Stings from purity culture.

If your non-Christian friend, coworker, family member, peer, or child had one weekend to learn about Christianity, what would you want them to learn? I would want them to fall in love with Love Himself: Jesus. I would want them to learn who this God is and why His grace is just that good. I think the most important thing they can learn is who this Jesus is.

Rachel Joy Welcher, the author of Talking Back to Purity Culture was a book I read recently. In it, she calls out the ways in which the evangelical purity culture has caused more harm than good. She writes, “But as time goes on, it’s becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture’s complicated legacy–its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex for those who follow the rules.” Christian friend, can you resonate with that? Non-Christian friend, is this what the church taught you?

Purity is beautiful and important to God. We Christians strive to be holy as God is holy. But the problem with purity culture is it idolizes virginity and purity. It took a biblical concept and made it the most important concept. Purity culture, in its most dangerous form, makes it the center of the gospel and not Jesus. Friends, do you see how easy it is to do that? When Jesus is not the foundation we forget the message of the gospel. And when we do, we can easily intentionally or unintentionally create idols from biblical ideas, and then they instead become our gods. Purity culture is not the only culture to do this. I have to remind myself that though Christian apologetics is a good thing and I believe that everyone should strive to answer the difficult answers of the faith, it must not be an idol. I must constantly remind myself what the gospel is about. Jesus is the foundation. Christians we need to step it up and take accountability.

I am sorry. I am sorry for any of the lies I or the Church has told you about purity. I am sorry if you believed that those who saved themselves for marriage are better than those who did not. I am sorry if you were taught that to be a Christian means you have to wear a purity ring, that’s not in the Bible. I am sorry if the Church tried to convince you that the gift of marriage is better than the gift of singleness. I am sorry if the Church blamed your infertility on your sins or lack of faith. I am sorry if the Church judged you for your sexual orientation instead of welcoming you with open arms. I am sorry if you felt like you could not step into a church because you had an abortion. I am sorry if you experienced any sort of sexual trauma from those who called themselves Christians, that is absolutely not okay and I understand if that alone has turned you away from Jesus. I am sorry that the Church failed to teach you who this Jesus is and instead fixated on the idolized purity culture. My Christian friends, I ask that you look into your heart as I am and repent for your sins. If there is someone in particular that comes to mind, we must seek forgiveness and reconcile. There are no excuses for our mistakes.

My Christian friends, we must know our Bible and continue to know our Bible so we can share who this Jesus is. Not everything labeled “Christian” is automatically God-honoring and not everything labeled “secular” is automatically bad. Not every theologian, pastor, or Christian is perfectly doctrinally sound all the time. Not everything that comes from a non-Christian’s mouth automatically goes against what the Bible says. There was only one perfect man: Jesus. We must have discernment. Jesus, I pray that we can continually grow in Godly wisdom. I pray for your forgiveness for we have hurt others through idolizing purity culture.

Now let me be honest, though I do not agree entirely with everything Rachel Joy Welcher mentions in her book, I would still recommend it. Christians it is important that we seek to understand. Seek to understand the good and bad that come from idolizing purity culture. Seek to understand the stings and how we can represent Jesus better. There is so much I want to say about this book, but I will leave only a few of the thoughts that stood out.

You’re not alone. The friend who is overcoming an addiction to sex, the recently divorced church-goer, the couple that has been praying every day for a child, the newly-weds who did not save themselves for marriage, the worship leader that is attracted to those of the same-sex yet remains celibate, the young man who is “burning with passion” yet has been single for the majority of his life, the atheist who has been hurt by the church’s poor explanation of purity, the wife who was blamed for her husband’s infidelity, you are not alone. Your struggles, pains, and trouble are all valid. I see you and I know you’re hurting. Staying a virgin until your wedding day does not make you more holy or more deserving of God’s love. The love story of the Bible is not that you marry the perfect spouse but that you fall in love with Your Perfect Creator.

