When I was in high school, a local youth group hosted an evangelism event. They brought in a guest preacher and had a special band. A friend handed me a stack of flyers and I helped him pass them out.
I remember sitting in the back of a basketball gym, listening to the guest preacher rail against the evil and power of sin. He told us that if we lost our purity, we were like tape that had lost its stickiness or gum that had lost its flavor.
He didn’t give us a rose to pass from person to person, but he might as well have. Maybe he would have if more people had been there. The flyers hadn’t worked and the gym was mostly empty. His anger and frustration are what stick with me all these years later. Perhaps the empty chairs were getting to him.
He told us that God commands us to maintain our purity through strength of character, discipline, and avoidance of temptation. It was the responsibility of young women to keep young men from thinking lustful thoughts. So they had to dress modestly at all times.
I left the gym feeling like a terrible person. From the expressions of those around me, they felt the same way. Few of us met this man’s standards.
I realized later that the speaker was one of the many “purity preachers” who were common in those days.
Yay For Purity
Holiness is important to God, He wrote an entire Testament of the Bible on the topic of righteousness. There are many benefits to walking in purity, and sin has consequences. Deep down we all know this is true. The law is written on our consciences, which accuse us (Romans 2:15).
Psalms 119 shows us that the way to keep our way pure is by keeping it according to God’s word. The righteous are blessed and the wicked are cursed. I for one would prefer divine blessing, given the choice.
Throwing Stones for Purity
Could it be possible to be so focused on purity that we lose sight of the Gospel?
There was a group of people in the New Testament who focused primarily on purity. They turned Old Testament passages into weapons. I’m pretty sure they were not the heroes of the story. In fact, I seem to remember that Jesus got into more fights with these Purity Police than with any other group.
There is a temptation to take the one area in which we feel holy and turn it into a rock to throw at people who struggle in that area. If a man doesn’t struggle with lying, then it may make him feel better to look down on everyone who does struggle with lying.
He just needs to ignore the fact that God hates haughty eyes (Proverbs 6:16).
As more people in a community turn into Purity Police, the pressure to wear a mask of holiness grows. So we put on our purity rings, wash away our makeup, and make sure every denim skirt goes past every ankle.
I know young people who would dread going to homeschool events because the pressure to “look righteous” was more than they could handle. At these events, their parents would start punishing them for every minor infraction in an attempt to physically beat them into purity.
Purity Police don’t punish just those within the community for bad conduct. They also chase away the “unclean”. “If you can’t sign our statement of faith, you cannot play sports with us,” is their battle cry.
They are convinced that if an unclean child is allowed to interact with their clean child, the result will be that their child will become unclean. This is Old Testament thinking. In the Old Testament, if a clean person touched a leper, they became unclean. In the New Testament, when Jesus, or one of His followers, touched a leper, the leper was made clean.
We Are All Damaged Goods
This purity culture is particularly tragic, since none of us is pure. Our righteousness is like a used tampon (Isaiah 64:6). We are all tape that has lost its stickiness. We are all bubblegum that has lost its flavor.
What right do any of us have to stand in judgment when we have all sinned? Who of us can cast the first stone?
Could that guest preacher have been wrong? Do strength of character, discipline, and avoiding temptation really make us pure? Do girls dressing modestly keep men pure?
My understanding of the Gospel is that our action, or inaction, isn’t going to make us pure. Righteousness doesn’t come from the Purity Police enforcing the rules. We cannot beat each other into purity. It comes only from the Spirit of Christ living in our hearts.
Or, put another way, Jesus is the stickiness of my tape. Jesus is the flavor of my bubblegum.
Jesus is my only hope on the Day of Judgment.
Who should enforce the rules?
So, what should we do if we see someone else sinning? Do we need to punish them for that sin? Is it our responsibility to ensure that every sin has its consequence? That every sinner has her scarlet letter? At what point do we need to call in the Purity Police?
I will say that in my life, the positive change has not come through someone enforcing the rules. It has come when the Holy Spirit has corrected me in His way and in His timing. Sure, someone can try to force me to act right, but it never lasts.
