Why sexual integrity? This is a question that is commonly asked by those that hear about our ministry. People ask why we don’t just use terms like sexual purity or abstinence? Which is a great question and worth responding to.
Let me start by saying that how we speak about sex matters. So often the ways we discuss this subject can be deceptive, wrong, misguided or fear based. Churches and homes, if not careful, can make Christian sex nothing more than choosing to wait. Thus, causing teens and young adults to think that their virginity is their most important commodity, an identity marker, in their relationship with the Lord. A recent article about Elizabeth Smart, the girl that was once held captive for nine months in 2002 near her home in Salt Lake City, UT, had a similar thought in a recent article titled, the limits of abstinence education. In short Smart says, “I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about, well about abstinence. And she said, ‘Imagine that you’re a stick of gum, and when you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who’s going to want you after that?… for me, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ Now we must realize that not every program or abstinence message is the same but the analogies we use make a difference. They communicate something and we have to be careful what exactly they communicate. Personally, I think her words are important to read because they speak truth…and that can sting a little. I’ve been doing this for many years and realize the power of speaking on such a sensitive subject. My hope is that we as a ministry are doing more than just selling the value of virginity. That is not what makes someone holy. In fact, I highly doubt that the first question that we will be asked by God when we get to the pearly whites will be whether or not we were virgins when we got married. Choosing to wait must be something more than just about our virginity.
Some might think then that is why we must speak about sexual purity. Yes, I can see that but I still think Elizabeth Smarts words hit just as hard and maybe even more directly when using terms like sexual purity. Often these conversations are no different then a schools presentation on abstinence. The only difference is that we speak about the value of being ‘clean’ and keeping up a regiment of don’ts. Which, when I speak those words out loud sound an awful lot like a Pharisee. Do they not? I’ve sat through multiple ‘purity’ talks at church and never once heard the name of Jesus Christ proclaimed. But isn’t He the one that makes us pure? (1 John 3:3) I think that sometimes this point gets missed in our talks…but I believe that is the most important thing. In fact, that is where our value, our identity, should be found. Is it not?
This generation is going to have to wait longer than any other if they choose to follow God’s standards for sex. That is a fact. In the late 1800’s you typically only waited one or two years from the time you went through puberty (your body communicating your ready to create life) till when you married. In the 1950’s the time was a bit longer, maybe 5 to 6 years. Today, however, most young adults are waiting until their late 20’s to get married and they are going through puberty younger and younger. This means that if they are going to follow God’s standards then they will have to wait anywhere from 12-17 years from the time their body is ready to the time they have sex. That is a long time! And that is why our message must resonate in ways that go beyond rules and boundaries.
Remember, God is concerned with what’s in the heart. Virginity, if not placed in the right context, can be a source of pride rather than an opportunity to glorify the Creator. I don’t think virginity is the opposite of sexual promiscuity, sexual integrity is. Sexual integrity (and purity if spoken about correctly) requires something more than just physical action. It requires turning to the Lord and acting in obedience with this great gift. Over and over again our identity in Scripture is not found in what we do (like saving our virginity) but in the one in whom we find TRUE life, Jesus Christ. Thus, if we make a mistake our identity is not stolen from us because this identity is not given in what we do but it is a declaration of what has already been done. Another reason we use the term sexual integrity comes from the root of the word integrity. Integrity comes from the word, integer, which means whole or complete. Our desire as a ministry is to see individuals that are sexually whole in Jesus Christ. In a wonderfully written article, Why Virginity is Not Important But Chastity Is, the author speaks of this every dynamic. The author says, “For it is Christ who makes us completely whole again that we might love fully without shame. This is why virginity is not important, but chastity (or sexual integrity) is: because in Christ the old has gone, the new has come, we are a new creation, created in Christ Jesus to give ourselves in love as he did. That is our identity. That is what really matters.” I couldn’t agree more and hope that this truth resonates in each and every message we share on sexual integrity.