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The Problem With Purity Rings

Relationships | Attie Murphy | 8 mins

When I was 16, my mom gave me a purity ring for Christmas. Since then, I've worn it very few times, and I tell myself it's because I hate wearing rings. But I don't think that's the only reason. (After all, I know I'll make an exception for a wedding ring when the time comes.) Wearing a purity ring is just something I've never felt comfortable with, and I didn't know why until I grew and learned more about why I believe what I believe. It's not because I disagree with a commitment to purity, because that is something I value. What bothers me is the idea of flaunting my "purity" when I have times I’m impure in many parts of my life. Let's face it, we all do. Abstinence until marriage doesn't make me more righteous than anyone else - it is one way I want to follow God's guidance to do good in my life. Now, this article isn't really about purity rings because I know for some people, they are sacred reminders of their commitment, and I definitely respect that. But they can be a good illustration of how purity is misconstrued. I hope you'll hear me out on a few points that I believe can help us understand our worth and principles better. 

We can never achieve purity.
One of the biggest misconceptions I see thrown around in Christian culture is the idea of "staying pure." We are never completely pure because sin is in this world. Does that mean we should give up and do what we want? Absolutely not. Purity is not an all-or-nothing thing; it's a way of life that helps us flourish and glorifies our Creator. Too often, I've seen people head down self-destructive paths because they believed that once they "ruined" their purity in some way, they had forfeited their worth. That is not what the Bible says. God tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" The moment we invite Jesus into our lives is just the beginning. As we follow Jesus, our thoughts will become more pure as we strive to reflect His character. And when we stumble, we can remember that we have already been forgiven. Our mistakes do not discourage His love. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:8 

Sex is not the enemy. 
There is an abundance of gifts that God gives us that we can misuse. Yet we act like sex is only there to tempt us toward evil. Yes, because it is such a significant part of life, it can have heavy repercussions when we don't listen to God's will. That doesn't mean we should store its whole existence in a locked box until the correct time and place. When we think it's dirty to even think about sexuality, we end up replacing it with the idolatry of virginity. We can talk and think about sex in a way that glorifies God. After all, He created it. We don't have to cover our ears to keep from hearing a sexual term. It's all about context and intent. If our focus is lustful or degrading, then it won't do good in our lives. I'd be surprised if we haven't all at least laughed at a dirty joke before, and we shouldn't go around carrying the feeling that we're now "corrupted." Much like unkind thoughts or selfish actions, it's a habit we should work on to live more like Jesus. And when we allow the topic of sex into our lives in a healthy way, it can help us understand God's purpose for us and our relationships. 

Virginity is not an identity. 
There is a lot of analysis on this particular verse, and the term "defiled" is often used as proof that you are making your marriage less holy if you go into it as a non-virgin. I’ve even read articles by men agonizing over not finding a virgin, marriable woman. (I know women do the same too.) And so people go the opposite way and proclaim themselves "born again virgins." I don't think that either way focuses on what matters. Yes, it is a reality that sin will hurt us. If you go into a marriage after having past sexual partners, it could cause stress for you and your spouse, as can many other things if you don’t work through it. The bond between man and wife is sacred, and God wants us to respect that. But the past does not define our futures, nor do we need to pretend it never happened. When we accept Jesus into our lives, we start fresh and can use our past mistakes to grow. Nothing we've done disqualifies us from His blessings.  

It’s okay to prefer a spouse that shares our background, because we know ourselves and how we deal with our own sin. It’s not okay to treat others as if their sins make them less worthy of love. If you're a "born again virgin," you're simply born again. If you're "staying pure," you're simply committing to practice habits that reflect God in your relationships. Virginity is not our identity, and no kind of purity automatically brings us closer to God. Through seeking God's grace and presence, we desire to act in purity and learn how to do so. 

When we look at what God says about love, purity, and our bodies, we can see that He has a purpose for every detail. No matter your story or what beliefs you've held, your value is in Jesus, and He wants the best for you. You might go to church every Sunday and worry that you aren't doing or thinking good enough. Maybe you came across this article accidentally or wanted to use it as an example of what's wrong with "purity culture." Or maybe you have faith in Jesus but haven't seen Him in your life for a long time. Either way, it's important that you know God's love is not because of our actions and His commandments are not for us to "rise in the ranks" of righteousness. Many of the priceless instructions in God's Word are misunderstood as restrictions of our happiness because that is what we turn them into. We need to look at the why before we can meaningfully incorporate any principle into our lives. And God's why is always that He loves us and wants us to love Him, love people, and enjoy our lives. 

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Written By

Attie Murphy

An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.

Published on Dec 15, 2021