Imagine that Mary was an orphaned young lady, born in a third world country, lived in a small town and had late parents who attended the biggest Church in the neighborhood, and going to that Church was probably the best Legacy her parents left her.
She was a pretty, hardworking young lady who most men wanted but was already engaged to a calm carpenter who lived miles away. Keep this thought and let your mind travel back in time to Mary, the Nazarene who got pregnant with the Holy Ghost Pregnancy.
Nazareth was and is still a traditional community, and like most cultures back in the day, it was a shameful thing for an unmarried lady to be pregnant out of wedlock. She probably might have been thrown into isolation, forced into exile, or even stoned to death. Joseph was not required to be with her, but he chose to be. Her explanation, of course, made no sense to him, but the Lord opened his eyes and prepared him mentally for the Journey of Fatherhood. It definitely could not have been an easy task, but he chose to trust God with her. The man decided to be her friend on the Journey, even though he had earlier thought of quietly letting her go. Nazareth was a small village, getting himself another virgin could not have been daunting, but he chose to let God lead.
What is the difference between Virginity and Sexual Purity? Mary is the perfect answer to that question, and I will tell you how.
A lot of virgins are not even sexually pure. Now, I have your attention. Remember Matthew 5:27-28, where the scripture says, “…..anyone who looks at a woman (or man) lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart”; that statement is proof that virginity was not the Qualifier for Mary. She had an altruistic relationship with God- the scriptures even described her as the one who had found favor with God. She knew that Purity is God’s nature and that He wants us to continue to reflect his image; so she was not just sexually pure; her heart was right.
A lot of Christians get married as virgins, but their minds are dripping with lustful thoughts- have they won the Purity Game? No. The Church needs to teach virginity as an outpouring of Purity that begins with the cleansing of the heart. A lot of misconceptions have traveled the world about the concept. A number of us believed that as long as we do not soil the marriage bed, we have fulfilled all righteousness, but have we?
How do we talk about the concept of virginity, without mentioning Purity as the essence of the Christian race?
Matthew 5:8 says Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God- this is the reason Mary was able to see the angel God sent to her. She not only had a pure body but a clean heart. Purity is a function of who you are and what you do, but not how you do it. Mary did not have so much of a support system, yet she survived without cutting corners. Even when God placed her in an unfamiliar territory of Pregnancy, her sole desire was to follow His Will and please Him. She did not ask for it, wasn’t prepared for it, nor was she expecting it, but she never grumbled. Through the process God took her, Mary never questioned his authority as we mostly do on a regular these days. Mary had an understanding that she could not be like every other girl; she has been set aside for the kingdom use.
What does it mean to “set aside”? Think of it this way, most of us have items in our homes that we would not share with anyone, no matter who they are.
Some people own China dishes or silverware that have been set aside for use only on special occasions like weddings and thanksgiving. It is also not uncommon to have a couple matching sets of towels reserved for house guests. Some of us have shoes that we only wear indoors, and ones that are worn only in the shower. While these are for common, everyday use, we have priceless possessions that we give more honor. We keep them for specific purposes.
Here is a practical example- you will not wash the car with your towel, will you? Of course not, it will get dirty and lose its unique function. Similarly, the pattern in fancy china dishes would wear and dim with everyday use because they are more fragile and can break easily. Mary knew she was a special daughter of God, and that what to do with her body was not her choice, but God’s. It is pertinent to understand that honoring God with our bodies begins by doing so in our minds first.
Mary is also exemplary because she had faith, strong enough to believe that she could survive whatever God gave her to bear. She was a very true Christian who was eager to fulfill God’s prophecy regardless of how much humiliation she might have to go through. Imagine her being that African-born I described earlier- the disgrace, unending stares, scorned looks, and the likes, might have driven the poor couple to go and build a hut in the deep forest.
Another character that qualifies Mary for the position she has earned in Biblical History is Emotional strength. When she told Joseph about the situation, and he couldn’t handle it at first, she did not go running after him. She turned to God for help, and He fixed it; because it was his duty. Many of us have been in situations that we could not handle, but we tried to fix them anyway, and then we failed gallantly. We need to learn to trust God above all, while we work according to his will.
Virginity has never been a win for the Church, Purity is, and here is the good news- Purity is ultimately about the cross. While we need to continue to strive to have our hearts right with God, we also need to focus on the sacrifice that Jesus, the result of that Holy Pregnancy, made for our sake. It is not dependent on how hard we try, but how much Grace has done for us on the cross.