Ephesians 4:17-24

“Yes, it’s true that true love waits and runs from Satan’s tempting bait. So, live in purity; in the Father’s time, you’ll see a reward will come your way. Yes, it’s true that true love waits!” If you sang that chorus from “Waiters” by Katie Hill, congrats! You probably did jazz hands as a purity pledge in the late 1990s. Or your kids or grandkids did. 

My youth choir performed this musical in six cities on a summer tour. Imagine showing up to the commons area of your KOA resort for entertainment and getting 40 pimply teenagers singing in four-part harmony about abstinence. With jazz hands.

At the time, I thought we were preaching about how God could renew our minds about sex. Since society treats sex so casually, we needed to be serious about purity. I had no concept of how traumatizing the message could be.

Paul says that sinful Gentiles who are deluded by [their] lusts (v. 22) have lost all sensitivity to God (v. 19). But Christians could be more sensitive too. Our appetite for rules can [darken our] understanding, alienat[ing us] from the life of God because of [our] ignorance and hardness of heart (v. 18).

It’s harmful for the only moral question about sex to be, “Were you married?” If “No,” then what? Even if “Yes,” questions may remain.

We need renewed thinking. Did you consent? Is the relationship reciprocal? Was there dignity? Did you protect yourself and your partner? Did you manage pregnancy risk in ways that reflect your willingness to parent? Do you have what you need to ensure ongoing health? How does this communion prepare you to be wholly present and unashamed next time?

Such questions imagine God’s healing, wholeness, and holiness on the other side of both “yes” and “no” answers.


When have you enforced a rule without empathy and a path to wholeness?


God, renew our thinking about sexual desire and help us do no harm. Amen. 

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