I was going to use the above verse to talk about how we ought, as young men, to treat our sisters in Christ. But when I began to examine it for my discussion, I noticed something that I had never before noticed, and which at first sight renders it unusable for my purpose (and for the purpose that most people quote it for).
Most of the time you hear the last bit quoted all by itself (not good practice). So we forget what we are supposed to be doing with the younger women in all purity. I always assumed it was everything, until I looked at the whole verse (Yes, I know, bad Jay for forgetting to read the whole verse until now).
The context is that of rebuke. We are not supposed to rebuke those we are not in authority over, but rather entreat them in various ways depending on who they are. Treat them all as family: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters…
But wait: there it is again. The other three types of people are just given a role to model your entreaty after, but the younger women get an extra instruction: “with all purity.”
Now, this is talking to Timothy, not to, say, some girl named Deborah or Ruth (or whatever), so I would assume that the reciprocal is also true: young women are to entreat young men as brothers in all purity. I see no reason to not assume that, so this would apply to both genders.
Now think about it: if we are to treat them with purity when we are entreating them to change their ways to conform more closely to the Bible, then how much more ought we to treat them with purity in every other form of interaction with them (or in our communications about them)? Truly, when you are entreating someone to change their ways, there are many pitfalls into which one can easily fall and hurt both you and the other person, and so this injunction is well placed. But I see it as also setting a standard which applies across the board in our interactions with our peers (age-wise) of the opposite sex.
So what does it mean to treat them as a sister (or brother) in all purity?
The word ‘purity’ there is hagneia, meaning the quality of cleanliness, especially chastity. It comes from hagnos, which means innocent, modest, perfect. So let us take the two key words here and turn to Webster’s 1828 (with unrelated definitions removed for the sake of brevity):
1. Pure from all unlawful commerce of sexes. Applied to persons before marriage, it signifies pure from all sexual commerce, undefiled; applied to married persons, true to the marriage bed.
2. Free from obscenity.
While they behold your chaste conversation. 1 Pet 3.
3. In language, pure; genuine; uncorrupt; free from barbarous words and phrases, and from quaint, affected, extravagant expressions.
2. Cleanness; freedom from foulness or dirt; as the purity of a garment.
The purity of a linen vesture.
3. Freedom from guilt or the defilement of sin; innocence; as purity of heart or life.
4. Chastity; freedom from contamination by illicit sexual connection.
5. Freedom from any sinister or improper views; as the purity of motives or designs.
So we have here an absence of any sinful motive or action, and especially absence of any sexual connections.
These are pretty obvious, but in practice they can get pretty elusive. Both genders immediately start foaming at the mouth with questions about this situation and that situation, can I do this, or is that too far, etc. It makes your head spin.
But there are several things that are very simple that we can derive from this passage and these definitions, and then use those as principles to apply to our ‘sticky situations.’
One – We ought to treat people of the opposite gender differently.
That should be obvious to all of you. If it isn’t, and this comes as a shock, go read those verses again, as well as the first few chapters of Genesis, and if you still don’t get it, come talk to me.
How are we to treat them differently?
Therein lies the rub. The answer to this question used to be almost as obvious as the fact that girls and boys are different. But culture has blurred the lines so much, and the church has followed suit so ably, that everyone is very confused. It is very hard now to find a mentor who is able to tell you the right answers to your situations. But they are worth finding, and worth the effort. So my answer here is mainly: Go get a good mentor. Other than that, just hold on and be patient– I might drum up some advice for you before this article is over. 🙂
Two – We ought to be unselfish in our interactions with people of the opposite gender.
Again, this should come as no surprise (all these principles really ought not to surprise any of you actually). But again what this means in practical life becomes blurred because of our worldly culture. A lot of guys go and ‘unselfishly’ lay their heart at a girl’s feet (or vice versa) and then wonder later (after both their hearts get hurt or broken) why I say they were selfish (amendment: disgustingly selfish).
Three – We ought to be devoid of sexual… everything in our interactions with people of the opposite gender (or any gender 😛 ).
That includes our thoughts and our communications with others about people of the opposite gender (we already knew that too).
Now here is where I can start giving advice (I love giving advice… I wonder why?). 🙂
Nowadays, love is so mixed up that people cannot separate it from everything sexual. This is opposite to the Bible’s way of thinking. You are supposed to love your sisters and brothers very closely, without any tinge of the presence of any sort of sexual connotations. And everyone else too (one of these days I need to post a rant on homophobia…).
And here is where the title of this post comes in: White and Red Hearts.
This is how I separate these two kinds of love. Now, when you get married, you are commanded to have both hearts involved: red and white. Before you get married, you are commanded to have the white heart, the heart of purity, for everyone.
They are both hearts, but one is fired with sexual and possessive passion, the other only with unselfishness. When you can separate these two, life gets simpler… until things get confusing again. 🙂
What are your thoughts? Did that make sense? How do these two hearts look in real life?