Good as New: Reflections on Chastity and Purity
Christians are weird, right? When compared to the standards set by the secular world, Christians are weirdy weirdos. Odd ducks. And we are meant to be! Set apart. Different. A peculiar people. (1 Peter 2:9) The world doesn’t get us! While this can sometimes be alienating, especially for those of us who have not always been believers, this should come as no surprise, for we’ve been told “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
As if our faith and belief in a supernatural Savior isn’t strange enough – our values, behavior, and convictions are positively perplexing to non-believers. One area that is utterly baffling to our sex-crazed culture is the concept of saving oneself for marriage. And the only person weirder to the world than someone who honors God by remaining a virgin, is the person who chooses to be chaste AFTER having lived a sexually active life. This concept is utterly foreign, even inside some Christian circles, as I recently discovered.
A few days ago, I was speaking to a group of girls, all of whom had been sexually active at some point in their recent past. There was the girl who had sex with her high school boyfriend, the girl who had been sleeping with her fiance, the woman who had been quite promiscuous most of her adult life, and the one who had been married for 16 years and was now re-entering the dating world. All of these gals had two things in common; they were all unmarried women who had lost their virginity and they were all Christians.
As the conversation unfolded, I found myself quite shocked to learn that the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that remaining chaste until marriage was not a huge priority among women who had previously lost their physical virginity. In one case, a woman’s pastor had even told her that if two adults who were previously married or sexually active chose to sleep together or even co-habitate outside of marriage it was acceptable, because the concept of preserving purity no longer applied.
My friends, this is categorically WRONG. All sex outside of the marriage covenant is fornication. “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. ” – 1 Corinthians 7:2
So what does this mean for people like the women I had just mentioned? Well, let me answer this by giving you a bit of background about myself.
I recently turned 38 years old. I am a divorcee after 11 years of marriage. Previous to my former marriage, I was not the picture of virtue. I was not a virgin. I’d had one night stands. I engaged in behavior that today makes me disgusted to think about. Beyond that, I also worked for a time in the retail side of pornography – working in an establishment that sold pornographic films and other sexually explicit items. Inside this place where I worked was an “arcade” where people could buy coins to sit in booths and watch porn. There was a “one person to a booth” rule and we had security cameras that we watched to make sure this rule was enforced, but mostly we turned a blind eye, because very few people used the arcade just to watch a movie by themselves. This was a means for hooking up with strangers. We knew it, the ownership of the establishment knew it, and we just sort of let it happen. I will never forget the Christmas night when I was working, and an old man wearing a “#1 Grandpa” sweatshirt walked in and bought tokens to enter the arcade. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of excuse he’d made to his family about why he had to leave the Christmas festivities early. I remember being shocked by the things I witnessed when I first began that job. I also remember the process of becoming numbed to the exposure. Graphic sex no longer shocked me. I saw things during that time that I cannot unsee. In my worst moments, these memories can still make me feel dirty.
I am 38 years old and all of the above things are true. This is also true: I am sexually pure.
Whaaaat? How can I make such a bold claim? Let me explain.
When I became a born again believer in Jesus Christ about seven years ago, there was a lot I did not understand. I had a lot to learn about the Bible. I had a lot to learn about Christianity in general. But there was one thing of which I was keenly aware. I was different. I had changed. I was not the same person I had been moments before.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
A few years later, my marriage ended. I found myself in a position I’d never been in before. I had been a single woman before. I had been a married woman before. I was now an unmarried Christian woman. In my previous life as an unmarried person, I hadn’t really any reason to consider the concept of chastity. I was not a practicing Christian and I was living in the world doing what worldly women do. Things HAD to be different now, right? Of course. I knew what the Bible said about fornication. I knew that sex was meant to be reserved to the confines of marriage. It was clear to me what I needed to do. I committed to the Lord that I would remain chaste so long as I remained unmarried. Further, I knew that I was not going to engage in the conventional dating scene, deciding instead to wait upon the Lord to bring someone into my life of His choosing.
