We live in a sexualized culture—a very, very sexualized culture. You already know that, of course. You can barely walk out your door or turn on a screen without seeing clear evidence of the fact. As Christians we are always in danger of being swept along with the current of the culture around us. For that reason I, like every other Christian, pursue sexual purity in my own heart and life. God calls us to nothing less. Thankfully, the Bible was written by people who also lived in sexualized cultures, and the wisdom they offer transcends the ages. (See, for example, Proverbs 7, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 4:16-18, and so on).
Sexual purity has two components to it: the turning away and the turning toward, the stopping of one kind of behavior and the beginning of another. I have seen in my own life that I am never far from making the focus of sexual purity all of those negative commands: Don’t do this, don’t behave that way, don’t carry on that habit. And I think we sometimes send the message that if you simply stop all of those evil behaviors you will be sexually pure. But sexual purity is also a positive command. In fact, I think we can say that it is foremost a positive command. Sexual purity isn’t just avoiding what is evil; it’s pursuing and enjoying what is good.
Sexual purity is not ultimately turning away from sin, but delighting in God’s gifts. The final purpose is not to stop pursuing the bad stuff, but to pursue and enjoy the good. Sexual purity is abstaining from immorality, forsaking the dirty novels, overcoming pornography, making that covenant with your eyes. These are all good and necessary. But sexual purity is so much more than that. It’s so much better than that. It’s so much more positive than that.
Sexual purity is pursuing your wife’s heart, mind, and body. Sexual purity is freely and joyfully making love to your husband. Sexual purity is relishing the memory of the last time and enjoying the anticipation of the next time. Sexual purity is teasing him about what’s to come. Sexual purity is allowing your eyes to linger and to feast upon her.
Husband, you aren’t sexually pure when you stop looking at porn, but when you love making love to your wife—when you treat her body with holiness and honor. Wife, you aren’t sexually pure when you forsake sexual temptation or sexual apathy, but when you participate in and enjoy sexual fulfillment with your husband.
Do you see it? Sexual purity is not ultimately about what to avoid, but what to pursue and what to enjoy. It’s about putting those old and ugly behaviors to death in order to free yourself to pursue the better ones. God wants to free you from sin so you can enjoy his gifts. God’s purity is a positive purity.
(A note for those who are single: God’s purity is a positive purity even for you who cannot enjoy the sexual relationship at this time. The commands to abstain from sexual immorality free you to the joy of obedience and to the blessings of obedience—the freedom experienced by Jesus who led a perfect and perfectly whole life without sex. I will write more about this on another occasion.)