If you are new to my blog, welcome! I am the author of two popular posts, “5 Myths of Modesty” and “I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and it was the Best Thing I Ever Did”. This post is a part of the series, “The Other Virgin Diaries”.
“Virginity is something made up by men to keep women trapped in shame.”
When I read that statement I was finishing up a journal article review about the effects of Southern Baptist Fundamentalism on women. Along the way, I got distracted by some secular feminist authors. The concept of virginity – the unspoken weight of a ‘first time’ – is, according the authors I read, a product of the ‘patriarchal’ movement. This movement (again according to secular authors) seeks to shame women into subjugating their sexuality to men. The ‘myth’ of virginity is allegedly part of this agenda.
I could be considered a ‘fundamentalist’ by the secular audience. I was raised in the church, grew up in a Christian home, I vote conservatively, I was homeschooled, I married young and don’t use the birth control pill. But when secular writers draw a battle line against fundamentalists, they aren’t reacting against people like me. They’re reacting to the legalists.
Unfortunately for Christians, there are a few in our camp who have elevated acts of grace-gratitude (works done because of faith) to requirements for salvation (works done to earn grace). Virginity is one of these legalistic requirements. The purity movement accomplished much good, but deep within its underpinnings lies an unanswered question: Will God still love me if I am not a virgin?
The purity movement has worked so hard to prevent it has lost its ability to restore. In an effort to teach women the glory of God’s design for sex, we have failed to extend God’s hope to the hurting. So I’m going to make a bold statement: purity is not about virginity.
Purity is not about virginity because virginity is not God’s goal.
Before my Christian readers get their feathers ruffled and secular readers adopt me into their camp, I’d encourage you to read through my posts on sexuality in The Other Virgin Diaries series (all posts are linked at the bottom of this one). The Bible clearly states that God’s design for sex is marriage. Sex outside of marriage, and all acts pandering around the periphery of sexual intercourse, are not in line with His will. As Christians, we should stop asking ‘how far is too far?’ and instead ask ‘how holy we can be?’
However: purity is more than not having sex, just as modesty is more than wearing more clothes. Purity is a heart attitude that allows us to approach God’s holy hill and learn His will for our lives (Psalm 24). Purity is restorative, not legalistic. It is hope, not limitation. We pursue purity out of love for God and a desire to please Him – not out of the requirement of law or the approval of men.
It is because of the nature of purity that virginity is not God’s goal. If virginity were God’s goal, would there be hope for victims of rape?
Would there be redemption for those who have failed?
Would there be acceptance for those who have sinned?
There would not. The very fact our Lord stands with arms open on the cross, bringing back the wounded, speaks to God’s mission. Holiness, not virginity, is His goal.
I hope my readers are intuitive enough to realize this does not grant us a free pass to sexually indulge. As Paul says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)
God’s gift of holiness (through Jesus, who took the penalty we deserved) lifts the weight of condemnation and frees us to walk a righteous life pleasing to Him. This in turn enables us to have perfect communion with an all-holy God – something we cannot have when we are living in sin. Whether or not we are physical ‘virgins’, we are made holy by a loving, restorative God.
When secular feminists angrily lash out at ‘fundamentalist patriarchs’, they are lashing out at the legalistic faction of Christianity who have already done our faith a disservice. If secular women truly understood God’s heart for purity, they would have no basis for their arguments. God’s heart is neither condemnation (Rom. 8:1) nor separation (2 Pet. 3:9). He has a holy standard because only holy people can know Him. Out of love for us, He made us holy through Jesus – our only way to have a relationship with a perfect God.
You might be thinking, “Okay Phylicia, I sort of get it. But everywhere I look Christian women seem to be perfectly pure. I’ve messed up. I don’t know anyone who has been restored, only those who have always been pure.” My friend, you are not alone. Restoration is a theme throughout all of Scripture, especially evident in the lives of women. Let’s look at a few.
Ruth (Ruth 1-4)
Ruth was married to the son of Naomi for ten years (Ruth 1:4-5) before traveling with her mother in law and meeting Boaz (Ruth 2:4-5). If you haven’t read this little book, I recommend starting it as your quiet time this week. Ruth’s story is all about restoration!
Ruth was married once before she met Boaz. She was most definitely not a virgin, and more than that, she was a Moabitess. Yet despite her heritage and her history, she became the great-grandmother of King David. She was a member of the kingly line which eventually led to the Messiah.