The most surprising thing to me about Jesus is how gentle and patient He is in correcting me. He is more gentle with me than I am with others. He is more gentle than I am with myself. There are sins I have struggled with for years, and yet He has never once given up on me, never once stopped helping me to be better. He is always there when I stumble and He puts me back on my feet to try again.
Sometimes a fault of mine seems so obvious to others and yet it is not what Jesus is working on in my heart at that time. God’s ways are above our ways. Thank God that He doesn’t try to fix every imperfection all at once. I don’t think I could survive that.
Who are we to dictate to God what sins He should address in others and in what order? Should we take matters into our own hands and take on the job of convicting others of sin?
The difference between conviction and condemnation is not in what is said, but in where it comes from. If it comes from the Holy Spirit, it is conviction. If it comes from a human (or from ourselves) it is condemnation. Can God speak through humans? Absolutely. But there is a big difference between God speaking through man and man speaking for God.
I need to trust God to take the specks from the eyes of those around me. He doesn’t need my help for that. I also need to trust that He will help me with the plank in my own eye.
What would the Church look like if we put as much energy into praying for those struggling as we do into policing them? What if we waited for God to convict them directly, rather than trying to force them to comply with the rules?
What if I were as patient with others as God has been patient with me?
Parental Purity Police
Christian parenting is not about ensuring well behaved, respectful, and modest children. It is about introducing children to Jesus and letting them fall in love with Him. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
There is a trend among conservative parents not to allow any back-talk from their children. Command and control is the rule of the home. Submission and respect are inviolate tenets of the family. Could you imagine how life would be if our Heavenly Father parented us that way? Half the Psalms would need to be edited out of the Bible. If God wielded the heavenly rod that cruelly, none of us could stand.
Leonard Ravenhill once said, “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”
In that line, my parents were far more concerned about us experiencing and getting to know God than they were about us complying with the rules. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of rules growing up. They did not try to beat us into purity. They were more concerned with our hearts.
A Time to Speak Up and a Time to Keep Quiet
I am not saying we should never speak up. If someone is sinning against us, Jesus gives us a very clear protocol of when and how to speak up in Matthew 18.
There is also a time to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). We have a responsibility to protect the weakest among us from wolves, especially when those predators are wearing the clothes of the Purity Police.
Protect yourself and others from harm. Otherwise, trust God to be God. He will convict people of sin in His timing. God doesn’t need us to serve as His police force. This is one of the differences between Christianity and Islam.
To Kiss or Not to Kiss
Now, let’s talk about specifics.
I remember talking at a church to a group of parents a while back about courtship. I came prepared to answer objections to Traditional Dating. Instead, they surprised me with a lot of questions, asking what Traditional Dating rules they should have for their children.
I was at a loss as to what to tell them. Every family is different and within each family, every child is different. Who am I to dictate a rule that should apply in all those situations?
I don’t even think my grandmother’s rule of “not going out with the same guy twice in a row” applies to every situation.
Then one of the moms asked me what I thought about kissing. I didn’t know what to tell her. I grew up with the “nerd blessing” in that very few young women were attracted to me and I was so awkward around the ones who were that nothing went anywhere. In short, I had never kissed anyone.
So, I did what any good nerd would do. I went home and studied kissing in a book.
Here is my official position.
I see no rule in Scripture against kissing. I found no 11th commandment not to kiss. In fact, Paul says over and over that we should greet each other with holy kisses (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26).
Far be it from me to forbid that which God commands.
The impression I get from the Scriptures is that kissing can be a way to:
- say “hello” (Genesis 29:11)
- give a blessing (Genesis 27:27)
- say “goodbye” (Genesis 31:28)
- worship (Psalm 2:12, Luke 7:38)
- show brotherly love (1 Peter 5:14)
- show sexual desire (Song of Songs 1:2)
Could it be that when we forbid kissing, we make it only a sexual act?
What would the Church look like if we embraced kissing? I suspect it would be a bit awkward at first for Americans. American culture seems to be walking away from kissing. Even TV and movies show fewer kisses these days.
