of ever-changing cultural norms.
So what are some practical ways to make purity a priority?
If you’re single: Don’t read or watch trash! Fill your mind with good things, not things that make you wish you had someone to be with. And remember: it’s not enough to remove the damaging stuff from your life. You’ve got to replace it with Truth. Dig into the word, and pursue your Creator with no agenda. Don’t build a relationship with God assuming that He owes you a relationship because of your obedience to Him.
If you’re married: You’re not off the hook! Same advice goes for you; don’t read or watch trash. Your eyes should only be for your husband. He is your standard, not Channing Tatum. Watch your husband with intention, and point out the things you find attractive about him. If you just can’t find anything attractive, pray that God would soften your heart and remind you of why you picked him.
Both teams: Keep a vigilant watch over your heart, and take EVERY thought captive, like it says in the verse above. Just because a thought comes into your head and it “feels right” doesn’t mean it’s from God or acceptable to God. Test everything with the Word of God, and be obedient to Christ. Your heart and mind are too important for you to be lazy with them!
This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?