The assumption used to be that immorality was mostly a men’s problem. However, that notion is no longer valid (if it ever was). “One in six women regularly view some type of online pornography and the vast majority of these women—something like 80 percent, a much larger ratio than men—will eventually follow up their virtual activity with actual, face-to-face relationships.”*
The pain and brokenness I’ve seen resulting from impure choices, particularly in the sexual realm, compel me to speak up.
Regardless of the escapes and delights it promises, an impure life does not satisfy. In fact, it does the exact opposite. Our communities—yes, even our churches—are littered with broken hearts that have been chewed up and spit out by the monster of impurity. They desperately need to see women whose lives show forth the beauty of God’s purity and love, the difference His grace can make.
“Teach what is good,” the apostle Paul commanded the older women in Titus’ city, “and so train the younger women . . . to be pure” (Titus 2:5).
And contrary to what the world would have us believe, this is good. So older women, if we really believe that, why would we not want to do all within our payer to help the young women in our lives to be pure?
The more pure we become, the more beautiful we become . . . and the more beautiful our Savior appears in the eyes of those who see His beauty reflected in us.
If we want to enjoy the freedom and joy of walking in purity, we do well not only to ponder Scripture passages (such as Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 13:4, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3,7) frequently, but to consider what it will take to follow their direction in our daily lives—because, as we’ve seen, practically purity isn’t easy. This part of our Christian walk requires focused, ongoing effort and training as well as the watchful encouragement of crucial Titus 2 relationships with godly older women.
We need women we can call on the phone who will go to their knees and call out to God on our behalf. We need friendships with those who understand that the most godly or well-intentioned woman is never immune to temptation or failure. We need intentional, mutually invasive relationships with truth-telling friends.
We need intentional, mutually invasive relationships with truth-telling friends.
And yes, I meant invasive—in the sense that we allow these friends to step into our lives and we are willing to move in to theirs. These kinds of relationships don’t settle for staying on the surface where everything appears to be just fine. They don’t stand on ceremony or hold back for fear rejection. We don’t refrain from asking tough questions and saying things that need to be said.
We all need people in our lives who love us enough to probe our hearts, who will hold us accountable to walk in the light. And we need to be willing to be that kind friend to others. There is a time when it’s necessary to lean in, to say the hard things, to not be silent when one of our sisters is teetering toward compromise. This is how we live out the beauty of the gospel—together.
Purity can indeed feel like an unattainable standard. And in fact, it is—apart from the indwelling, enabling power of the Holy Spirit. But the very fact that the apostle Paul urges older women to teach young women to be pure suggests that purity can be learned—by watching the example of these mentors and by listening to what they have learned in their pursuit of purity.
Let me share with you several practical day-to-day strategies I have found to be helpful in my own life as well as the lives of others when it comes to sexual purity. I think of these practices and commitment as “hedges.”
Hedge #1: Choose discretion
Discretion is what restrains a woman from confiding personal marriage problems to a male friend or colleague or from having deep, private, spiritual conversations with another woman’s husband. It makes her careful about how she meets a man’s gaze or responds to flirtation or inappropriate words or behaviors on his part. It helps her avoid settings and situations where the natural thing would be to do something wrong.
Hedge #2: Value modesty
Godly men who desire to have pure thoughts and behavior toward women have implored me to help women understand the power they wield and how much they need our support and assistance in their battle for purity.
As Christians, one of our chief commitments should be not only preserving our own purity, but also protecting and honoring the purity and morals of others. And when we behave or dress in a fashion that compete with a man’s affections for his (present or future) wife, we work against the purity of his heart as well as our own.
Hedge #3: Check your emotional attachments
It never fails to undo me when I hear of another woman (married or single) whose heart and emotions have been drawn into relationship with a man who is another woman’s husband. It happens in the workplace. It happens at the fitness center. It happens in the stands at their kids’ ball games. Sometimes it even happens in the church and with men in spiritual leadership.
In many cases, the woman is as surprised as anyone. She didn’t intend to go there. But she arrived at that point one careless step—one incremental compromise—at a time.One thought at a time that she nursed and gave free rein to rather than taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
The fallout and unintended consequences of tasting forbidden fruit are always messy and painful. In the end, sin—alluring as it may be—never pays what it promises. Never.
This needs to be zero-tolerance territory. If you’re married, determine to put that emotional energy into lavishing love and interest in your own husband—even if you feel your marriage is dead. You belong to a God who raises the dead.
Hedge #4: Guard your electronic communications
Texts, emails, and social media provide a fertile context for developing inappropriate relationships. Even though you may be miles apart and your interaction can feel completely harmless, it’s amazing how quickly an “innocent” exchange on our electronic devices can pick up steam.
When it comes to personal text or email exchanges with a married man, I generally copy his wife or a mutual friend. And now, as a married woman, I am purposeful about not having exchanges with other men that I would not want my husband to see. I want to be vigilant to protect the marriages of my friends and colleagues as well as my own heart and marriage.
Hedge #5: Don’t forget to lean on your trusted female relationships
The power of sexual sin is often found in secrecy. When we get honest about our secret temptation and failures and bring them into the light, they lose their power. And when we get in the habit of sharing them with a caring older woman who has a track record of faithfulness and obedience, God can use her to steer us back in the direction of purity.
Don’t forget that mentoring can go both ways. As an older woman, I have found that developing these kinds of relationships with younger women can serve as a hedge in itself—providing reminders and an incentive to persevere in the pathway of purity.
If we aren’t deliberate about pursuing purity, the natural bent of our hearts and the breakneck pace of life make it easy to cut corners, compromising for the sake of convenience.
I find that when women begin to take purity seriously, their consciences become sensitized to things they may once have dismissed. Off-color humor. Sexual innuendoes. Questionable entertainment. Flirtatious behavior. Indifference or resentment toward their husband’s sexual needs. As they deal with these and other issues the Spirit brings to their attention, the thoughts and practices that once crowded out God’s ways in their lives begin to be displaced, making room for pure thoughts, pure worship, and a purer freedom than the world’s ways can possible provide.
Adapted from Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission. www.MoodyPublishers.com.
*Patrick F. Fagan, “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community,” Research Synthesis, December 2009, pdf downloaded from MARRI (Marriage and Religion Research Institute) Research Read a summary of the full report here