Before you scroll down and leave an angry comment, yes, I realize that there is a difference between kissing and kissing. So, I hear you asking, “At which point does a kiss cease to be a holy kiss?”
My answer is that I think you are asking the wrong person.
I think that with a lot of the specifics of dating, we have to let the Holy Spirit guide us. God gives us a lot of freedom. For some, eating meat may be a sin, while for others it is not (1 Corinthians 8). I think this meat principle applies to a lot of areas not specifically laid out in Scripture.
The primary commandment that God gives us for our interactions with other people is that we love them as much as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). Jesus tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Luke 6:31).
So, as we seek God on whether it is OK with Him if we kiss, we need to keep in mind the commandment that we love one another. Also, it is a good idea to seek God as a couple and make the decision together before the heat of the moment. Loving someone means not pressuring them into doing their conscience harm.
Those with the stronger conscience should support those with the weaker conscience. So, if one person has the faith to kiss without it violating their conscience but the other one does not, then they should not kiss. To do otherwise would be unloving.
God wants us to have sex. Lots of sex.
Is Sex Evil?
Sex is a lot of things, but evil is not one of them. Sex has the chance of bringing an immortal being into the universe. That is amazing when you think about it. In light of eternity, having sex may be one of the most significant things most people ever do.
God’s very first words to humans in the Bible were a commandment to have sex, enough sex to fill the planet with people (Genesis 1:28). The Bible talks quite frankly about sex. In fact, an entire book of the Bible is a celebration of sex (Song of Songs).
Is Sexual Attraction Evil?
If having sex is not evil, can longing for it be evil? How can longing to obey God be evil?
I hear of purity-focused couples having trouble once they get married. If someone has convinced herself that sex is evil, how can she enjoy having it? It is hard for an hour-long marriage ceremony to undo a lifetime of emotional conditioning. This can create marital trouble right as the foundation for the marriage is being formed. Not cool.
Making sex feel evil is an unfortunate side effect of the purity culture.
According to the Bible, God wants us to get married and then have a lot of sex: enough sex to fill the planet with people. I think we would do ourselves a lot of favors as a community if we put more effort into making marital sex sound amazing. If we focus more on saying “yes” to marital sex, it will be easier to say “no” to premarital and extramarital sex.
What do you think?
Sorry for the long rambling post. These are some thoughts that have been going through my head as I work on drafting Courtship in Crisis. I look forward to your feedback and gentle correction.
As you comment, remember:
“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”
- “Our Righteousness is like a used Tampon.” Click to Tweet
- “There is a big difference between God speaking through man and man speaking for God.” Click to Tweet
- “Purity comes only from the Spirit of Christ living in our hearts.” Click to Tweet
- “If we focus more on saying “yes” to marital sex, it will be easier to say “no” to premarital and extramarital sex.” Click to Tweet
- “What would the Church look like if we prayed for those struggling as we policed them?” Click to Tweet
- “God wants us to have sex. Lots of sex.” Click to Tweet
- “Jesus is my only hope on the Day of Judgment.” Click to Tweet
- “Could it be that when we forbid kissing, we make it only a sexual act?” Click to Tweet
- Righteousness doesn’t come from the Purity Police enforcing the rules.” Click to Tweet
- We cannot beat each other into purity.” Click to Tweet
- Jesus is the stickiness of my tape. Jesus is the flavor of my bubblegum. Click to Tweet
The complications on guidelines you are running into are the exact reasons I have not continued with my own attempt at writing a book about courtship. You’re a brave man. The Holy Spirit leads and instructs us, and unfortunately, rules trap us.
“The strength of sin is the law”- 1 Cor 15:56. In my own courtship I found that the more rules we attempted to follow, the worse the temptation to break them. I was very relieved for a short courtship period of prayer and asking the big questions and a short engagement. Even with the help of time on our side it was still incredibly difficult for me and I won’t pretend everything was done “according to the rules.”
