How to Encourage Chastity 

How to Encourage Chastity Dr. Dan Reilly
Because I have “an interest in
chastity promotion” the editor of
FOCUS asked me to write on “how…
following Christ’s plan for sexual expression
lead[s] to better health outcomes”. In my
experience such as request usually leads to an
article about how God’s rules dictate that sex
is only permissible
within marriage
and how breaking
that rule harms
the rule breaker
and society at
large. Some
articles get closer
to the whole truth
by expanding the
discussion to the
virtue of chastity
and the value
of purity. These
discussions of
sexuality promise
a happier sex life
and avoidance of
heartbreak and
disease if you will
just learn enough
self-control to
not break God’s
rules. There are
enough of those
articles around. I
will assume that
you believe that
following God’s
will is what is best
and spend my words exploring what that best
is and how we pursue it and call others to do
the same.
It is certainly true that promiscuity
exposes one to disease, both physical and
psychological. We who work in health
care see that often. Physical intimacy was
designed to bind two people together. When
you are bound together with someone, you
are connected with all previous persons
who have shared union with that person.
Pathogens have evolved to take advantage
of that connection. Tearing apart what
God has joined together wounds the mind
and the soul. The
psychological
consequences can
last a lifetime.
Despite the
obvious harm,
promiscuity is
popular. Even with
a relative stranger,
physical intimacy
can feel good and
satisfy biological
needs. If you have
never seen chastity
bringing joy and
satisfaction then
promiscuity will be
the only option that
is available to you
if you choose to be
physically intimate
with another. Your
project then is to
reduce the harm
from promiscuity.
Avoid or cure the
diseases and ignore
or minimize the
psychological
harms. As
If you have never seen chastity bringing joy and satisfaction then promiscuity will be the only
option that is available to you if you choose to be physically intimate with another.
Issue 2 | August 2013 FOCUS 25
Christians we should be pursuing chastity
not because we can’t make promiscuity safe.
Because chastity is God’s plan for sexuality,
it is superior to even safe promiscuity (if
such a thing were possible).
The first three chapters of Genesis
explain God’s plan for sexual union and
how we wreck that plan. The desire for
relationship isn’t the problem. It is not
good to be alone. Even when there was no
sin in the world, aloneness meant the world
was not as it should be. God’s design to end
aloneness was creating humans as male and
female. Female was created from male’s side.
The two were designed to remain side by
side in selfless joy of the other and mutual
support. Together they would continue
in relationship with God. It all falls apart
when we aspire to be a god. Disobedience
replaces this wonderful state of union with
a selfish desire to rule the other.
Sin moves us away from
God’s design and causes us
to see other persons as a
means to satisfy some need
or want of ours.
God created us male and female. God
designed us for relationship. Each person
we encounter is to be a neighbor we love as
Christ loves. If we marry, then one person
will be a neighbor we love in a unique and
deep manner. Sin moves us away from God’s
design and causes us to see other persons
as a means to satisfy some need or want of
ours. Our fallen nature sees our neighbor as
someone to rule over for our selfish ends.
Chastity is just one aspect of loving my
neighbor and pursuing the best for her.
Genesis teaches me that God designed
sexual union to physically, emotionally, and
spiritually bind one neighbor to another.
Christ warns that no one should pull apart
what God has joined together. Genesis also
shows me that my fallen nature will desire to
rule over her for my selfish gain. This is what
I must understand and be able to explain if
chastity is to make any sense to the world.
26 FOCUS Jesus Christ The Great Physician
Explaining is just step one in the task
of chastity promotion. Explaining without
demonstrating is of limited utility. It is very
hard for anyone to pursue a path they have
never seen anyone else walk. My maternal
grandparents were married nearly 70 years
when they died within a few months of
each other. When I talk to youth about
sexuality and mention my grandparents’
long life together they find the story nearly
inconceivable. As long as the story remains
inconceivable my calls for them to pursue
chastity will have little impact.
