Becoming chaste women of God has two sides: a turning to and a turning away from. We turn our faces, our lives, our focus toward the face of God, and we turn our backs to the ways, the attractions, and the distractions of this world. Being holy as God is holy commands every aspect of our lives—the words that come out of our mouths, the attitudes of our hearts, the thoughts and meditations of our minds, the way we conduct ourselves at home and when we're out and about, and even the way we dress.
Andy Stanley, in a conference on purity, expresses the 7th commandment in this way: "Sex is for married people." He then asks us to consider what the world would be like if everyone in the whole world agreed with and obeyed this command from God. Think of all the evils and sadness, the brokenness, heartache, disease, poverty, and death that would be done away with if everyone in the world followed that one command! It would come close to heaven on earth—which is exactly what God desires for our world and how Jesus taught us to pray: "Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." We need to remember this—especially nowadays. God has given this command for our protection and blessing.
In I Corinthians 7:1, Paul writes, "Now concerning the things of which you wrote me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." Given the answer Paul gave, what do you think the question was that the Corinthians wrote to Paul about? Especially given the context of the previous chapter where Paul exhorts the Corinthians to "flee sexual immorality" for our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, I think the Corinthians were asking the same questions believers often ask today: If we're single and like each other, how far can we go (sexually)? What's OK and what's not OK? Paul's answer is actually wonderfully clear and freeing—an unambiguous guideline.
In English, Paul's answer, "It's good for a man not to touch a woman" would seem to contradict the endings of some of his letters where he says to greet one another with a holy kiss. Many cultures today still have this practice and we have something similar in our own American culture. I had one young woman ask me, "So does this mean we shouldn't ever give a hello/good-bye hug to a guy? Good question. I went home and did some more research. The Greek word for touch is made from two Greek roots that mean "to touch" and "to light a fire." So I believe Paul is saying, "Don't touch in such a way as to light a fire." Lighting fires is for the confines and boundaries of marriage. That is a wonderfully clear principle, isn't it? If we're honest with ourselves, we all know where that boundary line is. God doesn't have to give us an external rule for that.
When we step outside that God-given parameter and "light fires" outside the bounds of marriage, we set ourselves up for troubles we don't even realize. Our thinking becomes clouded because our emotions follow "the fire." Our respect levels go down because, as women, our sense of being protected goes down. This may not manifest itself before marriage since the emotions are so elevated, but it often asserts itself after marriage when the emotions are no longer clouded with such intense desire.
Sexual involvement outside of marriage—even if it's not full-blown fornication—causes internal conflict in more ways than one. God designed the "lighting of a fire" for a reason; it is to lead to its culmination. That is a wonderful and fulfilling pleasure within the marriage covenant. To start a fire and have to try to stomp it out before it's too late is not only difficult, but also illogical and improbable. Research has proven that once a fire has been lit, our resolves and commitments often fly out the window. We greatly underestimate the strength of that desire once a fire has been lit. The intensity of desire is a good thing; God made it so for our own enjoyment—but only within marriage. "Sex is for married people." It's an exclusive privilege of relationship that requires a lifelong covenantal commitment for the fire to be safe and not burn us or destroy us.
Sometimes the way we dress can arouse or "light a fire." We must be careful not to do this except within the private boundaries of marriage. I know that there have been many articles written on both sides about this issue, some saying that this is not the woman's responsibility but the man's—that the men just need to keep their eyes and minds in the right place. And that is true. They are responsible for themselves. However, it is also true that we can make others stumble, and we know that some clothing is designed toward that end. (Otherwise the Bible wouldn't talk about "the attire of a harlot" etc. if all clothing were neutral.) Some clothing is more provocative than others. As chaste women, we must take our share of responsibility in this area. Just because certain clothing has become culturally acceptable doesn't make it neutral or OK for a woman identified with Christ. Chastity, whether married or unmarried, requires modesty.
Becoming chaste women is a high and lovely calling. It necessitates conviction—that this is indeed what God has called us to—followed by commitment to walk in obedience to this calling. We are to be holy and set apart from the world and to God, free from carnality. We are to be pure and clear, not muddied with internal turmoil or external hypocrisies. We are to have integrity, the clarity of an honest life in which all the components of our lives line up with the confession of our mouths, that Jesus Christ is our Lord. We are to be sexually pure in thought, word, action, and dress, not flirtatious, not ostentatious, and not sensual. These are the things we are to be known for. It should show in our demeanor, our actions and attitudes, and in our dress. May God give us His vision for the holy beauty of chastity.