Re-post: Why Chastity Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

That word...

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.” – C.S. Lewis

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time.  (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now.  I’ll wait.)

Keep the blade in its scabbard until the proper time

Keep the blade in its scabbard until the proper time

In a famous scene, one of the villain Vezzini’s henchmen, a Spanish swordsman named Inigo Montoya, corrects his boss.  Vezzini replies to every bit of unfavorable news with the exclamation “Inconceivable!”  After several such eruptions Montoya cocks his head and says, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In a previous post, I encouraged you to “be a leader and try something different — chastity.”  I realize that I may not have explained what chastity is and what it is not.

Making love right

Chastity is about the proper use of sex.  For the single, chastity means waiting until marriage.  (Most people, whether they agree or not, get that part right.) For the married, it means remaining faithful to your wife — “forsaking all others” as the traditional marriage vows say.  That means you invest your sexual interest and energy  – your thoughts, affection and loyalty — in your wife and in no other woman, real or imagined.

Chastity is not lifelong celibacy

Unless you are called to singleness, chastity doesn’t mean no sex for you — ever.  Yes, celibacy’s required before marriage, but in marriage, celibacy gives way to sexual exclusivity.  By the way, the Bible teaches that husbands and wives are not to deprive one another sexually.  Our Roman Catholic friends call this the marriage debt — and like all other debts, bad things happen if it isn’t paid.

Chastity is not anti-sex

In fact, the opposite is true.  Chastity places a higher value on sex and therefore doesn’t allow for the cheapening and commodifcation of such a great gift.  These days, women’s bodies are treated like props to sell us all kinds of products.  And with the ways we are marketed to constantly, in our culture we have become consumers — consumers of beauty, consumers of women.

Chastity honors the imago dei – the image and likeness of God — that He designed into us.  The complementarity of maleness and femaleness and the attraction of men and women to each other is for our benefit. It impels us toward love and its fullest expression in marriage, but the way is not broad and lighted like a runway.

It is easier to follow the herd and to become a consumer of women, rather than the lover of one wife.  But this more difficult way is the appropriate environment to discover what God reveals about Himself through the gift of sex.

Chastity is not about what you cannot have

I follow the slow-carb diet and I’m strict about it.  Friends ask me how I eat and when I tell them, many say, ” I couldn’t do without bread.” Or potatoes.  Or doughnuts — whatever.  This is the wrong way to go about a diet, and it’s the wrong way to go about living a chaste life.  Constantly thinking about what you can’t have is a way to make you miserable, and becoming obsessed with the forbidden is a nearly flawless way to give in to it.

Chastity is about the good of the individual and the community

Author Wendell Berry wrote that sex has a communal basis — that ultimately, it’s everyone’s business.  This idea is completely at odds with what our society believes is strictly personal.  But look at it this way: God gave human beings sex to be a picture of the love He has for His bride, the church.  God is revealed in scripture as a totally faithful — and jealous — lover.

In its proper place, sex is the deepest, most exclusive kind of knowing and being known.  If marriage and the family are the cornerstones of civilization, marital and sexual fidelity are the mortar that holds them together.

You unmarried guys need to see us older married guys living right so you know it is possible.  And we older married guys need to see you young single men living right so we aren’t led astray.  Let’s encourage and set a Godly example for each other.

Choosing to be a leader and to live a chaste life honors God and helps you to avoid one of the classic blunders.  More on this later.

So how about you?  What are you doing to help you live a chaste life?  Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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