The Bible is important. The Bible is a crucial component to practicing Christianity. In fact, I think the Bible is such a critical element of faith that I’m capitalizing the word “Bible” in this post to make sure you know that I have the highest regard for it.
But the Bible is not magic.
I know you know that, but honestly, the way I hear some people talk about the Bible, I start to wonder if they subconsciously think of the Bible as a book of spells and incantations for summoning wealth, happiness, the perfect mate, obedient children, sexual purity, strong, healthy teeth, and a spot at the beach.
So, the topic at hand: does memorizing Bible verses actually help my sexual purity? I want to answer this question with three questions of my own.
1. What do you think the Bible is for?
The Bible is everywhere and has become a lens through which many of us see the world. But what is the point of it? Why does the Bible exist? Better writers than I have deconstructed this idea and this is a topic that can fill eight floors of a museum (full disclosure: I’ve helped develop some of the content for that museum—it’s gonna be cool), but seriously: what do you think the Bible is for?
I’ll admit it: it’s a loaded question. I have an idea myself, which, since I’m the one writing this, I will tell you: for Christians, the Bible is here to point us to Jesus. It’s to reveal the gospel to us in never-ending ways.
The Bible is not a rulebook that teaches us how to live; it’s a map that shows us the way to discipleship through emulating the resurrected Christ.
You can fire up Google Earth and take a virtual tour of Paris, if you want, but you can’t then start telling people what Paris is like. You can memorize all the images and the layout of the city and build a decent map of Paris in your head – but that’s all you’ll have. You won’t have the actual experience of walking in the city. It would greatly enhance your time in the city, though!
Knowing the Bible is not the same thing as knowing Jesus. The Bible enriches your relationship with Jesus by revealing Him to you in new and fresh ways, but don’t mistake it as a substitute for that relationship.
2. What’s the point of individual scriptures?
When you’re memorizing scriptures to help your sexual purity, what are you hoping for? Are you hoping for a convenient reminder of who you really are and who your God is? Or are you hoping for some sort of talisman that will ward off temptation?
I know what your answer is, but seriously: think about this. In the deepest parts of you, what are you hoping scripture memorization does for you?
This is a question that only you can answer, so I’ll leave you to think on it for as long as it takes. But if your answer is so that all that scripture memorization can help you navigate the course of your discipleship, then yes, it can help you in your goals of purity.
But if you’re wearing those verses around your neck like a string of garlic to keep away the vampires of lust, then you have a low view of scripture that I would suggest you re-think. You’re setting yourself up for a letdown, and you aren’t practicing Christianity; you’re practicing something else entirely.
3. Hey, by the way, should “purity” even be your goal anyway?
If your only goal is “purity,” then your sights are set far too low. Are you really just hoping to make it through life unscathed? I don’t think that’s the good news of the gospel!
The life of faith is not a life of purity or perfection: it’s a life of consistent, life-changing discipleship.
It’s a complete surrender to Jesus so that you can help bring about the kingdom of God into this world. Does that involve making healthy choices for yourself and your sexuality? Of course!
But purity is not the point of life. Slow, incremental transformation is.
That involves digging into scripture, sure, but it also involves being shaped by a community of fellow believers, it involves devoted practices like baptism and communion, it involves teaching and exhortation, it involves serving others… the list goes on.
Yes, memorizing scripture can help you stay pure. But then you’re just living in your head. Get out of your head, get over yourself, and think bigger.
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