Don't Throw Purity Out with Purity Culture

Not long ago, in mixed company, I overheard a friend of mine say something to the effect of “I grew up in purity culture but guess what! I recently lost my virginity!”

While my heart sank, those around them gave out high fives and nods of approval.

While I am all for forging your way ahead past spiritual abuse, purity culture and fear-based teachings, I believe so strongly that purity is a gift from God, not a punishment that toxic church culture invented.

It’s easy for humans to throw out the baby with the bath water. Purity culture has undoubtedly caused spiritual and sexual damage to those who grew up under its fearful, controlling grip. But purity itself isn’t bad. It’s beautiful.

Teenage girls being scared into covering up their bodies because of what men in the church could think about them – definitely wrong.

Teenage boys being told that they are depraved and helpless against impurity and to view themselves as animals – definitely wrong.

People of both genders being taught that sex was either dirty and unholy or the most mind-blowing-and-worth-the-wait experience ever (and being let down) – definitely wrong.

But a man and a woman waiting to share unmarred intimacy as God intended, as a miniature version of the Garden of Eden – that is worth keeping in our theology.

If you’re either single and unsure if purity is worth it or married and need a reminder about God’s perfect design, keep reading.

Here are 3 ways on how not to throw out purity with purity culture:

1. Learn to See Purity as Protection

Your heavenly Father loves you so much. He gave you sunsets and friendships and ice cream and his own Son. There’s no good thing that he wants to deprive you of.

But he also knows that sex outside of his design is only going to hurt you.

1 Corinthians 6:8 reminds us that “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”

God doesn’t want to see you hurting yourself like that.

Sexual immorality bonds you to the person(s) you crossed those boundaries with. We are meant to bond deeply because of sex. This is a good thing! But when it’s with someone who isn’t your spouse, if and when the relationship ends, it will leave you with invisible scars and broken ways of relating.

This is never something God can’t heal you from. But why go through something you know will leave you wounded? Trust the Lord’s protection when he calls you to purity.

2. Go to Scripture, Not Society

I can totally appreciate the validation that comes from society when it comes to our own sexual agency and liberation. It can feel so good to have our wounds caused by purity culture named and to know that it’s okay to be angry about it. And the world will tell you that your body is your own and that nobody else should have been in control of it.

To an extent, they’re right. But they also tragically miss the mark. When we only listen to the voices of the world – through our peers, the media, Instagram posts, etc.– we miss out on what Scripture has to say. As right as what they say might feel, build your convictions on what God says instead.

And God takes purity very seriously (for good reason!)

1 Corinthians 6 has more to say on the subject:

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”

I do not share this scripture to shame anyone who has committed sexual sin. Who hasn’t? But I do hope this paints a picture for you that society simply won’t.

Your purity is a gift that Jesus paid dearly for. It’s only right that we should repay him by protecting it with everything we have.

3. Celebrate Godly Sex

Where purity culture/church culture does people a disservice is sweeping sex under the rug altogether, thinking that if we talk about sex from the pulpit, people won’t be able to help themselves from sinning.

The Spirit God gave us is stronger than that, thank you very much. And when we see the good, beautiful, profound plan that God has for sexual intimacy within a godly marriage, we will want to protect it all the more.

We cry happy tears at weddings because there is nothing more beautiful than “two becoming one.” And what a better picture of that intimacy than sexual intercourse?

Married sex leads to a closeness that unmarried sex never could because married sex is free of shame. It harkens our hearts back to the Garden of Eden, where “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25).

And married sex, because of its strong foundation, cultivates un-embarrassed communication about pleasure, so that both husband and wife can experience ecstasy unlike any other, both as givers and receivers.

Married sex paints a picture of true intimacy that God so desperately wants to experience with the church, his bride: Closeness, warmth, ecstasy, and trust. And as older married couples will tell you, it only gets better with time!

If you’re single, obviously use discernment when learning more about God’s plan for sex. But I believe that if your heart is pure, God will show you that his plan is perfect.

Because even if sex isn’t the most mind-blowing experience every time (and especially not the first time) – if purity culture got one thing right, it’s that it’s worth the wait.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Photo courtesy: Annette Sousa HW/Unsplash

Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earrings on Instagram and her website for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.



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