We all know that we have free will – we can choose to do whatever we want with our lives. It’s completely up to us how we spend our time, money, and affection. But simply having free will doesn’t mean we have real freedom. When we use our free will to make poor choices, decisions contrary to God’s plan for our lives, we often are left with devastating consequences that trap us – Jesus would even say that they enslave us. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that by knowing him, they know the truth that would set them free. They get confused, and tell Jesus that they have always been free, but Jesus explains to them that anyone who sins becomes a slave of sin (John 8:31-38).
Slavery is not a term to be taken lightly – it means that a person has been denied his ability to make his own decisions. We are free to do whatever we want, that’s true. But we aren’t free from the consequences of our decisions. We get those consequences whether we choose them or not. And when we make bad decisions with our free will, our freedom is compromised.
St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). So many of us think that living a life of virtue means there’s a long list of things you can’t do – ‘thou shalt not,’ and all of that. While that may be partially true, there’s a longer list of things you CAN do. Living chastity means you don’t disrespect the gift of sexuality. That’s about the only ‘don’t’ we can come up with – and we’ve got a pretty long list of all the freedoms you gain when you choose to live chastely.
Chastity is God’s beautiful design for our sexuality, because it’s about living a life of respect – for yourself, your family, your friends, and people you date. If you choose chastity, you will experience the freedom Jesus was referring to in the Bible because you choose to live in the truth of God’s plan for love, sex, dating, and relationships. There's nothing restrictive about that. A life of chastity is fun, healthy, and truly free, because chastity gives you the freedom to:
1. Dump “Losers”
Yeah, we know that nobody is really a “loser” in God’s eyes, and that God loves us all unconditionally – but let’s be honest: many good people end up in relationships that are very unhealthy and even dysfunctional. When two people have sex, a bond is created that is meant to be unbroken in order to strengthen a marriage. That bond is created whether a couple is married or not – so it becomes much more difficult to leave a relationship once sex becomes a part of it, even if that relationship is unhealthy. Dating, especially in high school or college, is about learning what kind of person would make a good marriage partner for you. If someone isn’t working out, for any reason, you should be able to leave any relationship. Chastity protects your freedom to walk away from a relationship that isn’t right for you without the emotional pain of breaking a sexual bond.
2. Date Without Physical Fears or Expectations
Do you enjoy dates where your mind is constantly preoccupied with worries about what’s going to happen at the end of the night? How far will he/she want to go? Will we go all the way tonight, next week, or next month? Chastity gives you the freedom to date without the awkwardness of physical demands. When a couple chooses the virtue of chastity, they have the freedom to relax and be themselves around one another without worrying about what the other is expecting of them, physically.
3. Avoid all STDs and the Possibility of Pregnancy
Check. And double check.
4. Know You are Truly Loved as a Person
Often, couples that engage in sex outside of marriage are distracted by questions like, “Is he just staying with me because of the stuff we do together?” or “Does she actually like me, or would she be with anyone who would sleep with her?” When you choose the virtue of chastity, you know that when a person wants to date you, it’s because he/she wants to date you. Others like who you are, and they just want to know more about that. You have the freedom of knowing that you are worth more than just your body.
5. Give All of Yourself in Marriage
The reality is, most of the relationships in your life are going to end. Ideally, only one would last for the rest of your life – the one with the person you marry, right? And if you’re going to be with one person for the rest of your life, you’ll want that relationship to be the strongest, happiest, healthiest relationship it can be. Choosing chastity now brings a lot of freedom to your future marriage. You’ll have the freedom to be truly open with your spouse, giving them your entire self without shame. You’ll also be free from any physical baggage from previous relationships, including comparisons to others you’ve dated in the past. There might be some pleasure in physical relationships now, but that pleasure is ultimately empty and meaningless – and leaves us feeling lonelier than we were to begin with. Choosing chastity prepares you for total intimacy in marriage and protects your freedom to give your entire self to your spouse.
6. Truly Love Those You Date
True love wants what is best for the other person, even if that means sacrificing our own desire. If you truly love the person you are with, you would not want to put them at risk of any of the emotional, physical or spiritual consequences that could occur from sex outside of marriage. Is it loving to say to another, “I love you so much I want you to feel guilty about what we’re doing together now,” or “I really love you, so I want these memories of us together to follow you into your future relationships,” or, “Because I love you, I’m really glad that our relationship is making you doubt whether I care more about you or having sex”? These consequences can be devastatingly painful and may not surface for years. But there is real freedom in looking at the people you date and saying, “I actually care about you, and want what is best for you – so if you’re just looking for the physical, you’re not going to get it through me.”
7. Experience True Respect
Respect in relationships means giving someone the honor they deserve. By choosing chastity, you not only show your respect your partner’s well-being and their body, but you also show the respect you have for yourself. You know who you are and what you believe in, and you know it throughout your entire life, because your worth comes from your relationship with God – not from whether or not you’re dating someone. It’s also a big confidence boost to be able to stand up for yourself and defend your beliefs. When you know how to respect yourself, others will respect you too, and when you give respect to others (family, friends, dating relationships), respect is given back to you.
Sex is an incredible gift from God – designed for marriage, made to unite a husband and wife and create a bond that strengthens their relationship to last through whatever life throws at them. We live in the same world you do, and we’ve heard all the same messages you have – that no one saves sex for marriage, that the Church is just trying to ruin your fun, that chastity is for people who can’t get a date anyway, and that sex is no big deal… but those are all lies. The Church isn’t out to ruin your fun. She’s trying to protect your heart and soul, and bring you real, lasting joy in all of your relationships, not regret. We also know a lot of people who have chosen the virtue of chastity because they want the freedoms that it brings – and they go on plenty of dates. And sex is a big deal. Sex is sacred. And so are you, and the people you will date throughout your life. Respect all of these now and you will not regret it.
Living the virtue of chastity brings you a lifetime of real freedom. And it was for freedom Christ set us free, after all. It’s His gift, for you. You are called to live in that freedom (John 8:36, Gal.5:13) – but it’s completely up to you.
Copyright ©2013 The REAP Team
Tijuana L. Canders is the Author of, ~You are loved In Christ: Unity Amongst Christians and can be reached @TijuanaLCanders.com or on Twitter @TijuanaLCanders or @YALIC_UNITY.