Church is not for perfect people, it is for sinners and I do not know what the Church has taught you but the truth is we are all sinners, yes, even grandma. We have all screwed up in one way or another. You are not alone. I stand behind what the Bible says about sex, purity, holiness, acting upon sexual temptation, etc., but that does not mean because you haven’t been perfect that you are not welcomed. I have also messed up. I struggle with my own temptations. I have made several mistakes. You’re not alone. If people at your church have unfairly judged you for your sexual mistakes, temptations, and struggles, find a new church. I would be honored to help. Christian and non-Christian, learn who Jesus is. Pursue Him. Understand what the Bible says about holiness and purity, but do not lose sight of the gospel. Jesus did not come to save only the “sexually-pure” people, He came for everyone. It is only through your faith in Jesus that you can be saved, not from good works.

Singleness is beautiful. Do not believe the lies that Christians make. Marriage is not the end goal, married friends are not better than single friends, and not everyone is called to the life of parenthood. We all have different callings. The plans for our lives differ and that’s not always an easy thing. I get it. Not everyone who wants to get married ends up getting married. Sometimes those who were not planning on having kids find themselves being called to parenthood.

I do not want to downplay the pain that is felt when God says “No” to some of your greatest desires. I get it. I’m the kind of “prayer warrior” that prays for every one of my desires and God has said “No” to me more times than He has said “Yes.” It stinkin’ hurts, but do not believe for a second that your calling is less important than someone else’s. God is sovereign. God loves you. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Your life is made to glorify God wherever you are called. Even when it hurts and as it hurts, remember who Jesus is. Re-fall in love with Your Creator. Study the character of God. He loves you and will never forsake you. It’s not a simple ask, but trust Him. It is the same God capable of miracles. It is the same God who has remained sovereign from the beginning.

There are new mercies every morning. You are not damaged goods. You are not shunned from the Church. You are not too broken for God. I do not know what lies have been passed down to you but you are always welcomed by Jesus. The world may try to shame you, but God will not. You are forgiven completely. It does not matter if you screwed up minutes before skimming this blog post or years ago, but you are welcomed by Jesus. Put your faith in Jesus, believe that He died on the cross for your sins and through His resurrection, you are washed clean and made new in Christ. If you have found yourself spreading lies about what Jesus has said about purity or if you have found yourself stuck in sexual immorality, there are new mercies every morning. His grace and love overflow. You are not damaged goods. Be washed clean and made new by Jesus Christ. Lamentations 3:22-23 says “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”

God’s Word includes all 66 books of the Bible. God’s grace is real. God’s love is real. God’s wrath is real. God’s justice is real. All 66 books were inspired by God. It is our job to constantly remember that. The problem is not purity culture, but the problem lies when we churches and Christians take one part of the bible, elevate it over everything else, and make that the “god” of the Bible. This is how we end up with “extra” rules that are created by man, not God.

It is our duty to go through the Bible, again and again, being aware of the context, and understanding what that all means today. This is my personal opinion, but this is why I think churches should preach expositorily (book by book) instead of preaching through different topics. Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid say it best in a Crossway article, “Expository preaching is preaching that “exposes” the text of Scripture as God delivered it to us. It does not bring its own agenda to the Bible or to the pulpit but seeks to understand the Bible text in its own terms, trusting that God wanted each book put in the form we now have it. Through this form, he speaks to his people.”

Can you imagine what would happen if we took God’s Word for His Word rather than try to push our own agenda? I know what the Bible says about purity, sexuality, and holiness. No, it does not say you have to sign a written pledge, wear a purity ring, or promise to never make “purple,” but what the Bible does say, we Christians are called to obey. Even when Jesus does not make sense, we are reminded that His ways are higher than ours. We strive for purity and holiness because as believers we are called to be “set apart” from the world. We are in this world but not of it.

We’ve screwed up heavily in the past and honestly, there are still several times where we Christians do not represent Jesus well, not even in the slightest, but I ask for your forgiveness. I ask for your grace. I mentioned in the beginning that if you had one weekend to learn about the Bible I would want you to fall in love with Jesus. May I invite you to start learning who this Jesus is? He was more than a carpenter, more than a good moral teacher, He is Lord and has the power to change your life. Be washed clean and made new by Jesus Christ.

References

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