Sex worship. It can be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve. And in contemporary times we have to look no further than the Catholic Church making marriage a sacrament and Protestant churches discriminating against unmarried men when “calling” preachers. Nowhere in the Bible is marriage made a sacrament and nowhere in the Bible is marriage made a qualification for preaching the word of God. The worship of Baal is the worship of sex and sensual desires. It places human fertility above spiritual reproduction and the sensual above the holy. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s exactly where the world, along with the church, is today. Of course, the church sanitizes it by calling it “marriage and family.” Marriage is sex, according to the Bible. When those two things separated is when the church started its downhill spiral to the land of Baal. If we read our Bibles closely, we will find that there’s nothing holy or innately Christian about marriage and family. There never has been. Marriage, in fact, is a Pagan institution with roots that go back way before the time of Christ and Christianity. The origins of marriage are not religious nor do they have anything to do with the God of Abraham. Marriage in the Old Testament (before the birth of Christ) was the social construct that allowed for the breeding of children, maintaining property rights, and protecting bloodlines. Today nothing much has changed. It has become a social and legal construct, with God and candelabras sprinkled in for appearance’s sake. Marriage is big business today. Christ would balk if he walked into any wedding ceremony in your church. Well, he would actually overturn a few candelabras. If you believe that marriage is a CHRISTian institution, then you would have to believe that humans did not reproduce until after the time of Christ. How long have humans been reproducing? Did you arrive at creation? If you did, then you arrived in a Pagan world. Yes, the world had God. But they did not have Christ. Therefore, it was Pagan. That very important distinction is missing in a lot of theology today. As Apostle Paul said, sex (i.e., marriage) anchors a person’s concerns in the world and virginity anchors a person’s concerns in heaven. Now, am I saying that marriage and making babies is sinful? No. But I am saying that it is worthy of lesser status than virginity, lesser in the sense that God’s creation on earth is less important than his creation in heaven when looked at from an eternal perspective. Unfortunately, the church today is stuck in the land of the Old Testament and Baal worship. When all of a church’s priorities and energies are focused on marriage and making babies, they are focused on the short term Pagan world of sex and sensual desire. As holy and righteous as the church has tried to make it out to be, marriage and family is still about fulfilling sexual desire, which is something that does not exist in heaven. Yes, God made sex. But it is of a very temporary nature. If the church does not balance the temporary (sex) with the eternal (virginity), it is guilty of idol worship. It is guilty of worshiping the same Baal that we read about in the Old Testament. And I mean balance by actions, not just lip service. It doesn’t matter how many tithes and offerings a church takes in, how many members they have, how many missionaries they have overseas, how many people read their Bibles everyday, etc. All of those things cannot undo Baal worship. Paul talked about virgins and marrieds as statuses. Unfortunately, the church today only acknowledges circumstances and legalities. Can you find the description of a “marriage license” in the Bible? There is none. Can you find a description or even definition of “singles.” There are none. “Single parents, down the hall on the right.” “Divorce care after church.” We’ve come so far off track that what we call a church today would probably be unrecognizable by any of Christ’s disciples, or by Christ himself. We have our own comfortable world with our comfortable language, ever so careful not to offend anyone. However, God has his own language that trumps ours, as the woman at the well found out. Comfort is not a Christian virtue, and I don’t think God’s justice will be very comfortable for a lot of people either. There is nothing innately Christian about marriage and family. The only thing Christian about it is how we do it and whether or not we regard it as more than a legality or circumstance. Virginity, however, is the lifestyle Christ himself chose, as well as most of the apostles. For those who have the charism of virginity, it is an eternal status of a royal nature. It is not a circumstance. It is a sign pointing to eternity. It eclipses marriage as far as heaven is from earth.
Even for the few preachers who do mention anything about the gift of singleness from the pulpit, it all falls flat when you see them getting in their SUVs after church with wives and children in tow. Then you realize that they were only talking about the circumstance of singleness before marriage. Or, more specifically, the circumstance of their daughter’s singleness as they face up to the fact that there are few good men left. “Don’t worry honey. We’ll find one for you. You’ve got the gift of singleness for now.” Yes, we live in a society that worships sex. In such a society, celibacy can’t be allowed to be authentic. But how did we get here? Well, there are several underlying factors that have crossed my mind. I’ve already mentioned one of them. Protestants only hire married preachers. Most of them have kids too. And they have wives who can play the piano and do nursery duty. So it’s at least a double bonus package deal for the church hiring them. Which sets up a classic blackmail scenario right from the start because a preacher’s livelihood depends on the church’s tithes and offerings. They wouldn’t even have medical insurance without the church. They are furnished with nice pastoriums, “love offerings,” and some churches even provide the preacher’s children with scholarships. Are they in any position to say anything that would make one person in their church uncomfortable or withhold one dime from the offering plates? I don’t think so. Basically their hands are tied when it comes to telling Bible truth. They’re only allowed to preach what is comfortable. Some churches claim they are only obeying “the husband of but one wife” command in Timothy 3:2 when they hire married preachers. But it’s clear to me that Timothy meant that if the man was married he had to be a one-woman man. Preachers try to give credibility to this false belief by claiming they can relate to both marriage and singleness because they were once single too, which is not to clever. That’s like a man saying he can relate to being an astronaut because he went for a balloon ride when he was a kid. Marriage and celibacy are not even in the same universe. Which brings us to reason #2. Celibacy has no authenticity because such a long-term commitment has no plausibility in a culture that only celebrates marriage as a short term means to an end, a short term means to prosperity and happiness. It follows then that the only status that would have any value in their churches is the short-term singleness of “true love waits” until marriage. I’ve asked many preachers what the opposite of marriage was, and 100% of them said it was singleness until marriage. It seems like in their minds they somehow see chastity before marriage as being the opposite of committed sex in marriage. They are unable to place any value on the long-term chastity in celibacy, yet if both lifestyles have “equal value before God” as a lot of them claim, shouldn’t both of them be of equal longevity and sacrifice? With that kind of theology, “singleness” is indeed in the same universe as marriage. It’s a stone’s throw away. It’s this kind of hypocrisy that has killed the authenticity of the church. Which brings me to reason #3. They don’t see celibacy as a viable alternative to marriage because they still see mankind as a slave to his desires. They are still living in the “fallen” reality of Adam and Eve, while at the same time trying to convince the world that their nuclear families represent Christianity itself to a lost world. Christianity without celibacy is like marriage without a wife.
The fourth reason celibacy has no authenticity in Protestant churches is that they don’t see any necessity for discerning between it and marriage. They see celibacy as something unnatural and evil that only Catholics practice. They are still protesting it and . . . whatever else they protested some 500 years ago. They don’t want their children to think about such things. They want them on track for a ring by spring and a bun in the oven. What good is retirement without grand kids? If only Paul could setup a phone conference with their preachers. “But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing (1 Cor 7:35).” Which brings us to the 5th reason celibacy has no authenticity. In their world, this man not only does the wrong thing, but also commits the sin of not being “fruitful” and “manning up.” Men with control over their wills don’t exist in their churches. The Southern Baptist’s David Platt, a high-ranking officer in the SBC, even contends that celibacy is a sin because it “nullifies reproduction.” They also believe that homosexuality is a sin not because the Bible says it is, but because two people of the same gender can’t have kids.
“It is not a misunderstanding of Genesis 1 and 2, a misrepresentation. It is total defiance of the picture of Genesis 1 and 2 when it comes to the picture of sexuality in Genesis 1 and 2. It nullifies reproduction. It defies the design of God and marriage in Genesis 2:24 and it takes sexual expression outside of that context and it brings it into our lives. It is direct disregard of Genesis 1 and 2.” See footnote 1.
Think about the Baptist’s rules a second. No homosexuality. No celibacy. No singleness. What does that leave? You guessed it. Holy and righteous marriage. Breaking news for Baptists: There are other people who don’t have kids and are not homosexuals. Their lifestyles are probably godlier than those of the people sitting in your churches. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but it’s not because a person lacks children. Somebody needs to introduce Platt to the New Testament. Wait, how many theological degrees does he have? Outside the command to not commit adultery in the Ten Commandments, there is not a sexual ethic in the Old Testament that can be transferred to the New Testament and to our lives today.
The 6th reason is because celibacy is still defined as what a person is not supposed to have by means of religious vows, not what a person does have by means of voluntary sacrifice for a greater good. Protestants see us pitiful souls trying to fight back sexual desires at every turn, always just one step away from raping, groping, or sexually harassing someone. We are people they need to guard their children against. Imagine their shock when they find out Christ is celibate and doesn’t welcome their children into heaven anyway. Because when he returns, there will be no second chances.
The 7th reason is that we are still living under the false notion that sexual values can be taught from an academic standpoint. That is wrong. Sex education classes may go over mechanics. But they can’t teach values. Those can only be transferred to another person through one-on-one modeling, not reading something in a book. Ideally, such modeling would come from a young person’s parents. But many of them today don’t have such luxury. Real mentors don’t have official job titles and most of them go unknown, which is quite okay. They take it upon themselves to be the mothers and fathers young people don’t have. There’s not much chance this is going to occur in churches because they have everybody so age-segregated. By modeling, I mean qualified to exemplify chastity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage. For example, those who are saving sex for marriage can support others who are saving sex for marriage. Those who have the charism of celibacy can support others who have the charism of celibacy or who are discerning between it and marriage. Those who are not called to celibate life can do little to counsel someone who is, no matter how many years they have been preaching, no matter how many years they have taught Sunday School, no matter how many degrees they have, and no matter how old they are. I know some people think celibacy can’t be a spiritual gift because we don’t “do” anything like healing or speaking in tongues. I think that’s why Paul included it separately in 1 Corinthians 7. It’s a being gift, not a doing gift. Sacrificing marriage and sex and children for the cause of heaven itself is far more life altering than a dozen marriages. Just like the checkered flag in a NASCAR race signals the last lap, we signal that time is almost up for mankind when all of us will be standing before God alone with no spouse or family to learn our fate, whether we are beamed up to heaven or dropped down to hell; and that regardless of where we end up there will be no husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, preachers, or Sunday School teachers.
The 8th reason celibacy is given no authenticity is because many Protestant churches believe that a person comes to Christ by confessing and repenting of sexual sins only and “redeeming” them through marriage. This is especially true in cases of young couples with out of wedlock children who are led to believe that Genesis 2:18 tells them they were just being fruitful and multiplying. “No harm, no foul. Just let us give you a right hand of Christian fellowship so you can come back next Sunday and put more money in our plates.” There are two main problems with this line of thinking. First, celibacy was an option for them. Even if their parents didn’t tell them about it, their preachers didn’t preach about it, or their friends didn’t tell them about it, it was still an option. So their only option in life was not to lose control somehow in some circumstance and have sex and get pregnant. Second, Christ had not come into the world in Genesis 2:18 when God commanded the ancient Jewish people to be fruitful and multiply to populate the earth and add numbers to the Israelite armies. After his birth, death, and resurrection, all of this Old Testament fruitfulness with babies was replaced with fruitfulness of souls, and celibacy was given a position of importance over marriage, even if it’s not realized in this present age. Read about the memorial to eunuchs in heaven and how they will be given “a name better than that of sons and daughters” in Isaiah 56.
I have written about discerning the call to the charism of virginity (celibacy) on my blog before. Here I will try to add some new things to consider. Even though I use the word celibacy, I am addressing those who are virgins, both men and women, exclusively. I’m not talking about a period of time of not having sex or even someone choosing celibacy after having a sexual relationship. It’s just that celibacy is the word you’ll have more luck with when you research this subject. So if you read this post from the perspective of someone who has had a sexual relationship, looking for discernment, whether or not you should get remarried, etc., you will probably be lost. I happen to think it’s way past time for virginity to be given a little exclusivity. The biggest challenge when talking about discernment from a Protestant perspective is that it is a rare calling and so little is known. I usually have no idea how many people read my blog or what anybody thinks about it. I just try to picture an imaginary audience and go from there. So, how does one discern the call to celibate life? We first have to come to grips with the fact that Protestant churches, even the one you may be attending, have gotten it wrong since the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. So don’t expect things to change overnight.
One of the things you will definitely need is a rebellious spirit. I’m not talking about taking up arms against a rogue government or drag racing behind the liquor store. I’m talking about saying no to the idol of family worship and all the comforts and conveniences society has bestowed upon them; saying no to sex worship, mother and child worship, and all the materialism and comforts we associate with the American dream. We have to be okay with not having children to pass inheritances to. We don’t have to hate women and children, but we have to be able to prioritize their status when comparing them to eternity. So if the current status quo of “family church” makes you uncomfortable, don’t rule out celibacy just yet. Don’t rule out the chance to help bring the value of married life and celibate life more into balance. After time, you will be the one making families take a second look at their priorities. Yes, it is a rebellious lifestyle.
We also have to be able to say no to ourselves and any plans for nuptial bliss, while saying yes to a closer walk with God and serving as witnesses of the world to come. That means we have to look at our motivations very closely. If you’re in college, are you looking for a spouse? A choice for celibacy should not be made based on the notion that the opposite sex don’t find you attractive, that you can’t get a date, or that men don’t ask you out. It should be based on the realization that there are some things in the world more important than sex. It’s one thing to hear somebody say that. It’s quite another thing to live it out. When I was in college, I jokingly told people that I had so many girlfriends I couldn’t make up my mind about which one to marry. And I think that’s actually a good way to look at the call to celibate life. God has allowed us to have hearts that have enough love for more than one person or one family.
