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The Idol of Virginity


Several years ago, I was working with a young man who had been living a life of, among other sins, sexual promiscuity. After his conversion,* he rightly regretted this. His regret, however, was not of the Psalm 51 variety. As he put it, “I wish I hadn’t given my virginity away.” According to his thinking, which is sadly common among many Christians, he was now damaged goods, irreversibly changed, his “purity” lost forever, and no amount of repentance and forgiveness could repair that condition. Anyone who married him would be cheated, getting something less. His resale value, so to speak, was depreciated. Another young man’s father, having learned of his son’s sexual sin, lamented, “I had hoped you would remain pure until marriage.” “Remained pure”? Really! We need to talk.

This equating of virginity with purity errs in several ways.

Without denying the potential consequences of sexual sin (pregnancy, incurable STDs, etc.) virginity, per se, does not define us, and certainly has no bearing on purity. Neither of the young men I have mentioned was any less “pure” following his immoral acts than he was at birth (Psalm 51:5). Or, perhaps more to the point, any more pure before than after. Furthermore, each had indubitably entertained many lustful thoughts on many occasions that only awaited consummation (Matthew 5:28). Considering our condition at birth and the many sins—sexual and otherwise—we commit every day of our lives, the conceit of considering ourselves pure based on our abstention from one particular act is staggering. Considering ourselves in any way superior to another who has failed in deed where we have “only” failed in thought is exceedingly foolish hubris, pure Phariseeism.

Focusing on virginity incorrectly identifies the true object of our sin. “I’m sorry I lost my virginity” says “See what I did to myself”; true repentance says, “See how I have violated the law of God” (Psalm 51:4).

Although some sins have potentially greater temporal consequences, the obligation to punish ourselves and others is not among them. Christians repent; they do not do penance. (Papists, at least, “do penance” and are done with it; purity zealots punish for life.) If God does not hold past sins, of which we have repented, over our heads (Psalm 103:12), neither must we.

In this age in which sexual permissiveness has permeated even the church, I feel obligated to say am not suggesting we should take any sin lightly. Those who do cannot be considered Christians in any meaningful sense of the word (1 John 3:4–10). As the Apostle John began the second chapter of his first epistle, he stated his purpose for what he had previously written: “that you may not sin” (2:1). This is the will of God—but there is no one who has not sinned (1:8, 10). The good news, then, is, “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (2:1–2). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Are there any believers for whom Christ is not an advocate? Are there any sinners he cannot wash clean? Or does he wash some only mostly clean? Some sins leave physical and emotional scars, that is true, but those who apply a Scarlet Letter to any seem to say Yes, there are sins that cannot be totally expunged.

One young man, upon learning that his girlfriend was not a virgin, asked me if he thought it would be right to break off the relationship on that basis. I was poorly equipped to answer him at the time, but I told him, in his case, I thought not. Today, my answer would boil down to this: I would rather marry a repentant, forgiven prostitute than a proud virgin with a “purity” ring. The former is, in Christ, truly pure; the latter is wearing the filthy rags of her own righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).

[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

—Romans 3:23

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
  Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
  They will be as white as snow;
  Though they are red like crimson,
  They will be like wool.”

—Isaiah 1:18

* It turned out his conversion was to a legalistic pseudochristian cult, but that is not germane to the point.

Posted 2018·04·23 by David Kjos
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