I recognize that there are those who will find this tremendously buttoned up and stifling. The world has an entirely different concept of what life should be like for a post-divorce woman. In popular novels and chick flicks such as “article source,” women are portrayed as courageous and liberated when they jump back into the dating scene and into bed with their first post-divorce sex partner. Casual sex is seen as something to be celebrated by the woman who is often in her 30’s or 40’s… single and ready to mingle. There’s always that obligatory scene wherein the divorcee is convinced to go out to a nightclub with her girlfriends in search of the perfect dude with whom to inaugurate her new life as a sexually liberated gal. This is presented as the ideal way to celebrate your life as a newly single woman. To me, it all seems so empty and sad and shallow.
As a Christian, we know there is a better way. There is a design that God has created for a very specific reason. Chastity, marriage, and fidelity are meant to be representations of the relationship that Christ has with His bride. While divorce is never part of God’s original plan, we do know that scripture acknowledges a few exceptions that allow for divorce and remarriage; including adultery (Matthew 19:9), an unequally yoked marriage wherein the non-believer wants to leave *this generally applies to circumstances wherein the believing spouse got saved AFTER marriage. Yoking oneself to a non-Christian is never encouraged for a believer.* (1 Corinthians 7:15), and death of a spouse (1 Timothy 5:14).
Our conduct outside of and inside of a covenant marriage is meant to symbolize the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. According to pastor, theologian and apologist Timothy Keller, author of essays about love and friendship and The Meaning of Marriage (and many other books), “The Bible rather boldly and openly celebrates the delights of sex. Sex is supposed to be wonderful because it mirrors the joy of relationship in the Trinity and because it points to the eternal ecstasy of soul that we will have in heaven in our loving relationships with God and one another (Prov. 5:18–20; Deut. 24:5).”
C.S. Lewis took it a step further, and discussed how sex is so important that we can see it represented throughout Creation. It is what he called the “great dance.” According to Lewis, all of God’s reality— from the stars and solar systems to the act of sexual intercourse—form an ongoing, dynamic dance, in which “plans without number interlock, and each movement becomes in its season the breaking into flower of the whole design to which all else had been directed.”
Because sex and marriage have such strong spiritual significance, it is crucial that believers take these matters seriously. Indeed, we are told that in a marriage covenant, “they shall become one flesh. ” (Genesis 2:24) Thus, sex outside of marriage is truly sex outside of God’s design. In fact, there are admonishments throughout scripture that if one is unable to control their sexual impulses, they should get married. “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” – 1 Corinthians 7:9
So, having established the importance of saving sex for marriage, let’s get back to the topic of what should be done if you have already had sex outside of the covenant.
Are you doomed? Are you damaged? Are you forever defiled and beyond hope?
Consider Jesus’ response to the woman caught in sexual sin in John 8:11. He did not condemn her. He forgave her. Then, He told her “Go and sin no more.” This is the perfect illustration for believers on how to handle this topic. Yes, you may have sinned. No, you cannot change what has been done with your physical body. However, Christ’s forgiveness is sufficient to free you from the bondage of that sin, renewing you and purifying you. And now it is your responsibility to avoid falling back into that behavior for which you have been forgiven. Whether or not we have had sex before marriage, we are all lawbreakers (James 2:10). We require a Savior because we are all flawed and fleshy human beings who in some manner have fallen into behavior for which we need forgiveness. And we know that through His forgiveness, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
The Lord’s forgiveness is cleansing. It is purifying. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9) Therefore, we can boldly claim that regardless of our past transgressions, He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5), and we CAN reclaim our sexual purity regardless of where we are in life and what we have previously done.
I was a fornicator and an unclean girl who made an idol out of sex and treated matters of sexuality with flippancy. I contributed to the sexual deviance of others by providing them with access to depraved pornographic items. I was and did all of these things. And now I am a new creation. He has made me new. I honor this reality by my commitment to chastity going forward until the day when I find myself safely in the confines of a God ordained marriage.
And unlike the pop culture portrayals of chastity versus promiscuity, this does not make me feel chained or deprived. I feel more liberated than any divorcee who feels pressured to express her freedom via sexual conquest. I express my freedom by resisting the status quo presented by an unbelieving world that would disregard the gift of making love inside the sanctity of marriage. I am forgiven and I am free.
Do not make the mistake of believing that your past sins define you. This is the trick of the enemy who accuses the brethren day and night. (Revelation 12:10) It is Satan who wants you to believe that you can never be released from the bondage of sin. In Jesus Christ we have something much different. Rather than an accuser, we have an advocate.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)
With His grace and forgiveness, you have been purified and made new.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)