Abstinence is a term that makes people hot around the collar. It's a word that pastors use in their sermons to wake up the congregation. It's a word I use as an escape route from awkward pickup lines. It's a word that made the youth I was leading look at me blankly.
"Abstinence?", "Wasn't that a nineties thing?", and "Oh I have a friend like that" were some of the remarks I received after bringing it up. I felt out of place and old fashion; as if I had worn a costume to a party that wasn't fancy dress. I quickly switched into 'cool leader' mode, in order to combat the series of awkward questions that followed. I made comments about how the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus have chosen (I hope) to save themselves for marriage. It didn't work. Seems Disney stars aren't cool after all.
Sometimes I feel like a paranoid party crasher trying to brainwash youth into saving sex for marriage. I've tried to bronze, wax, and airbrush the idea in order to make it more appealing to an uninterested generation. But as a result, I just feel like a dentist in a toothpaste commercial, scaring people into brushing their teeth.
100% Pure NZ?
At the start of this year a market study was released which claimed New Zealand women were the most promiscuous women in the world. Not the most attractive of titles for New Zealand's "100% pure" image. The survey found that Kiwi women have an average of 20.3 sexual partners in a lifetime. This is in contrast to the international average of 7.3 sexual partners.
In order to combat such statistics, it seems Christians tend to respond by writing trillions of books, articles and sermons. Movements are started, Facebook pages are created and purity rings are sold. "True Love Waits", "We Will Wait" and "God said so" become the common catchphrases of youth leaders.
Don't get me wrong, I commend these actions. But I've found that an 18-year-old is not going to remember a conversation with her youth leader or a book she has read, when her boyfriend leans over and tells her she's pretty. It is heart-breaking when the outcome of these rants and persuasive speeches don't seem to cut it.
A dying trend
In the hype of procrastination I once found myself watching a UK reality TV show called, "My Big Decision". The show followed a few girls on a quest to make a decision about losing their virginity. The girls went around a village discussing their decision with their grandparents, friends and professionals. There was one conversation that struck me. The grandmother of one of the participants told the 16-year-old that abstinence was a waste of time, a dying fad and she should "take the risk".
It could be assumed that any Christian watching the show would have probably shook their head upon hearing this grandmother's advice. But I didn't. In fact I somewhat agreed with her. Yes, the reality is abstinence is a dying fad. Yes it could be a waste of time. However it is only those things when there is no purpose or motive behind abstinence. Abstinence and celibacy are irrelevant and merely a fad, when there is no underlying motivation for making such a commitment.
Subsequently this is the reason some Christians struggle with purity. The problem is they understand the meaning behind 'saving yourself for marriage', but do not have a personal or spiritual connection with the importance of it. They are missing the motivation that connects God's design for sex, to the way in which Christians should live their lives.
It's not about waiting
Abstinence has become a task that Christian's simply 'need to do' rather than from a motivation to honour God in every aspect of life. Abstinence shouldn't be about waiting, doing what is right, or trying not to sin. Instead it should come from a willingness to seek first (notice the word first) God's kingdom and his righteousness.
Therefore abstinence shouldn't become a ritualistic Christian tradition that needs to be obeyed in order to find a decent Christian spouse. Obedience isn't a method of getting what I want. It's about having the heart to choose to go beyond the physical desire of sex and choosing to seek God.
Okay, so if abstinence doesn't guarantee that a hunk of a Christian is currently saddling up his white horse ready to gallop into my life at any second, then how is abstinence or celibacy to be sold to a generation that is becoming increasingly disestablished from the idea?
Stepping back from the pulpit
Purity won't be sold to this generation from behind a pulpit, in a well-written book or by a persuasive conversation. Instead it will be found when one decides that a life lived for God is better than anything else man can offer.
Abstinence doesn't result in the sad life of a 40-year-old Virgin, but in a life which patiently pursues God. A life such as this speaks louder than any magazine, movies or literature that seeks to juxtapose a heart pleasing to God. Role models need to be willing to put down the books, step back from the pulpit and realistically live out a life that reflects God's perfect design.
Abstinence shouldn't be a trend or a fashion statement, pledge or a movement, a metal belt or a purity ring, an overprotective father or a bible story. It should come directly from ones motivation to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God.
Elesha Edmonds is the proud owner of an eleven-year-old pet fish and three quarters of a Communications degree. She uses writing as a method to tame her overactive imagination and is ironically studying to be a journalist.
Elesha Edmonds' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/elesha-edmonds.html