I recently shared an older post of mine – one I wrote shortly after I got married. It’s the story of why I waited until my wedding day to lose my virginity, and I why I did so with no regrets. Shortly after I received a comment: “I like this article, but the title indicates you lose your purity when you get married.”

This statement, though well-intentioned, reveals the problem we face in the church today. Today’s Christian culture treats virginity as equal to purity, when they are not the same thing at all.

Why “Save Yourself” is the Wrong Narrative

Purity culture taught us to preserve our bodies. In a world where bodies are currency, the church – unintentionally – made bodies a currency all over again. Cosmo Magazine tells us through pictures: “The best body wins”. Christianity tells us through purity narratives: “The best body still wins”.

The body that never had sex is better than the body that did – at least according to purity culture. The problem? Virginity is not the same as purity.

Virginity is Physical; Purity is Spiritual

God has commanded us to save sex for marriage because His design is for our protection and honor. So in a sense, virginity – not having sex prior to marriage – can be a form of purity, but only in the physical sense. Virginity is simply a biological status – not a status of the heart.

That’s why it’s possible to be a virgin and live an impure life. Purity is not determined by whether or not a woman’s hymen is intact, but by whether or not her heart is transformed by Christ. When we focus on virginity as the only manifestation of purity, we also negate the value of Christ’s redemption. Because just as it is possible to be a virgin and be spiritually impure, it is also possible to have lost virginity and yet be renewed by the blood of Christ.

Purity can manifest itself physically in the lives of those who never engage in sexual sin prior to marriage, and also in the lives of those redeemed by grace. Virginity is not the measure – the blood of Jesus is.

Virginity Can Be Lost; Purity Can Be Renewed

Since virginity is a physical status, it can indeed be “lost” – even by getting married. Once you have sex, your virginity is gone. Purity, however, is eternal. As long as we’re in Christ, our purity should grow progressively brighter. Sanctification is a life-long process.

Purity isn’t all about sex, either. Sexual purity is only a fraction of what it means to be an image-bearer of Christ. We are called to “be holy as He is holy” in every area of life – mentally, emotionally, physically, AND sexually. Since purity isn’t about sex, it can’t be “lost” like virginity. Christ Himself is our purity. In Him, we stand redeemed, renewed, and ready to proclaim His authority through our lives – and even through our sexuality.

Though purity can’t be lost, it can be transgressed against. When we sin, we’re failing to live up to the pure identity Christ bought for us. Repentance and reconciliation offer us hope for those moments, and we can STILL have victory where we may  never have known it before.

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Where Virginity Fails, Purity Fulfills

Ultimately, virginity will fail us. It is no savior. Trusting in virginity – as a parent or as an individual – says nothing for the heart of the person involved. We don’t need to chase virginity. We should pursue purity, from which the decision to save sex for marriage will automatically flow.

And for those who have “lost” their virginity, there is always hope.

To take pride in virginity is a sign that a church, family, or individual has missed the point. The point is purity: a status that we can never earn on our own power. Our purity is completely dependent on the influence of Christ and our love for Him. Any other motive will result in either legalism or rebellion – or both. Where virginity fails, purity fulfills, because Christ is always enough.

So what do we do instead of saying, “save yourself”? 

Say, “Follow Jesus.”

Say, “Here’s how to study the Word.”

Say, “Here’s what to do when you sin.”

Say, “Here’s how to set Spirit-led boundaries.”

Teach people to live driven by the Spirit of God, disciple them, be in their lives as they walk out this faith – and they won’t need to be TOLD to save themselves for marriage. They’ll live out a redeemed sexuality. And that’s God’s goal.

For a further discussion of this topic, get my book on biblical sexuality: Christian Cosmo: The Sex Talk You Never Had