15 August 2014

To the mis-informed, mis-taught, and distraught: Purity is not what you think

It's been awhile since I've formed a rebuttal or even considered engaging in any kind of semi-intellectual, semi-theological debate of sorts on any article posted on Facebook or elsewhere. While I do read thoughtfully, I don't usually care to win the argument. 

But this title grabbed my attention. What a sad title! As I browsed the first few paragraphs, my grief and frustration only grew. 

I am so sorry for the author. While it's good to think about how you were raised, and try to find the Truth, this author's search unfortunately left her without any faith in God, because "I couldn't figure out how to be religious and sexual at the same time."

How sad.

Sad, because God wants a relationship with us--but the lies Samantha Pugsley grew up believing were religion devoid of relationship. Religion always destroys relationships with God and others. 

But God is so much more than that! 

And, dare I say, sex as God designed it is so much more than what Samantha was taught. 

God says to have no other idols before Him, and that includes purity. This author is right to recognize that purity has become an idol for many in the Church. Any time we lift up a standard of holiness above the Holy God, we risk creating an idol. 

As someone still on the purity side of the fence, though, purity is not an idol for me. I struggle with my share of idols and could write long books about them, but first, let's talk about this article. 

Purity certainly is an idol for some, and that can be very damaging, as Samantha lets on. My head hurts and my heart cries a little to read the first couple paragraphs of this article. This is surely not purity as God, or His Word conceived it, or as many solid churches preach it. I am sorry to hear that some churches teach stuff like this, or are perceived to teach stuff like this. A Biblical, [truly] liberating, and joyful celebration of sex as God created it is not like the distorted teachings she describes. 

Lie #1: "I would go to Hell if I did it" The woman caught in adultery didn't go to Hell, as far as we know. Jesus said that the one who is without sin could be the first to stone her--so, of course, she wasn't stoned. Then He told her to turn from her sin and walk free. That's because we all deserve Hell, no matter what kind of sin we commit--be it lying, lustful thoughts, coveting someone else's stuff, slander, of course the list goes on. The list does NOT go on because God wants to make our lives miserable. On the contrary, the list goes on because He is Holy and can't look on sin. Little do we know, until we turn to God for help, His holiness is actually our eternal happiness. That's because even though our sin separates us from Him, our source of true and lasting joy, He is a God of relationship. (I mean, duh, He created sex for one thing!) He couldn't bear to be separated from us, so He sent someone else to take the separation.... Jesus. Jesus' sacrifice and victory over sin and death, in our place, is the reason NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ, not sexual sin or hate or murder or anything....anyone who has taught anything differently is lying. 

Lie #2: "[A]s a girl, I had a responsibility to my future husband to remain pure for him. It was entirely possible that my future husband wouldn’t remain pure for me, because he didn’t have that same responsibility, according to the Bible." Whoa, just whoa. I have NEVER read that in the Bible. Shame on anyone who ever taught anything like that. I just did a search for the word "sexual" in the Bible and really can't see how anyone would get a one-sided message from any of the verses that appear. Does the Church sometimes, especially historically, put an undue burden on the women involved, more than the men? Yes. It goes way farther back than just Christianity, though. Does God teach this in His Word? Absolutely not. In fact, it was Jesus Himself who stopped the Pharisees from stoning the woman caught in adultery. 

But there's something more subtle at work here than the obvious inequality Samantha claims she was taught. She says she was taught to remain pure "for him". Really, really wrong motivation! What if there is no future husband? Does that mean all our "saving ourselves" is for nothing? More on this later. 

Half]-Lie #3: "[I]t would be my duty to fulfill my husband’s sexual needs" Anyone teaching this to women alone, is twisting God's Word again.... 1 Corinthians 7 clearly states that the man should serve his wife's sexual needs. Every time it mentions the expectations for the man or the woman, it mentions the same expectations for the other, "in the same way". This is because a committed, monogamous relationship will have issues that will require BOTH sides "submitting to one another in love" (also a Biblical mandate) for the good of the man, the woman, and the relationship in the short and long term. 

Lie #4: "[I]f I remained pure, my marriage would be blessed by God and if I didn’t that it would fall apart " Works-based theology didn't work for Job, or Stephen, or a lot of people throughout the Bible, so I see no reason anyone would think it does now. Except that all of us, even teachers, are "prone to wander"--and unfortunately lead others astray when we do.  

Major result of all the lies, #1: "It became my entire identity by the time I hit my teen years". Purity should never be an identity.... our identity is that we belong to Christ! Not just our sexual thoughts and actions.... but our whole beings! We are sons and daughters of a loving Father God! 

Major result of all the lies, #2: "[S]ex felt dirty and wrong and sinful even though I was married" God help us!  So sad! The Bible doesn't say this, and churches don't usually say it, either! But we need to speak up more about why this is not true! I myself am convinced that sex is a gift from God. He gives good gifts to His children! While it might not always be perfect, He created it to be fun, and life-giving both literally and figuratively, when within the bounds of a committed monogamous relationship between a man and woman. Maybe it's easy for me to see this because I am so sure of God's goodness and love for me! Not just love far removed or distant.... but a personal love--the love of a wonderful Daddy for His little girl. 

Now, outside of God's design I do believe that sex, which exposes our deepest vulnerabilities as humans physically, emotionally, and spiritually--brings some of the deepest pain we can know as humans. That is why God forbids it--because He loves us and wants to spare us that pain. But if we've experienced it, and we turn to Him for help, He will not turn His back on us. He didn't turn His back on David after he repented for his adultery. He will forgive, heal, make beauty out of ashes, and help us to live pure lives before Him. That's the beauty of grace!

For my part, I ask for God's strength and grace to be pure in my thoughts and actions, not in order to have a great marriage, earn God's favor, or gain anything at all.... but rather because obedience is God's love language! 

I can only love Him, because He first loved me. There truly is nothing sweeter than walking closely with Him--not even extra-marital sex or other habits of the mind and eyes that will ultimately harm me and grieve my Creator, who I delight to honor. 

That said, am I pure? Well, purity is not a box to check or a line we either have crossed or not--it's a lifestyle of submission to Christ, who alone can keep us pure. Without Him, even if we don't check that box or cross that line, we are powerless against the sins of the mind. Jesus said if we even look at another to lust after them, we have already committed adultery with them in our hearts. God, help us! (And, He does!)

It is Christ who purifies me. It is "Christ [who] also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25b-27)

I am not pure for my future husband, but instead I am pure for and through Christ. 

If my purity were to please the Church, or my future husband (who may or may not actually exist), it would just be another false hope, another foundation of shifting sand, another idol. The only sure foundation is Christ! 

Again, am I pure? Not always, and certainly never on my own strength. Proverbs 22:9 says, "Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”?" Not I. But, in the words of a wise friend, "yoked to Jesus, I am free to walk in righteousness." 

Grace and peace to you.