Does true love wait?
If you went to any sort of evangelical church event as a teenager in the recent past, chances are you heard something about True Love Waits. Maybe you signed the card.
Or maybe you even had a nice ring.
I think both these things are good. Abstinence education is awesome because some kids aren’t even aware abstinence is an option. I have had a purity ring my dad gave me since I was eleven, and I’m pretty sure I signed a card at some point.
But how many people who sign the card – more than 2.4 million teenagers since 1993, according to the True Love Waits people – actually wait?
About 12%, according to one study.
I’m not kidding. Researchers from Yale and Columbia surveyed 12,000 people who had signed a purity pledge, and 88% of them said they had sex before they got married anyway.
I had no idea the number was that high. I knew just signing a card didn’t guarantee anything because of people I know personally, but I had no idea it was that ineffective.
I have a purity ring and have never even kissed a guy, but I’m definitely in the minority. Part of the reason is definitely because my parents talked to me about it and were involved in my life. But to be honest, if I really wanted to break my purity pledge, just looking at a ring on my finger isn’t going to stop me. And vaguely remembering a card I signed at church camp along with every other person there isn’t going to stop me, either.
Why do so many people fail? Why are so many Christians apparently breaking one of the huge no-nos in the church? And why do we insist on making people sign a card and point to it as something awesome when it obviously isn’t working?
Yes, it has a lot to do with encouraging relationships with parents and adults, but I think the main reason is we don’t understand how the gospel affects all areas of sin, not just sexual sin. Sexual sin is a big deal to God – just read any of Paul’s letters – because it hurts us and others so much. But we shouldn’t have sex before we get married just because it can hurt us or others or because we want to do the right thing. If our hearts have been changed by Christ and we’ve become a new person, then we leave old ways behind and out of gratitude to Christ for what he’s done for us, we don’t ever go back.
I think if we put more emphasis on how Christ changes hearts than on signing cards and wearing rings, something might happen. We might be able to separate those whose hearts are actually changed by the gospel from those who just want to have an nice piece of jewelry or follow their friends to sign a card.
Sure, we can keep the cards and rings. But maybe that should be an add-on to the message of the gospel, not the message itself.
I’m grateful for parents who encouraged purity with a ring, but I’m more grateful to Christ for changing my heart and for protecting me from bad relationships throughout my life, sometimes despite what I wanted.