13.6.06

Aiming for purity - Jesus Army Life, Day 322

I've been thinking about purity lately. What exactly is it? The question was prompted when I was challenging one of the younger sisters, an unashamedly flirtatious teenager, to consider purity. Her response was: "What is purity?"

I scrabbled together an answer, but to be honest I was a bit flummoxed. It's not that I don't know what purity is, it's... it's, well it's sort of being clean isn't it? The real problem is that there's not a lot you can relate purity to in this modern age. You can define it by what it is not: it's about preferring to keep your inner life clean rather than let it be ruined by the filfth of the world. But that's a bit vague and, being honest, it sounds a somewhat boring - keeping yourself clean and tidy has never been my idea of fun.

A quick search on the internet doesn't help much either - lots of reference to sex, which is certainly part of the picture but it's not the whole story.

I suppose you could define purity as a utility. Something useful to help you progress with your spiritual life (thoughts of being smelted in a furnace spring to mind), but I always thought of purity as an ideal in itself. Are we losing our sense of virtue and of what is praiseworthy in our society today?

"What is purity?"


The most I can figure out is that purity is something precious. It speaks of peace in the soul, it undergirds our sense of commitment to higher values. It's about not being willing to compromise your heart for something that will waste it. And it is a doorway into the spiritual life... "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5) Purity is akin to integrity I suppose, but where integrity requires you to keep to the truth you already hold dear, purity appeals to your character, it calls you to go for something transcendent. There is seemingly no end to the virtue of purity and that is why it seems so unrealistic in today's "please yourself" social order.

Aiming for purity is best done by degrees: watching what words you say, dealing with the thoughts you think, acquiring a sense of what is right in your heart, holding onto the good, treasuring your valued friends, remembering the most precious moments, submitting your actions to God. Thoughts of purity allied with strength inspires my imagination: immediately I'm in a world of noble warriors and proud queens, dignified friendship and hopeful youth. It's not the world I grew up in, it's not a place I or that teenager know now, but it's a dream that hopefully won't vanish too quickly.