Embracing A New Perspective on Purity
By Jasmin Patterson
Over the past year, we’ve had some deep-dive conversations untangling ideas about purity, looking at what God has to say about it, processing experiences, learning, and healing. You might think, “I’ve weighed my ideas and cultural teachings about purity against Scripture and figured out what to hold onto and let go of, but now what do I do?” Let me share a few words I pray will help you and me.
One of the pitfalls of purity culture and legalistic thinking, in general, is that it inadvertently makes us feel like we have to earn God’s love or earn our salvation by how well we follow a set of extra-biblical rules. So, first and foremost, ground yourself in God’s love and in the gospel.
God does have a good and holy standard of living for His people. The Bible tells us all about it. As Christians, we can’t ignore that reality, but we have to understand the purpose of God’s standard. We don’t live a life of purity and obedience to God’s commands to earn God’s love or earn salvation. God’s love for us is constant and unfailing, even in our weaknesses and mistakes. And we’re saved by faith in Jesus, because of His grace and perfect sacrifice for our sins, not by our own works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
When we put our trust in Jesus as Savior, He makes us holy and blameless in His sight, and then He progressively transforms our thoughts, attitudes, and actions to line up with the new nature He’s given us. (Colossians 1:21-22; Ephesians 4:22-24) We get to cooperate with His work in us as He changes us over time, from the inside out, to desire and live in a way that pleases Him.
I love that when James 1:21-25 is teaching about obedience to God’s Word it calls God’s commandments “the perfect the law that sets you free.” Remember that God’s commandments lead to life and freedom.
When we’ve gone through a process of shedding some wrong mindsets about God or what following Him looks like, sometimes embracing any kind of guidelines or boundaries again can feel scary. I’ve experienced that for a different reason.
I went through a process of shedding the idea that enjoying non-Christian art and entertainment was inherently wrong or somehow “less than” for believers and allowing God to remove the lies and guilt I felt for enjoying those things as the creative person He made me be. So, when God asked me to do a short-term entertainment fast a couple years ago, I really struggled to obey Him at first. I was afraid He would “take it away from me.” That’s what I told myself. But once I surrendered, through the process of fasting God was able to help me reconnect with Him and refine some boundaries on my entertainment consumption that were really helpful in my walk with God. And I was able to grow in trust in God and His leadership in my life.
The same can be said of re-embracing purity. As you leave behind a false understanding of purity and embrace God’s definition of purity, you might feel a twinge of fear that you’re going to embrace rules for the sake of rules again or fall back into legalism. But the true commands of God’s Word are not burdensome and even the personal standards to which He might call you are not burdensome when you know they truly came from His Spirit and He’s giving you the strength to live it out, which leads me to the final encouragement I’d give you.
Trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He knows everything about you–your desires, your strengths, and weaknesses, your victories and struggles. He loves you and cares about you. He will show you how to apply God’s biblical standard of purity to your life and guide you in those areas of personal conviction for your specific needs and situation. As you move forward, He will both comfort you and convict you when needed.
And even though some tough experiences with church or wrong ideas learned from believers may be a part of your story, the Holy Spirit can guide you to the right people too. He can direct you to holy and healing communities, mentors, and friends to champion you and walk with you as you pursue Jesus and pursue purity. You don’t have to figure out how to move forward with your new perspective on purity alone.
So take a step forward, hopefully, a little lighter and less burdened, and know Jesus is with you every step of the way.