We’re talking about the idea of purity right now and I have to wonder, why so much of the Christian faith seems to center on sex. One of the first books I wanted to write was going to be called, “True Love Does Not Wait.”
I said that during a training session once, and a young newly-married Catholic woman sitting beside me said, “Say that again?”
While I am all for abstinence, 1) love and sex are different 2) I can still love people, even men, as a single woman 3) I am weary of a generation of young people wasting their lives obsessed with “waiting.”
Why do we focus so much on sex?
Why is there an entire movement that emphasizes it? Why is it that when someone like Tim Tebow sits down and says he’s a Christian, the first thing people are inclined to ask is whether or not he believes in saving himself for marriage? There’s a lot more to being a Christian.
Why has Christianity become defined by stances on sexual issues?
“Oh but it’s such a good testimony” we say.
It is. And it is great that there are people out there promoting abstinence as an option, because it is an option- a perfectly good and viable option. It is baffling the number of young girls who don’t feel like they can say no to their pushy boyfriends. It’s a problem when sex ed presenters discount it and laugh at kids (or adults) who bring it up. Those presenters should lose their jobs. Period. That’s not education; that’s opinion. Abstinence is always an option.
But at the same time, it is a sad commentary for the church that we have become known not for abundance of love but for lack of sex. We’ve made an idol of it and fail to realize it.
In time, I’ve come to find the church is just as guilty of mishandling sex as our culture is.
We, ourselves, the church, have robbed sex of its God-given glory and beauty by painting it as something dangerous and scary. Then, we turn around and attack culture for doing the same.
It’s something my friend, Josh Harris, touches on briefly in this interview preview:
We, not culture, we broke this.
If you don’t believe me, check out this list of 7 Things the Purity Culture Failed to Teach Me, written by Rebekah Lemke, author of “The Scarlet Virgins: When Sex Replaces Salvation.”
We should be the most passionate ambassadors for good sex. Instead, we got so caught up in making sure that our teenagers didn’t go the way of “Make Love, Not War” that we lost an entire generation.
Here’s the thing: “The True Love Waits” Generation- Didn’t wait.
According to the National Association of Evangelicals, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical Christians between ages 18-29 admit to having had premarital sex, a shocking figure when measured against the number of pledges made in youth ministries and wristbands worn endorsing abstinence around the country throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Today’s generation, Generation Z (born c. 1995-2012), is so wrapped up in pornography, sexting, and the incoming virtual reality pornography, they might actually end up having a better “virgin” rate than their predecessors. They’ll be virgins simply because their sex is virtual.
What’s the point? Is it to raise a generation of virgins or a generation that loves Jesus?
I’ve been thinking a lot about some amazing women born in the first part of the 20th century. Members of the Silent Generation- silent, but powerful. And one thing these women had in common wasn’t an obsession with sex and waiting for marriage. It was an obsession with God’s glory.
Sin, Biblically, is the falling short of that glory. That is why sex outside of marriage is wrong, because it falls short of the glory. That’s why some sex within marriage can be wrong, because it can fall short of the glory. That’s why pornography is wrong.
Ready? Our motives for waiting can be wrong if they also fall short of that glory.
Yes, that’s right. We can be “pure” for the wrong reasons.
We’re told: Wait because “God said so.” If you don’t, you’ll be a ripped tissue and God is trying to protect you from that heartbreak. Wait because that’s what true love does. Wait because if not, you’ll be plagued by guilt and will spend your marriage comparing it to all of those past experiences. Wait because if you sleep with one man, it’s like sleeping with everyone he’s slept with in the last ten years, and everyone they’ve slept with. Wait because if you don’t, it’s like opening a Christmas present early and you ruin the surprise. Wait because… it’s complicated.
It’s a big tangled Christian hairball we coughed up and we’re trying to sell it as a Persian rug. Sure, it’s messy and gross now, but when you get married and kiss it, it turns into a tapestry. Promise!
That is not an effective or convincing message. Is there logic and truth in there? Sure. Can we make a logical argument for abstinence? Yes. But, as Christians, we get to have a greater motivation.
I wait because God is good, not because sex is good (or bad).
You know why I am waiting until marriage?
It has nothing to do with shredded napkins, flower petals, or greasy cheeseburgers. The motivation isn’t fear of STDs, unwanted pregnancy, or being shamed by Christians. It doesn’t have to do with lack of desire or some promise I made 20 years ago at camp because everybody else was doing it. It doesn’t even have to do with loving my future husband. I might not even have one! I wait for one reason and one reason only- God’s glory. That’s it.
I believe sex is good. As a woman, I believe I am created to enjoy it. There is no fear there. I also believe it is something sacred, so much so that it is used as a picture of God’s love for the church. That is powerful and glorious.
I have chosen to honor that picture, not for my future husband, not to make my family proud, not because I’m scared of what God might do to me, but for the glory of God. Sex in marriage brings glory to God. That is why I wait. We are told that whatever we do, whatever we eat, or drink should be done to the glory of God.
I would argue that the things we choose not to do should be excluded for His glory as well.
That’s the message that’s missing in most of the purity movement. The way abstinence is argued can be very selfish- a protection of self, the promise of the best sex for myself, the demands I can make from others, the “what’s in it for me” for waiting. It’s an argument built on logic and shame. God’s glory is almost completely removed.
Do you know what happens when you take God’s glory out of something? Whatever you’re doing becomes miserable.
So, if you’re waiting, and you’re miserable, crushed by a list of rules, discouraged by what you can’t have, might I challenge you to re-evaluate your why. Why are you waiting?
If it’s for any reason other than the love and glory of God, you’re probably waiting for the wrong reasons.
You might have seen above that I mentioned Joshua Harris. Josh, a friend but no relation, is the author of the best-selling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, one of the more prominent books from the “purity movement.” Josh is currently re-evaluating the “aftermath” of his book in a documentary called “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”
This project is crowdfunded and from noon (PST) on August 3 until noon (PST) August 4, donations made to the film will be matched. You can find out more here: https://www.isurvivedikdg.com/13