John’s definition of chastity – Saving sex for marriage.
People fall in love and marry on at least four different levels: Physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual. But after the industrial revolution, the intellectual and spiritual components fell by the wayside. Man lost pride in his own ability to create something of value. He lost the ability to craft something with his hands. Mechanized machinery took over the work place and assembly lines made it easier for Americans to compromise quality if they could save a penny. With the introduction of contraception in the 1920s and women’s newfound freedom, intellectual compatibility was more about an enlightened state of freedom and rights- and less about the intellectual knowledge of mankind and Godly wisdom. The ability of a woman to have it all was now more important than what she knew. Her money and power became more important than her virtue. Abortion became her passport to equality. The Greatest Generation is history. Now the digital age has made immorality even easier for both men and women. We have many times more computing power on our desktops that Apollo 11 had on board when they launched to the moon. Yet, most of that potential is wasted on pornography and games. One giant leap backwards for mankind.
To bring chastity back to the equation, maybe it’s time to revive the intellectual component of love. Unfortunately, most churches present chastity to the next generation using secular assembly line models of “tough love” that wash the hands of parents for any failings of their offspring. For example, Mr. and Mrs. McAllister of Country Club First Baptist have an awesome testimony of waiting on marriage and 50 years of faithfulness together. Instead of presenting an intelligent story like that, his church opted again for more gripping testimonies of “I did it because I thought he loved me” and “I thought that’s what it took to be a man.” More drama. More visuals. More Sex and the City. More parents sitting at home on Sunday mornings. Compelling stories are just that – stories. It’s a well known fact in anthropology that cultures only changed when presented with examples. Not decrees. Churches are very adept at decrees against many things which can be seen: Tattoos, cigarettes, drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, profane language, babies out of wedlock, pornography, etc. Most actions they take on these issues are short term and reactionary, a Band-Aid approach to human tragedy. They can provide the abused and divorced mom and three kids shelter for three days. But how is that addressing the bigger problem of spousal abuse? It’s not so easy to identify invisible virtues like chastity, charity, temperance, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility – and use them to prevent tragedies like spousal abuse. The Bible tells us “Ye shall know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16). The hard part is that most of these virtues cannot be seen by the naked eye.
The Bible warns us about ignoring invisible virtues: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” For example, look at the patience a mother has in the animal world with her offspring. Or look at what she will do to defend them. Observe the order of a flock of geese in flight. What does chastity look like?
I dare say most people think chastity is just a matter of will power and cold showers and those who practice it are missing out on the human experience and are to be pitied. It’s actually a conviction way beyond will power. Many think it’s the same thing as asexuality, a neutered existence, cold and heartless, with no appreciation for beauty in the opposite sex. The truth is just the opposite. God made sex. It is beautiful. Some of the most sexual and passionate people I know live lives of chastity. Chastity forces us to explore what it means to be human in light of all God’s creation and to examine the inner workings of our soul on an intellectual level that married life cannot approach. Since our bodies are temples of God that have not been opened to uninvited guests, all of the china is still in the cabinets and all the jewelry in its boxes. Thus, those who practice chastity are able to completely empty their temple for their love. With our temples intact and brain chemistry unaltered by sex, we are more capable of becoming friends with not only who we think we are but with who we really are. We are able to see ourselves as a whole person and not just a “better half” in marriage. We are forced to face the reality of all of our imperfections and accept them as part of our uniqueness.
As St. Therese of Lisieux said: “I know of one means only by which to attain to perfection: Love. Let us love, since our heart is made for nothing else. Sometimes I seek another word to express love, but in this land of exile the word which begins and ends (St. Augustine) is quite incapable of rendering the vibrations of the soul; we must then adhere to this simple and only word: To love.”