Does identity come from purity, or does purity come from identity?
If a person wants to be pure, and in order to gain or maintain purity she doesn’t do certain things, then her sense of value, her identity, will be formed by her action (or inaction). In time she will believe she is what her actions are.
“I am pure because I don’t ___________“ or,
“I am not pure because I ___________.”
Have you ever heard someone give the excuse “That’s just the way I am” or “That’s just who I am” when asked to give an account of their actions? Actions can so define people that they give up on ever being anything other than what their actions tell them they are.
When identity is defined by action, each subsequent action reinforces that identity. Simply changing actions does not change identity, instead, it breeds duplicity. When purity is tied to action and actions fail, the loss of purity can be hidden but cannot be undone. But, when there is a new understanding of identity purity can be restored.
What happens in the mind and heart of a person who makes a mistake, or a poor choice? What happens to the girl who didn’t have a choice at all? What about sexual assault? When her identity is based on actions and the actions go terribly wrong, who is she to believe she is?
One in three girls and one in 5 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18i. One in five women will be raped in their lifetimeii. By age nineteen, 80% of men and 75% of women have lost their virginityiii. Overall, only 11% of unmarried adults are virginsiv. If our only understanding of purity and therefore what we teach about purity is based upon how we act, we condemn somewhere close to 80% of our students to an identity of defilement shrouded in shame and guilt.
A young girl’s purity (value) cannot be tied to whether or not she is a virgin on her wedding night. For centuries a woman’s value was her purity. A woman had to maintain her purity to be considered valuable enough to even be a bride. Even today in popular church, the purity message is focused on ways to maintain purity and to therefore maintain value. The fact is that we live in a fallen world and focusing solely on maintaining purity by our own power is the stumbling block that nobody sees tripping our youth. When we demand that purity must be maintained at all cost, we leave no room for mercy, grace, forgiveness, or restoration. Maintaining purity is reduced to what others can see. Whitewashed tombs come to mind.
Today 75% of women who have abortions will tell you they are Christian. How is that possible? In our clinics we hear the answer from our clients.
“I’m a Christian, so I can’t have this baby’’. This translates into something like this, “Nobody can know that I made a mistake, because then there will be proof that I am not valuable and that I am not who people think I am and expect me to be. I will be shamed and treated like an outcast in my family and church.”
“We do not have broken families in my family and she is not the girl I am going to marry… so she has to have an abortion.” Translated, “There are family expectations that I did not meet, and I can’t let anyone know who I really am.”
The simple truth is that purity must be understood in the context of identity; the identity that we are given in Christ. First we are created in the image of God; so valuable that the creator God sent His Son to restore us. Second, when we are in Christ, we are made pure and holy and beautiful and free from sin and impurity and defilement. The past is so far behind us that it will never be seen again. We are made so pure that God Himself can come and live, dwell and have a meaningful righteous relationship with us.
When we educate young men and women about God’s divine plan for life and equip them with the understanding that they are valuable, purity becomes an expression of the understanding of their identity and value; a value not based upon what they have done or not done, but based upon who they are, who they were created to be, and who Christ says they are. This means that no one, no matter how lost they may seem, is a lost cause.
In a real world context this means our young people who have not wandered off the path of sexual purity can make decisions and choices based upon their value and identity. “I am worth waiting for.” or, “I am too valuable to be your next conquest”. Those who have wandered, or been forced off the path will know how to find the path again through Christ. Because they are not defined by their choices (or the choices of others), they are free to make their future choices based upon who Christ says they are. “I amworth waiting for.”
It is amazing to see the change in young men and women who come into our clinics when they are told they are valuable, and that they are not their choices. So many have settled for the lie that they are “just animals” running around having sex, or that “sex is a requirement for dating”, or even that ”it’s not a big deal if he took advantage of me, that’s just how college is”.
When there is a new identity, there is a new understanding of value that transcends past actions and a new expression of that value in future action. This is transformation, based on the Truth of Christ and not on the expectation of man.
This is why I love what we do at Informed Choices and the Restore conferences; the focus is on restoring purity in mind, spirit, and body, with a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s a conference designed to encourage young women to reclaim God’s original intent for biblical womanhood and denounce our popular culture’s definition of beauty, dating, sexuality and marriage. This year the conference featured testimonials of biblical courtship and marriage, the brokenness from abortion, pitfalls of an identity crisis as well as clinical perspective of casual sex.