This blog post is quite different from the majority we do here on The Heart of Teens. In fact, it’s completely different to any post we’ve done in the past. The reason for this is that our team really wanted to do an article on purity, but didn’t want it to be the same stuff you always read. So to shake things up, the team chose two team members to collaborate on this post: Travis and AJ (we have had a LOT of fun writing this post together, but we warn you that we have an interesting way of interacting and working with one another and so please excuse any cheekiness that may have shone through in our writing). This collaboration was decided upon because we at The Heart of Teens wanted to give you both the male and female perspectives of what purity looks like.
AJ and I have spent the past two months working on this post off and on, and we hope that you will have as much fun reading it as we did writing it. To make it easier for you, all of AJ’s writing is in italics and all of Travis’s writing in plain font. We would like you to remember, however, that everything in this post was discussed and approved by both of us, so nothing has been done in isolation.
What Is Purity?
Purity can be a hard thing to grasp. It’s spoken of a lot in pretty much anything written for Christian teens these days. And with so many people saying so many different things, sometimes the definition and what we believe regarding purity can get a little bit blurry.
So what exactly is purity? If I asked you to define purity for me in one to two sentences, what would your response be? I think the majority of us, when the word purity comes up in conversation, immediately think chastity, which means to keep oneself pure from sexual relations outside of marriage. But purity is actually SO much more than just refraining from sexual immorality. Oxford’s American Dictionary defines purity as: “freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature”. This definition, however, means nothing, if we don’t have a solid definition for immoral. Immoral is defined, by the same dictionary, as: not conforming to accepted standards of morality. From these definitions, we can define purity as refraining from behaviour that would be considered unacceptable. But now, in defining purity this way, we have presented ourselves with another problem. What are we, as Christians, basing our standards of morality off of?
Purity And God’s Character
Now we don’t pretend to know all the answers but we would like you to consider a few things. It is important to remember that whenever we look at how we should behave and conduct ourselves, we should base our conclusions off Biblical principles. All absolutes (commands that apply to everyone, everywhere, at every time, such as “you shall not murder”) in the Bible are based off the character of God. He hasn’t put a bunch of rules in place because He thought they were interesting, or He believed that perhaps they might work or because He likes to boss us around. Rather, He has put them in place because they align with who He is, for example: “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Why is this important? Because we are called to be Christlike, and because it shows that God doesn’t expect us to do what He is not doing. We see exactly the same thing with purity, just look at 1 John 3:3 – “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure”. God is calling us to live in purity, just as He is pure. This is the reason we choose to live a pure lifestyle. He is the one who exemplifies exactly what we need to be.
Because our general idea of purity, as Travis said, is that of chastity, we tend to forget there is more to our purity than just the physical state of virginity before marriage. Purity is not just physical and so we need to guard ourselves against more than just sexual impurity. There is such a thing as “emotional purity”. Ok, I will admit that this is far more often an issue for us girls than it is for the guys, but both need to know about it. Girls need to avoid it, guys need to watch out for it and help their sisters in Christ to remain emotionally pure, and some guys may have to guard themselves against it too. Emotional purity is keeping oneself pure in thought and conduct in relation to the opposite gender. Girls are generally emotional beings and they enjoy it when someone else will listen to them and help them with their hurts and share their joys. One of the biggest ways a girl can begin to be attracted to a guy is when he invests in her emotionally. Put in simple terms: this is the most common form of a female lust. Emotional purity is guarding against impropriety that can arise from these circumstances.
For the guys out there, if you don’t completely grasp the whole concept of emotional purity, don’t worry. I don’t understand it 100% either, no matter how many times I ask AJ to explain it to me… must be a girl thing
Purity Behind Closed Doors
So we’ve looked at what purity is, what it’s based off of, and emotional purity so far. And the whole time, you’re probably nodding your head, thinking, “Yeah, yeah… This is great. I’m completely with you guys. But uh… When’s the application coming? We want a challenge, not a thesis, guys.” Well, I’m glad you asked!
At what time do you believe that your purity is the hardest to maintain? For me, impurity is of very little temptation… when I’m hanging out with my friends. You see, I’ve grown up in very sheltered circumstances, from the perspective that almost all of my friends are solid Christian teenagers and young adults. The real temptation comes for me, and I think this is the case for most of us, when I’m on my own, behind closed doors. When I’m in a situation where I don’t believe I will be caught nor held accountable for my actions. But this is NOT what God desires, not in the least. Matthew 15:7-8 says, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophecy of you, when he said: “‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’”. In this passage, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, but I believe that we are often guilty of doing the exact same thing. How often is it that we say certain things and act certain ways when we’re with our Christian friends, but pursue the desires of our sinful hearts when we’re alone?
