This is the camp that my peer group was immersed in at the church where I spent 3 ½ years of my life. I’ve read the books, I’ve heard the talk about purity and how to be wary and cautious when communicating with the opposite gender. I see a lot of cons in this thinking, but I see some pros as well, so we’ll get to those.
The people of this camp put purity, as well as members of the opposite gender, in positions each shouldn’t be. Purity becomes a character quality that creates self-righteousness, and guys and girls are ultimately viewed as only future husbands and wives, rather than brothers and sisters of whom can make great friends.
Where does this come from? In many cases, this position actually comes from the realization of the problems we pointed out in our last post about the other extreme system of thought! In seeing the problems there, many people have responded by swinging to the complete other side of the pendulum; in trying to rectify those problems, many have, I believe, taken their efforts to maintain absolute purity too far.
We are to be pure and holy, as He commands, it is true. But people who hold the beliefs of the mentality we’re talking about now take this to an extreme it wasn’t intended to go. They put purity on a pedestal it’s not supposed to be on. Ultimately, they create a legalistic mindset about purity and interaction between guys and girls that gives it such a strict sense that it warps the relationship between guys and girls in general.
When we view a guy or girl on the whole as a gender as someone that we’re going to marry one day, it changes our views on guys and girls all together. Every guy or girl that you meet suddenly is, unwittingly and unknowingly even to us, that potential Prince Charming or damsel in distress, Disney princess. We can’t view members of the opposite gender as fellow human beings – instead they become a possible future spouse.
This comes from creating a guy or girl as something they weren’t supposed to be. While if we get married one day, it will obviously be of the opposite gender, not every guy or girl in the world is going to be “the one”. There will be oodles of guys and girls that you meet that aren’t going to be your future spouse. So just stop right now viewing each of them this way. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, not knights in shining armor or fair maidens. When you view them this way, you really are being pure and holy.
We create a false illusion about the lenses we look through at members of the opposite gender when we put our “pure and holy” glasses. When we look at every guy or girl and think “I’m not going to defile my purity by even thinking that they look attractive”, we have already admitted to doing the thing which we believe is sinning. We view each one as someone we’re not supposed to get carried away with in our imagination.
A lot of the rules and guidelines that members of this position adhere to are simply unreasonable and illogical in my opinion, but we won’t go there. The purpose of this post is to a give a summary, not an in-depth examination. Suffice to say, while standards may be great, any extra-Biblical standard is simply personal conscience; and if applied by a single person to the church as a whole, becomes legalism and an invitation for judgmentalism. To hold other believers to your own extra-Biblical standards, whether in modesty standards, relationships, music, or politics, invites the self-righteous attitudes that come along with legalism.
To get to the pros of this side. People who hold to these views typically try to do so to honor God, which I fully admire and respect. They are trying to do what they believe would please Him, which is ultimately what all of us should do in relation to how we treat guys and girls. And frankly, they are doing this contrary to the culture in which they live, which I can't help but respect. I may believe they are taking a mistaken stand, but they are taking a stand where they believe it is right, even if it goes against popular opinion.
Also, though while it turns into a legalistic mindset filled with several errors, this mentality is such that it does honor purity in a good degree, while the other camp honors godly purity hardly at all.
Members of the opposite gender also get treated as such – girls are girls, and guys are guys. There is no trying to tone down either to make them “equal” or create guys out of girls and vice versa.
Now that we’ve taken a look at each of the extremes that each of us typically falls under, let’s step back and look at things logically. It may seem like I’ve exaggerated the issue to some degree, but this is a topic that gets abused in both circles, in different ways as we’ve seen. How do we approach this in a way that honors God but isn’t legalistic, being able to create friendships without crushing on each one, and putting the right things on the right pedestal?
The first key is to put God first. It’s a rule that automatically applies to every principle in life. God comes first. Period. When your eyes are fixed on God, it’s hard to get sidetracked by the distractions of this world. So when we are focused on the Lord, we will go into a friendship the way we should, without letting the fleshly side get out of control and take over. That’s not to say there won’t be distractions, because there surely will be. But putting on our blinders and keeping our eyes set on Christ helps to minimize them to a good degree.
Also, I’ll bring back the principle I mentioned previously: If you wouldn’t do it to your biological, blood brother/sister, don’t do it to your brother/sister in Christ. That tones down a lot of ways that we err, especially in regard to the questions that often turn into legalism, such as “Is it okay to smile at someone of the opposite gender?” When we take this principle and use it in context, it helps keep us out of trouble and on the right path.
Another point is to not over-think it. I hate to keep using the word “legalistic”, but it’s the one that best describes the issue in my mind. Don’t get legalistic about how to interact with a guy or girl. That’s when you begin to form the wrong opinion of who they are, and then they cease to become a fellow human being. Guys and girls can make great friends, they truly can. But we have to go into it with the right perspective. So don’t lose sleep over questions like “What if they think I’m flirting with them, just because I’m cracking a joke with them?” In such a case, as long as you joke with other people besides this one person, then you’re most likely on the safe side. Don’t over-think things, don’t get legalistic about it, and don’t treat a certain person with extra attention, or you are likely to get people thinking things about you that you’d rather them not.
I hope I don’t sound legalistic about this. This is just a hot-button of mine, for reasons as I’ve stated previously. I want teens to know that you can be friends with a guy if you’re a girl, and guys can be friends with girls. It doesn’t have to be awkward, or impure. It is entirely possible to have great friendships with those of the opposite gender. But so often, we as teenagers have formulated the wrong approach and opinion to this topic. To dispel these wrong ideas, we have to stop and think things through, logically and rationally. Then take it from there. Don’t just go with whatever someone tells you to believe. Think it out for yourself, measure it with the Bible’s standards, and come to a conclusion that you believe would honor God.