We recognize that purity is a sensitive conversation, but we don’t want to gloss over a conversation that is important to have if you are desiring love that lasts. So let’s talk about purity as it pertains to romantic relationships and some practical ways to protect and pursue it.
While we were dating, Jeremy and I won the virginity battle, but we lost the purity battle, so to speak. Sure, we saved the actual act of intercourse for marriage — and we’re so thankful we did — but that’s not even half the battle.
I think Christians especially tend to overvalue virginity and undervalue purity. Purity is less about refraining from one act and more about honoring the other person’s mind, heart and body as you progress toward marriage. It’s recognizing that until the day they become your spouse, they do not belong to you, nor you to them. And it’s honoring the person who is to be their spouse one day (whether or not that might be you!) and not creating confusion or stirring up feelings that will cloud judgment as you discern whether you will be each other’s partner for life.
If you’re reading this and your sexual past has left you feeling shame, guilt, dirty or impure, let these words from Mary Pickford sink in: “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
When it comes to purity, you can choose a fresh start too. When Jer and I messed up, we didn’t give in to the rest of our desires because it was “too late.” We started over each day. If you have ever worried it’s “too late,” hear this: God desires to wash you white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) and to create a new heart and renew a right spirit within you (Psalm 51:10). He delights in making you blameless and pure, without fault or blemish and free from guilt and shame (Philippians 2:15).
God’s grace makes the purity battle not about what you did with your body but about what He did with His. If you repent, forgiveness is yours, purity is yours, wholeness is yours. And in case you’re hearing this for the first time, I need to make one thing clear. There is nothing you or I can do to earn this gift of grace. We simply get to receive it and allow it to transform our lives. As Jer and I learned to make purity the focus in our dating relationship rather than virginity, we came up with some practical boundaries.
For example, setting an alarm for when we would say goodbye for the night, finding a friend or mentor who would hold us accountable (and tell them when we would be spending time with each other, particularly at night), not lying down together when watching movies, not watching anything with nudity (together or separately), finding a friend to stay with rather than sleep at each other’s houses when visiting long distance and having accountability partners (not each other) around areas of pornography, screen use and relationships with friends of the opposite sex with a heart to honor God and each other.
Questions for Safeguarding Sexual Purity
If you’re dating someone who isn’t honoring and respecting God’s design for purity now, what makes you think he or she will honor and respect God’s design for purity within marriage? To all of you boyfriends or girlfriends out there, if your dating relationship is headed toward marriage, I encourage you to start asking some of these questions. Ask with curiosity, with compassion and with an open heart. These are hard questions that can be filled with shame or unveil fear, but they’re also beautiful opportunities to offer grace, forgiveness, healing and hope to begin a new chapter of your story.
- What acts of physical intimacy do you want to save for marriage?
- How were you raised to view purity?
- Have you been sexually intimate in a previous relationship? If so, how has that affected you?
- Have you ever looked at pornography or anything that has caused you to lust for another person or reality? If so, when was the last time?
- Do you have people in your life holding you accountable to resist sexual temptation?
- What can I do to help you as we pursue purity and respect in our relationships?
- Does any of this warrant seeing a counselor to guide you on the journey to health?
Wrestling with these kinds of questions will help you establish boundaries so you can win the purity battle before and after you say, “I do.”
Maybe you’re reading this and have been married for years but never asked your spouse if they struggle with pornography or what accountability and boundaries they have in place to prevent their eyes from wandering. Unfortunately, so many couples never talk about purity struggles within their marriage until someone gets hurt. Modify the list above to springboard a conversation with your spouse. Maybe you need to unfollow some accounts on social media, put away your devices past a certain time of day, limit time with a particular coworker or stop watching a particular TV show.
Sexual intimacy is a gift to be given within the context of marriage, shared between two people for the purpose of unity. We believe it is a gift to be guarded, savored and celebrated. As the saying goes, you steer where you stare. When you stare at the goodness of God, you won’t be satisfied by a counterfeit version of sexual intimacy and love. If you have stopped pursuing each other in intimate ways because of bitterness or fatigue or just life, take some time to address this and ask for forgiveness. Renew your commitment to pursue each other, and if you want some help, seek a counselor. (Counselors can be wonderful resources to move past old wounds and patterns and to write a new script, whether your marriage is in jeopardy or you just need a fresh perspective!)
I don’t know what you need to more fully pursue purity in your relationship, but I encourage you to begin the conversation with your person.