Timing. We are invariably comparing the timing of a wedding to the timing of . . . something that doesn’t even have a name in Protestant circles. The New Testament has only one mention of a wedding in Matthew 22, the marriage at Cana, where Jesus turned the water to wine. Nothing is said about the timing of the wedding or even the ceremony. What we have made of marriage today is exactly that – It’s manmade. All of the hoopla that we associate with weddings, including church ceremonies, bridesmaids, vows, dresses, cakes, marriage licenses, rings, is the product of manmade tradition. None of it is mentioned in the Bible. Does that make marriage or weddings wrong? Here’s how I answer that: Not necessarily. But to the extent marriages are undertaken with no regard for celibacy, with not even a fleeting thought given to a life with Christ, they are worse than the unfaithfulness and divorces to which most of them lead. I know that Catholic tradition is all we have to go on, but I don’t think celibate vows or ceremonies are necessary. So instead of timing a ceremony, I think it’s appropriate that we begin to tell our close friends and family of the decision we have made to remain as we are and devote our lives to other worthwhile (eternal) causes. And I think it would be okay to do that when you know you’ll never love a spouse more than you love the people you are forgoing marriage for. So it’s not about us having more free time to do God’s work. We actually have less time, because there is no free time doing his work.
It helps to understand celibacy’s role in relation to marriage. This is a big one and the one that took the most time for me. Of course, the biggest challenge is that we live in a married world. Celibacy has to be looked at with at least as much honor, value, and respect as marriage and family. If you know of a godly family, you can learn a lot by watching them in public with their kids. Watch their interactions, not only amongst themselves, but also with other people. There is a certain grace and dignity that comes with being comfortable in your own shoes. Watch a husband jump into action to protect his wife or children from harm. It’s like an inborn instinct. He doesn’t have to stop and think about it. He acts. Whether it’s pulling them out of the way of oncoming traffic or shielding their eyes from sexually explicit images, the drive to protect his family comes very natural. The same thing is true of mothers. So it is with a person called to celibate life. We are not saying no to paternal or maternal instincts. Rather, by sacrificing much more than is possible in marriage, we are taking them to a higher level. We ought to care just as much about marginalized people as a father cares about his family. Our hearts should be ready to respond in a heartbeat. If you feel that tug, a tug beyond passive empathy, then celibacy may be right for you. I’m not necessarily talking about being a missionary in a third world country. There are lots of needs all over the U.S.A. Needs that can only be met with the passion of a celibate person. Unfortunately, all that we’re likely to hear about virginity in Protestant churches is from the standpoint of true love waits on a spouse. It’s most likely to come from a very comfortable and frumpy married white preacher dude who depends on the tithes and offerings collected in church to take care of him and his family. So as far as discussing anything besides family life, he has a conflict of interest the moment he opens his mouth. I’ve heard many preachers claim that they can relate to the gift of singleness because “I was once single before I met my wife.” That is simply not true. Waiting on marriage as a single person and waiting on the return of Christ as a person with the gift of celibacy are not even in the same hemisphere. As far as someone in the Protestant church having insight into celibacy, the only exception may be a preacher who lived a chaste life into his 30’s-40’s before he got married. Then he might have a hint. So we have to be willing to educate, tactfully.
We have to understand celibacy in relation to society. One very common notion that is passed around when people talk about celibacy is that it frees us to do “greater service.” Well, okay. But that’s about as informative as saying the sky is blue. If all we understand about celibacy is that is frees up our time to do greater service to help greater numbers of people, we have missed the mark. We have become nothing more than a refried preacher. First, from a spiritual standpoint, we have to accept that celibacy itself is a higher calling than marriage. That doesn’t mean we are better than married people. It means that we have more responsibility, are better qualified to represent the love of God, and have a straighter path to heaven. If we just see celibacy as freeing up time, then it could very well become a means to an end. Our lives would be rated according to how much we did, how much we stayed busy, and how many people we served. We must see the gift of celibacy as something good in itself. Churches have to see it more than extended adolescence and a failure to “man up.” I’ve often wondered what families’ reactions to me would be if I treated them with the same suspiciousness and cynicism I see from them. “Well, congratulations on your 25th wedding anniversary Carl. How many women did you bang last year?” Or “Sorry to hear your wife has been dead 10 years. Have you found a homosexual lover yet?”
In discerning celibacy, we also must have our sexual desires under control and be content with living a life without sex. One word many Catholic authors use is sublimation, which just means that something is raised to a higher standard. For example, the short-term goal of sexual energy can be redirected to taking care of orphaned children in third world countries. The higher good has to be something we are passionate about and not just something to pass the time with until we figure out what we want to do. And we make the final call about what those other worthwhile causes are. There will always be people who will not see our long-term goals and higher values. It helps to have friends on the same journey to discuss these matters with. I think sexual desires tend to sublimate naturally as we get older, to a certain extent. When I’m with people I don’t know, I’m usually conscious about how I’m being perceived. It can be downright dangerous to be a single man in public today. I don’t want to come across as a monk in silent piety and prayer. But I don’t want to come across as a single man looking for a romantic partner either. Striking that balance is an ongoing challenge. Since I’m still the class clown, I’m always looking for ways to make people laugh. What I have found is that it only takes knowing a person is human to do that. I don’t need to know gender, age, marital status, race, or anything else society says is important. I have gotten to know several hermaphroditic/intersex-identified people through the years. It really is remarkable how people can relate to each other when cultural expectations are taken out of the picture. And it is even more remarkable how a small “hello” and recognition of another person’s existence can spark a conversation and a lifetime friendship. So if we are able to put aside our stereotypes and see all people as human beings in need of other people to relate to, God can take those desires and reshape them into passions and endeavors that far surpass romantic love.
The Annunciation by Godfried Schalcken (Dutch, 1643 – 1706)
Have you ever wondered why it was necessary for Christ to be born of a virgin? Quite simply, Mary’s supernatural pregnancy interrupted mankind’s reproductive cycle and redefined life as we knew it on earth. Up until the time of Christ, there was only one way to create new life, through sexual relationships, nine months of gestation, and the birth of a baby. By choosing a virgin to give birth to his son, God put an end to the endless lineages we read about in the Old Testament. So Christ not only defeated death, he defeated birth. He also confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that the population of heaven did not depend on matrimony, sex, or childbirth. Instead, as Jesus told Nicodemus when he asked how it was possible for an old person to be born again, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:5-6).” In a very real sense then, sex and childbirth are markers of life on earth and everything temporal and virginity and spiritual rebirth are markers for life in heaven and everything eternal. As Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:29, “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not.” Do you know any husbands who live like that? I don’t. Since there will be no marriages in heaven, we are living today the same “sexless lives” we will be living in heaven. People who have had sex (married people) cannot do that. Whatever the dependence husbands and wives have on in each other should be rightly multiplied an infinite number of times to get an idea of the virgin’s expectation of Christ’s arrival. It is here we see God’s intended balance between marriage and celibacy and the difference between a wife and a virgin, because it’s not possible to have spiritual rebirths without earthly childbirths. Whereas marriage symbolizes Christ’s marriage to the church, virginity symbolizes the reality of heaven that is coming for believers and hell for unbelievers. It symbolizes our total dependence on him and a void that no husband or wife can ever fill. It symbolizes our expectation of his return on a level deeper than possible in marriage. “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:29).” The virginity of Mary was supernatural evidence for a world wallowing in sexual sin that she was carrying the one and only Son of God. So it is with us today. We are supernatural evidence of a kingdom that is fast approaching. Mary’s response to Gabriel when he told her she would give birth to the Son of the Most High was, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Note that she did not say, “That can’t be possible, since I haven’t found the husband God has picked out for me.” Or “I don’t see how since I haven’t slept with my boyfriend yet.” The darker the world gets, the more ironic – and miraculous – the Christmas story becomes. What was special about Mary? Mary’s vessel was empty enough, faithful enough, and humble enough to bring Christ into the world. Her wait was like none other. She was expecting, but was expecting the King of Kings. And it all started with Gabriel’s announcement to her, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” Our response to the coming of Christ should be the same as hers, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled (Luke 1:38).” It is our responsibility as virgins for the kingdom of heaven to announce the eminent return of Christ, to show evidence of a faith and sacrifice that can’t be realized through husbands and wives, and to multiply the number of spiritual rebirths. Yes, the world as we know it is fading away. Wedding rings, marriage licenses, honeymoons, baby carriages, and the white picket fence are all vanishing. But we have the privilege to wait with Mary once again for the return of the Son of the Highest.
“Love Power” Jesus mural in Minneapolis’ West Bank neighborhood. Photo by David Joles, Star Tribune.
” . . . the most fundamental social problem every community must solve is the unattached male. If his sexual, physical, and emotional energies are not governed and directed in a pro-social, domesticated manner, he will become the village’s most malignant cancer. Wives and children, in that order, are the only successful remedy ever found.” Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family. Read here.
If the recent Focus on the Family article is to be believed, somebody needs to send Jesus a text and tell him he needs to get married ASAP or else he is a “malignant cancer” on society. We probably ought to copy in Paul too. This is what happens when a country is overtaken by sex worship, or any form of idolatry. It becomes the “social justice” norm, backed by opinion polls and stereotypes. Unfortunately, most churches are soaking this up. Preachers from every denomination in my area are posting such rhetoric on their social media pages, telling unmarried men they are “malignant cancers” until they get married. But what makes this pagan idea so appealing? I think it’s because churches and other so called “religious” institutions have sunken to such a level of Calvinized “total depravity” that they don’t think it’s impossible for men, or women for that matter, to control their sexual desires. A lot of them have also accepted the world view that there are multiple choices on the sexual lifestyle menu. LGBTQRSOK2BMEPANTRSRCH. Take your pick. I can’t keep up with the alphabet soup. But the New Testament is clear that Christians have two choices when it comes to their sexual lifestyles – committed marriage or committed virginity. Religious talking heads today would have everybody believe the choice is between marriage and cohabitation or marriage and homosexuality because everybody is going to have sex sooner or later, in their twisted way of thinking. That’s what the opinion polls tell them, which they put more faith in than the Bible itself. After all, if it’s not popular, it’s not going to make people open up their purses and wallets. The possibility of leading a lifetime of chastity, as recommended by Apostle Paul, is not even part of their God-forsaken theology. It’s just too uncomfortable, too unpopular, and the preacher and his precious family might not be able to buy five thousand movies on Netflex and cable TV every month. So the choice between marriage and celibacy is not even a consideration. For Protestants, celibacy is linked exclusively to Catholicism and homosexuality. They have assigned the very life that Jesus himself lived to the depravity of homosexuality. Unmet desires would be too harmful . . . or even hateful. Yes, church people today have got to have their sex, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual. And now they are so bold as to pedestalize women and children as victims of barbaric “unattached males.” As Stanton says, “They make men behave. All their other important contributions are secondary.” I wonder how many women take comfort in the idea that their sole purpose on earth is to make men behave and have children?
Besides pigeon-holing every unmarried man into this cohabitating/homosexual bucket, this kind of rhetoric also appeals to people wringing their hands over all the recent accusations of sexual harassment against politicians. Have you noticed they are all married men? They are not “unattached males.” Bashing single men also appeals to parents who have children “shacking up” without the social and legal sanctification of a marriage license. It makes things “right.” The truth is, it’s always easier to try to make something right than to do right the first time. Little do they know that marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies are not going to help their children’s situations. If they don’t know God, they are still just as lost. So why are their sons and daughters cohabitating instead of getting married? That’s easy. It’s because so many men and women have lost site of what a biblical marriage is. With their parents’ divorces and unfaithfulness, they have come to see marriage as nothing more than a legal arrangement made necessary by the looming possibility of divorce. Marriage-mandaters serve as further evidence that the church today is all about relative morality, a morality that takes its cues from opinion polls and surveys. For instance, Stanton says that marriage is a “social justice imperative.” Read here. Does that language sound familiar? It should. Adolf Hitler used it in Germany’s Third Reich. He fined and over-taxed “unattached males.” Breeding a pure race was indeed his social justice imperative, just as it is with most white middle class preachers today looking at a diminishing flock. What would Apostle say if someone told him that marriage was his social justice imperative? Actually, he answered that in 1 Corinthians 9:5: “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas.” He had the right. But he did not have the obligation. Paul spent several chapters in the New Testament explaining the importance of a balanced view of marriage and celibacy. Yet, the religious talking heads today have taken his words out of their Bibles and erected their golden calves of marriage and family instead. They have elevated opinion polls to the same level as scripture. So as students are being dumbed down today by the educational system, church people are being moralized down by preachers and others who decided to settle on a more socially acceptable view of human sexuality; one that doesn’t take too much effort, just a trip to the courthouse. Focus on the family also believes that “marriage itself is “a wealth-generating institution.” I couldn’t find a bible reference for that either. Sorry. Actually, there are no Bible references in the two articles I cited. I’m not sure if Focus on the Family knows what the Bible is. Maybe someone should send them a copy. Just make sure it includes the New Testament. Money and sex. I think that speaks for itself as to where their priorities are. What else could possibly be more important for churches today? I’m a senior citizen now and I know what I believe. But there are multitudes of younger people who are hearing such false teachings. So if you are reading this and don’t know what God’s plan is for your life just yet, I encourage you to read the Bible for yourself. If you listen to married preachers, do so with caution. Most of them have other ulterior motives, like daughters they are trying to marry off. They have no clue about Christian celibacy as Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians. By the way, Stanton has four daughters he has to marry off or they will soon become clumsy nonproductive spinsters.
