Is Emotional Purity Biblical? – Purity Part 5

So far in this series, I have introduced the topic of “emotional purity”, defined what it is, we’ve looked at emotional purity from a girl’s perspective, and I have shown how many of the common arguments against emotional purity are poor or inaccurate. Now I’m going to address emotional purity from a purely Biblical perspective. Is emotional purity biblical?
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Emotional purity is frequently vilified (even by many Christians) and I find this pretty sad. Why would you want to turn down something so good? God created us to be pure, and He knows what is best for us, which is why there are so many verses and passages in the Bible instructing us to be pure. It’s for our good and the good of others.
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There seem to be many Christians who think that the idea of emotional purity is not Biblical, and that physical purity is all that matters (and there is a spectrum of belief along that front as well).  I disagree. There are many passages in the Bible that make a distinction from physical purity and purity of the heart.
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For example, Colossians 3:5,

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

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Sexual immorality is distinguished from “impurity.” They apparently aren’t the same thing…or maybe Paul is being redundant? Redundancy doesn’t seem to be the answer, since this same language comes up multiple times.
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Ephesians 5:5,
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“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” – ESV

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Here, the word “or” clearly makes a distinction between sexually immoral (physical impurity) versus being “impure.” Well, the only other part of us that isn’t physical is the spiritual part of us. So Paul is demonstrating that purity extends into both physical and spiritual purity, or “emotional purity,” as some call it.
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Other translations substitute out “sexual” and simply make a distinction between “immoral” and “impure.” The King James translation reads, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Again, there is a distinction, this time between “whoremonger” and “unclean”.
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But we’re not done. Galatians 5:19-21 also makes a distinction between physical and spiritual purity:
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“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

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Our “flesh” is not just physical, but also the spiritual parts of ourselves. Our minds can be governed by flesh (Romans 8:6). This is why Paul lists several “works of the flesh” which are not physical (envy, jealousy), and lists sexual immorality and “impurity” separately.

Psalm 24:3-4 also agrees with Paul that there is a difference between physical and spiritual purity:

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“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”

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Here, “clean hands,” is referring to physical actions with our bodies, and “a pure heart,” is referencing our non-physical purity: spiritual purity.
James also uses the language used in the Psalm:
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“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” – James 4:8

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Again, hands (physical) versus hearts (spiritual).
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Clearly, purity goes beyond just what we do with our body, and this is not a new idea. The notion that we should be pure in more than just our physical actions has been around for a long time. St. Augustine seemed to have a lot to say about it.
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”Chastity, or cleanness of heart, holds a glorious and distinguished place among the virtues, because she, alone, enables man to see God; hence Truth itself said, ‘Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.’”

“By lust I mean that affection of the mind that aims at the enjoyment of ones self and ones neighbor without reference to God.”

“Do not say that you have a chaste mind if your eyes are unchaste, because an unchaste eye betrays an unchaste heart.”

