“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
Setting an example is more than just doing the bare minimum. Imagine you’re on a sports team and you are appointed captain. If you want to set an example of good sportsmanship and gameplay, you are going to do more than just stop breaking the rules behind the ref’s back.
You’re going to be the first to congratulate an opposing team on their win. You’re going to give “you can do it!” speeches, but more importantly than that, you’re going to show them that it can be done. You’re going to show your dedication in the unseen things, like keeping your gear clean. If you want to set an example about punctuality, you’re going to be early.
So when it comes to setting an example in purity, it’s not just about what you say, but about what you do. And the obvious (like no sex before marriage) isn’t where that happens – it’s in the small things. It’s a heart attitude, not a rulebook. And so it isn’t about how far can you go in a relationship, it’s about looking at people with respect, as God’s creation, and creating a culture where lust (which starts with objectification) is something only of the world.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
If you’ve been at any youth group or teen Bible study, you’ve probably had the general idea of purity bashed into your head with a clue-by-four. So as stated above, I’m assuming that the idea of abstinence is one that is obvious and getting into the nitty-gritty of the heart attitude of purity.
The obvious: don’t watch pornography
The nitty gritty: where do your eyes go? What are you looking at?
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28
Are you looking at people with lust? Even more than that, are you watching movies that glorify sex? You might have a personal conviction about that, but what does it say when your friends ask you what you’ve been watching lately?
Setting the example: don’t just avoid looking at things you shouldn’t, encourage your brothers and sisters to look at things that are good and godly, by being open about what you are doing. If “everyone” is going to go see an inappropriate new movie, invite them over for a clean movie night. Go the extra mile. Be open about your struggles, be available to help people with theirs. Treat people with such respect that those around you will not be comfortable looking at them lustfully.
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” – Job 31:1
The obvious: don’t say obscene things
The nitty gritty: what are you laughing at? What comes through in your words?
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45
Are you smiling with those who tell dirty jokes? Do you keep silent when people speak of Jesus with disdain? Do you agree when the “in” crowd mocks someone they think are weird? When you talk about church, do you talk about it as the Bride of Christ, or as a place full of rules?
Setting the example: don’t just watch what you say, when others speak negatively, speak words of life. When someone tells a dirty or racist joke or mocks someone else, speak with compassion about that person/people group. Recognise them as people that God created. If the conversation doesn’t change, be ready to walk away, so those who follow your example can see that you do not condone what the group is doing.
“He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.” – Proverbs 22:11
The obvious: don’t fantasize
The nitty gritty: how do you think of relationship? Potential partners?
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
Is a relationship just a fun thing for you? Are you imagining relationships with other people? Are you daydreaming about being noticed by that celebrity? Does your life revolve around being in a relationship?
Setting the example: whilst a casual relationship may seem harmless, is it an honorable thing to play with people’s hearts? Rather than encouraging the behavior that treats people as conquests, treat them as people first and foremost, in purity. Let others see that you’re aiming for a godly relationship and that that’s what your mind is on. Attraction is not evil, but what you do with it can be harmful. Your life should revolve around God, not a relationship.
“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” – Song of Solomon 8:4 (NIV)
The obvious: no sex outside of marriage
The nitty gritty: do you do things you would be ashamed of if everyone saw? Do you give the wrong impression?
“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” – Hebrews 13:18
Are you touchy-feely enough to give the wrong impression? Is your conscience clear on the things you do?
Setting the example: make sure you are accountable in any relationship you’re in, and be open about it – you should have nothing to hide. People with a clear conscience carry a confidence and authority about them, and if you have nothing to hide, your witness for Christ cannot be tarnished by the truth.
Are you ready to go set an example? Or does your heart attitude of purity still need more work?
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” – Psalm 119:9
Whether you’re a young man, or a young woman, filling your mind with God’s Word, making it what you see, what you think about, and what you live out, is a surefire way of keeping your heart set on Him. And when that’s what you fill your heart with, that’s what you’ll spread around you.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see,
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see,
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see.
~ Katashka, Guest Author for Reckless Abandon Ministries