It’s my opinion that when we don’t equally honor and value marriage and celibacy, we deny God’s creation. That’s the system he put in place. He did not put in place a sliding scale based on public sentiment and he didn’t put in place a system based on “the American dream.” If you like to think that the American dream is synonymous with Christianity, go right ahead. But you would be wrong. And think about this – We do not have access to God’s numbers. Would it matter if 5 people were called to celibacy since the time of St. Paul or 5 Billion? Would it matter if 5 people were called to marriage or 5 Billion? I don’t think so. But for mankind today, those numbers equal biblical certainty. There is nothing spiritual about majority opinion, just as there is nothing spiritual about the nuclear family. When we focus on opinion polls and surveys and “generating wealth,” and focus only on the family and not biblical truth, we are turning the clocks back to the Old Testament and Mosaic Law. The shock for the church is going to come on Christ’s return when their members are standing before God individually and very “unattached,” without being surrounded by husbands, wives, children, grandmas, elves, or bunny rabbits.
If I read one more article or hear one more sermon telling single people they need to get married, I’m going to be sick enough to require hospialization. So in the spirit of providing a balanced perspective, here are the marks I see today of marriage and married people.
Married people are prideful and greedy. They are concerned only with their own comfort and pleasure. From the biggest SUVs to the biggest houses and white picket fences, they want the whole world to see that they have it all. They invented the phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses.” Getting ahead and making each other happy is their religion. Who needs faith in God when they’ve got faith in each other? It should come as no surprise because the Bible tells us that married men are concerned with the world’s affairs and how to please their wives (1 Cor 7:33). They live lives that are out of control, in every way you can imagine. They really can’t be expected to please God. They can only see how “blessed” and wonderful their lives are. Their selfishness and pride prevents them from seeing the needs of other people, especially single people. Married, white, middle-aged preachers are the worse. They take pride in reminding unmarried folks how immature they are until they “man up” and get married. And single women? Well, they’re nobody until they take their subservient place beside a man.
Married people worship sex. Whatever form it takes, the church believes in sex, and lots of it. And they want to make sure everybody gets their fair share. If bestiality came into fashion next year, the church would be handing out gift certificates for the Humane Society every Sunday morning, out of “convictional kindness” of course. Marriage is the holy grail of their adulthood. Preachers have even put their beds on their rooftops to show the world just how good sex is. To make it even worse, Bible thumping married people think the only way they can combat homosexuality is by glorifying their own heterosexual relationships, whether married or not. Fornication? There’s no such thing anymore. Now it’s cohabitation. Just get a marriage license and “make it right.” They think that since God created everyone male or female that everyone has an obligation to have as much sex as possible, to show the world their maleness and femaleness. Idolizing the nuclear family and leaving no room for any other way of life except marriage is what drove scores of young people out of their churches and into the gay culture. I’m sure there are people in that lifestyle today that God originally tapped for the gift of celibacy. But with no acceptance and no support in their churches, they were drawn to a lifestyle that offered all of those things. The worship of sex through marriage and family has consequences we can’t even imagine.
Churches have never defined what a biblical marriage is. Instead, they cling to the state’s definition of a legal marriage with marriage licenses and probate judges and divestments of assets after divorce. They would have everyone think that the longstanding tradition of marriage is what makes it biblical. Unfortunately, they have never come to understand that man-made traditions are not inherently biblical. As a matter of fact, there is nothing inherently Christian about families, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, grannies, grandpas, or white picket fences. If you feel like you’re going into shock, you might want to call the paramedics. It gets worse.
Married people are insecure in their own gender. For them, a sexual relationship is the only thing that defines their masculinity or femininity. A man is not a man until he “mans up” with the right woman. A woman is not complete until she finds her Romeo and starts having babies to grow the offering plate.
Married people worship children. Instead of seeing an eternity in heaven, they can only see the smiling faces of their children and grandchildren and how they resemble kinfolks long gone. “Oh look, he’s got Uncle Earl’s nose.” I have personally seen alters in churches made with baby bottles complete with stage lighting to add a nice warm glow to the throne of child worship. And I’ve also seen special services called to consecrate children’s lunch boxes and backpacks, complete with laying on of hands and mumbling incoherent “prayers” to Dr. Seuss.
Married people don’t believe anyone has the self-control to live without sex. They didn’t, and they don’t expect their children too either. They believe we are at the mercy of evolutionary-mandated desires that are as necessary as food and water to survive. A man controlling his sexual desires would make him less of a man. A real man has to be ready when the time is right. He has to be ready to pounce on every woman to “lead her to Christ.” A real woman is one of who knows how to please her man. If you mention Paul or Jesus and their sexless lives, they have ready explanations about how Paul was dealing with some crisis that made him forget women and Jesus didn’t have any thoughts about sex. Right.
The only salvation married people believe in comes through making sexual relationships right with a marriage license, wedding ceremony, and wedding rings. As the Baptists have said repeatedly, it is not our relationship with Christ that turns a boy into a man, but marriage to the right woman who can reign in his sexual appetite. (1) In other words, they believe their boys can have sex with as many women as they want until they decide on the one to “come to the Lord” with and get “saved.” Women are expected to remain sweet virgin angels until the right boys take them to bed. It’s some twisted version of Mosaic Law. This represents the highest standard of married sexuality in our present culture.
Married people have very little faith. Instead of faith in God, they have faith in orgasms, fertile seasons, and making babies. They have faith in 401Ks, bigger SUVs, and their daughters making the cheerleader squad. They believe lust is a guiding spiritual force in the world. Whatever everybody else is doing is what is right for them. If polygamy becomes popular in the next century, they will mandate that all men must have more than one wife. It’s called relative morality. The Protestants invented it. Married people have honed it to a fine art. They always want to be tuned in to the will of the people. The latest Pew Research Poll numbers fall somewhere between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Whether it’s cohabitators or people marrying later in life, they have the numbers at their fingertips to “prove” the sky is falling. They are always ready to tell single people they are out of step with the times and that everybody must bow down to the God of sex.
Married people are judgmental. They look down on single people as “perpetual adolescents” and accuse single men of shirking from responsibility. The real problem is that, with all their adultery and divorces, they have no ground to stand on. They are not qualified to whisper one syllable of advice to people with the charism of virginity.
Marriage people are dangerous. They commit the vast majority of sex crimes; whether it’s pedophilia, sexual assault, rape, incest, etc. According to the latest Bureau of Justice statistics, 6 in 10 of the people who commit rape and sexual assaults are married people. (2)
It is clear in the Bible that, unless given the rare gift of faithful marriage, celibacy is the more Christ-like way of life. From the prophet Jeremiah all the way down to Christ himself, celibacy has been the only lifestyle sanctioned by God to be concerned with heaven and eternal matters. Apostle Paul himself said celibacy is a spiritual gift and that all those who are unmarried should remain so (1 Cor 7). God himself ordained, sanctified, and consecrated celibacy as the foundational institution of human society. We should pray that married people see the err of their ways and get out of bed long enough to see the needs of people around them. We should pray that they realize God only called the few people who cannot control their lusts to marriage, and the rest he calls to holiness and contentment going about the Lord’s business. We should also pray that churches lay down their ungodly idols of sex worship and perversion, and come to understand that the birth, death and resurrection of Christ abolished the Genesis command to reproduce the human species and, instead, requires us to reproduce new spiritual beings who have accepted Christ and are ready for his return.
How would you define single people? People who don’t wear wedding rings? People who don’t have a marriage license? People who haven’t had a wedding? People who are not cohabitating? People not married but too old to be in a youth group? People who were once married but are now divorced? People who don’t file joint income taxes? People whose spouses have died? Actually, singles can be anybody today. “Single” is merely a legal status and social euphemism that means absolutely nothing from a biblical standpoint. It offers acceptance for the divorced and all those not holding marriage licenses because traditional teaching in the church says that when God forgives he forgets everything and so should we. It’s a word created for comfort to allow those with a sexual past to pretend it didn’t happen and be available on the singles social scene again. After all, the church says, there are secondary virgins and there are real virgins. What’s the difference? Well, in case you didn’t know, my blog defends virginity. I think it’s a special physical and spiritual state, and I happen to be one myself. Bella DePaulo in the 4/3/2011 edition of Psychology Today said there are three definitions of singles:
You are legally single if you are not legally married.
You are personally single if you think of yourself as single.
These are the world’s definitions. If it feels good, put on your hat and play the part. However, is a legal piece of paper going to matter to God? No. Is how other people regard us going to matter to God? No. Is how we think of ourselves going to matter to God? No. Our behavior matters to God. And as painful as it may be to our ears, our past matters to God. Not the legalities and formalities of current culture. Not the courthouses where we pick up marriage licenses. The Samaritan woman at the well found this out the hard way when she tried to cling to the legal definition of marriage. She probably lived an exciting life as a single woman, strutting down to the well a couple of times a day to flirt with available men. That is, until Jesus showed up for a drink. Then she found out that not having a marriage contract mattered very little to him and that she was in fact married to all the men she had had sex with. As Jesus told her, she had had five husbands and was not officially married to the man she was living with. I have a feeling that Christ would receive an even more startled reaction by the church today. I can already hear the front row of deacons mumbling, “But she’s not wearing a wedding ring!” It doesn’t matter, Jesus says. “She doesn’t have a marriage license!” It doesn’t matter, Jesus says. “She hasn’t had a wedding ceremony!” It doesn’t matter, Jesus says. If we think of the water at the bottom of Jacob’s well as representing the fruitfulness of the womb, including Jacob’s entire lineage, and the eternal life-giving water that Jesus offered the woman as representing the end of that lineage and the beginning of eternity in heaven, the story makes more sense. It is another classic story of the world we know juxtaposed with the world that is to come. Notice too that Jesus never took a drink from the woman. But what stands out is Jesus’s vocabulary lesson. He replaced the Samaritan woman’s social status of being single with the biblical status of being married. No marriage license was needed. It was done in the blink of an eye. This is why Christ repeated the words “say” and “said.” “You are right when you say” and “what you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18. He is contrasting her prior social identity and what she saith as a single woman to her current biblical reality and what she had done as a married woman. As she said, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” John 4:29. Even more important, he is contrasting her socially comfortable “singleness” with the biblical reality of her multiple marriages, which are one in the same as sexual relationships. Note too that her repentance and salvation did make her forget all her past lovers, cause her to be a “secondary virgin,” or require everybody in her neighborhood to forget her past mistakes. Nor did it erase the consequences of her sin. It was just the opposite. After she realized she was talking to Christ, she acknowledged that she had been married multiple times. Laws and traditions say many things and leave open a lot of back doors. In Christian sexual ethics, though, they take a backseat to what we do. Words will disappear like a vapor in the presence of Christ. What we do though will remain standing. Like the common practice today, the Samaritan woman’s social identity was miles apart from her biblical identity.
The majority of churchgoing people today are of the same mindset. As long as lovers “make it right,” who’s to say what is right and what is wrong? They think once they are forgiven, all consequences of their sins are erased. “Forgive and forget” is the new seeker friendly motto. Like the Samaritan woman, they hide behind legalities and social niceties. I think a lot of people read the story of the Samaritan woman and focus only on Jesus’s “mind reading” magic show and how he revealed her past sexual relationships. That’s half the story. It’s equally important to remember that he also revealed that she was not a single woman. In modern times, she could have been masquerading as a virgin, in charge of the local purity conferences and daddy-daughter dances. Whatever the case, she lived the life of a socially single woman up to that point. She couldn’t have been divorced or widowed because everybody would have known her past. There would have been no reason for Jesus to tell her all the things she had done. I wonder how many singles dating sites she had signed up with and how many men she had waiting in the wing. She misrepresented herself to everyone she was acquainted with. To put it simply, she lived a lie. An uncomfortable fact that churches don’t like to be reminded of is that Christianity allows us two lifestyle choices – marriage or virginity. Another uncomfortable fact is that God intended marriage to be between two virgins. But how many churches defend and affirm these truths? How many churches guard biblical language? How many married couples stand up in churches and tell how they were both virgins when they married? How many married couples tell about how they have been faithful their entire 50 or whatever years of marriage? How many celibate people have you heard in churches tell how God has given them the strength and grace to remain virgins for so many number of years? I don’t know of any churches that do that. Their main focus is on forgiving the fallen, not affirming the faithful. Single donut anyone? If you believe that God’s intention in marriage is for one virgin to marry another virgin, then the only people who are biblically single are virgins. Some of them are waiting on marriage on this earth and some have the charism of virginity and are waiting on marriage in heaven. The world doesn’t know that, though. All they know is a generic singleness. When we take the expectation of virginity out of singleness, whether it be waiting on a spouse or waiting on the return of Christ, we take the expectation of faithfulness out of marriage. As Justin Campbell and other writers have pointed out, there really is no such thing as the gift of singleness because singleness in our vocabulary today points to a temporary state. The gift of celibacy, however, is a permanent state and not related to singles waiting on marriage or even a marriage between husband and wife. A lot of people today still pretend to be single. Maybe if everybody had their own moment at the well with Christ, there would be no more pretending.
Jesus didn’t change the Samaritan woman’s marital status by telling her she had five husbands. He merely took away the courthouses and traditions and told her the biblical reality of her life. If her past mattered to Jesus, should it matter to us? I think so. But we live in a world where even the thought of a sexual past is considered judgmental and hateful. Just as with the Samaritan woman, it’s not going to matter what we say when we meet God face to face, but what we have done. Matthew 16:27 tells us, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” It’s not about taking on labels and thinking certain people are better than others. It’s about relating to each other honestly and openly and coming to grips with our own moment at the well with Jesus.