I will say it was very freeing on our wedding day to shed my old identity. I felt the Lord tell me with my new name came a new identity and it was time to focus no more on the person I was the day before and now to focus on becoming the wife I was called to be. Marriage is like salvation, you get a new set of rules that are much more freeing. It’s no more about what you can’t do, but now about what you can do together. That’s not just sexual. Perhaps the Christian single life would be more free if it weren’t so wrapped up in what not to do.
When I think of my own children needing guidance in this area one day, I feel burdened to impress upon them the grace of Christ and His immeasurable love. I struggle to find words for rules that might help them protect themselves, but I do see ways to help them understand how deeply loved and valued they are by the Lord. A person who sees themself as a prince or princess of heaven with an unshakable value is much less likely to do or even be tempted by something that would shake their faith in that value. I hope to help them understand that their identity in Christ NEVER changes but their recognition of it is the difference between the life and spiritual love affair they can enjoy, or the life of trying and failing to meet impossible standards. Sin’s only power is altering the way we see ourselves. It can’t alter how God sees us anymore. And maybe that’s the real place we should be focussing our efforts as the Church– helping people to really identify with their true identity in Christ.
Anyway, I am not as well organized in my thoughts as you, but perhaps this perspective will help somewhere with your writing. Praying for this book- it could be revolutionary.
To add to your piece, procreation isn’t the only aspect of sex. How crazy is it that God created sex to be fun?
Thanks Thomas for these words of encouragement. I have been one of those “super pure” Christians most of my life and while I do think it helped me avoid certain situations, I also have realized that it makes other things more difficult. The guy I’m dating is much more balanced with being pure, but still being loving and he’s been good to help me accept, that yes, handholding, saying “I love you” and kissing are all good and beautiful things in a committed relationship. I hope this part is in your book or at least something like it, Thanks again! ~Jenn
THANK YOU! Thank you for sharing this. I hope it finds its way into more hands. I will definitely share.
Thanks Thomas! I agree with your thoughts on the gospel and our sin. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”-Jesus
I’m praying for wisdom for you as you write your book. I look forward to reading it. One thing that might be helpful is to specifically address different age demographics, rather than trying to cover all ages with a one-size-fits-all. E.g., a chapter specifically to teenagers, a chapter to those in 20’s, and a chapter to ‘older singles’… ?
I was a home school parent for your generation. I was VERY concerned about outward appearances and so I focused on behavior and not heart issues. I am glad (dare I say “rejoicing”) to see your focus on heart character. I know reaching the hearts of our children is the most important act of love parents undertake. When Jesus touched my heart with His love, I was truly changed. Thanks for sharing in a loving way.
Good stuff. A conversation that needs to continue. There’s a generation of us – homeschooled, steeped in purity culture – who grew up ashamed of even attraction, for crying out loud. The lack of emphasis on Scripture – and the rules (how to dress, never to go on a date, etc, etc) that stood in for knowing Jesus better – set us back a ways. Thanks for writing and participating in this discussion.
Thanks for this insight. Having grown up Baptist and homeschooled (double whammy there), a lot of these were, in a way, drilled into me from an early age. I knew I didn’t want to date until I was ready to find that special guy, and I made the decision to save my first kiss for our wedding day. Well, several years and a purity class later, I went on my first date to senior prom with my best friend. We wrote down a list of promises (our version of a boundaries list) which consisted of focusing on God, saving ourselves for marriage, and included saving our kiss. As the year progressed, it got harder not to kiss. We decided once a year had passed to pray about it. We both agreed that it would not harm anything to kiss. All that to say kissing is not in itself sinful, it is the purpose and the intention behind it that determines the holiness of it. I still advocate saving a first kiss, but it is okay not to, as long as the heart is in the right place.
Thank you for your stance on this, that it is not the actions, it is the heart behind the actions
Ok, here’s my question about kissing… If you wouldn’t kiss someone you aren’t married to after you’re married, what makes it ok to kiss someone you aren’t married to before you’re married? Wouldn’t it be wiser to not, as you don’t know for sure who you’re going to marry? I’m not saying kissing is wrong, but just maybe not the right time?
Kissing in itself is not wrong. The problem when you kiss someone else after you are married is that you are committing an act of unfaithfulness. Being unfaithful is the sin–not the act of kissing.