We must be transparently living
chaste lives and showing the world
that our lives are joyful as a result. But
even for Christians, chastity is a virtue
that is difficult to nurture if it is being
pursued only for its own sake. As Dietrich
Bonhoeffer observed “the essence of
chastity is not the suppression of lust, but
the total orientation of one’s life towards
a goal”. [Letters and Papers from Prison]
I do not pursue chastity for its own sake.
Chastity is the only option as I pursue
loving each person as Christ loves her. If
we see every person as a priceless creation
worth dying for then not being chaste
towards him or her is repulsive.
Greg Paul in his book, Close Enough
to Hear God Breathe, relates that when he
began street ministry in downtown Toronto
the greatest danger he faced “came from
within.” He became aware that high-end
prostitutes worked in the areas he did
ministry. Dark thoughts invaded his mind
about how “I could do whatever I wanted
with these women, and no one would ever
know.” He was confronting the temptation
to pursue sexuality in a way that was
the opposite of what God intended, the
“antithesis of everything a sexual relationship
is supposed to be.” In the short term the
solution to avoiding this temptation was “no
more walking those streets, at that time of
night, alone.”
Accompanied by other outreach partners,
Greg Paul got to know some of the women.
“Now that I knew their names, they were no
longer icons of my sordid desires, but human
beings. Friends. I could no longer think of
them in the same ugly mode. That sickening
voice still spoke up occasionally, but now its
insinuations just seemed ludicrous.”
Whether you are married or not, do
you see every member of the opposite sex
as a person to be selflessly loved following
Christ’s example? The world will resist
your efforts. Every day we are confronted
with people inviting us to treat them as an
object for our enjoyment. Pornography and
prostitution are blatant examples but even
advertisements offer to exchange pleasurable
objectification of men and women for a few
moments of our attention. Are you chaste
even in your consumption of media?
We are most effective witnesses for the
truth of God when that truth has become
part of our being and our lives have become
shining examples of the joy that truth brings.
Focusing on how promiscuity brings disease
is a poor technique for promoting chastity.
Talking about how obeying rules about
physical intimacy can bring health benefits is
marginally more effective. Modeling chastity
as part of a joyous Christian life is the most
effective means of attracting the world’s
attention to this virtue.
We must be transparently
living chaste lives and
showing the world that our
lives are joyful as a result.
If you are married, are you pursuing
God’s design for sexuality and putting that
pursuit on public display? If your answer is
just that you haven’t committed adultery,
then you have missed the point. God’s design
was for you to be a helper for your spouse
and together, for you to reflect His image to
the world. Are your interactions with your
spouse, and your thoughts about him or
her, lovingly helping that closest neighbor
become who God wishes him or her to be?
As you pursue relationship with your spouse
is your primary goal that he or she will
achieve the goals God has given him or her?
Or is marriage about what it does for you?
The world is watching; your actions either
We are most effective
witnesses for the truth of
God when that truth has
become part of our being and
our lives have become shining
examples of the joy that
truth brings.
promote God’s design for union or the lie
that such a union is a hopeless fantasy.
If you are not married, are you pursuing
God’s design for sexuality? If your answer
is just about not having sex, then you have
missed the point. Your sexuality is a healthy
part of who you are and a source of energy
and insight that you can apply to work in
God’s kingdom in ways not open to married
Christians. The world is watching and your
actions either promote chastity as a road to joy
or the lie that chastity is impossible or misery.
Let us each examine our own lives and
relationships and work towards seeing others
as Christ sees them. Anything other than
chastity becomes repulsive when we have
such a view of others. The human flourishing
that can occur in a community of those
loving like Christ is the most powerful
witness we can unleash in the world.
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Dr. Dan Reilly practices and teaches ob/gyn in
small town Ontario and teaches ethics at McMaster
University. Dan is the Past President of the CMDS
National Board, and provides leadership on many
levels, including the annual Student Leadership
Conference and the Eastern Student Retreat.
Issue 2 | August 2013 FOCUS 27