Sadly, the only thing Protestants know about celibacy is in the context of what they hear in the media about the Catholic Church and pedophile priests. That’s why they cling to their comfortable “singleness.” Singleness doesn’t require a past, just a present circumstance. “Just be happy where you are,” they say. They have no clue of the celibacy Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 7. If they go so far as to say there is a gift of singleness, most preachers still frame it as a circumstance, a period of time (or season) before you get married. Many church people today think the gift of celibacy is but a circumstance until one gets married, a season of waiting until the right one comes along. If marriage and celibacy are to be equally valued, as many churches claim, then we could assume that marriage is but a circumstance, and that husbands are married until they fall into different circumstances with different women. When you take commitment out of the picture, whether it is commitment in marriage or commitment in celibacy, the whole house of cards falls. However we slice the vocabulary, virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is not the same thing as the “gift of singleness” we know today. Justin Campbell, on his blog “More Than Don’t Have Sex,” said this very well:
“Paul essentially says that there are those who should get married and those who shouldn’t. He says some have one gift and others another gift. But the gift he is talking about is not the gift of singleness, he is talking about the gift of celibacy. You are not called to “season” of celibacy. You may not be married yet, but that is not the same.”
The words we use are also going to be carried into the future by the young people today. I think the church does them a disservice by focusing on marriage and family, and not doing anything to affirm the celibate life. That’s why I’m not single. I’m not living out a temporary season of my life. I am the same unmarried John today as I will be in heaven. Any discomfort someone sees in my life should not be interpreted as bitterness over not having my sexual desires met. It should be seen as discomfort for still being on this earth and separated from Christ. That’s what I long for. And only a person with the charism of virginity can have that kind of longing. Am I saying that churches should ask everybody about their sexual history and attach appropriate lapel buttons on Sunday mornings, like Christ did with the woman at the well? No. We’re not Christ and can’t know what Christ knows. What I’m saying is that churches should be careful when they adopt the world’s language. I know many of them are teaching a theology of Calvinistic circumstances in which all men are assigned the same station in life. That is, they are all either married or want to get married. That is simply not biblical. Most churches make the mistake of trying to cure singles of their singleness. This is sort of like taking a group of young people to see a space shuttle liftoff and instead only seeing a remote controlled airplane whiz around a parking lot. Do you think they would feel let down? They should. They read about a God of risks and wild abandon in their Bibles, a God of unspeakable wrath and untold rewards, a God worthy of their faith and loyalty; only to have him replaced by one of feel good vagueness and comfortable velvet-backed pew inclusiveness. If we are going to continue using feel-good words like singleness, let’s at last make sure the young people know we are talking outside the principles of the Bible. When we take virginity out of singleness and faithfulness out of marriage, we take the spiritual significance of sex out of God’s hands and put it into the world’s hands. How would you respond if Christ asked you to go get your husband or wife? Could you honestly say you’ve never had one or would he have to remind you of things you did? How single are you?
I think we would all agree that Christianity is built on faith, the belief in things we cannot see. We believe Christ is returning to earth to claim his virgin bride, the church. And we believe that the church’s virginity is only possible if individual members confess their sins. As Isaiah 1:18 states, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Or as 1 John 1:19 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But we must see things the way God intended, not the way the world has twisted them. Leading up to marriage, two people have faith that someone else is waiting for them, keeping all their sexual desires under control. Yes, God designed those two people to be virgins. I know. It makes the world cringe. And it includes men. Cringe even more. Virgins are not the adjectives you see in locker room graffiti or the buffoon characters in Hollywood movies. They are probably not the people you hear your preacher describe in church. But, most importantly, these “unknown” people have a choice. They can wait on an earthly marriage, as is common today, or they can wait on heavenly marriage, which is the uncommon spiritual gift of celibacy, and have the opportunity to be unknown the rest of their lives. Yes, I said opportunity. They have an opportunity to be barren and unknown with no family for the rest of their lives as far as the world and its kinship goes, but have so many spiritual children and siblings they can’t be counted. Young people today are not conscious of such a choice. They go through no period of discernment and the church offers no alternative other than matrimony and the standard white picket fence. It’s “ring by spring” or nothing. Why? It’s because churches today have very little faith, they follow the ways of the world, they worship the nuclear family, and they are still under the influence of Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation of some 500 years ago. The only tomorrow they know is the one they see in the eyes of their children and grandchildren. Unbeknownst to them, virgins are actually in a win-win situation because waiting for either one of those two marriages is what every Christian is called to do. And we can only wait one time because, even though it causes great pain to the world to think about, virginity is binary. That’s the way God designed creation. This is where marriage and celibacy intersect. The person waiting on marriage on earth has faith that they will meet their spouse soon and spend their time on earth together. The person waiting on marriage in heaven has faith that they will meet Christ soon and spend their time in eternity with him. Those two waits require totally different support. When the wait of celibacy fades out of the picture and is no longer respected, there is greater risk for society to elevate marriage to a place of sanctification, which is where we are today. If we do not provide young people a choice, we will never understand the spiritual nature of marriage or celibacy.
Even if that person with the gift of celibacy is as rare as 1 in a 1000 as Martin Luther claimed or 1 in a billion, it is still true. It doesn’t matter how many times a church says “most people.” That doesn’t make it so for everybody. The Southern Baptists have their foundational origins in segregation and slavery. Millions of people bought into those beliefs. Did it make them right? God puts just enough eunuchs on earth, male and female, to meet his needs. Our rarity ought to serve as a reinforcing agent for marriage and cut through the shortsighted quagmire that passes as faith today. Here’s why. If God created everything in this universe, he also created sex and the entire sexual process. Sexual desire had to be made strong in order for us to multiply. And that is a good thing, right? It had to be so strong that it would take a supernatural act of God for someone to resist it or, as Paul put it, for someone to “have power over his own will.” 1 Cor 7:37. Hence, we have the gift of celibacy and the gift of a supernatural faith.
Even if we do not exist in the statistics and opinion polls, as churches love to quote, our presence is nevertheless real and we have a responsibility to reproduce spiritually that eclipses the responsibility to reproduce biologically. Who are we to second-guess God’s numbers or set an “ideal age for marriage”? While marriage symbolizes Christ’s (groom) marriage to the church (bride), these marriages are temporary affairs. All of them will eventually end either in divorce or death, etc. Those who have the gift of celibacy, however, have a marriage that will not end in divorce or death. Their status as a virgin is the same today as it will be in heaven. Their commitment to Christ is just as real today as it will be in heaven. Their anticipation of the arrival of Christ is more real than anybody’s anticipation of a spouse or birth of a child. But their waiting takes a much larger leap of faith, as it should, than those waiting on husbands and wives and children. Even though it may take a little more blurring of the eyes to see the symbolism, people with the celibate gift literally guard in their own personhood what the church guards symbolically. We should see ourselves already separated from this world and drawing closer to Christ, with one foot on the ground and the other foot in heaven. Our advent should be more urgent than anything expressed in traditional candles and wreaths. So while earthly marriages symbolizes Christ’s marriage to the church, the celibate gift symbolizes eternity in heaven after the wedding is over. Like a landing signal officer on aircraft carriers, we point the way to our final destination. Marriage has not caused us detours. In other words, the person with the gift of celibacy has the capacity to serve as a witness for Christ that goes beyond the symbolic because he/she is closer to landing on the ship and closer to God. Since there will be no marriages in heaven, we represent a part of eternity that can be seen today. That does not mean we are perfect. It does not mean we should climb up on rooftops and boast about it. It should be something that other people see in us, a faith so real that it’s visible. That should speak for itself.
Recently, Nic Gibson, the pastor at a mega church in Madison, WI wrote a blog post titled, “Dear Single People, From Your Local Pastor,” in which he talked about how people with the gift of singleness can “flee and hide better and cannot be extorted through dependent family members.” I don’t know about everybody else, but I’ve been in plain site my whole life. But here we have another married man with multiple children who thinks he’s an expert on the topic. Par for the course. Let me say this right here: Husbands and fathers, you are not qualified to write about celibacy. When you do, you only show how much you don’t know. In the comment section, I asked him, as I have hundreds of other supposed experts, to name one pastor who had the gift of celibacy. Since the U.S. has over 300,000 Protestant churches and over half the population is single, you would expect there to be at least 150,000 single pastors, especially if marriage and celibacy are of the same value, as preachers like to tout. But he couldn’t name one (see footnote 1):
“I don’t think I can name a single pastor off the top of my head right now, however some of the great ones in church history were single. John Wesley was single most of his life. Charles Simeon I believe was single his entire life- maybe the greatest English pastor of the 18th century. John Stott was single for all of his life. The fact is that most churches won’t touch a single person, not for primarily biblical reasons, but for reasons of sociology and bigotry.”
Bigotry. At least he was honest. Imagine the public’s reaction if there was not a single African-American person employed in the United States today, if there was not a single minority represented in the Fortune 500 Companies. There would be so much upheaval that what happened in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1960’s would look like child’s play. But a church? It’s do as they say – not do as they do. They’ll cancel church services to be with their families if Christmas happens to fall on Christmas day, as many of them did this year. But a person has to die first and have their life analyzed to determine if they had the gift of celibacy. How encouraging. How equal that makes celibacy to marriage. And they assume all unmarried adults are living selfish and non-committed lives, but that marriage automatically bestows a sanctified status of salvation. That’s why I don’t recognize marriages today. Couples have to die first so that I can determine if they were faithful to each other. Otherwise, they’re just another couple of cohabitators. It’s beyond hypocrisy that churches stake their entire Christian theology on marriage licenses, wedding ceremonies, nuclear families, and a few bags of rice, when the Christ they worship was a never married man. Even the word celibacy makes them uncomfortable. I’ve seen it first hand many times, eyes dropping and face turning flush. It forces them to think about their own bankrupt marriages and unfaithful sex lives. Because, let’s face it, most marriages today are pretenses. They are about as biblical as the fruit punch served at wedding receptions; merely social and legal arrangements setup as a means to entitlement and division of assets after they part ways. They’re not about two people becoming one flesh and being faithful to each other for the rest of their lives. They are about two people “putting a ring on it” and being socially recognized as full-fledged responsible adults with a ticket to have sex with each other, as long as both are agreeable. As marriage-idolater and Baptist theologian Al Mohler puts it,”marriage is the God-given context for the achievement of maturity in adulthood (see footnote 4). As a matter of fact, author Tim Challies says marriage is nothing more than a ring on a finger and the gift of singleness is the absence of a ring (see footnote 2):
“How can you know if you have the gift of singleness? I don’t meant to be trite, but you can go about it this way: Look at your ring finger. No ring? You’ve got the gift of singleness. Ring? You’ve got the gift of marriage.”
Wow, how simple Ernie. Can you hold up your finger? Faithfulness? Who cares. Commitment? What does it matter? Symbolizing Christ’s marriage to the church? Are you kidding? All that matters to Challies and churches today is the ring on the finger. Because faith for the church today literally goes no further than skin deep. Challies and Josh Byers actually have a book out now titled “Visual Theology” in which they explain how their faith is based on what they can visualize (see footnote 3). That’s why celibacy flies in the face of their superficial faith. It remains invisible in a sex worship society. It forces husbands and wives to look at their own culture of adultery, divorce, remarriage, broken families, legal separations, child support, alimony payments, paternity tests, pregnancies out of wedlock, abortion and fertility clinics, supervised visitations, dependent children, restraining orders, battered spouses, biological dads, biological moms, civil unions, de facto parents, inheritances, annulments, financial statements, prenuptial agreements, shared custodies, safe houses, and same sex marriages. It forces them to think about their own chastity and the people they had sex with before they married/remarried and their own hypocritical witnesses. It forces them to come face to face with their culture of greed and entitlement and consider the few people who have said “no” to the family-centered gospel of prosperity. And importantly, it forces them to acknowledge that there are those who have not had all their desires met, whose lives have not been ruled by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with sex as a basic human need on the same level as food, water, and oxygen. Celibacy makes them think of their comfortable cocoons of pleasure and convenience, surrounded by a white picket fence of security the church calls a “family.” It makes them think about the possibility of somebody living a life of self-control and patience. That’s not possible in their calvinized “fallen world.” In short, it takes the air out of their sails and words out of their mouths. Where does this leave the young people who venture into church today trying to discern a life of marriage or celibacy? Totally confused. They will hear nothing about a choice between marriage and celibacy or see any real examples of celibate life, other than being told they’re all dead. I get it church. I really do. Segregation and discrimination run deep in your pews and they give you a sense of security. Yes, you have to protect your families, but you can’t do that at the expensive of half truths. As we all know, half truths are one hundred percent lies. This is nowhere more evident than in the church. Take a look at God’s creation and the natural dichotomies built into it; heaven and earth, day and night, hot and cold, sea and land, morning and evening. Then there’s marriage and . . . did you hear of celibacy? Their balance is part of God’s creation. It doesn’t take equal numbers, but equal value and respect. If you don’t start demonstrating how much value you place on those called to celibate life, that void will be filled in by abominations you can’t imagine.