The problem with what you just said is that you think you cannot be unfaithful to a future spouse. You certainly can. there is a way to honor your future spouse by not kissing around.
You also wouldn’t flirt with, talk to, or pursue a romantic future with somebody you weren’t married to after you were married, unless you were polygamist. So that argument is null because you wouldn’t act like a single person in ANY capacity after you’re married.
The other thing that’s really important to consider is that love is a particular type of energy that is shared between two people. And some things completely can kill the attraction on a physical basis. If somebody isn’t attractive to you from a visual capacity, it’s hard to pursue a future with them. And if they’re aren’t attractive to you in a romantic capacity, it’s difficult as well.
The result of this ‘no kissing until after the wedding’ is a whole lot of Jacob and Leah style of bait and switch or unmet expectation situations, in my opinion. Certain aspects of people DO need to be compatible, there’s no question about that. I hate that Christians tend to demean the romantic part of a relationship to such a low, distasteful place that it’s UNTHINKABLE that two people would evaluate that part of themselves prior to marriage.
In other words, kiss the girl. Not dating or courtship or a potential hypothetical future spouse . You’re not marrying that person or pursuing that person, because they don’t exist.
Lastly, pure is what you ARE, purity is not something you HAVE. So you can’t give it away or lose it, you either are that in spirit, or you aren’t. And inherently, we aren’t, apart from redemption in Christ.
When in the Middle East, women kiss women, men kiss men, that’s it. In France men/women kiss each other. So when do I know to stop kissing my wife’s French relatives? When she gives me “that expression.” My entire body belongs to my wife in this way, and in whatever culture we find ourselves. She sets the policy: to kiss or not to kiss.
“”Do girls dressing modestly keep men pure.” No, but it helps. Swimming pools, media, and workplace cleavage. Yuk!
If we served a weak god, then we’d be obliged to make others submit.
Jesus: love God, love others.
Islam: submit or I kill you. You women forbidden to be seeing in public with no accompanied man relative, and only to look out small peephole in tent clothing.
The almighty God does not need us to “play God.” The Psalm 139 God searches our heart and His Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts as we walk His walk: obey His word, confess, repent, worship, those sort of things; not, submit woman or Achmed keeeeel you!
I like being searched by Almighty God, and it is He that searches me. Those who serve a weak god, have his search work to.
you’ve got it! keep on keeping on! Advice from a grandma! loved several of your points…this one being the first: What would the Church look like if we put as much energy into praying for those struggling as we do into policing them? What if we waited for God to convict them directly, rather than trying to force them to comply with the rules?
What if I were as patient with others as God has been patient with me?
The only thing that I would take issue with is the idea that helping a leper was “Old testament thinking” vs. New Testament thinking. The laws concerning this were not to keep everyone else away, but to help them heal. “Outside the camp” or wherever, there was a specific place that people would go when dealing with bodily issues. Just like people will take someone sick “outside their home” to a hospital, or doctor. Loved ones would still have access to these people, they would still have their needs met, and be taken care of. But they needed some space to be able to deal with whatever they were dealing with, privately and not in the center of the public eye, as each case may be. It wasn’t intended by God to be a punishment for being sick, but rather if anything, an act of compassion which man has twisted. Which is what Christ came to restore us to. He didn’t change God’s intent, rather clarified to a people who had been Purity Policed to oblivion. Clean vs. Unclean has more to do with preventing the spread of bacteria/virus/infections, and using soap and the medicine of the time to help people. …I am looking forward to reading the finished book!
Excellent. Good analysis of the Biblical principles.
Kissing and showing (and lets face it: ramping up) sexual desire is not appropriate in a dating relationship. Yes the Holy spirit should guide us, but the Spirit has spoken on how we are to treat each other in dating, with absolute purity. This rules kissing out, specifically sexual forms of kissing (and readers need to admit, kissing on the lips is sexual enough).
Nobody ‘needs’ to admit anything. Kissing anyone on the face in any capacity in Western culture is considered intimate. But in some cultures, full on lip kissing was no more intimate than a hug in Western culture.
