Many religions do not have a good track record when it comes to teaching the concept of purity. Often, they reduce it to matters of sexual behavior or identity, excluding the larger context that is necessary to keep these conversations focused on internal faith rather than external control. Purity culture has done much damage to the church's reputation, making it known as a place of judgment, misogyny, and rigidity rather than one of hope, peace, and love.
Because of this, addressing true spiritual purity can be a challenge for many faith communities. Is there a way to teach purity without descending into shame and oppression? How would such discipleship look?
A rich spiritual life is made possible by allowing God's grace to permeate every aspect of your being. God wants to give all people abundant life. This process inevitably includes healing the wounds that keep you from experiencing all that faith has to offer.
The pure heart turns toward God for this help rather than seeking it in the approval of others. As Audre Lorde states, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." Healing comes from God rather than from the world that oppresses and causes brokenness in the first place. There is purity in the singular focus on the one who brings wholeness.
Another aspect of purity concerns how you view other people. There are several questions you can ask yourself to determine if your attitude toward others is pure:
- Do you approach others with an agenda in mind?
- Do you tend to steer conversations toward your own areas of interest, or do you engage in active listening?
- Do you strive to see them as whole people or simply as those who can help you get what you want?
Any time you try to control someone else, even if it seems innocent, it is unlikely that you are truly acting in his or her best interest. By taking the time to check your motivation in your interactions with others, you can develop more open and trusting relationships. They are more likely to feel safe around you, knowing that you choose to spend time with them just to get to know them better rather than to mold them into who you think they should be. When you have a pure heart, you become a better friend and a more stable partner.
Perhaps one of the most alluring rewards of purity for people of faith is an intimate relationship with God. Many religious texts encourage followers to be focused on pursuing spiritual truth and, when they pray, to ask for holy things. They promise that seekers will find what they are looking for, especially if they maintain a solitary focus on the one thing they consider most worthy of pursuit.
Devotion to God and the work of the church is one of the signs of purity. It is not always an easy path to take, especially in a world where so many distractions are vying for believers' attention. While the effects of purity may sometimes be seen in outward behavior, its true nature resides in the heart. It takes both discipline and humility to maintain focus on a top priority.
In the sermon on the mount, the pure in heart are among those Jesus calls blessed. The end result of their purity is that they ultimately get exactly what they ask for. They get to see God. What higher goal could there be for people of faith?
To diminish purity by limiting it to following a rigid set of rules regarding sex and gender is to completely miss the mark. People of faith who understand and pursue true spiritual purity are transformed from the inside out.