I’ve always found it interesting that churches consider marriage a sacred commitment and “singleness” a state of selfish abandonment and uncontrolled desires, when in fact the Bible talks more about celibacy than it does marriage. How did the church come to worship sex and toss out celibacy as an unfortunate circumstance? There are many reasons. But at the top of the list is the fact that the Protestant Reformation rejected not only celibate priests, but the whole idea of spiritual rebirth and fruitfulness, claiming that making babies was the only way the human species could reproduce. Unfortunately, the church never learned to think long term and never learned anything from what Jesus taught Nicodemus:
“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'” John 3:5-6
In other words, Protestants rejected the whole message of the New Testament because they refused to move beyond the flesh. Sex in marriage became just as important as food in the stomach. And babies became the holy grail of life itself. When they abolished monasteries and convents, they erased the identities of generations of people who had the God-given charism of virginity. Christ was one of those people. Protestants no longer saw their choice as between marriage and celibacy as outlined by Paul in the New Testament, but between marriage and “living in sin” as outlined by a culture of divorce. These are the circumstances they want you to forget. When the reformers established settlements in the American colonies, they brought the Old Testament and all of its sexual fulfillment and fruitfulness with them and burned the New Testament and spiritual rebirth to make way for a new sexual awakening. Marriage was no longer a right. It was a rule. As a matter of fact, weddings were founded on divorce, courthouses and redistribution of land. Marriage became the social expectation. Honorable singles became the dishonorable outcasts because, if young people were not married by a certain age, it was assumed they were either fornicators or homosexuals. With the choice of celibacy out of the way, any lifestyle besides marriage became viewed as an unfortunate circumstance. For the Protestants, church was not about salvation through Christ. It was about circumstances. It was about salvation through marriage and children, because that was the only way they could “redeem” their sexual desires. Their idea of an afterlife never got any further than the inheritance they left their children. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity today is not built on Christ. That would take an amount of invisible faith. Rather, today’s Christianity is built on a woman’s visible ability to give birth to children and a man’s ability to be responsible for them. Christ is not in the picture. The Southern Baptists make that very plain in their Faith and Message Statement: “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.” Nowhere in the Bible does God grant any special privilege to the nuclear family or “persons related to one another by marriage.” As a matter of fact, it says just the opposite: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29. The Baptists’ “message” is merely the creation of a couple of preachers who had one too many drinks after a Wednesday night prayer meeting. Sadly though, people still believe it.
But rejecting celibacy had long term consequences the Protestants were not aware of. While tooting their horns about how the commitment of a man and woman in marriage represents Christ’s marriage to the church, they forgot how the commitment of a celibate person represents total faith in God for the necessities of daily living and how it symbolizes eternal life in heaven where there are no marriages. The only problem is that celibacy is something that can’t be seen. For Protestants to have faith in anything, they have to see it. That’s why the invisible vocation of celibacy was replaced with the circumstance of an empty ring finger called “singleness.” They could see who had not “put a ring on it.” So the only commitment the church knows anything about today starts with “courtship” and ends with “I do” and a wedding night of sexual salvation.
Celibacy became a circumstance when the church replaced biblical truths with moral relativism and lowered their standards to the level of the masses. As Russell Moore of the SBC said recently, “We have a responsibility not only to speak truthfully. But we have a responsibility to contextualize not only to the present culture but to the future.” Contextualize? That is so clever. Leave it to wordsmith Moore to figure out a politically correct way of describing moral relativism. Protestants have for a long time based their beliefs on changing circumstances. They learned how to contextualize their pocketbooks too, and learned that talking about divorce and other circumstances in a “fallen world” was a lot more profitable than talking about the truth in a world that had turned its back on God or about the realities of hell. Comfort sells. They learned that marrying a cohabitating couple with a child in tow was like money in the bank. The church was no longer a body of believers, but a group of seekers with different circumstances. No one could claim to know the truth anymore, because the “gospel” changed with the times. DivorceCare was a lot more profitable than talking about uncomfortable subjects such as adultery and fornication. Circumstances make a lot of victims. Victims make the church a lot of money. Can you imagine an older man standing up during a Baptist service today and saying, “I wish all men were like me”? What a scandal! Who does he think he is! Celibacy is just a circumstance Protestants associate with the Catholic Church and the same sex marriage scandal. When churches are seated at the golden calf of marriage and family, it’s not possible for them to live without sex. They must show the world visual proof of their marital bliss with wedding rings and marriage licenses, and how committed they are to their spouses until . . . they divorce. After all, it’s just a season of marriage, right? It’s no longer about who a man is. It’s what he looks like. Who he’s married to. What his family looks like. How many children he has. Where he works. People today believe all men have the capacity to reach the same spiritual significance, no matter what their station in life is. That may be true if we didn’t have choices about our stations in life. But all of us make our own choices, no matter how popular or unpopular they may seem to the rest of the world. That’s why so many churches report the results of opinion polls and statistical charts and ring their hands over people marrying later in life. As unbelievable as it sounds, they claim to know how many people God expects to be married and how many people he expects to be single. They email a copy of the opinion polls and numbers up to God every 90 days or so and wait on his pronouncement. I’m sure that will put a smile on grandpa’s face. People know so little about the Bible that they buy into it.
For many Protestants, moral relativism started in 1 Corinthians 7:26 when Paul mentioned remaining a virgin because of the “present distress.” It was exaggerated to mean all of Paul’s writings in the New Testament, especially those dealing with sexual ethics, were dependent on his circumstances. They didn’t think it applied to them because they knew the “end of the world” was not going to happen anytime soon. Not only that, they really didn’t think they had to take anything Paul said seriously because it was “just his opinion.” So their solution was to consider what he wrote not even part of the Bible. That was a grave mistake. Paul was not just another bloke Christ called off the street to write some of the Bible. He wasn’t just a dude who happened to fall into these circumstances. He was heavenly inspired. God placed him in that place at that time for a reason. In actuality, Paul declared that God’s call to salvation reversed a person’s circumstances. People with the gift of celibacy pointing toward eternity are necessary for that to happen. They are necessary witnesses to spiritual rebirth and to the Christian slave becoming the Lord’s freedman and to those who were free becoming Christ’s slaves. A wedding is a very short-lived event. What happens after that? Paul did not fall into the unfortunate circumstances of celibacy because of some impending catastrophe. His choice between marriage and celibacy is the same as ours today. He had a right to marry, as he straightforwardly states in 1 Cor 9:5-6: “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?” Paul was not secretly cohabitating with Timothy’s sister or getting free milk from a cow. He wasn’t staying up late nights playing video games. What “life group” class would you put him in? What kind of circumstances would your church have to build up around him to make everybody comfortable?
My life of celibacy is something I also freely chose and something God has allowed me to do. Yes, I have the right to marry just like anyone else. But I have not denounced marriage as being evil, as popular thinking may have you believe. I have renounced it for something better, for life beyond this earth. Denounced and renounced are two words that sound the same but have very different meanings. I know a life of sacrifice is hard to believe in churches today because their faith goes no deeper than a wet diaper and after school childcare. So while I may have not have a ring on my finger, I do know what commitment is. I ask that you keep an open mind for commitments you cannot see and levels of faith you cannot understand. While I may not have the trophy wife, passel of kids, and graduation pictures hanging on the walls, be mindful of children who are not the products of flesh, but of spirit.
Just when I think the Southern Baptists can’t sink any deeper in sex worship, somebody comes along and does even better. In this case, it’s Al Mohler. You can read his latest article, “Marriage as a Part of Adulthood,” here:
There’s really nothing new because he has been preaching his marriage mandate for many years. He’s one of those mature Baptist brethren who think single adults over 23 are “living in sin.” And yes, he’s one of those “full quiver” men who do not think sex hormones can be controlled and recommends marriage at 12 and 13 years of age to prevent fornication. I guess that makes sense on a primordial level if we assume men have no more self control than the apes. And I’m sure he’s passing on his “wisdom” to the Baptist preachers of tomorrow. He bemoans the current generation of cohabitation. But what else can we expect from his generation, the generation of divorce and adultery? In this piece he does something I’ve written about before and, as always, I think it’s rather comical. He throws in the obligatory “unless given the calling of celibacy” footnote in one sentence, just in case somebody reminds him that Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus himself never married.
“For all these reasons and more, Christians must understand that, unless given the calling of celibacy, Christians should honor marriage and seek to marry and to move into parenting and the full responsibilities of adulthood earlier rather than later in life.”
“Unless given the calling of celibacy.” Isn’t it wonderful what commas can do for you? They make it look like everything that’s wedged in between them is a passing thought. Not only is Bro. Al a full quiver man, he’s a full Oxford comma man too. But Al, I have a couple of questions. I visited your fine Baptist church recently and what you need to understand is that all of your single women leave a lot to be desired. That’s right. All of them are prostitutes, except the ones who are Christian women of course. They’re on the streets of Louisville every weekend making money to buy their next fix of drugs. Your women should honor their bodies as temples of God and become full time mothers. Then they can step into their role as responsible adults. How would I know who the good Christian women of your church are? How would I even know you have any? Would they wear different colored dresses? Have a different hairstyle? I would have no way of knowing. My question for you is this: How would you know who does and does not have “the calling of celibacy?” Since you regularly throw in this “rare exception” clause when you write about marriage, you must know such a person. Can you give us a name? Have you polled the unmarried people in your church to see who has what calling? Has anyone helped them discern celibacy? Let’s take it one step further. I’m sure you can name thousands of married couples you’ve known over the years. Of the 7,125,000,000 people on earth, can you name two Baptist preachers who are called to celibacy? If you can’t, then you probably shouldn’t mention it at all. It really is pathetic. I can only speak for myself as one of those people called to celibate life, but I do not wish to be included in such a sordid “family focused” soap opera and Cialis sponsored worship hour.
I recently wrote the pastor of a sizeable church in my area, asking him if he ever discussed the gift of celibacy during his sermons. And I asked him why his church, which is almost 200 years old, had never hired an unmarried preacher. This was his reply. I changed the names of everybody, except myself, and changed the name of the church.
Dear Mr. Morgan,
Thank you for your recent note. It is a rather interesting topic. But here at Family of Grace Baptist Church we welcome everybody. It doesn’t matter what their background is. We just want to express God’s love. There are more married folks here at Family, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love singles too. Our youth pastor spends a good deal of time with the youth and they go on a spring retreat every year. We understand their struggle to find a suitable spouse in a time when there are not many Christian singles to be found. But we share God’s love with them too and are there when they falter in their faith. As you know, many of them have problems keeping their sexual desires under control. We show them mercy and grace and give a special offering every year to the local teen pregnancy center. But the line has to be drawn somewhere and here at Family of Grace it’s drawn on the issue of homosexuality and celibacy. We cannot go down the same road that our country is and we will have no part of same sex marriage. Now, let me be clear. Here at family, we do not follow the doctrines of the Catholic Church with all of their problems with homosexuality among priests trying to follow vows of celibacy. We have a responsibility to be fruitful and multiply. And we recognize that the family is paramount and is the glue that is holding this tenuous society together. We could never hire a man as a pastor who had not matured and shown responsibility for caring for a wife and family. You’re welcome to come visit and I know one of our outreach directors would be happy to talk with you about the grace and mercy Christ offers. Just tell him what your name is so he will know who you are and where you go. Again, thanks for your letter.
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19:8-12 (NIV)
To understand these verses, we may be wise to put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes because our idea of the permanence of marriage goes no deeper than it did for the disciples 2000 years ago. What are the consequences of divorce and adultery today? They’re about the same as the disciples thought – None. Not only did they think they could divorce their wives for any reason under the sun, they thought they could circumvent marriage and still sign up for intimate encounters on Ashley Madison. This is the image of single adults that the church puts forward today – extended adolescence with no responsibility. For the Protestant preacher, a single adult is someone who is having illicit sex and pretending to be married. They are the women who need to become respectable. They are the men who need to man up. How can I say that so confidently? If the only two Biblical options for humans on this earth are heterosexual marriage and celibacy, how much time has your preacher spent at the pulpit talking about celibacy? If there are more unmarried people today than married, doesn’t that mean there are more people called to be celibate before marriage or celibate for a lifetime?
Matthew 19 is not a parable. It is a truth, a description of reality. The truth includes both marriage and celibacy, regardless of what the polls and surveys say. If there was only one person alive with the gift of celibacy high up in the Himalaya Mountains, every preacher and testifier to the grace of God still has the responsibility of spending equal amounts of time covering both. Unfortunately, most churches today, like the skeptical disciples, spend more time talking about divorce. Even more tragic, churches are spending more time talking about perversions like homosexuality and sodomy. They will never be able proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in reactionary mode with branded catch phrases like “universal love” and “convictional kindness.” All that does is grandfather in more approval and affirmation of the divorce culture of the past and give a nod and wink to the “if it feels good it must be right” theology of today. And did you notice that Christ used the permanence of marriage in Matthew 19 to reinforce the permanence of celibacy?
Imagine that divorce is like a jet fighter pilot bailing out when the going gets rough, as the disciples saw it. He may have some cuts and bruises, but he’ll probably be able to walk away from it. Now, imagine a group of military fighter pilots in training. The instructor explains to them that 1 g = the force of gravity, or 1 x their body weight. Then he tells them that very few humans can withstand more than 5 g-forces without losing consciousness and more than likely dying from complications. But since he doesn’t know which ones of them (if any) have that ability, he proceeds to tell them how to operate the flight controls when they are in a tight turn and pulling more than 10 g-forces. He ends it by telling them to be sure they have no other humans or animals on board because they will be dead when they land on the runway. “If you smell something funny, check for a dead soldier somewhere in the cockpit because very few people can survive those kinds of forces.” I know that is a weak attempt at a 21st century version of Christ’s metaphor of the eunuch. But I think you get the picture. Some people have the ability to pull super-human g-forces. Some people have the ability to control their biological drives. You have the responsibility to find out what you can and cannot do.
