What Is Chastity?

What Is Chastity?

Chastity is the form of love that fulfills the seventh commandment. On one hand, chaste people restrain, deny, and mortify the impure passions of their soul and the lustful impulses of indwelling sin. On the other hand, as Christ gave Himself for His people, chaste people give themselves fully, freely, and undividedly to the other. In worship, that is to God; in marriage, that is to their spouse; in other relationships, that is to their brother or sister or neighbor, according to what is proper to each relationship. 

In a recent music review, NPR’s Ann Powers gushed over a female artist’s decadent and unrestrained sensuality that apparently runs throughout her latest album. It is not surprising that the recent release was the opposite of chaste, or that Powers celebrated its “utopian eroticism” as a great virtue. Chastity, the virtue of self-control in things sexual and sensual, is supposedly a relic of a puritanical past.

But it’s not that simple, is it? Most of my neighbors still want and expect their spouses to be faithful. They teach their children, with varying degrees of success, not to become sexually active, view pornography, or use vulgar language. So maybe chastity is not as much a relic as pop culture and social media may suggest.

Then again, when was the last time you read a piece by a contemporary author commending the virtue of chastity, or even heard the word used in a positive, non-fetishized way? The loss of chastity—and of commending it as a common virtue—is more tragic than any of us probably realize. That much of the church seems to be silent is sobering too.

Chastity is an exquisitely beautiful form of love. It is love that is genuine, true, undivided in its devotion, and fulfills its vows (see Ps. 51:10Rom. 12:92 Cor. 11:2Phil. 1:10). Love that “issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). Paul writes that this type of love is, “the aim of our charge” and the mark of “sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:5, 10–11). It is Christlike love.

The virtue of chastity shines a spotlight on the purity of love. As God is pure, so also are His words, wisdom, and deeds (Pss. 12:6; 19:7–11Hab. 1:13James 3:17). Those who represent God in church office, therefore, are to faithfully embody the purity of His love. The evidence of a candidate’s purity of heart and mind is found, among other places, in his faithful and undivided devotion to his wife (1 Tim. 3:2, 12).

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