Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

“Emotional Purity”

I’ve been promising to write an article on “emotional purity.” I get asked about it every once in a while, and I also see this term on websites/blogs. There’s even a book with the same title as this blog post.

Sacred Cows=Cute, Not Helpful

So what I do I think? I think the “emotional purity” term is one of those of those “sacred cows”—something that sounds holy, but doesn’t have any scriptural support. It gets used and passed around by well-meaning Christians, but it doesn’t really help anyone to honor God matters of the heart.

Here’s why I would not advise you to emphasize this term in your life or ministry:



First and foremost, it’s just not in the Bible. I spend a lot of time talking about sexual purity. Why? Simple–it’s repeated several times in the Bible (Genesis 2:24; 1st Corinthians 6: 18-20; 1st Thessalonians, etc.). But I’ve yet to find clear biblical guidelines for “emotional purity.”

This type of terminology is also very confusing. Let’s talk again about sexual purity. There is a clear standard from God: we should avoid sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Yes, there is some room for discussion (and even disagreement) about what is acceptable before marriage in terms of physical intimacy. But at least we have a clear standard to guide us.

“Emotional purity,” on the other hand, does not have any such standard (since it isn’t in the Bible in the first place). Think about this scenario: a youth pastor stands in front of his students. “Sexual purity is not enough—you have to pursue emotional purity, too.” Sounds all holy, but all the students are left to wonder exactly what their youth pastor wants them to do (or not to do). Does having a crush make you guilty of “emotional impurity?” What about having a boyfriend/girlfriend—is that impure?

This kind of thinking ends up causing needless guilt and paranoia. We should, of course, be cautious in matters of the heart. But calling any kind of emotional attachment “impure” is just overkill. It adds guilt to those who may be going through a breakup—as if “giving your heart away” is something you can only do once. It might make singles afraid to risk initiating new relationships (and trust me—any relationship involves risks).

I take my role as a campus minister very seriously, and I want to encourage students to be holy in all aspects of life. But I don’t think God needs “extra help” from me to guide young people—there’s no need for me to add to His commandments. Let’s stick to clear biblical principles (be pure; be wise) and shoot the sacred cows.

6 Comments

  1. Having a crush is emotional impurity? Now, that’s funny.
    If having a bf/gf is emotional impurity (whatever that is, you’re right, it’s confusing), how would single people get married then?

  2. Can I ask a question kuya: what is emotional purity ba? Lost ako on what it means and how the people who asked you about it define it. Thanks!

  3. Rajsh, I have no idea what it is supposed to mean. That’s one of the problems.

  4. I think maybe this idea of “emotionally purity” has come from the term “emotional affair” and how often adulterous affairs begin with an “emotional affair” and getting too close to someone you shouldn’t on an emotional level, which can quickly slide into a physical relationship.

    It’s more important to give people the tools to do things right than just to tell them what not to do.

  5. You may be correct, Walk. I do think it’s important for married people to have emotional boundaries when dealing with the opposite sex.

  6. this is the first time i heard of this phrase. though it says in Proverbs to “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” from what i understand is, we can feel from our heart, God us those feelings and feelings are not sin. but i think the impt thing to be careful about is how you would react (your actions) to those feelings.
    Kuya Kevin, i found you from Problogger Blog Tips(i’m subscribed to their mails). I was surprised and proud and happy that a fellow Filipino was guested in their blog.
    good writings here!
    Heartifying!

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