When you think of a eunuch, do you think of part of a man’s anatomy missing? A scalpel? When you think about a dead combat pilot in the cockpit of a plane, do you think of foul play? A murder? If you do, you definitely belong in the disciples’ shoes. We have to be willing to let Christ briefly suspend what we think we know about a eunuch and understand how difficult and uncommon the gift of celibacy is. How difficult? I think that gets to the heart of the reason he chose the metaphor of a eunuch to describe people who can accept such a calling. A person’s ability to submit their entire life and body to the will of God, including sexual desire, is just as difficult as a man castrating himself. That’s how difficult. The disciples’ dreams of extended adolescence were dashed. No more fun without commitment. For those of them who were married, it may have sounded like a death sentence. The first thing that flashed through the disciples’ minds upon hearing the word “eunuch” was probably not riding off into the sunset with three or four women on the backs of their camels and a couple of bottles of wine. It was probably more like you thought – a knife, some screams, and a lot of blood. That’s precisely what Christ wanted us to think, before he redefined the word eunuch.
Do you have a passion for something that is off the beaten path and so far out of this world that you feel no one relates to you? Are you willing to be put under the knife and risk your life to see that it gets done? For instance, it could be supplying water to a third world country or rescuing orphans whose parents were killed in civil wars. Is your passion for this so much a part of your identity that you can see the face of God in it? Do you feel that not having had a sexual relationship allows you to better relate to the people you are called to help? Do you feel that a sexual relationship would take away a part of you that is important to carry out your mission? If so, then God may have given you the ability to withstand the forces of sexual desire and fly a little higher than his creation on earth. He may have allowed you to look directly into the Son without getting burned.
These points are from a Biblical perspective and not from the perspective of opinion polls, majority votes, church tradition, or doctrinal statements, etc.
First of all, celibacy is not a choice you make. It’s a supernatural ability (spiritual gift/charism) given by God to only a number of people. We can pray that we recognize and nurture it. But the choice we have is whether to accept it or not. Think of an athlete who was born with the body and balance for the high beam. She has the God given ability to win a medal at the Olympic games. But it’s up to her to start training and go for the gold.
Celibacy is not something that is instructed in the Bible. There is no formula and no special prayers. It is, however, affirmed as being a higher calling than marriage, in that heaven is higher than earth. It doesn’t matter whether or not your church respects it. It’s a Biblical fact.
The gift of celibacy is not the absence of sexual desires. It is the ability to control them. People who have it are able to remain unmarried without sex and not burn. However, they are not cold prudes with no appreciation for the mystery of sex.
The gift of celibacy (or singleness) is not what a person has while waiting for marriage. It’s not what a couple does before they get married. While God calls everybody to remain a virgin and celibate before marriage, the gift of celibacy is a long-term commitment, just like marriage.
Someone with the gift of celibacy is not going to fit any “life stage” group or similar gender/age/marital status-based group that a church may conjure up.
The gift of celibacy is not tied Biblically to the Catholic Church. It’s merely part of their church tradition. Considering the Protestant Reformation, this is probably the hardest truth Protestant churches will have to accept.
The gift of celibacy has nothing to do with monks, nuns, or any other religious persons. And it has nothing to do with living in communities such as monasteries and convents.
The gift of celibacy has nothing to do with homosexuality or same sex marriage. Many churches are simply replaying what they hear in the media because they don’t understand what the Bible says on the subject.
The gift of celibacy is not compatible with someone who has had sex. If we are to believe that a faithful marriage involves a husband and wife who have not had sex with anybody else during their marriage, we are compelled to believe the same about faithful celibacy. The Bible deals with ideals when it comes to sexual ethics. It does not deal with “should have beens.” Otherwise it would not contain the terms adultery and fornication. That does not mean a person can’t be forgiven and commit again to live without sex until marriage.
Celibacy is not a social status that affords people special privileges. It is not something given to only third world missionaries in order to do “ministry service.”
Celibacy is not perfection. If you believe that, you have fallen for a straw man.
Celibacy has nothing to do with having more time to do God’s work. Because there are so many things to do, it often results in less time.
A life of celibacy is not a life of failure. It is a life of faith and sacrifice that married life cannot attain.
Celibacy is not emptiness. It is a life that has been filled by something much more than sex.
The gift of celibacy is not a label you put on someone after their death and after a vote has been taken to determine their worthiness. If we’re going to do it that way, we should do the same for marriage – take a vote after both the husband and wife are dead to determine if they were faithful to each other and if they were really married.
Celibacy is not the denial of our maleness or femaleness and it is not the denial of our sexuality.
Celibacy is not a byproduct of some negative life experience, such as a troubled home life or a bad relationship with a mother or father.
Celibacy is not a life without commitment. It is a life with more commitment. Who is more worthy of sacrifice, a spouse or God himself? It reminds the world that there is more to commitment than the bells and whistles of a wedding ceremony.
Celibacy is not a default state a person enters when a single adult can’t find a spouse. It is an intentional choice and a positive response to God. It is made public for that very reason. It symbolizes our total dependence on God and eternal life in heaven for all believers.
Celibacy is not living selfishly for ones’ self. It’s just the opposite. It is living for everybody else. Marriage is about exclusion. Celibacy is about inclusion.
Celibacy does not lead to a life without children. That may be so from a biological standpoint. But from a spiritual standpoint, we have more children than anybody else.
At the time of Christ and when Paul wrote his epistles, it was taken for granted that people could choose between one of two legitimate Christian lifestyles, either a life of marriage or a life of celibacy. This balance expressed both the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate of the Old Testament with the spiritual rebirth mandate of the New Testament. Paul makes that abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 7, talking about how married people are concerned about the affairs of the world and virgins (unmarrieds) are concerned about the affairs of the Lord. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the world to upset this balance and place more value on virginity and celibacy and look at marriage as something of a lower calling. Jerome even wrote, “I praise marriage and wedlock, but only because they begat celibates.” Of course, what followed was the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, with the reformers complaining about the requirement of celibacy being placed on priests and other religious. This resulted in the upset once more of the celibacy/marriage balance with more value being placed this time on marriage and family. Calvin himself believed that “the life of a single person is often much more miserable than that of a married person.” He also believed people with the gift of celibacy were “rare, not one in a thousand, for they are a special miracle of God.” So the intention of the Protestants was to glorify marriage and cast doubt on those who claimed to be able to live without sex. In other words, Protestants were no friends to singles from the beginning and were skeptical of the existence of people with the gift of celibacy, save some kind of ” miracle.” Things got even worse for unmarried people in the 20th century with Sigmund Freud comparing the human mind to an iceberg with only one-tenth of it visible above water and the other 90% of it made up of “the urges, the passions, the repressed ideas and feelings . . . a great underworld of vital, unseen forces that exercise an imperious control over the conscious thoughts and deeds of individuals.” All unmarried people became suspicious because, as Freud said, they were just looking for outlets for their sexual urges.
Did churches have enough intelligence to see above Freud? Did they have any faith left in the salvation of man? Unfortunately they did not. Protestants bought into his twisted ideas hook, line, and sinker. The only faith men had left was in their ability to satisfy their wives in the bedroom because that’s what made them real men. Families started to avoid singles altogether, making sure their children didn’t sit with one during church service. Preachers started to ramp up their sermons on marriage and family and decry the evils of “extended adolescence,” telling their flocks that “singleness is a sin.” This is where we’re at today – sex worship. Southern Baptist preachers are telling their 12 and 13 year olds to get married to avoid fornication because, as Freud said, it’s not possible to control repressed sexual urges. It’s hard to comprehend that we have church leaders who are slaves to sexual sin. But they’re just reflections of their flocks who jump from one spouse to another through no fault divorce. Indeed, we have come from the time of Christ when the choice was between marriage and celibacy, as outlined by Paul, to today where the choice is between marriage and cohabitation, as outlined by your local preacher of choice. We have come from a time when self control was possible to a time when self control is out of the picture. Who do we have to thank for all this? In my opinion, it’s the immoral leaders of the churches and especially the privileged academics who are leading Protestant denominations swiftly to the land of Sodom.
If I live to be 100 years old, the one thing I will remember about the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage is their assumption that gays were “condemned to live in loneliness” without marriage. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that they were just expressing what most Americans already felt and what most churches already taught – that a family and comfortable sex lives were required to enter adulthood in America. I’ve written for years about the church’s idolatrous worship of sex, but never thought I see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would declare marriage a constitutional right. But this didn’t happen overnight. So what was it that made Justice Kennedy believe that gay people were “condemned to live in loneliness?” The church. Not just the Catholics and Protestants, but all of them. Where do people get married? The church. What institution has traditionally set the standards for sexual ethics? The church. I believe Kennedy was calling out churches as hypocrites because the sexual ethics that they preached didn’t match the sexual ethics that they practiced. He packed a lot of punch into that one word, “condemned.” I can hear him asking churches, “Who are you to condemn those who can’t get married when you can’t remain faithful in your own marriages?” “Who are you to talk about marriage when half of your congregations will get divorced?” With “condemned,” he was also taking a stab at church weddings and the false separation of church and state that has existed in this country since its founding. Indeed, here we have a case where the church is not condemning the state. Rather, the state is condemning the church. So this contrived separation may get even wider. What condemned gay people to live in loneliness? Are we so naive as to believe that they didn’t have sexual relationships because they didn’t have marriage licenses and the blessings of church weddings? No. What condemned them was the church’s idolatrous worship of heterosexual marriages and families. What condemned them was the absence of any other alternative besides family life. What condemned them was the church’s narrow mindedness and inability to see reality beyond their own stained glass windows and rose colored glasses. What condemned them was their own pride, greed, and unwillingness to talk about such matters in their churches. So I think Justice Kennedy was also saying to the church, “You made some false assumptions. So I’ll make some false assumptions.” For instance, the church has also seen single adults as adolescents until they married. So, the Supreme Court lumped them in with gays too. Why not? They never had an identity to begin with. It was like Kennedy was giving the faithful a taste of their own medicine. He took the church’s own traditions and unwritten rules, twisted them around a bit, and threw them right back at the pulpits.
However, all of these assumptions and elevation of marriage to a civil right also underscore why lifelong virginity is a spiritual gift. Not only is it difficult in and of itself, society’s dismissal of it does not lead to a life of comfortable acceptance. Yes, I get lonely, very lonely indeed. But I don’t think I’m any lonelier than Christ was while on this earth. I don’t expect the state, church, or anybody else to do anything about my loneliness. I accept it. I relish it. And I dare say most of us with this gift would say the same thing. I realize that for a person to live today with unmet desires is unheard of and that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is sacred as scripture. But all traditions and family legacies were tossed out the door when Christ entered the world. I live by different rules. In a real way, I see my role today as making comfortable people uncomfortable and taking the padded cushions out of comfortable padded pews. I don’t look to a marriage to define me as an adult. God has already done that. I don’t look at surveys. I don’t take votes. And I don’t care how popular or unpopular I may be. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that just because the Bible allows for a life of marriage or celibacy that half the people must be married and half the people must be celibates. That will never be the case. Even if there have been only five people with the charism of virginity since the time of Christ, the Bible is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. God is not a God of democracy. He is a king. He does not have to consult a supreme court. He is the court and final judge.
What is the one thing that epitomizes sexual immorality, debauchery, greed, lust, unfaithfulness, broken homes, and selfishness? I think it’s marriage. What could be more hypocritical than lavish church weddings and a 50% divorce rate? The truth is, God was never present in most of these choreographed ceremonies. No matter how much money preachers were paid off, they couldn’t take his place. Did I mention the pineapple punch? Most weddings are nothing more than extended celebrations of greed and flagships of social class, cocktail parties with a twist. Did I mention gossip? How many children are they going to have? Who is his father? Has she been married before? What does he do for a living? Where are they going to live? Oh, the drama, the excitement. Oh please. How long is “’til death do us part?” The divorce culture is indeed largely responsible for the downward spiral of ethics in America today. It’s responsible for the emotionally crippled children who will carry the same patterns into future generations. What a price to pay for sex worship. Now there are children who don’t even know who their fathers are. Marriage has become such an expectation to enter adulthood that homosexual marriage has been accepted. Come one, come all. Get your marriage licenses today! Desire has become such a major part of the human narrative that it’s not natural for anyone to deny their sexual desires, no matter how perverted they may be. Is it any surprise that the number one group responsible for pedophilia in the U.S. is married men? Greed knows no end. Let’s not forget the women. After bored housewives read 50 Shades of Gray, many “master bedrooms” took on a whole new meaning. The big question now is whether traditional marriage between a man and woman is even relevant today. Its definition has changed so much that its biblical significance is not even recognizable.
Why am I so down on marriage? Because married people are down on celibacy. In recent years, the main context within which Christians have spoken about celibacy has been homosexuality. And since the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage last year, it’s taken a more aggressive tone. You will be hard pressed to find anything positive written about celibacy today, especially within Protestant circles. Parents today are more worried about their children living celibate and lonely lives than they are about them getting an education and a job. It’s a fate worse than AIDS or any mosquito born disease. The only thing evangelicals understand about celibacy is that it’s what gays and lesbians are supposed to do to keep them in line with God’s word. “It’s what keeps them from sinning,” one older charismatic preacher told me. To them it’s abnormal and not natural. It’s the identity they can assign to any single person over 25. It’s the reason they feel good about avoiding them and excluding them from their church “families.” They are the people they protect their children from, those sinister celibate people. As one little boy said to his mother as they passed me on a hiking trail last year, “Mom, he must be one of those single people you talked about, one of those people who are lost and don’t know where they’re going.” Good job mom. But what about the gift of celibacy Paul spoke of in the Bible? Parents who call themselves Christians today don’t have a clue. All they care about is protecting their brood and looking out for their own comfort. They’re quick though to tell you celibacy is a Catholic problem and they want no part of it. Many of them think it’s a natural result of trying to enforce it on men who should have been married because sexual desire, as they repeat over and over again, cannot be controlled. Well, I guess they have a track record that proves that. The Southern Baptists have even become so paranoid that their Andrew Walker said it is “sinful” for young people to wait beyond their teenage years to get married and that it’s “impractical” to expect virginity beyond that age:
“The reality is, starting at the age of 12, 13, boys and men, growing up into maturity, are hardwired for something that God gave us a desire for and an outlet for. And so to suppress that becomes more difficult the older you get.”
