The Altar of Sexual Purity (The Elijah Syndrome) by Emediong Ebong

The Altar of Sexual Purity (The Elijah Syndrome) by Emediong Ebong

You know how growing up we were always told that we should keep ourselves, keep our bodies, marry as virgins, and all that stuff? I'm sure many of us can relate. Especially if you grew up in a household like mine. I used to tell people I don't have a salvation story (haha) because I didn't have a choice, I was born a Christian. Okay, I'm joking, but yeah, it was something close to that. My parents are very strict conservative, Christian folks, so I was born into this set of rules, guidelines, and regulations. It was only until the latter part of my life that I realized that if I don't know God, beyond what I have been told, beyond what my parents have told me, beyond what my pastors have told me, it's going to be a problem. So I knew that if I was going to be able to defend my faith, and have a faith that will stand the test and the challenges of life then I was going to have to know God for myself. And that was the beginning of my personal relationship with God.

But back to what I was saying, if you grew up in a family like mine, you grew up already knowing all the rules. When I had my first period, like a million other Nigerian moms, my mom told me, “you know, now that you’ve started seeing your period, don't let a man touch you else you’re gonna get pregnant”. I know, most of us heard these things. We were told so much about keeping ourselves sexually pure and running away from sex. We were taught to see sex as a bad and terrible thing we shouldn’t think of. But nobody told us how to deal with the feelings and the urges. We grew up and we discovered that we had these feelings and urges, but we did not know how to deal with them because nobody taught us. They only told us to stay away from sex. And so some of us, who may have been adventurous and rebellious, went ahead to have sex and discover that oh, it's actually a pleasurable thing. And this realization became the beginning of our downward spiral into immorality.

Even many of us who stayed sexually pure did not even understand why we were staying sexually pure. We were just following a set of rules. Personally, it was just fear of my parents that kept me sexually pure for a long time. This also had its disadvantage. You know, for us girls, they told us, “if you stay sexually pure, you’ll find a good man, you’ll marry well, your husband will adore you, etc”. But we grew up and then we saw that the bad girls were even marrying good guys. And the ones who were good and had kept themselves ended up marrying terrible men. I know a story of someone close to me who married as a virgin but she married somebody who beat her, cheated on her, and maltreated her. She had to run away from the marriage just to preserve her life and the life of her son. So when we saw things like this, we began to question the things that our parents told us. And for some of us who did not ask these questions to the right people, we got the wrong answers and the wrong answers led us to derail.

Then there are those of us who came to have a relationship with God and arrived at the place of personal conviction to stay sexually pure. Not because our parents told us, not because our pastors told us, not because it will automatically give us good husbands, but because we're doing it to honour God and honour our body. These are the people I want to address.

I want to believe I'm not the only one who feels like Elijah sometimes, so I'm going to share my story. You know how I said nobody prepares you for how to deal with sexual feelings? Especially if you meet a guy that you like. And this guy is everything, you want, ticks all the boxes, but he doesn’t agree with you on the subject of sex. So you find yourself beginning to question your beliefs. Is it that wrong? But this guy ticks all the boxes. He does everything. Just this one thing, can’t I just compromise on this one thing? Then you begin to make foolish rationalizations like, oh, we steal, stealing is a sin. We lie, lying is a sin. So sex is just a sin like every other sin. Somebody legit told me, “if I'm going to ask God to forgive me for the sin of lying, I might as well go ahead and have sex.  So when I pray, I can add it to the list of sins I'm asking God to forgive”. It seems foolish, but it would amaze you how many people reason this way.

So one day, I was just alone. And when something really bothers me, I have developed the habit of just going to God and asking Him to help me. I was just having this conversation with God and it went something like this: “I don't think I can do this anymore. It seems like everybody around me is doing this thing. This thing has become a normal thing. And I like this guy a lot. He’s so nice”. I had reached the point where I knew that I was going to need supernatural help if I was going to remain in my convictions. I was ready to give up, so I just went to God and said, “if you really want me to stay sexually pure,  you have to help me. I can't help myself anymore. If this guy makes any advances, I'm not even going to stop him”.

In the course of the conversation, God reminded me of the story of Elijah. And I went to read. I've always known the story, but you know, when God is trying to give you a message, He just has a way of highlighting certain things and making it seem like you've never seen it before. So I read the story of Elijah. Elijah is somebody who had done great things for God. I mean, one man who single-handedly challenged all the 450 prophets of Baal, and then he killed them. The same man ran away when a woman threatened to kill him. The first thing God made me understand is that even the strongest of us have moments of weakness. When Elijah ran away from Jezebel, that was his moment of weakness. So God was trying to tell me that He understood how I felt. It is okay to have moments where your faith is weak, but the best thing to do is to go to God even in that moment of weakness. Fast forward to when Elijah said, “they've killed all your prophets. I'm the only one remaining…”. God told him to go and anoint some persons, mentioned like four people. Then went ahead to tell him “I have 7000 that have not bowed to Baal or kissed his feet”.

So God said to me, “Emediong I have 7000”. That passage also referred me to the book of Romans.
Side note: I use a study Bible. They have all these references and comments. If you're a Christian, serious about studying the Word of God, you need a study Bible in your life.

My study Bible referred me to the book of Romans 11:5-6, where Paul was talking about the Elijah situation again, and he went ahead to say, permit me to quote directly from the Message
Bible (MSG) translation of that passage:
And do you remember God’s answer?
“I still have seven thousand who haven’t quit, Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish”.

It’s the same today. There’s a fiercely loyal minority still—not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think they’re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.

There was something else God opened my eyes to see. At the beginning of the chapter of the story of Elijah in 1st Kings 18, one of Ahab’s Officials, Obadiah had been hiding prophets in caves for fear of Jezebel. I realized that there were many other prophets in the land, but they were hiding in caves. Elijah felt like he was the only prophet because other prophets were hiding. And that struck a chord within me. Maybe the reason why I was feeling like I was the only person that was interested in sexual purity was that other people were hiding. There are people who believe these things, who are convinced that it is good to be sexually pure but cannot say it openly. They are afraid of what the world will do to them and how their friends will treat them.  They want to be socially accepted and politically correct. If maybe out of the 7000 prophets, 15 or 20 of them had been as bold as Elijah was to confront Ahab and his wife and the children of Israel, Elijah wouldn't have felt so alone.

So the other thing that I learned from that passage is this; I should not be one of the silent 7000. There is somebody out there who needs me to be vocal about my faith so that the person doesn't give up on his or her faith. There's someone out there who needs me to be vocal about my convictions, so he or she doesn't give up. There's someone out there who needs me to be vocal about the fact that I am not having sex until I get married, because he or she is at the point of giving up, and only by me being vocal about my convictions, is that person is going to receive the encouragement to go on.

So today, I’m writing to two groups of people. If you are in the Elijah group, you are feeling alone. Please be encouraged. It doesn’t seem like it but God still has 7000 and your spouse is among the 7000. God is not going to bring people who are unfaithful to him to marry His child who has been faithful to Him. There’s still a fiercely loyal minority, determined to hold on to the end.

The second group of people are the silent 7000. If you’re in this group, I hope this stirs you to speak up. Stop being silent, somebody who needs you to speak up so that he/she doesn't lose his/her faith. Somebody out there needs you to be bold and vocal about your faith. You can never tell how many lives and generations you will affect just by speaking up. Stop hiding in caves.

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