Canadian Pastor Tim Challies believes that’s God’s will is for us to be sexually pure before, in, and after marriage believes Evangelicals are obsessed with virginity and that some well-intentioned conference speakers can make those who have fallen feel worthless or ashamed. One example that Challies cites is telling:

This Evangelical obsession with virginity manifests itself in youth conferences where a flower is passed around a room, going from hand to hand, until the speaker can hold it up, all bent and twisted, and ask with a knowing grin, “Who would want a rose like this?” The teens look and say, “I would never want a rose like that.” But then there are the few who silently look away and weep because they are that rose. They learn they have been spoiled, that their beauty has been given away. (As Matt Chandler reminds us, Jesus wants the rose!)

Indeed Jesus does want that rose. He came and died for all of our sins and youth conferences make a mistake if they fail to emphasize that message. I was blessed to be a volunteer at this year’s O2 experience event in Boise which dealt with issues of sexual purity and the risks of sexual promiscuity. Let me assure you: no one was passing around a flower. The first half of the evening’s event was about a powerful presentation of the Gospel of Christ and then focus on sexual purity from this day forward as God’s best for our lives.

Certainly, people shouldn’t be made to feel like “second-class citizens of the kingdom.”  And yes, the focus on one aspect of moral character that can be gone in a moment can lead to all kinds of distortions. That said, I can’t help but think Challies is making the equal and opposite error.  Indeed, the degree to which Challies alleges that Evangelicals are “virginity obsessesed” seems to be either localized or overblown.

We live in a world where the attitude towards premarital sex is that it’s no big deal. According to Gallup, 58% of Americans say that premarital sex is morally acceptable including 28% of weekly church attenders. The message is everywhere. And even if we believe that it’s sin, there’s often a temptation to conclude in the church that it’s no big deal as well.

But what does the Bible say about this? The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sina person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (ESV).  This is serious.

It’s very easy to develop an attitude that sin is no big deal in our own lives and in the lives of those we know and whose approval we seek. Yet, the Bible tells us that sin has a serious consequence. We already take too many sins too lightly in our modern world when they ruin our lives and the lives of others. Is there a great reason we should add fornication to this list.

A healthy approach to sin is to understand the nature of our sin: it’s not light or no big deal. It’s something for which Christ had to die. As long as we think that all of our sins were no big deal, we’ll never know the heights and the depths of what Christ came to save us from.

At the same time, we should be aware that our past shouldn’t condemn us because in Christ, we are new creatures. Whatever sins we committed yesterday, we can go on in Faith and hope knowing that “his mercies are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3;22)

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