This is one of the hardest parts of anything to do with Christianity. Integrity can be such a pain because it’s so easy to have different standards for different occasions, and to go against this is almost unnatural for us. The real issue is making a commitment. If you know exactly what your standard is, then it will be a lot easier to maintain that behind closed doors!
Setting A Standard
Setting a standard… When I read those words in a post on purity, I’m immediately like, “Oh no… Here we go again.” One thing I see and hear almost EVERY time in purity blog posts, talks on purity, books on purity, etc, are a bunch of rules and regulations that the author has set in place to ensure purity. I’m not going to do that in this post. In fact, the last thing I want you to take away from this post is anything along the lines of, “If I stick to this rule, this rule, and this rule, I will maintain my purity.” What I’m going to do in this section is look at some key passages from Scripture that relate to what we’re talking about in this post.
“You shall not commit adultery.” – Exodus 20:14
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28
God didn’t mess around with adultery. He wasn’t like, “Well, it’s okay now and again. Just try not to make it a regular habit…” No, God said, as plain as day, “You shall NOT commit adultery.” While Jesus reinforces this command in the New Testament, he also adds some clarity to it, which we see in Matthew 5:28. You see, Jesus wanted to deal with the heart issues. He wanted our hearts to be pure, as well as our actions. But if God condemns adultery 100%, in all circumstances, and Jesus says that looking at a woman lustfully is the same as committing adultery, what can we conclude? Well, we can realise that it’s a big deal to look at a girl lustfully. Although looking upon a girl with lust may not necessarily bear the same immediate consequences, God considers it to have equal weight with actually going out and committing adultery.
One of the reasons why I believe many authors and speakers give their readers/listeners a long list of do’s and don’t when they discuss purity, is because it simplifies things in a way, makes things easier. The reason I’m not going to do that is because I don’t believe it really deals with the heart of the issue.
I’m not going to try and tell you what to do and what not to do. What I’m going to do is encourage you to really examine your heart. I’ve shared with you what God thinks of adultery, as well as lust. Do some more research. Look at what God’s Word has to say on this subject. Memorise verses dealing with this topic. Purity is one of the biggest struggles that you will have to work through your entire life, but SPECIFICALLY during your teenage years, when you are most susceptible to fall into temptation in this area. I think it’s really important for you to set standards in your life for purity, as well as to make commitments. But I think that the most effective way for you to do this is to assess your life from the inside, and to set whatever standards necessary for you personally to maintain your purity.
Travis has covered this really well but I would just like to say one final thing on this specific matter. When we remember that purity is a state of being in general, we realise there is so much that Scripture has to say on the matter. Purity can be equated with morality, virtue, honesty, cleanliness, honour, righteousness and holiness. These are all Biblical virtues. So you may still be asking “How can I be pure”, funny you should ask that because a Biblical writer had the same question in Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word”. It’s kind of as simple as that.
Why Choose Purity Over The World?
There is clearly biblical reasoning for why we need to remain pure. The question becomes, however, “but why should I choose to follow the path of purity?”. It is easy to see why this question is asked. In a world that does not follow purity it looks like a lot of people get to do things that we would desire to do and we just get stuck here with all the rules. And nobody likes rules! The thing is, why do we follow the rules?
A lot of the purity articles I have read argue that remaining pure is good for your future marriage. I am not denying that this is true. But there are two things we need to consider: doesn’t this just go back to the idea of purity and chastity being synonyms and should this be your motivation for purity?
I have said this many times already but I will say it again, don’t you think the God who made you knows what is best for you? Not only does He know what is best for you but He actually wants it for you. God, yup the One who made everything, He loves you so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross so that you might have a relationship with Him. This fact blows my mind! Now think about this: the God who loves you that much says it is good for you to be pure. When Someone loves you that much don’t you think you should trust that He is telling you to remain pure for a good reason? I hope you will consider this and realise that following purity truly is your best option.
A Final Word
We know this may have been a lot to digest but we hope that we have made you think a little bit about purity and how it plays out practically. I pray that we have been able to answer some of your questions and allowed you to realise that purity is a thing we should desire at all ages for it is part of God’s purpose for us.