If virginity were God’s goal, how could Ruth’s story have been told? How could she have found love again after the death of her husband? God’s goal is holiness, and because Ruth sought God and aligned her actions with worship of Him, she became a pivotal part of His redemption plan.
The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-45)
The woman at the well was a case study in failed relationships; Jesus pointed out that she had had five husbands, and the man she lived with at the time was not her husband at all (John 4:17-18). If virginity was God’s goal, Jesus would never have spoken to the half-breed adulteress nor have accepted water from her hand.
But He did, because this woman was not just a body, but a soul. While Jesus acknowledged her past, He looked beyond it to her future. Jesus was so intentional toward this woman he was waiting at the well at noon – far after the typical time women came to draw water. He was in Samaria, a place no ‘godly’ rabbi would dare to tread because of tension between Samaritans and Jews. But Jesus drew out this woman’s story as she drew water from the well. Just as He accepted water from her hand, she was able to accept redemption from His.
The Adulteress (John 8:1-11)
During the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), the Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman caught in adultery (John 8:4-5), who according to Mosaic Law was worthy to be stoned. According to the Law, the woman stood condemned based on her transgression. But because Jesus is God, He has authority over the Law. Because He was the Messiah who would pay the woman’s penalty for sin – He would take her stoning – He could and did forgive her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?” He asked.
And she answered: “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11)
Had she sinned? Definitely. But the Law which condemns is meant to point us to the Hope of restoration: Jesus Christ. When Jesus stood up to the Pharisees, He was not saying the law was wrong in its condemnation. He was revealing His authority over condemnation.
Jesus is the intercessor between our failings and God’s holiness. It is in Jesus that we stand restored, lifted from the mud to “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
The Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50)
She rushed into the room, disheveled, weeping and clutching a flask. She had spent all her money, everything she had earned. Dirty money, earned with her body. She didn’t care about how they looked at her anymore – because in His eyes she saw love. It was the kind of love that no longer saw her as untouchable. It was the kind of love that gave her hope.
Luke 7 depicts the ‘sinful woman’ who enters the Pharisee’s house to wash Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ host neither washed the feet of his guests nor provided someone to do so – perhaps more concerned with the pomp of hosting a celebrity than actually serving his guest. But when the woman entered, she had nothing to prove except her gratitude for grace. She poured out all she had as an offering on Jesus’ feet.
If virginity were God’s goal, Jesus could have joined his Pharisaical host in thinking, “[I know]…who and what sort of woman this is who is touching [me], for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) But Jesus did not turn her away. Instead, He extended hope: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:47-48)
Mary Magdalene (Luke 24:10, Matt. 28:1, Mark 16:1, 9)
Mary Magdalene was one of the first people to see Jesus after His resurrection. While there is no evidence that she is the sinful woman in Luke 7, Mary was possessed by seven demons. She also hailed from the city of Magdala, a town three miles from Capernaum known for its harlotry. Whether or not Mary was a virgin we do know that she was racked with oppression by these seven spirits before Jesus freed her from that bondage.
We too can be oppressed. Like Mary, we can be oppressed by cultural influence, public opinion, inadequacy, doubt, and lust. But also like Mary, freedom from bondage is available through Jesus Christ.
In Luke 13:10-17 we meet a woman disabled by a spirit, unable to ‘fully straighten herself’. This woman was destined to continue through life a cripple, never able to fully embrace the freedom of walking and running… until Jesus.
“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.” (Luke 13:12-13)
But there were some who placed obedience to Law higher than glory to God. They would rather have the woman remain a cripple than see their traditions altered. Jesus had no tolerance for this hypocrisy.
“Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.’ (Luke 13:16-17)
Our God doesn’t want to see us walking through life sexual cripples. Yes, we may have failed. Yes, we may have lost our virginity. And yes, that is contrary to God’s plan for sex. But our God reaches out to us in our crippled state and says, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of mine whom Satan has bound for years, be loosed from this bond TODAY?”
We place a high value on virginity because God created us with a need for intimacy, and that intimacy is designed for oneness with one man – our husband. But if God’s goal were virginity, there would be no hope for millions of women across the globe. When the church presents virginity as a prize to be won, they have missed God’s goal and elevated legalism above the mission of Christ.
God’s goal is not virginity. His heart is holiness.
In Jesus we have restoration no matter what our history. In Jesus we are made new women, the ‘other virgins’, those walking in freedom to please God. We are the ‘priestess queens’ (1 Peter 2) who walk in strength, dignity, and holiness because that is who Christ made us…
Regardless of who we were in the past.
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