Yes, it’s difficult for people like the Baptists because they idolize sex and marriage. They know no other way of life. Their “reality” has replaced any biblical principles they may have had at one time. It’s hard wired in them. It’s the same excuse they used for divorce. Faithfulness became too difficult after years of boring marriages, so they had to look for other outlets. No fault divorce was the answer. Yes, dear Jesus, it’s just too hard for people who are slaves to sex. I should have been married at 12 and here I am at 55. What would a good churchgoing, married-up, iron sharpened “man of God” say about me? I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know that this is what happens when a society places too much value on either celibacy or marriage. It happened 500 years ago with celibacy and the Protestant reformation and it is happening today with marriage and the idol worship of sex and children. So married folks and church “families,” I would encourage you to think before you speak and be aware of your history and legacies, or else you may be the ones “condemned to live in loneliness” as Justice Kennedy so eloquently put it. Just because something is traditional does not mean it’s Christian. As a matter of fact, there is nothing innately Christian about having children. There is, however, something innately Christian about the charism of virginity. Get to know the people in your congregations who do not fit your typical “church family” and see how they line up with your stereotypes. Allow your minds the possibility that celibacy may be possible in your children if they live beyond teenage years. And if you really want to expand your thinking, allow the possibility that celibacy may be God’s will for some of their lives. Accept the fact that it can be a very positive response to Christ and just as natural as your own marriages. Otherwise, just as you look at my biblical celibacy as wrong and sinful, I will continue to look at your adulterated marriages as state sanctioned sexual partnerships. If you can’t make room for exceptions in your narrow minds, I can’t make room for you.
I know my blog is about something very personal. Most of us wouldn’t discuss virginity in a Walmart checkout line or even in church. In this post, I want to talk about why it is not always about the sexual. Have you ever wondered why it was necessary for Mary, the mother of Christ, to be a virgin? Did Joseph choose her for his wife because she was the hottest girl in the village? No, God himself chose Mary. Was she a perfect woman? No. You can read the whole story in Luke 1. Pay particular attention to Mary’s response in verse 34 when the angel Gabriel told her she was going to have a miraculous birth: “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” In other words, she asked how she could possibly have a child when she hadn’t had sex with a man. “How shall this be” tells us she had no doubt the birth would occur, only how it would happen. Her faith was much higher than the average woman at the time, or at any time. I think that was one of the main reasons she was highly favored. Gabriel summed it up in v. 37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Sometimes it’s necessary to bypass the questions of how in order to reach a level of faith like Mary’s.
A seemingly ordinary young woman pulled off the impossible. She broke a cycle that had never been broken, as no one in the history of mankind had ever been born without a biological mother and biological father. So the origin of virginity, as spoken by Gabriel, had nothing to do with locker room graffiti or sexual gratification. It was necessary for the birth of Christ to prove to a skeptical world that he was the son of God as well as the Son of Man. Also notice that her response to Gabriel was not like Zacharias. She didn’t show any skepticism. She didn’t say, “Yeah, right Gabe, you go ahead and make that happen and I’ll still be here laughing tomorrow.” She didn’t ask for a sign – “If you could just make it rain for the next week, I might listen to you.” And did Mary get a big ego out of all this? Did she put on a new dress and crown herself as one who was “highly favored among women?” It was just the opposite. Her response could only come from the mother of Christ: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” She saw herself as a lowly servant and in no way sought to bring attention to herself. Couldn’t that serve as the definition of humbleness? As Herbert Lockyer said: “ Mary exhibited a true and genuine piety, as well as a profound humility—the accompaniment of holiness.” She was highly favored among women because she was following God’s will for her life, had a very unique beauty of character; and had the faith, disposition, and determination to carry out the mission of bringing Christ into the world. Even though she knew what pain and sorrow lay ahead of her, she calmly accepted her assignment, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” In order for Christ to come into the world as both a human and God, it was necessary for his conception to be miraculous and not involve the sperm of a mortal man. To do this, she had to be a virgin. And it had to remain an eternal mystery. Men have never been able to explain how a virgin could give birth and they still can’t explain it today. It takes faith to believe in the virgin birth of Christ. To discredit it is to reject Jesus himself. It is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth.
Does any of this associate virginity with sexual pleasure? No. It marks Mary as a faithful follower of Christ. And it associates Christ with his miraculous birth, one of such gravity that it changed the course of time. It takes time for a person to draw closer to Christ. And I think the longer a Christian lives without marriage and a sexual relationship, the more their virginity becomes about what is not sexual and remaining faithful to God. It becomes more about relating to those who Christ called “the least of these.” And virgins are among those people today. Since about my 30s, I’ve looked at virginity as one of the strongest equalizing forces in the universe – far surpassing gender, race, class, age, etc. When talking to others who are waiting on marriage or have the gift of virginity, I don’t have to worry about what their expectations of me might be or how I compare with other men. I don’t have to worry about comments like, “You better get a move on or time will pass you by.” I feel freer to be myself. You can’t put a price on that. When I talk to people, I don’t check ages and birth certificates first, like the world does. If I feel like talking to women much older or much younger than myself, I just let the world point and gossip. I don’t feel bad about giving them something to talk about. Not only is it an equalizing force, virginity can be so thoroughly melded into the fabric of our everyday lives that it becomes just another part of who we are. It is, after all, very natural. At some point, the question about who was out there that God wanted me to marry turned into: What else needs to be done? Who has been forgotten? Who can I help the most? What can I guard that is susceptible to being stolen? Feeling the need to guard something may in fact tie us to the role eunuchs played in Old Testament days when they guarded royal harems and jewels. For me, this does include guarding young people from the tragedy of teenage births and poverty; something that parents are responsible for, but many of them are not.
So, do you still think virginity is all about not having sex? Do you think it’s just something men look for in a wife? I hope not, because I can’t think of too many things more important in the history of mankind than following God’s will, being faithful, and having the self control to make wise decisions. How many women and men are highly favored by God today?
Fifty years ago such a question would have been unheard of because it was expected that everybody was a virgin when they married, men and women. That was back when self-control was valued as a character trait when people chose mates. Now we have a world void of any biblical standards where it’s unusual for either one to be a virgin at marriage, a world where experience in everything reigns supreme. I’m sure many people reading this would say times have changed and that a virgin should not expect to marry a virgin. But I don’t think it’s too late to return to those innocent times and reclaim Christian standards and dignity for those who are following God’s commandments. First, we’ve got to know why sexual relationships belong only in marriage and we have to be willing to defend those standards in a lost world. We also have to know what we’re waiting on. Since marriage is symbolic of the marriage between Christ and the church, it is also symbolic of their states before marriage. Christ is a virgin and his bride, the church, will be too at the marriage feast in heaven. I don’t think he would settle for anything else. It only follows then that two people contemplating marriage on this earth would expect each other to be virgins. St. Ambrose reflected on this rather well:
“Consider, too, another merit of virginity. Christ is the spouse of the Virgin, and if one may so say of virginal chastity, for virginity is of Christ, not Christ of virginity. He is, then, the Virgin Who was espoused, the Virgin Who bare us, Who fed us with her own milk, of whom we read: ‘How great things hath the virgin of Jerusalem done! The teats shall not fail from the rock, nor
snow from Lebanon, nor the water which is borne by the strong wind.'”
So my answer to the question about whether a virgin should expect to marry another virgin is absolutely yes. Virginity is just as much a part of God’s creation as rocks, snow, water, wind, and marriage itself. For women, what better way is there to know if a man is really serious about them and willing to commit than to find out he committed to having no sex before marriage? Men can get sex anywhere today and the images are plastered wall to wall and ceiling to ceiling. For them, what better way is there to know that a woman is going to be faithful than to find out she has never been with another man? Our memories are something we do not have control over. All of our brains’ processes are part of God’s creation. They cannot be deleted. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Actually, that’s not possible because our brains are not SD cards that can be wiped clean at the touch of a button. And I’m sure you’ve heard about “no strings attached” intimate encounters. That’s not possible either because we can’t control what strings get attached. The Bible never tells us to forget. Such unwanted memories are the consequences of having sex before marriage. They cloud our expectations, jigsaw-puzzle our dreams, and rob our futures. Do you like the idea of having sex with not only your spouse on your wedding night, but every other person he/she has had sex with? There’s no app to fix that.
If you don’t think a virgin should expect another virgin, do you think she ought to consider marrying every man who shows an interest in her? To show just how disordered that line of thinking is, would you expect her to marry a man who has served 20 years in prison for rape and distribution of pornography? Would you expect a virtuous man to marry a female teacher who is facing multiple charges of having sex with students? No? What happened to all that forgiveness and graciousness and all that convictional kindness? The truth is, no amount of forgiveness can erase memories of sexual sin. No amount of cleansing and no amount of washing in the blood can do that. It can only have a negative impact on a marriage – namely, it increases the likelihood of divorce. The world doesn’t understand that God placed sexual immorality in its own category and that it can’t be compared to lying, cheating, stealing, or any other sin. Actually, virginity would still be the best choice before marriage if it were completely untied from any religious connotations. How can a man not think about his past lovers on his honeymoon night with his virgin bride? He can’t. How can he not wonder about the men his wife had sex with before him? He can’t. How can a woman not think about the men she slept with? She can’t. How can she forget about the plans they made for the future? She can’t. It seems that men and women prefer many of the same things before marriage. If men prefer virgins, why can’t women? I think they can and I think they should. It’s hypocritical for men to sleep around and then expect to marry a virgin. It’s just as hypocritical for women to sleep around and expect to marry a virgin. If bringing up the subject of virginity scares your boyfriend away, you can be assured he was not the man for you. If he tries to get the benefits of a husband before marriage, run fast the opposite direction. God made our brains and memories for a reason. We’re responsible for using them.
Since it is God’s design for two virgins to marry, it’s also normal for them to ask questions about each other’s sexual history. Such questions are as normal as asking about what makes a rainbow, why the sky is blue, and where the wind comes from. On the other hand, it is grossly abnormal for couples to ask each other about their past partners, how many children they have, if they have to pay child support, if they used “protection” during sex, if they have a sexually transmitted disease, or if they will ever see their lovers again. But the media would have us believe the opposite and that experience of all types is normal and inexperience is abnormal. Look at how virginity is presented on TV. The characters are almost always women. They are usually awkward and see their virginity as a burden to bear. They are vulnerable, easy to take advantage of, and basically don’t have a clue. However, the ones I know are wise beyond their years. They are special to me because I relate to them, no matter what age.
Ironically, the feminist movement is all about sexual empowerment and ridding the world of double standards. I’m all for empowerment that brings women’s expectations up to men’s. But instead, it has taken us backwards and given us a generation of young ladies who think their virginity is a selling point to get the right man and get ahead. They are not supposed to value virginity in men, though. As long as the guy has the right job, money, and social status, they are expected to accept whatever baggage he brings to the table, because women are not supposed to want sex. They just have to “give it up” when he wants it. Meanwhile, men have been expected to ride the party train and sew their wild oats. They are expected to be horn dogs every time they are in the presence of women. They are expected to “get her done” and hope she’s making breakfast in the morning. Meanwhile, the good guys are left behind. So the supposed equality that feminist were fighting for has instead led to the greatest inequality the world has ever seen. It’s past time for Godly men and women to stand up and tell the world what they expect and what they won’t tolerate. If they are virgins, they should express their desire for virgin husbands and wives. Men’s virtue ought to be valued just as much as women’s. If women continue their present course and think relationships are all about giving, then there will be no virtuous men to marry because they will continue to take what they want with no commitments. Why should they marry? And the trend will continue down through the ages with men getting a free ride and women left holding the baby carriage. Gift-giving is always more complex than it seems because there are three intertwining obligations – to give, to receive, and to reciprocate. It sets in motion a binding obligation cycle where one has to reciprocate with a gift of equal value. Mutual virginity at marriage helps ensure that this cycle starts on equal ground. Yes, the whole process can start with a simple question like, “I believe in waiting on marriage before having sex. Are you a virgin too?” This is a cultural and religious crossroads of such magnitude we can’t afford to make light of it.
Not only should we expect virginity in marriage, it is commanded by God himself in the Old Testament. Consider what He told Moses in Leviticus 21:13-14: “And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.” Matthew 19:6 also states, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Can you think of a better way for a man and woman to be joined together than by sexual intercourse? Let’s turn the tables. Should newlyweds expect each other to be faithful to each other in marriage? If you answered yes, why shouldn’t a virgin have the same expectation of faithfulness to God before marriage? Double standards are so ingrained in our society that it’s hard to separate reality from fiction. If you look at what the world says about virginity, you will get a quick lesson in how Pharisees use straw men to support false beliefs. A straw man is merely the misrepresentation of someone else’s argument. In the case of virginity, it’s popular to exaggerate its importance. “Is that the only thing you’re worried about?” “So, you think sex is going to be better in marriage because you waited?” “That is so unforgiving. Haven’t you ever sinned?” “What if she’s not waiting on you?” “Don’t you want to know if you’re compatible?” And some try to put words in our mouths. For instance, “Do you expect to marry a virgin” can be twisted to “require a virgin to marry,” “demand a virgin to marry,” or even “owed a virgin to marry,” etc. The whole idea of waiting for anything is very painful to this world. “You expect a virgin at your age?” I never understood what the cutoff age is supposed to be. Oh, those vicious virgins are breaking through the barricades. Everybody run for cover!
