Passion and Purity, pg 29: Passion is a Battleground

Passion and Purity, chapter 3 pg. 29:

Chapter 3 is called, “Passion is a Battleground” and starts of with Satan himself!  Let’s dive in:

If there is an Enemy of Souls (and I have not the slightest doubt that there is), one thing he cannot abide is the desire for purity.  Hence a man or woman’s passions become his battleground.  The Lover of Souls does not prevent this…He wants us to learn to use our weapons.

I’ll say it again: purity in this context means only “no sex outside marriage”.  Despite the fact that the idea of purity can (and should!) be applied to other aspects of life and spirituality, Elliot is not using the word in any broader sense.  A Christian can desire purity in many shades – a pure heart, free from materialistic distraction; a pure longing for God; a spirituality unmarred by selfishness –but that is not what we are talking about here.  

The idea then is that Satan’s most reliable offense (against every man and woman) is in the realm of sexual temptation.  Our sexual desires are so overwhelming and hard to control that many people simply choose not to, give into temptation…and then Satan has won the battle.  As an added bonus, those who don’t fight the temptation have disappointed Jesus, for He’s one who wants us to “use our weapons.”

And as an added added bonus, those who are able to fight the temptation and stay virginal are in an group of the Elite Pure.  Even if it’s not stated outright, there’s always an understanding that God of course forgives you if you mess up…but if you mess up virginity, God can only do so much, you know?  You can’t re-virginize yourself.  You might be forgiven, in other words, but you’ll never be untouched again.  So those who have managed to stay truly virginal gradually move to the top of the purity totem pole.  (There are always lots of platitudes: “God has made us all white as snow,” and “All sins are equal in God’s eyes,” but let’s be real.  We all know which sins are more damning–if not in God’s eyes, in your peers’–than others.)

Yes, sexual temptations can be overwhelming.  It often is, for teenagers and young adults–hormones, puberty, love, crushes…the confusion of puberty is not over-stated.  But there are so many more ways that people are tempted, so many more aspects to life and faith.  It’s just silly to say that sexual purity is the one thing that Satan can’t abide.  I’d imagine he also hates equity and love.  He probably hates joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness.

Wouldn’t it be nice to talk about fruits of the spirit in the context of sexuality, instead of painting every sexual temptation as battle simply to not touch each other?  Some ideas: how do we show kindness in sex?  What about self-control? How can we talk about sexual issues patiently and with gentleness?  What do you do if your partner doesn’t seem joyful anymore–how do you address that without judgment?  These are sermons I’ve never heard, because the assumption was that if you just make it to the wedding night without touching, you’ll be fine.  That’s what God wants when He says He wants purity.

Stating that Satan hates sexual purity most of all (which is definitely a sermon I’ve heard!) also leaves out those who may have no trouble with sexual temptations.  For the asexual or even for those who, like me, just didn’t have that hard a time saying “no”, we can come to think of ourselves as either spiritual giants (guilty!) or as oddities.  I remember a friend confiding to me in high school: “I keep hearing that I need to put all this effort into avoiding sex, but it doesn’t seem that hard to me.  Maybe I’m not like everyone else?”

Still, it’s a good point that God won’t shield us from every possible bad decision, romantic or otherwise.  We humans do have tools for making good decisions, choosing partners, and communicating effectively.  Although Elliot says that we are to use our “weapons”, she doesn’t give any details about what those weapons are in this chapter.  Perhaps later in the book?  I hope so, and I hope that some of those tools are “honest communication” and “healthy boundaries”.

A few samples from my diary of the preceding years illustrate the confusion I was in and provide, I’m afraid, a more accurate sketch of what I was then than memory would lead me to draw.  [She follows this with a page of diary entries including things like “March 9 – broke date with Hal, he said there would never be anyone else.  March 10 – was I hasty?”]

As before, this is one of the more charming passages because she comes across as empathetic and a bit self-deprecating.  Career, friendship, romantic decision may seem very inevitable in hindsight, and we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and paint a rosier picture of ourselves than might have been the case, so it’s nice that she admits that she felt just as confused as the rest of us.

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