I came of age as “purity culture” strengthened in America in the 1990s and early 2000s. I wore the purity ring, read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and committed to wait to have sex with my future husband until our wedding night (I don’t remember if I ever actually added my name to a piece of paper or if it was just in my heart).
Many people have been deeply hurt by aspects of purity culture, even turning away from God. While I hold on to the good—my purity ring was a special gift and I do think it is important to have boundaries in all areas of our lives—I also have come to realize one of the dangerous undercurrents I held on to for far too long: judgment. And pride.
Our section for this week in Rethinking Sexuality included chapters on the gospel and sexuality, understanding our brokenness, and redemptive hope. In chapter six, Dr. Slattery shared the story from Luke 7 when Jesus dined at Simon’s house and a woman anointed Jesus’ feet. We read in Luke 7:37-38 (NLT), “When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”
If I was in the room with Jesus and the others, I probably would have looked on in shock. This woman’s reputation preceded her. I would have thought, “At least I am not like her.” Judgment. Pride.
Dr. Slattery highlighted the others at this dinner party, and the three spiritual positions we might also find ourselves in. Perhaps we identify with this woman before she brought the perfume and crossed the threshold. Whatever has happened in our past weighs heavy. To even enter Jesus’ presence might feel impossible.
Or maybe, like me, you see yourself in Simon. He didn’t come right out and condemn the woman, but he certainly entertained judgment in his mind and heart. As Dr. Slattery wrote, Simon relished his “relative purity and wholeness” (p. 85).
Our judgment gets in the way of understanding and steals an opportunity to show compassion. Pride distracts us from our own brokenness, and we lose the chance to peel back layers to the longing or pain buried deep in others or in ourselves.
The woman who knelt behind Jesus and poured her heart right out with her perfume and tears knew the power of humility and adoration. I would have turned away in shame and fear, but she didn’t.
Dr. Slattery said, “Spiritual pride in Christian leadership may be the greatest barrier to sexual revival in our families, our churches, and our communities” (p. 84). I would also add, the spiritual pride in me. Pride that says I know all the answers or keeps me from seeking a connection with someone very different from me.
This was a longer section with a lot in these chapters! I’d love to know what stuck out to you. Is there a statement you are continuing to ponder? Something that made you furrow your brow or that you weren’t sure about? What stirs in your heart as you read the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet?
Here’s our schedule for the rest of the book:
September 21: Part 3 (Chapters 8-10)
September 28: Part 4 (Chapters 11-12)
In October we will be reading Jewel of the Nile by Tessa Afshar! Here’s a summary of the book: In this transformative tale of historical fiction, bestselling author Tessa Afshar brings to life the kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire, introducing readers to a fascinating world filled with gripping adventure, touching romance, and a host of lovable characters—including some they may recognize from the biblical book of Acts.