In this article, we would like to share some thoughts about our responsibility as humans in regards to relationships. Our intention is also to encourage especially those young people who still have a sense for the value of purity to oppose the heavy pressure from others around them or the glorification of sexuality in the media.
We see that very many people—including the so-called Christian world or “churches”— are far from God’s standard in their feeling, thinking, speech and behavior in this point—a fact made clear by the following examples. It is, for instance, unclear for many whether or not masturbation is sinful. You can even find people who believe that it is not a problem to have a sexual relationship before marriage. Though pornography is often seen as something bad or abnormal, yet you can find just few who have not “consumed” such dirty pictures which so utterly despise human dignity. Purity within marriage is rarely discussed. That girls and women contribute to this problem by the way they present themselves, which seduces men to impure looks and thoughts, is rarely addressed …
What does the Holy Scripture tell us about purity?
In the Bible we find clear warnings and encouragements to remain pure in the area of sexuality. The high moral standard for the behavior of the sexes with one another which is commanded in God’s word is a sure sign of the revelation given to us by God in regards to his nature and will. In this point it stands in contrast to other religions and world views.
Let us first look at some passages from the letters in the New Testament:
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:1–5)
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–11)
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5–6)
It is worth mentioning that sexual immorality and greed are often referred to in one breath. Ephesians 4:17–20 makes this connection clear:
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned. (Ephesians 4:17–20)
The Bible uncovers the selfish and greedy character of this kind of sin, and demonstrates how strongly it contradicts love—which is selfless by nature—and thereby destroys a person’s ability to love.
What does “love” mean?
It may sound strange to some, but love and sexuality are not the same. Sexuality should be just one of the expressions of the love a man and woman have for one another. Sexuality may also “function” without love, but God never intended it to be that way. The fact that people often think of sexual satisfaction when they speak about love is a sad indication of the loss of higher moral values.
The following words of Paul give an insight into what should characterize love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a)
Love seeks the best for the other person, even at the cost of bearing difficulties. Love is not selfish and does not live in expectation of having one’s own wishes or plans fulfilled. Love wants to protect others from everything that would destroy what is lovable and respectable in them. That is why love can express itself in strictness towards others, and above all, strictness towards one’s own selfishness and vanity. Love does not want to possess others, but respects their freedom and responsibility in front of God, their creator. Love is selfless, and does not turn into bitterness when it is not loved in return or is despised.
Love or “being in love”
“Being in love” is an emotional high, which can easily fall to a deep low. This “rush” often happens when two people make themselves the center of attention for each other, and, by doing so, take the place that only belongs to God. Many, whether consciously or unconsciously, seek their value in how desirable they are for the opposite sex. When such a relationship breaks apart, the disappointment is great. It is very difficult for many to bear the confrontation with the reality of not being as important for someone as they had thought—leading people even to despair of any sense in life.
However, even in relationships in which both marriage partners remain faithful to the end, they will finally be separated—by death. At the very latest it becomes clear at this point that we cannot build our happiness in life on people, who we will certainly lose sooner or later. Only those who find security and comfort in God’s love will be able to escape the despair arising from the loss of a loved one. The security in God protects us from building a marriage on feelings which are so changeable. This does not mean that feelings do not belong to a relationship to a certain extent, but lifelong faithfulness demands sober, selfless love. This love expresses itself in the readiness to put aside one’s own wishes, ideas and feelings, in taking on a serving attitude towards one another and in seeking God’s will together and for each other.
Most young people lack the maturity to assess and to deal with such emotional forces of attraction, and some even get entangled in sexual relationships. Before they develop a sense for sexuality as something that carries both responsibility as well as value, they destroy the very foundation. The use of sexuality for the satisfaction of one’s own desires feeds the insatiable appetite of the ego, and drives a person to a disastrous dependence on the sexual rush. It ends up having little to do with relationship, for relationship means being focused on the needs of the partner, and seeking the best for them and what truly serves them. It is precisely this ability to love and to honor the other person—to approach them as a person and not as an object of lust, which is destroyed more and more by this egoism. The uninhibited and unashamed presentation of this topic in the media supports people to start searching for such excitement at a very young age. Impure, seductive and suggestive contents used in images, texts and advertising slogans are unfortunately ever-present in our societies.
The base for this kind of relationship is often the external appearance of a person. They are “loved” for their body—the beautiful exterior—without really knowing the inner character. Accordingly, among the young and not so young, much effort is focused on “improving” their facade, rather than working on the beauty of the character and the soul and working on becoming a person of inner strength—a person who rules over their desires rather than being ruled by them. The shamelessness of fashion needs to be mentioned in this context, which aims to present the body as especially “desirable” and to tempt the thoughts of the opposite sex in an impure direction. People who depend on the “success” of their outward appearance reveal their inner poverty and emptiness.
