Purity and Intimacy
Purity, as generally defined by the Miriam-Webster dictionary, is the state of being chaste in conduct and intention and the abstention from all sexual intercourse. In today's every changing media-impacted society, the struggle against teenage purity has developed into a massive war between the individual and his or her surroundings, as well as themselves. Purity seems almost impossible to achieve in America's sexually advocating culture, therefore it is crucial to understand that without God's help, one is ultimately powerless and can't do anything. However, if one humbly asks God for guidance and support in seeking purity, God's grace will overshadow the person in such a way that absolutely nothing will be able to get in his or her way. Consequently, the teen must always be in a good relationship with God, so that he or she may be in the position to request God's assistance in helping them attain and maintain purity.
The first step in achieving purity is to be fully convinced on the inside that this is what is right and that the strive for purity was directly called for by God. In the first epistle to the Thessalonians the apostle writes, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality," and second: "Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us his Holy Spirit." God wishes us to mirror his image by not only being noble and gentle, but also holy temples where the Holy Spirit abides, and this can not be achieved without purity. Subsequently, many times teens wonder why they deprive themselves of pleasures and don't go to parties or why they don't watch some TV programs. St. Paul answers these questions by telling us, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 3:7), which means when we do not enjoy ourselves with earthly pleasures, we receive a more precious heavenly reward. Also, St. Gregory the Great writes, "We truly love God and keep His commandments if we restrain ourselves from our pleasures. For he who still abandons himself to unlawful desires certainly does not love God, since he contradicts Him in his own intentions. . .Therefore, he loves God truly, whose mind is not conquered by consent to evil delight. For the more one takes pleasure in lower things, the more he is separated from heavenly love." For that reason, the teen should fully agree with the fact that God shuns all impurities and wholeheartedly promotes purity for this is what is right in the sight of the Lord.
In order to further appreciate and accept God's commandments, God placed numerous punishments which one must inevitably face if he or she does not fully struggle for purity. In the Old Testament, Moses writes, "The man who commits adultery with another man's wife..., the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
Furthermore, Jesus preaches in the New Testament, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery;' but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). If in the New Testament God spares us our terrible punishment here on earth and gives us a chance to repent, how much worse will our punishment be in eternity if we do not use our second chance wisely?
These retributions provide the Christian teen with even more motivation to patiently endure his or her struggle. However, consequences can also include rewards which are granted to the struggler upon the achievement of success. The life of purity is spiritually rewarding in that gives the teen a sense of power and fulfillment over this temporal world. It also provides the teen with continual peace since there is no ongoing struggle between the emotions.
Furthermore, the book of Revelation speaks of a special reward for chastity, "No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes..." Also, is the famous story where purity granted Joseph to be lifted from the status of a slave, to the second most powerful man in the land of Egypt. Joseph could have easily sinned and not a single person would have known. Also this would have raised his status in the sight of Potiphar's wife, yet out of his love to God he refused to, but rather fled and ran outside. Thus the Bible speaks of a great reward, both here on earth and in heaven, for those who remain pure their entire lives.
Once the teen has strongly established his position in denouncing non-purity and is aware of the consequences, he or she can than learn to control the constant pressures surrounding him from both the outside and the inside. God placed inside every one of us internal feelings which are crucial for the sake of human reproduction and species survival. However before the proper age, these feelings that call for intimacy are useless and actually harmful to the person spiritually. How than does the teen fight these internal feelings. The first step is to seek God's help. When lustful thoughts are attacking a teen, he should raise his heart to his heavenly father, the Holy God, asking Him to fulfill his divine promises mentioned in the verse "Be holy as I am holy" (Leviticus 20:26). The second step is to never obey these internal lusts, but rather battle these opposing forces as the apostle writes, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) also Abba John the Short writes, "It is by warfare that the soul makes progress." When the teen is fully capable of extinguishing all internal forces, blocking external forces is simply a matter of not allowing the senses to take in anything which pertains to sexuality. Examples include monitoring the movies one watches, music one listens to, magazines one reads, and even people one hangs out with. St. John Chrysostom rights about this matter saying, "Let us be concerned first for the good order of sensations and then for the good posture of inner thoughts." For that reason, if the teen is not careful in successfully blocking out all negative external influences, than all is in vain for he will surely drown himself in much more temptation and struggle than what was necessary in the first place.
