December 10, 2008

Chasing Purity

sat there, stunned at what appeared on the computer screen.
It was one of our typical informal weekly banter sessions in which I’d rant about writers missing deadlines and administrators trying to destroy my master plans. My professor, Chris Blake, would listen, chuckle, then offer up short, yet profound, nuggets of advice.
This particular day saw us crouching in front of his computer screen to Google a few words for contexts and definitions. One of our searches was a common Bible word related to purity. The first option available, the one most often accessed, rattled both of us to the core. It was 
the site for a Las Vegas nightclub, with lurid photos of its nightlife.
I was fairly certain there was nothing pure about the nightlife of Las Vegas. “Wow!” Mr. Blake breathed. For both of us it was one of those What has this world come to? moments.
Surely, when Jesus said “blessed are the pure” during His sermon on the mount, He knew the depths of depravity. So what does it mean to be pure in a world where the magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store can be adulterous playgrounds of lust? How can we be pure when brutal horror movies are box office hits because they are “exciting”? And what have we come to when sexually abstinent teens are outcasts, and sober means “loser”?
Squelching the Darkness
When I was growing up, my parents bought one of those built-in water purifiers for our kitchen sink. Although I didn’t really know what this candy-cane-shaped monstrosity was, 
I didn’t care, because water from the sink suddenly tasted a whole lot better. Beneath the surface, amid the corroded metal and leaking pipes, a filter sifted the impurities from the water to purify the finished product.
Over the years I’ve been frustrated as I hear fellow Adventists describe what we believe as a church, much like how a water purifier works. Well, we don’t eat pork; we don’t get our skin pierced; we don’t go clubbin’—the list goes on. Whether these gray areas are bedrock issues of right or wrong, we’re missing the point. Our substance will hardly be substantial if we put our entire focus on what we aren’t supposed to do.
Anyone who’s taken a high school science or physics course knows that white light is the combi-nation of all the colors in the rainbow. If you’ve never seen it, grab a pair of 3-D glasses and look at a lightbulb (or retake high school physics with Mr. Mekelburg). All the radiant colors come together to make one glorious light. This light is so much more than the absence of darkness; it is the combination of all things beautiful.
Does light have to try to avoid darkness? No way. Light is too busy figuring out how to shine even brighter. As a young Christian striving daily to live a purer life, I’ve found that when I make God the front and center focus of my day and strive to strengthen my light through Him, I don’t have to try to avoid the evil and noise of this world. His light—the Light—consumes it. By concentrating on Jesus and listening more closely to the Holy Spirit, the dark parts, quite naturally, recede.
In your own quest for purity, don’t be disheartened by the pressures of society—or the church—to do or not do things. Buck the trends, forget the fads, and simply focus on strengthening daily communication with God. He’ll convict you on how to handle the details.
Maybe then we’ll get to taste some of that pure blessing He’s talking about—and Vegas will have some competition. 
Forever Nebraskan, Jimmy Phillips writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communication coordinator for San Joaquin community hospital.