Our God is very generous and wants the best for us. That includes virgin brides and grooms. If that seems selfish, we’re in good company. God himself is a selfish God. “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14).” Is it selfish to want to see a rainbow? Is it selfish to want to see a sunrise? I don’t think so. It’s being human. Just like it is to want to marry another virgin. Do you know who first uttered the word virgin? The Angel Gabriel. He mentioned it three times when talking to Mary. It appears nowhere else in the Bible. In other words, it is a word straight from heaven. But it still makes people uncomfortable. If you feel uncomfortable about asking your potential spouse such personal questions, think about the negative consequences on your marriage when one of you finds out the other has a sexual past. The best thing to do is to not marry the wrong person. Are you going to let the world dictate what you can and cannot expect from your spouse? Or are you going to let the Bible’s standards inform you of what God expects? Of course a virgin should expect to marry another virgin. That is not being judgmental. It is acknowledging God as our creator, the Bible as his inspired word, and his wisdom that far surpasses our understanding.
Many different “lifestyle choices” have been given credibility and affirmation these days. You can read to your heart’s content about the differences between transgender, pansexual, same sex attracted, homosexual, polysexual, bisexual, asexual, demisexual, gay, lesbian, polyamorous, queer, transsexual, transvestite, androgynous, bigender, bicurious, closeted, cross-dresser, gender non-conforming, drag queens, and the list goes on. Pick your flavor and raise your flag. However, there are only two lifestyle groups affirmed in the Bible, wives and virgins. “There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:34. That just sounds so foreign to our ears today doesn’t it? So narrow minded. So judgemental. When’s the last time you heard a preacher talk about the differences between wives and virgins? Chances are he was shoring up his family flock. A quick internet search revealed that the Southern Baptists have discussed same sex marriage and the differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality over 250,000 times in the last year, while they have discussed the differences between wives and virgins zero times. Can you think of any better demonstration of hypocrisy? When you say something enough times, especially in the absence of biblical standards, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So what is it that makes talking about the difference between a wife and a virgin so uncomfortable today? At first glance, the differences would seem quite obvious. A wife has had sex. A virgin has not. But Paul never mentioned sex. As a matter of fact, the word is never mentioned in the Bible. That’s because, as the old song says, sex and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. That’s precisely what makes virginity so uncomfortable. It forces us to see that our stations in life are based on our past choices and not on social pretenses and legal documents, like the Samaritan woman at the well found out when Jesus forced her to acknowledge her husbands (John 4). And that’s why I think Paul didn’t mention the Greek “joined” in these verses. It was already a given in the difference between a wife and virgin. He would have been acknowledging the world’s separation of “premarital” and “marital” sex if he had. Rather, he said the difference between a wife/husband and virgin is in what they care about, whether it’s the affairs of God or the affairs of the world. I get the feeling that the Corinthians had turned marriage into nothing more than a sexual contract and virginity into no more than a joke, much like they have become today. Paul is simply reminding them that there is much more to marriage and virginity than the physical and that the physical and spiritual components of sex cannot be separated. In other words, being joined physically creates a permanent union, whether we call it a marriage or not. The Samaritan woman could have been very religious, even singing in the choir, and had everybody thinking she was a virtuous virgin waiting on her Boaz. But which ultimately mattered, her social identity or the one Christ himself gave her?
It’s also important to note that the Samaritan woman was actually a wife and that her sexual relationships were voluntary. She was not raped, sexually abused, or the victim of sex trafficking or any other situation she didn’t have control over. Jesus was very clear about the sexual component of her present relationship when he said “and the man you have now is not your husband.” A tactful way of saying, “and the man you’re having sex with now is not your publicly acknowledged husband.” When it dawned on her who she was talking to, she asked for his living water, went back into the city and told the men, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” What a way to find out your past does matter. Then the men of the city came to meet him. If she had been raped five times and was a sex slave to the man she was living with, we would have the story of the Samaritan virgin at the well. So I think Paul’s omission of any term related to sex when talking about the differences between a virgin and a wife should give comfort to those who have been the victims of such atrocities. We have to see our identities as God does, not as the world does.
Since I have renounced marriage and all that it stands for in today’s world, it is my responsibility to make churches and all others who worship sex as uncomfortable as possible. I hope this photo and caption helps to do just that. There is absolutely nothing innately Christian about being a father or husband.
This evening I was looking through the Facebook groups that had the words purity, waiting or virtue in their titles and couldn’t help but notice that at least 90% of their members are women. And if you do an internet search on these words, you’ll find the same stark double standard. Nearly all of the articles, interviews, books, speeches, etc. that have anything to do with abstinence have been written by women. Why are women held to higher standards than men? Is it because they have a hymen and men don’t? Is it because they get pregnant and men don’t? If this is the case, then civilization has dipped to a status below the apes. It shouldn’t be this way, men. It takes two people with equal respect for each other to come together in marriage. It only takes two people with hormones to come together in recreational sex. Sexual purity is just as much our responsibility as it is women’s. Do you like the idea of having your honeymoon night bombarded with the memories of past sexual encounters? You won’t be able to stop them. And you won’t be able to give your wife all the man you could have been if you’ve already given a part of yourself away. Do you think she’ll care? Do you think she’ll think about the other women? I’ll let you answer that for yourself. There’s no way another woman can walk into your temple, make dinner and a special dessert, and leave without a trace. Godly women can discern. They are waiting on more than a grinding tool. They like to think they are waiting on Boaz, not Bozo. Self control is what makes a real man, not how much action he can get. I’m proud to be a real man. Is it easy? Absolutely not. You may be laughed at, called names, and even avoided by your buddies. Living a Christian life is not all cotton candy. There’s a lot of sacrifice. I encourage you not to make mistakes today that you will regret for the rest of your lives. Self control doesn’t cost you anything. But the lack of it can be very expensive.
Single ladies who are looking for marriage – It’s pretty obvious that we live in the information age. With smart phones and laptops, it’s easy to think that all the knowledge of the world is at our fingertips. But it’s not. There are mysteries that scientists will never understand, and they include human sexuality and the creation of new life. It’s your responsibility to respect what virtuous men don’t know. It reminds me of a Brian Adams song that was out some years ago called “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman.” The lyrics include these words:
To really love a woman, let her hold you
Til’ you know how she needs to be touched
You’ve gotta breathe her, really taste her
Til’ you can feel her in your blood
An’ when you can see your unborn children in her eyes
You know you really love a woman
A Christian guy who is also waiting on marriage will not know how to “really love a woman” because he hasn’t found the right one yet. More than likely he will feel really awkward in the pornographic world we live in. There’s a lot you can do about that. Start talking. When he knows how much you value self control, that will take a lot of guesswork out of the whole dating process. It will also help you avoid the Bozos.
I’ve listened to many “be fruitful and multiply” sermons over the years and have always chalked them up to preachers who never found the New Testament in their Bibles. But I heard one recently that was addressed to graduating high school seniors that left me speechless. In high Baptist style, the students marched in single file with caps and gowns on to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, sat on the first two pews marked “reserved,” and waited for their names to be called to walk onstage to get a new Bible and a picture with the preacher. Before the last one could sit down though, the preacher directed the audience (or is it still a congregation?) to turn their Bibles to Genesis Chapter 1. I felt a little dizzy and said a quick prayer, “Oh God, please don’t let this be what I think it’s going to be.” Unfortunately, it was, and to a degree I’ve never heard before. Just a few quotes:
“Okay seniors, you’ve reached your destination. Now it’s time to take your next step. Do you know what that’s going to be? It’s right here in the Bible. You’re going to be fruitful and multiply. That means it’s your time to make babies. That means one man and one woman. Let me say that again, one man and one woman.” The woman sitting behind me almost knocked my head off as she jumped to her feet clapping and cheering. Hoots and applause broke out all over the church, as if the home team just scored a touchdown. The pastor continued with other advice for them. “Now, let me make it clear that if you’re not physically defective in some way it’s your responsibility to make babies. The Bible says be fruitful and multiply. The people who don’t are immature and lazy. You’ve got to take the next step, because the future of the church depends on you.” Again, the congregation erupted in applause. I think I saw some confetti stream down from the balcony.
Church, if this is your way of shoring up the defenses around your nuclear families to guard against homosexuality, same sex marriage, and every other evil this world has to offer, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Here’s why: God can speak to a young person’s heart and tell them to remain as they are and not get married before they even know they have the spiritual gift of celibacy. When they reach those crossroads/decisions in their lives, they can be led off course by maps that are not correct and by foolish advice, like the sermon I quoted above. The things they are taught in church CANNOT be ambiguous. They have to be crystal clear. More importantly, they CANNOT be directed at the majority, like the “majority” who will marry and have families. God’s word does not operate on the same statistical principles as birth control pills. Advice given in church must include all of God’s children, not just those who will grow up and have families one day. If someone is considering a life of celibacy, they should be studying both the Old Testament and the words of Christ in the New Testament, especially 1 Corinthians. Other than serving as a historical lesson, the Mosaic Law as it pertains to human reproduction has no place in church teaching. A person who has the celibate gift will have enough insight into the New Testament to know that Christ’s death and resurrection nullified the Old Testament’s command to be fruitful and multiply. But confusing that insight with false teaching is JUST AS WRONG as a man asking another man’s wife out on a date. It’s even worse to assume that the first big decision a young person makes is who to marry and not discerning if they should get married at all. Teenagers mature sexually at different rates – both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Though it may seem unfathomable to the idolatrous church today, it is possible to mature sexually without having sex. Of the high school seniors present in church that Sunday morning, some of them could have been making marriage plans, some of them could have been dating, some of them could have been without boyfriends or girlfriends, and some of them could be totally confused and have no idea what they want to do. For the church to assume all young people are called to marriage and making babies is blasphemy.
For the students there that morning who didn’t feel called to traditional marriage, what did they PERCEIVE as their choices? There could be only two. 1) They could pursue the default lifestyles of cohabitation and homosexuality. There is plenty of support for them out there; in college, on the streets, and even in churches. How do churches support the homosexual lifestyle? By idolizing marriage and family and not presenting celibacy as a viable alternative, by not upgrading their denominational theology from the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament to the Jesus of the New Testament, and by defining family only in terms of the nuclear family and not recognizing spiritual children resulting from repentance and salvation. Many conservative congregations take pride in not being middle of the road churches. They regularly quote Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The same principle should apply to their teachings. They are either one hundred percent biblical and true or one hundred percent non-biblical and false. The admonition to be fruitful and multiply, when taken out of context and without explaining the new covenant of the New Testament, is one hundred percent false.
2) Of course the only other choice they perceived is a life of celibacy. What support is there for that option? There is certainly no support in the secular world. There is certainly no support in Protestant churches. So which lifestyle do you think those who don’t see marriage in their future are going to choose? Love and acceptance shacking up outside of marriage, a universally accepted homosexual lifestyle, or ridiculed as defective and fruitless in a church that doesn’t know what the truth is? It’s pretty obvious. The sermon I referred to above was streamed live on the internet and could potentially be responsible for untold numbers of young people entering the gay lifestyle where they are accepted and encouraged and where they don’t have to fit a predefined traditional “church family” role. I consider telling a group of high school seniors that they are expected to be fruitful and multiply to be pastoral malpractice, one of the highest forms of treason any church leader can be held responsible for.
The question I keep asking myself is why would a church silence the New Testament and Apostle Paul’s writings on human sexuality? After all, he had the most to say on the subject. Why would they not see a life of celibacy as a viable option and just as sacred as marriage and as meaningful as Paul presented it in 1 Corinthians? The only answer I can come up with is that the Baptist churches have sunken so deep in their divorce, adultery, birth control, abortion culture that the idea of self-control and a life without sex is beyond their comprehension. Maybe they are that averse to the word “celibacy” and everything it conjures up in their minds. Maybe they think it’s too Catholic. If that’s the case, may I suggest that the church reclaim the word “celibacy” and wipe it clean of the homosexuality and perversion the world has cast on it. If churches continue to play their one note chord of marriage and family, with celibacy an implied impossibility, all they are multiplying is the number of same sex marriages in the future and they are guaranteeing the death of traditional Christian marriage. Instead of looking at those with the celibate gift today as defective, consider us a witness to the power of God and proof that he still works miracles. Instead of seeing us as selfish and wanting to avoid responsibility, look at what we are giving up and what we are looking forward to in eternity with Christ. Instead of dismissing Paul’s words as only relevant for his time, consider us evidence that the Bible is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. Instead of trying to work us into your fruitful nuclear families, think of us as heralding a new age where there will be no marriages, babies, or families. So my advice for students is this: Read the Bible for yourself. If you hear anything in church about Genesis and being fruitful and multiplying without a discussion of the New Testament and celibacy for the kingdom of God, consider it false teaching. It doesn’t matter what the credentials of the person doing the talking is. It doesn’t matter what his job title is or how much money he makes. It doesn’t matter who is wife is or how many kids he has. He is not qualified to whisper one syllable of advice on this subject. He is more than likely a married man who has no clue. We are no longer living under Mosaic Law. You are free to remain as you are with lifetime chastity or get married. