I have the greatest respect for Pastor Bob Russell. When he speaks, or writes, I pay attention. Following is a great reminder from Pastor Russell about the type of lives we should live with respect to the area of purity. The posting appeared as: Strive for Purity at: www.BobRussell.org. Challenging, yes. Impossible, no. And, I believe we can live pure lives without being prudes or killjoys. What do you think? Is it unreasonable to hope to attain this standard? RMF
Strive for Purity
By Bob Russell
The city of Ephesus was noted for its sensuality. It was the center of the worship of Artemis—the goddess of fertility. The temple featured prostitution and an “anything goes” mentality. The economy of Ephesus was largely dependent on the manufacture and sale of miniature statues of this love goddess. Archeologists report that the first advertisement ever discovered in ancient history was a promotion of a brothel in Ephesus.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that a significant section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus focused on raising their moral standards from promiscuity to purity. The Apostle insisted that Christians were to live holy lives even though their culture was very unholy. God doesn’t grade on a curve. His moral standards are very high, even for those living in Ephesus.
The first is in verse 3: “Not even a hint of sexual immorality.” Don’t hint at immorality by provocative dress, cunning flirtation, suggestive touch, or “cute” comments. Don’t hint by questionable associations or careless appearances. Christians are to be so distinctive that there is no justification for gossip, no insinuation, not even a whisper of sexual immorality.
Another phrase worth noting is in verse 4: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.” Many are bombarded with raunchy jokes, crude language, double entendres in the workplace every day. We soon get accustomed to it and before long we’re thinking it and participating in it.
But verse 4 says these are out of place for us. We should feel ill at ease when the conversation turns vulgar. We don’t have to act prudish or condemn people. It’s not our job to be the language police. A better reaction is to smile politely and change the subject.
Verse four suggests another alternative: “Nor should there be…foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather, thanksgiving.” Sometimes you can alter the course of the conversation with gratitude. If someone asks, “Have you ever seen Larry the Cable Guy on the comedy channel? He gets crude, but he is so funny!” If you say, “I’m thankful for ESPN®—he gets so gross I need an alternative,” you send a subtle notice that you’d prefer the conversation not spiral downward.
There’s another phrase in verse seven that emphasizes God’s high standard: “Therefore do not be partners with them.” Don’t log onto their forums and get into dialogues that are unhealthy. Don’t buy the products of companies who sponsor programs that consistently undermine traditional values. Don’t underwrite Hollywood’s immoral activity by attending their films. When you buy a movie ticket you are writing a check to the producers and partnering with them in the financing of similar films in the future.
One other phrase that raises the standard for us is: “Don’t even mention what the unbelievers do in secret.” This does not mean we should be naïve or puritanical, but he is saying that we don’t need to give lurid, unnecessary details. You don’t have to show a pornographic video to convince people that it’s wrong. Too much detail embarrasses believers and appeals to prurient interests.
We can use Bible definitions and know we are being appropriate. For example, the Bible says Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful. So we don’t have to pretend we don’t notice beauty, but we don’t have to use graphic or gutter terms either.
Consider the way the Bible describes David’s affair with Bathsheba. Second Samuel 11:4 reads, “Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her…Then she went back home.” Hollywood could take a lesson from the discretion practiced in the Bible. We can too.
God’s standards are high—no hint of immorality, no coarse joking, no partnering with the immoral, no details about what goes on in depraved settings. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).