Updated: Mar 14
To begin this post, I would like to give the witness of my first "marriage". The first time my ex-husband hit me, we were still dating. Living in different homes. And because it was during sex, I was ashamed. I did not turn to the church, because I feared their judgement. Now, both my ex-husband and I were Christian, so we knew better. I stepped back from the relationship. I told my ex-husband that I needed space to evaluate and process what had happened. He respected my wishes. But I was left to contemplate and struggle in isolation. I didn't share that burden with my fellow believers, as I should have.
Eventually I came back to the relationship, because my ex-husband promised to never do it again. He lied. When I came back, that was when he decided to propose. After I said yes, and we told our families that we would be wed, he continued to treat me in the same manner. If I decided to break it off at that point, I would have to explain to everyone why. And that was something my ex-husband would not tolerate. He hated it when I would talk about our relationship, even to his own mother. Because he knew, if people knew the truth, they would tell me to leave. Judgement would come down on him.
When we had been married a few months, I stopped seeking out fellowship. My ex-husband refused to attend church with me, and I grew tired of dodging questions from other members. We lived across the street from the church we were married in. The officiant that married us, was my pastor. When I left the fellowship, not one person came to check on me. Not one phone call was made to make sure I was ok. I was left to be alone with my ex-husband. That was a very dark time in my life.
Sexual sin is one of the most devastating things we can experience. 1 Corinthians 6:18 "Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body." When I came to grips with the fact that my ex-husband and I had sought marriage out of lust, I had to ask God for forgiveness. But the hardest part was forgiving myself. Sure I expressed my unhappiness to my husband, the desire to take my own life even, but in the heat of the moment, I never said no. I could've put a stop to his behavior, by not even allowing it in the first place. I spent a lot of time calling myself stupid, a glutton for punishment. But in order to move forward, I had to forgive myself.
Sex in and of itself is not a sin. God created us with the desire and ability to be co-creators with him. A pretty apparent way to know if you are being called to singleness or marriage, is whether you have a sex drive or not. 1 Corinthians 10:13 "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." Marriage is the concession that gives us a way out, to endure sexual temptation. Sex can be considered a healthy way of experiencing and worshipping God, as long as it is within the boundaries of the husband-wife relationship, outlined in Ephesians 5:22-33.
So, if we believe that sexual sin is so serious, what is damaging about purity culture? The majority of Christians boast in the decision to "save themselves" for legal marriage, in an effort to justify themselves. My marriage was legal. It was also false. What I experienced was not marriage. It was purely lust. The problem wasn't that we didn't "save ourselves" for marriage. The problem was our relationship lacked the witness of the church. Inviting the church into our most intimate relationships, is not a purity check. It's a safeguard against abuse, caused by sin. It allows a third party to give their objective perspective. Navigating the truths of the heart is confusing, and often painful. We don't necessarily see the situation with clarity, because of our fallen nature.
1 Corinthians 7:5 "Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
How many couples spend their entire engagement burning in passion? Refusing to see that this burning passion, is actually evidence that they need to seek out their spouse. The burning passion isn't the problem. The way we handle it is. Purity culture demonizes people who have sex drives. Blaming them for something they honestly have no control over. We can only control the way we react to our sex drive.
My issue with the church looking down on couples who cohabitate before obtaining the legality of marriage, is that we as believers are to live by the spirit, not the law (Galatians 5:18). The Spirit moves through the witness of the church, not the laws of the government. If you want to know if someone's marriage is true, then be a true witness. My wedding was full of false witnesses. They could only attest to the lip service of our vows, not the reality of them being lived out. Be involved because of a deep desire to disciple. Not because you listen to idle gossip. Purity culture breeds hidden lust and false witnesses. Church, we have got to stop depending on the law to do our job for us. That is the definition of legalism. The legality of marriage, is for the protection of the relationship and any children that may come from it. Not for the justification of it.
*Disclaimer: letter was not sent to, or received by me. I came across it on Facebook, and it got me thinking.*