Monday, August 03, 2015

The Relationship Series: The Heart of the Matter

{image source}
Throughout this six-part series on relationships, we’ve discussed marriage and courtship, each with their own purposes and meanings. In short, we’ve covered the “relationship” part of The Relationship Series. But chances are that most of us aren’t married or even ready to court.  Does that mean we're off the hook? Hardly.

So what do we do before we’re ready for a relationship? The answer is simple: get ready.

Too many of us arrive at adulthood and suddenly come to the realization, “Oh no! I’m not prepared for marriage!” Worse yet, we use our unpreparedness as an excuse to pursue petty, commitment-less relationships. We seem to have this idea that one day we’ll wake up suddenly ready for marriage, but that’s simply not going to happen. We need to get ready.

There are really a few aspects of this “getting ready” for courtship and marriage. We’ll look at the some of the more practical aspects in the next – and last – part of this series.

For now, though, let’s think about a much deeper part of this preparation: purity.

The Church today has such a limited view of what purity truly is. We tend to only think of purity as it relates to physical intimacy or lust. We want to “stay pure” until marriage. We talk about purity as if it were a line to avoid crossing or a list of rules to keep.

In reality, though, purity is so much more than this. Purity can be defined as “freedom from contamination.” Contamination of what, though? Physical intimacy? Lust? Perhaps. But isn’t there far more out there that can “contaminate” us than just these things?

The truth is that, in order to be really pure, we need to keep ourselves uncontaminated by sin itself.

Do you see now why purity is about so much more than just relationships? It can be likened to a diamond. Just like a diamond is pure only when it is uncontaminated by any other substance, we can be pure by keeping ourselves uncontaminated by sin – in every area of our lives.

Now does this mean that, if I sin, I'm automatically impure?  Not necessarily.  A pure heart may stumble now and again (see Romans 7:21-25), but a pure heart is repentant.  If we are truly walking in purity, we will understand more and more the weight of our sin and sacrifice what we must to rid ourselves of it.

We often get the wrong idea when it comes to keeping ourselves free of sin, though. We focus so much on avoiding sin that our lives become more sin-focused than Christ-focused. The good news is that avoiding sin doesn’t need to be our highest priority! As we grow closer to Christ in our walk with Him, He will sanctify us and make us more like Him. The more our lives are saturated by Christ, the less they will be permeated by sin. And that’s the point:

Purity is a pursuit of Christ, not an avoidance of sin.

If you’ve ever gone canoeing, kayaking, or white water rafting in a river, you probably learned very early on that, if you’re headed toward a rock, it’s a very bad idea to keep looking toward it. That’s because the more you look at the rock, the more likely you are to, well, paddle into it! The key is to look toward where you want to go.

It’s the same with our walk with Christ. If we continually look toward sin, we’re apt to run straight into it. But if we look to Christ and direct our attention to following Him, everything else will take care of itself.

Now, all this talk about purity is well and good, but if purity is about keeping ourselves uncontaminated by sin, then it begs a question:

What does all of this talk about purity have to do with courtship and marriage?

The answer, of course, is everything. Purity has everything to do with courtship and marriage. How can I expect to be a godly husband and father – and my future wife to be a godly wife and mother – if we allow sin to contaminate us, making us impure before God? It simply will not happen. We cannot be pure husbands and wives if we are not first pure men and women.

But there’s another element that makes purity all the more important in a relationship: Marriage is a unifying of two individuals into one (see Genesis 2:24). This unique institution gives a husband and wife an incredible amount of influence on each other and on the entity of the family itself. A husband sanctifies his wife (see Ephesians 5:25-26) and a wife supports her husband. Therefore, if either is not walking in purity, the other will suffer, and so will the marriage itself.

Purity is not merely a pre-relationship issue. It’s one that becomes even more critical in courtship and especially in marriage.

No matter what attempts we make at trying to prepare ourselves for marriage and become Christ-honoring husbands and wives, it will all come to ruin if our hearts are not in the right place. Purity is first and foremost a matter of the heart, because a heart that is set on Christ will be guided and upheld by His powerful Hand. When looking to courtship and marriage, nothing could be more important than that.

(For more on the topic of purity, see a post I wrote two years ago on the topic: Oh Noes! Not a Valentine's Day Post!)

With all of this understanding of marriage, courtship, and purity, you may be asking, "What now?"  Find out in the last post of The Relationship Series!