virginity – it’s an illusion
I sometimes have friends come to me who confide feelings of intense brokenness, pain, and shame after they have illicitly hooked up with somebody. Most of these folks are Christians, most of them are girls, and just about all of them have cherished their physical “purity” and “virginity” for their whole lives. Now, feeling like they have lost a part of that status, they admit that they feel like they are somehow less valuable, less whole of a person.
- some friends feel like less of a human (or less of a Christian) because they have been sexually active before marriage
- others confess that they feel spiritually holier or cleaner or more pure than their friends who have more liberally exercised their sexuality
- but what I hear the most is that people think because they have been intimate with someone physically, they have lost some sense of moral righteousness or personal purity that they can never again regain
It seems clear that much of our own sense of worth is often deeply (and inappropriately) bound up in our personal “sexual purity.” Each of the previous three ideas is antithetical to the gospel, and reveals a possible idolatrous view of sexuality, virginity, and purity, meaning we absolutely prioritize the wrong things and actually end up worshipping these impossible, hypothetical idols.
Because this next thing is important and true, and I really don’t hear it said all that often in the Church – in fact, it sometimes seems the exact opposite message we Christians are known for preaching:
You are not any less of a person (or any less of a Christian) if you have been sexually active before marriage.
God does not look upon his people as non-virgins and virgins, spoiled and unspoiled, defiled and undefiled. He does not see two classes of people: those who have waited to experience sex within marriage and those have not. So why do we?
It’s a good question. Yes, Christians should strive for sexual wholeness and relational fulfillment, both before and “after” marriage, but (les-be-honest) not a single one of us is capable of claiming that we are sexually pure, that we may sinlessly pick up the first stone and condemn another for her blunter sexuality.
Rather, the scandal of Christianity is that the womanizer, the “virgin,” the adulterer, the physically monogamous…they “are all one in Christ Jesus.” We all stand equally ashamed before a brilliant God. We can cut the attempt to find all sorts of biblical technicalities and loopholes (LANGUAGE) here, because none of us are virgins.
What I mean is that only within Christian theology can we properly begin to understand the radical claim that the concept of possessing “sexual purity” (or “virginity”) is itself an illusion.
A friend sent me a similar thought the other day:
I don’t think the concept of virginity should even really exist in the christian world. it connotes some idea of sexual “purity” and works righteousness, but the moment any of us ever lust once, we have lost our sexual purity. and are no better than anyone else. being a virgin is just a label some use to try to declare their superior purity/righteousness to others.
[this] elevates one aspect of sexual sin — the act of having sex (or whatever particular act one deems ‘sex’) — over lustful thoughts (which are equally sinful) as somehow being worse and more defiling
what is the point in holding up one group of people who’ve committed X sexual sin as a special group who ‘made it’ or were ‘preserved’ while those who committed Y sexual sin were ‘defiled’?
There is absolutely no Christian basis for assigning different levels of moral blame for different sexual activities and discriminating against those who have crossed those abstract barriers.
As Christians, we are liberated from any sliding scale of sexual culpability. The idolatry of virginity is extinguished, and we are no longer bound by the petty sexual-sin-ranking-system. We must remember that there is no person objectively “more valuable” or “better” than any other, that virginity itself is a social construction, an idol we must either sacrifice or bow down to and derive our ultimate worth from.
This is not to say that what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter – it matters plenty.
The physically-unshackled approach to sex and sexuality (that our earthly, material bodies do not matter, so we can go sensually crazy with them) was actually what some early Christians believed.
But they were wrong because they failed to understand that what we do with our bodies reflects something more than just our bodies. As author Rob Bell says, “you have a body, but you also have a soul, a spirit – [and] sex is the mingling of souls.” Sex is more than just the fusion of skin and blood and bones, it’s the flirting and the play of souls.
Sex is important, and it should be respected and valued. But you are no better than your neighbor because you haven’t “had sex” and she has. She hasn’t lost something she can never replace by not “waiting until marriage,” and she is not any less of a Christian for her sexual history.
Yes, we should seek wholeness, respect, and equity in our romantic relationships. Yes, Christians should strive to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically chaste – seeking guidance from scripture, praying with friends, communing with our families, fleeing from excessive lust and licentiousness.
But when it comes to purity, or “virginity,” we’ve all lost it already.
And God loves us not one ounce less.
That’s the good news.