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Purity involves our thoughts (mind) and will (heart). These two things together (along with our feelings and soul) encompass our spirituality. We cannot control our feelings, which I talk about in part 2 of this series, nor can we directly control or influence our souls—the deepest part of ourselves. That brings us to our thoughts and our will, which we can influence and control, and indeed, we must control. (Proverbs 25:28, Proverbs 16:32 1 Corinthians 10:13, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
So it is here where spiritual purity lies—our thoughts and will. How do we seek to grow in this spiritual purity? Paul tells us:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
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What we think about, what we dwell on, has a strong influence on us. Paul commands us to think on what is pure, and yet, many claim that this is impossible. Is Paul really telling us to do something we can’t do? Not at all. With Christ, we are more than capable.
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It comes down to our will (heart) and thoughts (mind). Are we keeping our thoughts pure by dwelling on what is pure? Are we keeping our hearts pure by not seeking after things which would not be honoring to God?
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Marriage is only meant to be between one man and one woman for life. Proverbs tells us that the “excellent” wife, “does [her husband] good and not evil all the days of her life.”
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Well, would it be good for a married woman to share her deepest feelings and desires with another man? Would it be good for her to go to another man for emotional comfort and intimacy? Would it be good for a married woman to be physically affectionate with another man? I don’t think so, and if a woman of God is to be faithful to her husband ALL the days of her life, then that means she should not do such things with men who are not her husband before marriage either. I believe this applies to men as well.
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If we are to be pure and faithful to our future spouses physically, and the Bible clearly tells us that purity involves more than just our physical bodies…then how can one not conclude that we should be spiritually pure and faithful to our spouses even before marriage as well?
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What is more, why wouldn’t you want to?
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Wouldn’t you rather want to be able to tell your future spouse that you had only ever had eyes for them? That you saved your affection for them, and that you had sought to love them even before you married, even before you met? I think this is much more desirable than having to share with your future spouse all the past relationships you had with other people.
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This doesn’t mean you are doomed to have a bad marriage if you have had previous relationships with other people. This doesn’t mean you are “damaged goods.” There is incredible healing in Christ, and He can create tremendous good despite our failings. I certainly haven’t been perfect when it comes to purity, but God can make us pure again.
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That being said, given the option of being able to tell your future spouse that you had saved yourself for them, or having to tell them that you had desired and pursued and romantically loved others…wouldn’t you want to choose the first option? I know some people will try and say that they would rather pick the second option, and try to come up with ways to rationalize why this is…but I think such people are in denial.
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If you still believe that spiritual purity is somehow a burden, or causes you to “miss out,” consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
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As you probably know, that verse is from the Sermon on the Mount, which was the most incredible sermon ever given. Unfortunately, many have misunderstood it. The Sermon on the Mount was not a list of commands to be obeyed, but rather an illustration of what life in the kingdom of heaven is like. But instead of understanding this truth, many read the words of Jesus and despair. They read, “’Blessed are the Poor’ and say, ‘Oh…I’ve got to become poor in order to be blessed’.” Not at all. Jesus was illustrating that the kingdom of heaven was available to the poor, where previously, people had thought that God favored the rich. One can be living in poverty and yet still be happy! One can live in the truth that the Lord is their shepherd, and they shall want for nothing. Being poor is not a barrier to the rich and wonderful life in the kingdom of God. This turned conventional thinking on its head.

With this understanding of the Sermon on the Mount, let’s look again at Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Some find it hard to imagine how being pure in heart could possibly be a blessing. People think you are somehow less-than, or missing out on the good things in life if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sensuality is praised, and those who seek to remain pure are looked down upon as poor, “sad,” people who surely are not blessed.
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Jesus says nay nay. You are not missing out by seeking to have a pure heart. In fact, you will see God. A pure heart is not a barrier to the good life, life in the kingdom of heaven. The pure in heart, along with the other people mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount are able to be who they are because they live in his kingdom, seeking to do what He wants to be done.
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Spiritual purity is beautiful, and it’s Biblical. I wish that more could come to see this truth, as it’s so wonderful. Spiritual purity is a vital aspect of a life situated comfortably among love, joy, and faith.Love for your future spouse and the others you interact with. Joy from a life free from the harm of sin. Faith that though it may sometimes seem like we are missing out in the short term, God has a greater reward in the long term, and that God really does know what is best for us.
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“To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something as beautiful for him.” – Mother Teresa

 “Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton

 “Those who love chastity, whose consciences are completely clear, keep their hearts pure. No other virtue is so necessary in order to see God.” – St John Chrysostom

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1 Comment

  1. Romans 12:2 is one of my favorite verses, “be transformed through he renewal of your mind.” Our thoughts create our feelings (which are very real and compelling) which lead to our actions. I only became successful in managing my thinking (LOVE Phil 4:8) when I began asking the Lord to remove any undesirable and impure thoughts from my mind AND acknowledging that there is a very real presence out there that wants me to keep on thinking in impure and complacent ways. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle each day!
    I got to your post from http://www.missionalwomen.com/faith-filled-friday-blog-link-up

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