Pure And Simple

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

Pure And Simple

By Iain Dick

What does the word ‘purity’ make you think of?

First, I think it’s important to refer to purity culture. People at the younger end of Generation X and older Millennials will probably be clued up already, but I realize that not everyone will be aware of what that was/is. I found this article from Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition very informative on the subject; linked here.

It’s safe to say that purity culture played a huge impact on (namely Christian) society in the ’90s, and it carried on into the early ’00s. Nowadays, depending on who you say it in front of, Purity Culture is a bit of a “four-letter word”. Anyone who either lived through it could tell you how there was an undercurrent of shame throughout – look up the opening chapter of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris to see what I mean. Countless adults now would tell you how there was a huge focus and trend on wearing the rings, signing the pledges, being ‘one of the pure ones’ – like there was an implied badge of honor and righteousness for those who complied, and a shroud of shame for those who didn’t. 

Strangely, throughout all this, somehow, I managed to escape it. I was born in 1988, so my childhood was in the ’90s, and teenage years were in the ’00s. This puts me in the center of the Millennial cohort, which was probably influenced by the last wave of the purity movement. Looking back at it now, I can see God’s grace as the movement didn’t have much say in my house – I think being in the UK meant that there was far less of a strong arm with the purity movement. It reached us, but not quite to the extent it did in the US.

The thing is, a lot of the influence that Purity Culture had on people was extrabiblical. The Bible talks about sexual relations being designed purely for one man and one woman, within biblical marriage – I’m not going to dispute that part. But so many of us hear the word ‘purity’, and it conjures up this beast of extra rules and shame that I don’t believe God ever wanted for us.

For example, Proverbs 27:21 tells us that “The purity of silver and gold is tested by putting them in the fire; The purity of human hearts is tested by giving them a little fame.” And Zechariah 13:9 says “…I’ll refine them as silver is refined, test them for purity as gold is tested. Then they’ll pray to me by name and I’ll answer them personally…’’

Both verses from the Old Testament refer to the process of purification of precious metals in a crucible; the refining fire liquefies the metal and any impurities float to the top. That, to me, sounds an awful lot like sanctification – it sounds like God allowing a process to sift out anything that shouldn’t be there. It’s something HE does to us.

Philippians 1:6 says “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

So, what does that mean for us?

It means that we can look at purity with a fresh new perspective, well, two actually.

The first is that God is the judge of what is pure. He knows our heart (1 Samuel 16:7), and our motives. He is the one who purifies us as we walk with Him through life, keeping Him as our guide, the just Judge and Heavenly Father.

The second is that it’s simple. 2 Corinthians 11:3 talks about the “simple purity of your love for Christ…”. I believe that we’re on a better track towards purity when we stop thinking of it as a list of things that we “shouldn’t do”, but rather a simple, uncomplicated approach to our love for Jesus (that you should do). Set yourself apart, consecrate yourself. Don’t allow the messy parts of human life get in the way of your standing with God.

Purity culture made many of us learn the shame of when you get it wrong.

Real purity is keeping the devotion of your life aimed at God first.

Each day, ask “…God, teach me lessons for living to I can stay the course…” (Psalm 119:33) and maybe we can re-learn what purity is, and teach othersGod’s true intentions.