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Chastity: The Apologetic We Forgot April 8, 2013

Posted by clintcarter in Church, God.
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Have you ever considered that chastity is a significant witness for the truth of the Gospel?

Chastity is a little used word.  It means to be pure in action and intention regarding sexual behavior.  Not just abstaining from sexually immoral acts, but doing so for the right reasons.  Chastity is not just behavior modification, but desire modification.

I’ve been reading Justin Martyr’s Apologies written around A.D. 160.  Justin wrote this book to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius as a defense of Christian faith and practice; denying the false accusations against Christians and reasoning how Christians make model citizens for any society.

One chapter in particular caught my attention (Chapter 15 What Christ himself taught).  Justin leads with Christian chastity as a defense of the validity of the Christian faith.  Here’s what he says:

“And many both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men.  For what shall I say, too, of the countless multitude of those who have reformed intemperate habits, and learned these things?”

Justin was calling the emperor to look at the sexual immorality prevalent in his culture, with no human exempt from these urges/actions and compare it to what was happening among believers with their reformed, chaste habits and decades of purity (which was just as unheard of in his day as it is in ours).

Chastity among believers is a strong apologetic for the world.  For modern believers chastity extends to faithfulness in marriage – including mental and emotional faithfulness.  For single believers – not pursuing lustful thoughts, rejecting any sexual activity, and staying away from even the appearance of evil (sleeping over).

Chastity was a hallmark of the early church.  It was something that the surrounding culture recognized as a distinguishing mark.  It set them apart.  However, it wasn’t something that the church demanded of the culture.  Justin was not forcing Christian morals upon the society around him.

As the church today we’ve got it backwards.  We try to force chastity upon our society while not maintaining it ourselves.  Adultery, fornication, pornography and pre-marital sex are rampant among the church today.  Our chastity does not distinguish us and so it does not present a strong, significant witness for the truth of the Gospel.

Now as a man, I know the impossibility of leading a chaste life in my own strength.  None of us can meet these standards by our own will power.  Even our best attempts will leave us defeated or self-righteous.  But we have a Savior who not only forgives us for our failures but who provides inspiration and empowerment to turn from these temptations.  Jesus’ work has renewed our minds and given us a new nature created according to God’s image in purity. (Ephesians 4:17-24)  Church, may our chastity be compelling evidence of God’s mercy.