I was reading in Colossians last night and ran across this passage:
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (Colossians 2:20-21.)
Paul went on to explain where those rules – “Don’t do this! Don’t do that!” – come from:
These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:22-23.)
Paul calls them “merely human commands and teachings,” another way of saying these are not at all from God.
Not at all.
As I read the passage I was reminded of what people call The Purity Culture. This is a movement that is becoming hijacked by people who are going beyond teaching teens how to grow up in a world that idolizes sex; they’re making up rules to follow and lists to check off.
Depending on which purity leader you are reading, you might see rules like these:
- Courtship is the only Godly path to marriage – no dates, no time alone with each other, no private conversations on the phone, and absolutely no texting.
- Your clothes (especially if you’re a woman) must cover a sufficient part of the body. What is sufficient varies from teacher to teacher, so meeting one person’s standards might lead another person to judge you an impure woman. Men and boys often get a pass regarding their clothes from the same leaders who come down hard on women.
- No alcohol, no movies, no dances, no …
All of these rules and many more are prominent in the purity movement. And they all sound like they could easily fit right into the bogus rules Paul lists in Colossians 2.
These Are Not God’s Rules
How do we know these are not God’s rules? Because these human rules lead to condemnation, not spiritual fruit, and as Paul said they “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
I’ll repeat: rules like this have absolutely no value in restraining sensual indulgence.
All these purity ministries are spending time making up and then enforcing rules that don’t work. What does work? That’s easy, but it’s not a what; he’s a Who.
The Holy Spirit works in you. As Jesus told his friends in John 15, spiritual fruit comes from abiding in him, something we can do because the Spirit of Christ now abides in us. (2 Timothy 1:14.) And the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t look anything like a checklist from the purity culture:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25.)
You don’t need a checklist or set of rules to tell you when you are in step with the Spirit. All you need to do is see whether you are bearing the fruit (joy, patience, etc.) that Jesus wants to produce in you through the Spirit.
Remember too that if you are feeling guilty, condemned or accused, those accusations, condemnation and pronouncement of guilt are not coming from God but from Satan. He is our accuser. (Revelation 12:9-10). The purity culture people who make up these rules are setting you up for Satan’s accusations of failure and condemnation. God, on the other hand, never condemns anyone who belongs to Jesus. (Romans 8:1-2.)
The bottom line on purity culture? Its rules and checklists are worthless and empty.
And not at all of God.