This is how the New Testament describes the way God wants women to be beautiful:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:1–4)
Although this passage speaks about women, God expects the same modest attitude from men as well.
God gave sexuality to human beings as a way for a man and a woman to give expression to their selfless and self-giving love through passing on the gift of life to their children. It belongs to a person’s human dignity to keep himself pure for this great act of trust in sexual union within a marriage partnership—in which each one of the two belongs to that one partner alone and no one else. This relationship must be born out of the wish for lifelong faithfulness, care and responsibility. These higher values are what give sexuality the preciousness God intended for it, which is missing in so many relationships.
Relationship without commitment?
There are young people who have a relationship without marrying. However, when a man and a woman want to live together without the public declaration of marriage, they question the love of unconditional faithfulness and responsibility for one another. In a relationship where two people first want to “try each other out,” it is not possible to build deep trust because this attitude reveals that they expect their own wishes to be fulfilled, rather than having the aim to serve and give. The relationship suffers because of the uncertainty that if it does not “work” they can easily break up.
Many want to have their wishes fulfilled, but they do not want the responsibility. They want to be “adults,” but do not want to bear the consequences of their actions. They want the sexual experience, but do not want to pass on the gift of life. At this point, the misuse of sexuality becomes a threat to life. When pregnancy results, many turn to the deadly “solution” of abortion. Unfortunately, even the shocking statistics of the worldwide murder of unborn children hardly leads anyone to the recognition that a basic turnaround is required regarding the question of sexuality.
Contraceptives (tablets) seem to be a harmless solution, and their use by women can be frequently found before and in marriage. Many are uninformed however, of what serious health risks these drugs pose (information on this can be found easily). Still more serious, however, is the fact that contraceptives are also abortive. Such tablets do not only aim to prevent pregnancy. In case fertilization occurs, it also prevents the fertilized egg—that is, the person who has just begun their existence—from finding their first essential shelter in the womb, and they die.
Respect for God’s order of creation, respect for mankind and for life itself therefore obliges us to deal with the question of sexuality with utmost responsibility. Passing on the miracle of life is the purpose such a relationship serves. In order to be capable of bearing the responsibility for a family, a person must first educate themselves. The distinguishing mark of someone who is mature is, among other qualities, the ability to rule over their own desires. For this reason, it is of great importance for every adolescent to deal strictly with their own sexual desires in order to be able to direct the sexual drive to its proper place within a marriage partnership.
The preciousness of a pure heart
As Christians, we do not refer only to the issue of sexual purity when we speak about purity. Our striving for purity touches every aspect of who we are: our thoughts and feelings, attitudes and motives, relationships, words and deeds. Jesus calls people who are pure in heart “blessed,” because a pure heart grants a person access to God, who is himself absolutely light (see 1 John 1:5).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Even the Old Testament believers were aware of this:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. (Psalm 24:3–4)
For the Jews, the heart was the center of all thoughts, motives and decisions. Since God sees the heart, our inner being, which is invisible to the outside world, should be entirely light, crystal clear and pure.
The pure heart is upright, free of all egotistic background motives. It desires to serve in simplicity and humility, and shies away from everything which is dishonorable. It seeks a clear conscience and does not cast curious side-glances at worldly enticements. It finds rest in God and in the knowledge that he provides for all our needs.
The love which God wants to lead us to is characterized in this way:
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart … (1 Peter 1:22)
In Jesus we find the perfect role model of this love. He came to mankind in truthfulness and uprightness. With the same clarity with which he exposed the hypocrisy of religious people of his time, he also called sinners to repentance. He went after the lost souls and gave comfort and forgiveness to those of contrite heart, those who were truly sad about their sins. He set the hopes of those who are humble on God’s mercy, and destroyed the false hopes of those who were self-righteous. By his readiness to die an unjust death he gave testimony to the truthfulness of his words and his selfless love. God raised him from the dead and this joyful message was what his disciples, who had witnessed him after his resurrection, preached.
It was from this testimony that the Church arose—the fellowship of those who seek God wholeheartedly and want to live a pure life. Although there are not many people who have this wish, the Church still exists today.
Some of us were deeply entangled in the sins mentioned above. When Jesus called us to repentance, we experienced a huge change. Earlier we were enslaved by impure desires and sins, but through turning to Jesus we found the strength to say no to sin. Through the love that God shows for us, our life has been given sense. We know and experience that he wants the best for us and is always there for us, to help us in our temptations and fights. In this way, we no longer need to seek our value in being attractive for people. We experience freedom from egoism so that we can do good to others and truly love them in all purity. On this journey together we are able to strengthen one another in our commitment to our decision to live a life which pleases God.