I’ve seen many critical comments about “purity culture” this year from strangers on the Internet. I didn’t know exactly what they were referring to, but that’s normal when you come into the middle of someone’s conversation, which is what social media allows you to do all day, every day. And you can’t bring a pot of coffee with you. Last week such conversations couldn’t be avoided as everyone on my side of the Internet cafe took up talking about the announced divorce and apostasy of the author of a 1990s bestselling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
The criticism has been as open-ended as the label. I think much of what I saw was from people who were pushing back appropriately on a shame-based rationale they were taught, but many critics seemed to be attacking biblical sexual ethics as a whole. The latter is ridiculous, but I’d like to write about the former for a minute.
Many Christians have muddled worldviews. It may be fair to say all of us do, in that what we claim to believe may not be what we actually believe when tested. We are churched enough to understand acceptable answers when questioned on our beliefs, but those may not necessarily be what we truly believe when given an opportunity to exercise our faith. Sex is one of the biggest areas where this occurs, which is the reason someone who opposes abortion politically might consider it a viable option when one of his children gets pregnant. Many believers have tried everything they can think of to keep their children sexually pure, and one line of reasoning says God will give you the man or woman of your dreams if you will only wait until you’re married to have sex.
For the cheap seats, let me pause to say God’s instructions about sex are clear: it’s a marriage thing. People who are not married to each other shouldn’t do it. Commercializing it and perverting other relationships with it are abominations.
We live in an oversexed culture now. Revolutionaries have changed and continue to change our social questions and expectations. That’s led some believers to think they can do God’s will today in order to have the most fulfilling marriage possible tomorrow, and they apply the same reasoning to their career goals, personal fulfillment, and every other part of their lives. They aren’t asking how they can best seek the kingdom but what they need to do to get God to deliver their dreams.
There’s some truth to that formula, in that making wise choices generally leads to good results. But that’s not God’s promise to his children. Our Lord may still take us down a very hard road, and we will be tempted to say that because we have lived for him faithfully for many years, the hardships we face now are unjust, unkind, and too much to bear. He has not promised to keep us from those struggles; he has promised to walk with us through them.
Another lie some believers have accepted is that the teenager who commits premarital sex is irredeemable or shackled for life. This is simply biblical ignorance. Abraham, David, Solomon, and Mary Magdalene were immoral people whom the Lord redeemed. Moreover, does 1 Corinthians 6:11 mean nothing?
Let’s pray for each other as well as the churches down the street, so that we will reject sin upfront and forgive each other afterward.