Should Evangelicals Eliminate Purity?

By Julie Roys

            Stop talking about purity! It’s shaming and simply makes single women who aren’t virgins feel like “permanently damaged goods.”  That was the message in an e-mail sent to Moody Radio by a listener who serves at two pregnancy help centers.  Having worked with women who were often molested before becoming sexually promiscuous, she understandably feels empathy for women’s struggle with shame.
            This listener also quoted Christian Psychologist Richard Beck, who further explains why purity is unhelpful.  “Most sins,” he says, “are framed, metaphorically, as mistakes or . . . performance failures.” And, these can be rehabilitated.  But the purity metaphor implies contamination.  The “damage that is done is total and unable to be rehabilitated.”   
            Now, Scripture is very clear that sin’s damage is never irreparable.   First Corinthians 6 states that anyone who’s in Christ is justified and washed.  However, Scripture never describes sin as merely a “performance failure.”  It says all sin, sexual or otherwise, does contaminate.  And, apart from Christ, we’re all unclean and completely incapable of purifying ourselves.  So, the purity metaphor is accurate.  It’s just devastating when not coupled with grace and redemption.
            Purity is also biblical.  First Thessalonians 4:7-8 says, “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  It adds, “(A)nyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God . . .”  You see, purity didn’t originate in some shaming evangelical sub-culture. It’s God’s idea and flows from His holiness.
That being said, I think some Christians do need to change the way they teach purity.   Often, they make virginity at matrimony the be-all and end-all of purity – and it’s not.  Loving God is.  They also equate purity with virginity – then  imply that like virginity, once it’s lost, it’s irretrievable. Regrettably, author Sarah Bessey says this is how purity was taught to her.  A pastor passed around a glass of water; had everyone spit into it; and then pronounced, “This is what you are like if you have sex before marriage.”
No it’s not!  That’s what you’re like if you reject the cross – whether your sin is sexual or not.  But, no believer is ever “permanently damaged” – not because purity doesn’t exist, but because the cross does.  



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