Some Christians insist hugs are too sexual (after all, bodies pressing against each other, etc!) But I would propose this; if there is no more sexual energy and attraction than a father would have for his daughter, then how on earth is it ‘too sexual’ or sexual AT ALL?
If a father can kiss his daughter, or a mother kiss her son, or hug her son, then it’s not an inherently sexual act.
French kissing or ‘making out’? You have a point, that is a distinctly romantic, PRESEXUAL act. A husband and wife can do it without it being sexual. Just romantic energy. And if you can’t tell the difference between the two, and you have a ‘sexual binary’ view of sexuality, it to me demonstrates a severely stunted view of intimacy. And that stunted view of intimacy is what I think causes the sexual repression of Christian communities.
Humans aren’t computers. Romance isn’t a contract. Righteousness isn’t a checklist.
And yet I’ll guarantee you could create a ‘binary’ or ‘contractual’ or ‘checklist’ oriented view of premarital romance, which is no more romantic than 50 shades of grey.
Thanks so much for writing about this more people need to read this. I will totally share this and can’t wait to read the book!!!!
I have some reservations about a couple things. You endorse kissing, but you don’t define the type of kissing. I don’t think that the majority of people are talking about a “brotherly” kiss when they ask if kissing is okay in relationships. French kissing prepares the body for sex, that’s a physiological thing. Perhaps this would be a place where you share different points of view, like some people feel that kissing increases temptation and that it is being unfaithful to a future spouse. Others feel that it is okay as long as you remain focused on God…or something along those lines. I don’t think your endorsement or non-endorsement of an activity is the point. You should be providing people with enough information so that their faith is strong in the decisions they make. Perhaps get the reader asking themselves some questions. Why do I want to kiss? Will this lead to more temptation? Is this an expression of love? Am I doing it freely or out of compulsion? At what point in a relationship do I feel that it’s appropriate? Am I giving myself away too easily? Am I refusing to connect?
I also question your endorsement of “God wants us to have sex. Lots of sex.” Are you intending to endorse sex outside of marriage? There are two issues I see. Super churched Christians who need to relax and go on dates and Christians with weak faith who don’t understand why God prohibits sex outside of marriage. Maybe start that section by mentioning how sex is intended to bless a marriage? Or you could move the evil attraction section to before the sex section. It seems like it would make sense there and it explains the full intention that God has.
This is excellent and I couldn’t agree more! It is so relevant to Christianity right now. Thanks for taking up this cause for the sake of the Lord’s name.
Nice comments, Liz, Beth, well everyone yesterday.
I want to start by saying that you have a good message in this, but there were a few things that I saw that quite frankly, I will argue with you about. But there were also some things that I need you to clear up because I want to make sure I know what you’re trying to portray.
I think you missed the objective of modesty. You have to be careful with this topic and yes, every household is different. But you have to acknowledge that modesty is something God wants. Not just from girls, but from boys too. You put it down so far and made it seem unimportant. Am I conservative? Yeah. Am I a Baptist? Yeah. But I’m also a teenager. And I see so many girls in my classes showing off all their goods that the good Lord gave them. And the majority reason that they dress this way is that is the way the world dresses. They don’t consider that what they’re wearing. For me, it’s about pleasing God in the way that I dress. And yeah, people are different and will have different ideas about pleasing God than others, but you can’t leave out modesty. Don’t focus so much on how so and so made this strict line and so and so has a line much farther down the road, but rather would what you’re wearing please God. While the heart is the most important thing, your heart pours outwards and it shows on the outside. If pleasing God is your main objective, it will show in how you dress. Yeah, it’s going to be different for everyone, but that isn’t the point. It’s just like rules for dating and courting. It’s different, but whatever your opinions and rules are, they should be made to Glorify God, not just go with the flow of the world. Sorry for rambling and whatnot.
