Extra Virgin :: 6 Tips for Chastity
During the month of January, we’re going to try to answer one question, “Why doesn’t God want us to have sex outside of marriage?”
I believe that having sex God’s way is actually good news, that it serves a grand purpose in our lives, and that having sex outside marriage is not a part of his plan. And while that’s all well and good, I must confess that my rock-hard foundation of beliefs cracked under the strain of dating and engagement. While I never had sex of any kind until I was married, my heart was far from pure and I was haunted by the sexual boundaries I had shoved past.
Because of this, I’ve spent years wondering how, on a practical level, singles can navigate the hormone-infested waters of dating and engagement. In a heated, lonely moment with your boyfriend, vague verses from Paul’s epistles hardly keep you level-headed. So…what actually helps? How can you remain chaste when you are not married? Here are a few tips ::
Remember that you are already forgiven for every sin you have committed in the past, every sin you will commit in the future. Jesus takes your sexual impurity, suffers the punishment of a sexual offender, and you walk away pure (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is your status before God. That is why the Gospel is such good news. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
A heart that seeks Jesus
Lauren F. Winner states that, “The gospel, after all, is not a compartmentalized approach to God, but rather an engagement in love…The process of [repentance] is not merely a process of growing into a list of dos and don’ts, but rather an increasing recognition that you have earned nothing that you have—not your life or your body, not grace, not salvation…It is not what I do so much as what God has done and how I am responding to it.” The only things rules will do for you is show you how very good you are at breaking them. If you really want to change your life, you will fix your eyes not on fixing your sin, but on Jesus. As you learn to truly love him, your heart will change and it will desire to do what he wants you to do.
Because sexual sin is actually addictive, you will not be able to remain objective. You need help. You need someone reminding you of the truth, telling you the story of the Gospel over and over, declaring who are you and who are you meant to be. This is important not only for your own chastity, but for the health of the Church as a whole. We are all bound together, brother and sister, and what you bring into your life, you bring into mine. In the words of Wendell Berry, sex “is everybody’s business”.
There are many reasons why confession is an incredibly practical and effective tool against sin in a believer’s life. Anyone who has practiced confession will be able to attest to this truth. It’s easy for your personal sin to seem inconsequential when it stays in your head and in the privacy of a dark basement, but when you’re sitting across from another Christian, saying words like masturbation, pornography, and oral sex, it’s not so easy to feel justified. Plus, there’s a sense in which confession works almost like magic- “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Just try it and see.
If you do make boundaries for yourself, make sure you consider your personal weakness, history, and personality, as well as that of your boyfriend. And make them with the help of another Christian (or two) who know you both well. Some people may be able to make-out with passion and affection, then continue watching their movie while gently holding hands. Another couple may not even trust themselves to be alone together. Rules won’t save you, but don’t be foolish. Proper boundaries can go a long way in your journey of sexual purity.
On a very practical level, Winner suggests fasting from food for a meal or for a day to remind yourself that you’re not at the mercy of your bodily urges. “Understanding chastity as a discipline helps us quiet the nagging voice in our heads that says, ‘I’m being made to give up something that is totally normal and natural!’ Of course, the desire for sex is normal and natural, but many spiritual disciplines-the so-called disciplines of abstinence-center on refraining from something normal…One who fasts is abstaining from food in order to see that one is truly hungry for God; one who spends time alone forgoes the company of others in order to deepen a conversation with God; one who practices simplicity avoids luxury in order to attend more clearly to God. And the unmarried Christian who practices chastity refrains from sex in order to remember that God desires your person, your body, more than any man or woman ever will.”
I hope that this can be an ongoing discussion, that the Church can be a place where we can openly discuss our sexual sins, our longings for purity yet unattained, our deep gratitude to God for forgiving us for things it’s hard to even speak about. My prayer is that we can help each other think about sex the way God does as we wait for the appearing of our true Groom.
(Image via Etlamore)