Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. - 1 Timothy 4:12
Spend a few years in church and you are bound to hear at least one sermon on this scripture. Often it is uttered as a word of encouragement to young people to not be discouraged by your age and to go out and do great things. Other times it is used to point out that often revivals start among the youth with the words "set an example..."
Rarely is emphasis or even recognition given to the end of the verse. That small word that easily slips away from our gaze as it fades into the verse that follows. But there it is. Purity.
Set an example for the believers... in purity. Wait, did Paul say this about young people? It almost seems to be an oxymoron. Young people are the ones with the crude jokes, right? Isn't it young people who are expected to let their minds dwell on lust and sex? How could young people possibly set an example for all other believers in purity? Take one look at your college campus and you will find anything but purity being lifted up as an example. If college student behavior was to set the example, wouldn't our world be even worse than it is now?
But what if we had a few young Christians who were willing to stand up and carry the banner of purity? What if we had a few young people so devoted to Christ that they determined to live a life that shines an example of purity not just for believers, but for all people?
We'd change the world, that's what.
Standing firm in purity in a world that is sinking further every day into impurity is quite a challenge. Everywhere we look the world is presenting our young people with the "cool" way to do things. The world mocks abstinence, looks down on modest clothing, and at every opportunity presents our Christian young people with images of what very teenager should want to do. The voices of the media whisper in the ears of Christian young men, insisting that it is natural for all guys to think primarily about sex and that it is ok to dwell on it. The skinny models beckon to our young Christian women, flaunting their bodies and insisting that we should too.
As Christian young adults, we do not have to and should not buy in to this! Paul says that we are to not let anyone look down on us for our youthfulness. Do not let the world squelch your passion for the things of God. Do not let the world drown your purity in the ideals of a "now now now" generation. Set an example. Allow Christ's truly transforming power to shine through you as you set an example and stand firm in your standards.