Also, you praise sex so much. I understand sex in wed-lock is great. Okay. But you don’t define what kind of sex you’re praising (until the end that is). You make it sound like everyone should just go and have sex. What you need to do with this topic is pinpoint it. Lust, lust is wrong. It’s biblical, it’s a sin, and it’s not right. Desiring your spouse is not wrong. It’s biblical, it’s good, and it’s a sign of a good relationship. But there is a huge difference between Lust and Desiring your spouse. You need to make it clear here. Premarital sex is wrong according to God. Don’t do it. Wait for your spouse. It’s worth it. God loves the love between Husband and Wife. You also need to define what “Sexual attraction” is. Is it lust? Is it just being attracted to someone? Please define it for me.
You threw out the idea of having rules in a Christian household. And as humans, we do need rules. Or else anarchy and chaos. But the point is, that most rules are put in place for our own good. They’re there to try and stop mistakes from happening and try to keep our heart pure. And the mistake of parenting with rules is not necessarily having the rules there, but not explaining the rules. Why is that a rule? Why do I, the “parent”, not want my child to wear that mini skirt? Why do I not want my kids to stay out past such and such a time? The most common mistake I find in looking at parents parenting is they don’t explain why they do what they do. Why should I abide by your rules? Talk to me about it. Help me understand why you put this restriction down. I will think it over. And maybe I’ll agree with it, or maybe I’ll parent my own kid a different way. But it’s so important to have that communication. Even if I don’t agree with one of my parent’s rules, if I know why it is in place, I am more prone to follow it because I know what it is trying to protect me from. Experience is NOT everything. I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents did growing up. It’s not worth it. But if I can avoid a few mistakes by following stricter rules, I’m fine with that. Then again, not everyone works the same way I do, but the idea of telling the child the objective of the rule helps him become informed of what the possible consequence may be.
So I’m sorry if this seemed harsh at all, that sincerely wasn’t my intention. It really is a great message. But I want you to be able to portray it in the best way possible, and I think these were a few things you could clear up for the future. We, Generation Y (Or X, whatever you want to call us) want to know all the facts from all different points of views. From what I gathered, the main point of this article was not to let others set your own standard for living for God. But on the way you made it sound like those who live for God in a more conservative fashion are doing it wrong. I have chosen to live the way I do because that is how I feel will help me glorify God most. I’ve considered my parents rules, I have looked at the Bible, I have asked God, and that’s how I have set my own standards of living for God. Not everyone is a part of the “purity police”. If you live differently, that’s totally fine with me. But if you are living in a way that outright rebels against God, I will point it out.
That’s all I wanted to say, thank you for the good article. 🙂
Great comment Beth, the wisdom you portray is this short section above makes it hard to believe you are a teenager. You go girl, it must be God’s wisdom speaking through you. It is ultimately all about His glory. Praise His wonderful Name!
Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Thank you! Thank you for pointing out that Jesus is my righteousness; that I have no right to judge or condemn others. So much of this debate could be resolved if we could all remember that Jesus is the focus of our lives. Thank you also for “trust God to be God.”
On a side note, your initial post “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed”, resonated so strongly with me. I am one of those girls who has NEVER been asked out. So thank you for that!
One final thing– you’re absolutely right that dressing modestly does not “keep men pure”. I live in an area with many Mennonite and Amish, and still hear about the pornography problem in their culture. Which is not to say that modesty is pointless…
I love Beth’s comments and how she wants to please God with her actions. Unfortunately, for many–and this is how it was for me for a long time–our walk (especially when it comes to sexual purity) is more about fear of doing wrong than a desire to please God. We’ve been taught how easy it is fall, told all the warning stories of people who ended doing up what they never thought they’d do. What they never wanted to do–like sex outside of marriage. And told the bad things that happened to them. The focus shifts from wanting to please God to fearing what might happen. It makes us (or me, at least) feel so vulnerable. We’re priming ourselves for failure when we focus on failure or potential paths to failure. We become afraid. We don’t trust ourselves. We don’t trust the conscience and will power God gave us. If you’ve primed your mind to think kissing leads to sex, then it might (assuming you’re kissing someone who thinks the same way or doesn’t want to put on the brakes). It’s like thinking that one small step will tip you over a cliff with no branches to grab on to on the way down. You rob yourself of your power to say no at any point along the way. But if you’ve focused on your power as a new creation in Christ, or basically that your conscience and self-control can kick in any moment, then a kiss or a hug or a miniskirt wouldn’t hold that danger. You would know you could stop. Wasn’t Joseph able to run away from Potiphar’s wife despite a very tempting situation?
