By Debi Russell
Recently during a counseling session a client asked me a question about sexual purity. It was a good question and I was happy to talk through her thoughts and concerns. But before we got to the practical answer I asked her a question:
Do you think it’s a good rule to not allow children to run into roads to chase balls? Or what about not allowing four-year-olds to watch horror movies?
Of course she said, "Yes," those were good rules. Then I asked her what the heart behind the rules was. As we talked about safety, both physical and emotional, I explained that often when people ask about sexual purity they are trying to get the specifics of a rule with no understanding of the heart behind it, which ends up making God’s standards seem arbitrary and burdensome. We had a great conversation about God’s design for sexual intimacy to be connected to a covenant relationship much like our soul intimacy is connected to a covenant with Him. How he wants to keep us emotionally safe in our intimate relationships and the heart behind limiting our sexual experiences to the boundary of marriage is for our good, much like many rules we give our children that limit their freedom or expression.
I grew up in the church. I knew God loved me and I knew He was wise and powerful, but I often thought He seemed arbitrary. As though the Bible was full of rules that made no sense and were simply there to test my loyalty to Him or prove I needed a Savior. And while God’s law certainly does expose my weakness and fickleness of heart when I continue to struggle and fail to keep it, God’s purpose in each rule or limitation is love. As our creator and good Father, God gives us commands and limits to both protect our hearts and minds, and also to protect the design he ordered us to operate from.
If I had the skill and genius to design and produce an awesome car or camera or piece of medical equipment, I as the creator, would be the expert on both how to care for the invention (wash it with a specific soap, don’t let it get too hot, etc) as well as how to use it so it doesn’t break and is most effective (drive it at this speed, make it from a certain metal or alloy, etc). God’s rules are never arbitrary even if they sometimes seem that way because we haven’t understood the bigger heart of protection or care He is operating from.
This is why remembering the gospel is so important—we can trust God’s heart of love toward us when we see His plan for redemption. In Jesus dying on the cross we see the depth of God’s love and how it motivates Him to act for our good at great cost to Himself. We also see the wisdom of His plan unfold in a way none of his followers understood in that moment—it looked like a pointless death, until he resurrected! In looking back at the cross and resurrection we see God is trustworthy and good.
Romans 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” In other words, if he allowed his son to die, how can we doubt his desire to give us anything else good we need? As we read the Bible and we learn rules or standards God has set for us, let’s filter them through the lens of love shown at the cross. And ask the question “What is the bigger heart behind this law?”