If you had asked me to define purity when I was still a teenager, I would have told you it was simply this: “Don’t have sex before you’re married.” As the years went on, that definition expanded—don’t kiss a guy, don’t date a man you will not marry, group dating only, don’t sit within six inches of a man, only let him touch you if he is escorting you across a patch of ice or a pit of alligators—but only hungry ones.
Now, the message is different. As I stand in this moment of my life, surrounded by an overly sexualized society, I hear over and over again this message that women are sex objects, defined by our bodies. They say sexual “release” is only “natural” and that I am being a prude and will not be liberated until I just give in. I may not be “liberated” but I do consider myself educated, trained by purity in some of the most important lessons in life.
Purity has some important lessons to teach us.
1. Delayed Gratification
Yes, there is such a thing. Waiting is a foreign concept to most people. Porn does not teach us to wait. Porn is all about instant. It is constantly changing; constantly offering whatever might make you happy in this moment, right now. There is no waiting.
Purity teaches us a better way. It teaches us to wait patiently for what is best. More than that, it shows us we can wait.
2. Human Value
What price does pornography put on a woman’s body? Have you wrapped your mind around what pornography does to a woman? It reduces her to a collection of body parts, hidden behind a fake name and a layer of makeup, and sells her to you. She has no value.
Purity, on the other hand, teaches us to see other people as people. It teaches us to interact with them and to view like humans, fellow creations made in the image of God, not like sex objects at our disposal.
Pornography is selfish. The idea of casual sex is selfish. An affair is selfish. Masturbation can be selfish. We are selfish.
When we restrain ourselves and cannot act on those ‘natural impulses,’ though, we learn that our own wants are not really what is important here. We learn to respect others and to put their needs first. We esteem them higher than ourselves, and we find joy in serving others, not using them for our own personal gain.
It goes without saying that there is no trust in pornography. Nothing about pornography or any form of immorality says, “You can trust me” or, for that matter, “I trust God.”
A lifestyle of purity, on the other hand, develops in us a character of trustworthiness, because it reflects a trust in God. You cannot be pure without His help, without an outpouring of His power, and an extra dose of His grace for the times you will fall. To be pure is to trust God—that is what it all boils down to.
5. Sex isn’t everything, but it is something special
Listen to the world, and they will tell you otherwise. Sex is used to sell everything from body soap to beer. Whole TV shows center around sex. All of the gossip centers on love lives, or lack thereof. We are a culture obsessed with sex and it is casual. It is no big deal. The more you see something, the more boring it becomes.
Purity combats that attitude head on, not by calling sex dirty or by labeling it as “bad” but by embracing it as something good—very good. No, sex is not everything. Our lives do not, cannot and should not center around sex. There are two ways to embrace the waiting; with a white-knuckled grip for your wedding night or with a surrendered understanding that there are far more important things in life (just like there will be far more important things in marriage).
If you notice, none of those lessons are unique to the single person.
Having just celebrated my 27th birthday, still single, and (by the grace of God alone) still pure, I have come to realize something. Purity is not a goal or a list of guidelines. Purity is, in fact, a lifestyle and a process. It is not something that terminates on your wedding day. Purity does not end at the altar. It is a character-builder which instructs us long before marriage and should continue to instruct us long after we say, “I do.”