A married couple I know lived in different cities while they were dating. The first time she visited him, she stayed at his house. Nothing happened. They knew the danger and took precautions against it. She slept in his room; he slept on the floor in the living room. I’m not recommending or endorsing spending the night alone together at all, but the point is that we should quit thinking like victims of desire and remember that we have self-control. A kiss to a Christian accustomed to controlling his impulses isn’t like a glass of beer to an alcoholic. Of course, there are definitely some very wise rules-of-thumb to follow (like staying out of bedrooms, off beds or the floor together, no making out, no hands up the shirt, or anything that’s a specific problem for you, for instance), but too many rules is just fear taking over wisdom’s job. Rules won’t keep us safe. We tend to break them or make them into yokes (and didn’t Christ set us free from such yokes?). Like Beth says, we need to understand the principle behind the rules; that way we can make wise choices and follow the principle. Heaven forbid we actually think for ourselves and apply wisdom to our specific situation! After all, didn’t Jesus care about the principle of the Sabbath, and not the Pharisees’ rules on how to keep it?
And just for the record, I think a kiss is a very special thing (and for those of you who want a specific definition of what I mean by kiss—watch the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice, or most any post-Hay’s Code ‘30s or ‘40s movie). Didn’t true love’s first kiss wake Sleeping Beauty and Snow White? Those kisses meant marriage and a happily-ever-after. But those are fairy tales and this is real life. The man you “fell in love” with at first sight, to be honest, isn’t likely to be the same guy you’re in love with two years later, especially when you’re in high school. You can’t expect to live happily ever after with someone you don’t really know (getting to know is a long process– http://www.boundariesbooks.com/boundaries-in-dating/8-steps-fall-in-love-too-fast/), as those stories, and likely your feelings, would lead you to believe. So save the kiss. However, my shy self doesn’t want my first kiss to be in public with everyone watching, as at a wedding. So this is my theory: a kiss should be the declaration of love and the desire to commit to each other for life. Basically, when you’re ready to get engaged. Of course, this implies an understanding of “love” beyond butterflies in the stomach. When you know the difficulties of marriage, when you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and still want to marry, then seal it with a kiss–a promise of what’s to come. To kiss or not to kiss in the engagement period? Leave that to your conscience.
When you say Paul says over and over to greet with a holy kiss, I take it to mean between the same sex. I don’t know that it applies in the situation to which you are referring. Should we even consider a holy kiss an option between opposite sex? Perhaps I’m wrong but even the early church taught that “Then let the men give the men, and the women give the women, the Lord’s kiss. But let no one do it with deceit, as Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss” (The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 2, 57, page 422, Vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers). – See more at: http://www.scripturessay.com/what-is-the-holy-kiss/#sthash.8YxHvPxV.dpuf
So, I have a question for you. Something a few of the purity preachers butchered is ‘purity’ in the context of the abused. e.g. broad brush statements such as, “If you’ve had sex outside marriage you’ve sinned.” Okay, so what about the person who was raped. Actually Deuteronomy’s standard was the abuser was put to death and the person abused was protected by the law. Anyhow, having experienced that I can attest to the “purity culture” ostracizing those who have been harmed, by no fault of their own, and I wish it would stop – it drives some to the point of leaving Christianity because there is no help or support.
One thing stuck out to me: “I think we would do ourselves a lot of favors as a community if we put more effort into making marital sex sound amazing.” I agree that I’d rather focus on a positive than focus on refraining from a negative. However, I’ve heard others complain about having high expectations for sex in marriage for this reason, but being surprised and frustrated to learn that it’s not always so amazing. You might be interested to take a look at Jonalyn Fincher’s blog (http://soulation.org/jonalynblog/) (if you haven’t already) as she addresses the topic of sexuality from a Christian perspective.