One of the most influential external pressures comes form the teen's closest friends and people he or she is in close contact with. St. Paul writes in his epistle, "Evil company corrupts good habits" (I Corinthians 15:33). How does one ensure that his or her friends will be an aid rather than an additional hardship in the quest for purity? The bible tells us that we can decipher good from evil by one's fruits. If the people a teen hangs20out with are in a good relationship with God, display proper behavior, and have obtained purity themselves, than by all means these are the people a teen should be friends with. However, if the teen finds a certain friend constantly engaging in harmful conversations, displaying negative actions, and are away from God, than this is a clear sign that they will not help in building one's purity. To sum it up, if the teen is able to successfully filter out his friends and environment, the internal pressures affecting him or her will drastically decrease. Also vice versa, if the internal pressures are removed, the environment will have very little of an influence on him or her. Yet, this is not to say that it is safe to walk into a night club once one has controlled his or her emotions because very easily the devil tricks people into thinking they are strong, when in fact they are not and in the end the teen falls into the same trap he or she was in to begin with!
Once purity has been achieved, maintaining it becomes another difficult issue in itself. Not only does the teen have to constantly cycle through the stages previously mentioned in attaining purity, but must also keep good habits in confession, seek advice from more experienced people, and constantly discipline himself or her self to abstain from any lustful thoughts. Controlling one's thoughts can be done through several ways, such as keeping busy in order to persistently occupy the mind, fleeing from an internal bad thought that does come, and shielding the senses. It is of upmost important to never have too much idle time and refrain from all laziness in order to remain pure. When a person does not have anything to do, his mind begins to randomly wander and it is at this opportune moment that the devil runs to toss the person a bad thought. From there he or she may dwell on this thought making it even more difficult to escape it. Finally, after a period of thinking, the thought has planted itself deep into the mind and it becomes almost impossible to fully rid oneself of it. St. James writes, "...when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:15). Therefore, developing good hobbies, reading spiritual books, doing physical handiwork around the house, and generally keeping busy is an essential part in developing oneself both as an industrious individual and as a pure person. Also, it is most important to build one's relationship with God and always ask for His guidance. If a person stands by himself or herself in the battle of chastity he or she will be conquered, but it is through God's sprit that he or she obtains victory.
Eventually, after the teen has fought for so many years, it will than be time for him or her to develop intimacy, a term associated with young adulthood and beyond. The difference between true intimacy which involves love and non purity/lust is that love means to give oneself to others for the glory and progress of others, whereas lust is to count others as instruments for satisfaction of the "ego", and attaining bodily desires. True intimacy should not be sought after until one is financially stable and able to physically support a family, socially ready to accept the responsibilities of being a husband/wife, and spiritually ready to be directly responsible for another's soul. St. Paul writes about the topic to the Corinthians, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband... For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that" (1 Corinthians chapter 7). Therefore it is fully acceptable to develop true intimacy at the proper time.
Furthermore, one will benefit much more from this true intimacy if he or she has led a pure life as a teen. Pre-marital relationships as a teen are simply body to body relationships, and this is not a relationship at all but rather adultery. Marriage is person to person relationship and it encompasses the whole being of the person; intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, physical, and psychological. In considering marriage to be body to body relationship, one will enter marriage through the wrong doors of senses and lust. For sure sex is not everything in marriage and thus dating as a teen will teach the teen bad habits which will force him to think with this negative ideology.
In conclusion, achieving teenage purity through one's habits and thoughts is a must. One of the old men said, "It is written concerning Solomon that he loved women, but every male loveth the females, and we must restrain and draw onwards our nature by main force to purity" (Paradise of the Fathers). Out of the wisdom of our church, teens are highly discouraged and steered away from the awful habit of dating and premarital relationships. The church teaches us to guard our minds and flee from all sorts of temptation. We may think that we are strong and will not be influenced however this is almost never the case, for eventually our emotions will give in to the negative desires of the flesh. We must continually endeavor for purity and never doubt that this is the true will of God as seen throughout the bible. It is only after the teen has achieved purity, can he truly consider himself among the children of God as one who truly pleases God in all thought, intention, and action. This is what we must strive for both as teens and throughout the course of our lives.
St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church
Ft. Myers, Florida