A one-dimensional focus on virginity robs us of the depth of our own soul’s yearning for intimacy and its deep desire for abiding worship and worth. No, God doesn’t solely call us to virginity. God calls us, in all ways, to purity and the power of its incredible purpose in our lives.
Mo Isom, Sex, Jesus and the Conversations the Church Forgot
When my wife and I first started dating, we both had a sense that this was it. On our first date, I kissed her, told her I loved her and neither of us really ever looked back. Because both of us were RAs living in the same building, we spent a lot of time together in our bedrooms. Unsupervised late nights and an increasing familiarity with one another didn’t exactly set us up for success as we both sought to honor God with our lives.
I’ll cut right to the chase: we didn’t sleep with each other before we were married. And to satisfy any curiosity this post may arouse, we weren’t even really occupying a large plot of territory in that ginormous gray area that so many people think exists concerning what is and is not acceptable for Christians to do before they get married. We weren’t perfect either (still aren’t by the way).
One day, my wife opened up to me about some guilt she had been walking around with. Believe it or not, so much of her burden had been a residual side effect of poor teaching in an elementary Sunday school class. Years before we had ever met, my wife had a teacher who likened sexual purity to that of an apple. An apple is round and beautiful with skin that guards and protects its precious fruit. Once that skin is broken, it begins to oxidize and decay quickly.
The image in my wife’s head was hard to shake. In her mind, every turn we took in our relationship robbed her of more and more of her desirability, her acceptability and her innocence. Holding her hand—a small nibble of the apple. Cuddling with her on my dorm room sofa—another bite. Making out for extended periods of time—another bite. Back rubs that turned into a little more than back rubs—chomp, chomp.
As it turns out, both of us were operating with a flawed mindset regarding biblical, sexual purity. We were asking how far we could go, and assuming that sex was the point of no return. For all the good teaching we grew up with about sex and intimacy, we had one major problem in our understanding: We assumed that the ultimate goal for Christians was to be virgins when we married. Boy were we wrong.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV
It’s not at all that sexual purity (including virginity) is unimportant; it’s that sexual purity extends far beyond merely being a virgin when you’re married. In addition to the failure to view sex God’s way, we do great damage to our understanding and experience of sex. Here are just a few of the damages done when we exchange God’s vision for sexual purity with merely trying to keep our v-card till we say, “I do.”
- We turn obedience into a list of physical things to avoid rather than a transformation at the heart level, that seeks to honor God in all things.
- We increase shame and heap it upon those who did not give their virginity, but instead had it taken from them.
- We limit our sexual purity to one physical experience instead of day by day taking stock of our hearts, our minds and our eyes.
- We subtly imply that anything on righteous side of the sexual intercourse is permissible.
- We create shame surrounding sex itself, rather than just sex in the sinful contexts. Because of this many are shamed by sex even in the holy context of the marriage bed.
- We turn purity into a single, temporary check box until we’re married, instead of maintaining it for a lifelong commitment.
- We rob sex of the joy and wonder in which it was intended to be experienced.
- (Perhaps worst of all) we make purity out to be something that can never be reconciled and redeemed.
What my wife and I came to realize is that the chunks were missing from the apples long before we met because of our hearts, our eyes and our minds. But I don’t look at my wife the way someone in a grocery store looks at rotten apples; nor does God look at us that way. Because we were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.