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Is purity the same as virginity?

By: kirsten mcgehee

I didn’t learn about sex from the church. In fact, the only thing I did learn when it came to the subject was not to have it until marriage. Single women and men wore their virginity like a gold star. And if you lost it, your gold star turned into a scarlet letter.

To hold out until the big wedding night seemed to be the final stamp of being a good Christian. I grew up believing there’s nothing more pure than a virgin, but what many Christians neglect to see is that even underneath the gold stars are some scarlet letters.

The Difference Between Virginity and Purity

Virginity and purity are not one and the same.

A virgin is someone who’s never had sex. And while saving sex for marriage is something to be celebrated, it’s a low bar for measuring purity.

Purity is so much more than whether I’ve had sex or not. Purity is what you do on the weekends or when no one’s watching. Purity looks at the state of my heart and the nature of my thoughts.

Grace will always call us to a higher standing of living than the law, and that’s why the Bible calls us to more than virginity. The Bible calls us to purity.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul is writing to a young pastor named Timothy. He challenges Timothy to treat “younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

Seeing purity through that standard doesn’t just affect how far we go physically, but how we flirt and how we date. Treating others with absolute purity means learning to honor and respect the other person both emotionally and physically.  

What It Looks Like to Fight for Purity

Psalm 119:9 asks and answers this same question: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”

The more time we spend reading the Bible, the more we’ll see that the Lord cares about our motives as much as our actions.

The more time we spend reading the Bible, the more we’ll see that the Lord cares about our motives as much as our actions.

Fighting for purity, not just virginity, requires us to examine our intentions when we flirt and spend time with someone:

  • Am I stringing this person along? Would I be OK with someone treating my brother or sister this way?
  • Are we going too far without having sex? Would I be OK with someone else doing to my brother or sister what I’m doing with my significant other?

Fighting for purity also means seeing others as beloved children, not opportunities.

Instead focusing on what the guys in my life can provide for me as a husband, or if they’re marriage material, I should focus enjoying their friendship as my brothers in Christ. Instead of projecting my romantic fantasies onto the men I meet, I should look at them for who they are and love them for it — just like I would treat any friend or brother of mine.

Men, instead of looking to the girls in your life for approval and flirting when you have no intention of asking her out, enjoy her company platonically — without fishing for compliments. You wouldn’t do that to your sister, and you wouldn’t like the guy who did.  

You can’t have sex with someone who isn’t yours and expect to get away in once piece. It’s the same danger when your thoughts wander and your heart attaches to someone who isn’t yours.

Why Is Purity Important?

You don’t have to be having sex to feel like your heart is in a free-for-all giveaway. A plea to live purely is a call to live freely.

In purity, we can experience the deepest, most honest parts of loving someone. Because when I choose to honor someone as my brother rather than the daydream version of them, I don’t have to keep up the walls of my heart that hide the parts of me I don’t want anyone to find. I don’t have to be cool or coy or someone I’m not, I can simply be who I was created to be. I can allow the same freedom for the man opposite of me. We can be authentic, and that’s something to love.

Loving purely is what God does, and my life shouldn’t be a reflection of how well I follow rules, but how much I love Jesus. If God does something, I want to do it, too, because I love Him.

In Isaiah 43:4, the Lord says, “…For you are honored and precious in my eyes, and I love you…”

We are honored, precious and loved. God cares how we are treated, and He cares how we treat others.

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