The Greatest Gift
Note: This is a guest post
Let me begin by saying, I think Ravi Zacharias is an upstanding guy – a person with a lot of God-given wisdom, who has shared the gospel in inspirational ways. So not surprisingly, as I was recently reading a book of his, I, Isaac, take Thee, Rebekah, I came across many convicting and important truths – the importance of selflessness and kindness in relationship, and the decision to love in a society that encourages us to leave if we’re not really feeling it. The first three chapters resonated with me and taught me a lot.
I reached the fourth chapter. Within a few paragraphs, I became overwhelmed by the rejected cries of the many many women at the well. I actually had to put the book down, and that doesn’t often happen to me when I’m reading. This was the sentence that got to me:
“In giving oneself in marriage, there are few gifts a single unwedded person can give his or her partner that are more sacred than the gift of purity.”
It was not the radical nature of this sentence that overwhelmed me, but its commonplace use in Christian culture. To hear it said – not only by well-meaning elders in our churches, who perhaps didn’t know any better – but by Ravi Zacharias, a respected teacher of the Word, broke my heart.
I get where it’s coming from – we have this idea that we can keep our youth from having sex before marriage by telling them a bunch of scary stories about how they will be less valuable to their future spouse if they give that special ‘gift’ away early. But there are two serious flaws in that reasoning. A) It doesn’t work. Has anyone checked the stats on how many people, who were told this line in church, are having sex before marriage? B) It’s a very very dangerous false statement.
The Jesus I know does not treat sin as a permanent devaluing aspect of my character. Last week (okay, who am I kidding? yesterday) I was prideful. I bragged about an upcoming opportunity I have next week that makes me feel like a bit of a big cheese. But Jesus didn’t tell me, “Sorry. You’ve now lost your humility-virginity. You no longer have that ‘special gift’ to give anyone.” Today, I ate considerably more gummy bears than was healthy. But Jesus never said, “Guess what, sweetie? All that gluttony has made you less of a person. You’re 30 gummy bears less valuable to your future spouse.” A while ago, I got angry with my boyfriend and I sulked by running stats on my computer – it was a very unhelpful and sinful way to deal with my frustration. But Jesus didn’t say, “Ah, remember that gentleness-virginity you once had? It’s gone. Your boyfriend will never want you now.” No, no, and no. In all of these cases, Jesus says to me – and He says to you – “You are forgiven. Go, and sin no more.” But God’s grace isn’t limited to sins of pride, gluttony, and angry stats sulking. His response to our sexual sin is exactly the same. “You are forgiven. Go, and sin no more.”
Why is this so important? Because people are literally dying over this terrible false statement that sexual virginity is a sacred gift – that once it’s gone, you will never have as much value to give to your future spouse. Rehtaeh Parsons. Amanda Todd. If our purity culture was even one of the factors that snuffed out your beautiful hopeful lives, there is no apology that could possibly be good enough.
But suicide is not the only death that we should be concerned about. When we tell our youth that God says they are less valuable because they were either raped or chose to sin sexually, many recognize the statement for what it is – false. Tragically, many also connect that statement to God, and put Him in the same category – false. They leave the church and walk away from faith, because they cannot reconcile the gracious, just, and loving God that they encounter in prayer and scriptures with the image of a gracious-only-for-non-sexual-sins God that they were taught.
Third, our falsehoods about purity can cause a death of the heart. Too many wonderful Christians, who could be free and shining with God’s love for the world, live in fear and guilt over that seemingly unforgivable sin. It was hard enough just dealing with the horrific experience of sexual abuse that happened when she was just 12 years old or the difficult break-up with the girlfriend who he thought would become his wife. When we tell them that their “sacred gift” is now gone, we force onto them additional burdens of shame and fear. These can be horribly crushing. But they are burdens that Jesus died to carry for us!
I think God must have known that we’d have trouble understanding that His grace is for sexual sins too. He gave us the stories like the woman at the well (John 4) and the woman Jesus rescued from stoning (John 8) to make sure we understood. We probably should have been able to figure out that His grace extends to all areas of our lives, but He gave us specific applications of His grace for sexual sins just to drive the point home. Because He knows we need to hear it again. And again.
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5
You are God’s valuable child, holy and dearly loved. That is the most sacred gift you will ever have. And nothing can ever take that gift away.