When I was growing up in Middle America in the 80s and 90s, the popular topic for every church youth group was purity. We had purity rallies where we made purity promises sealed with purity rings (or necklaces or other “purity” paraphernalia).
Although I understand the intent, in some ways, it seems to ensure that we stayed focused on the superficial…the topics—as it were—and not the real issues. Maybe that’s how the devil wants it.
You see, if we focus on purity, we become self-absorbed. We constantly focus on what behaviors (physical or psychological) make us pure or impure and we stay caught up in the pursuit of this state of purity.
The other night I heard Dr. Phil say something that stuck with me. He was advising a couple on the brink of divorce
He said, “We often argue about the topics—such as who left the dirty laundry out, or whose turn it is to pick up the kids when we should really be discussing the issues—trust, love and integrity.”
What is true for romantic relationships is true for us as Christians. When it comes to morality, we often talk a lot about the topics (purity) and not about the real issue (holiness).
Our “purity” becomes a spiritual badge of honor that we proudly display to everyone around us. It is a ruler by which we measure the shortcomings of others. In the worse case, it becomes the switch by which we self-castigate.
Whether our sense of purity leads to arrogance (i.e. “I’m better than you”) or to false humility (i.e. shame—“I’ll never measure up”) it is equally destructive.
Our obsession often leads to arrogance and a critical spirit. But it seems that more Christians suffer from the sense of shame and self-loathing that is brought on by not being pure enough.
As new Christians, we are taught that all of us “fall short” of God’s glory. No matter what we do, we will never measure up. There is this inherent sense of failure built in to our salvation, regardless of how hard we try to live purely
But Christ desires our freedom. We are set free from “the curse of the law.” When He frees us, the Word declares that we are “free indeed” (or free for sure!). What did Christ say about why He came? “I have come that you might have abundant life.”
God’s Word does speak of our shortcomings. Christ himself said, “I’ve come to call sinners to repentance.” However, our lives should not be governed by the pursuit of the unattainable and selfish state of purity, but rather, we should live holy lives. Christ calls us to holiness…and that is a different matter altogether.
It is a call to freedom. It then becomes not about what we do, but about who we are.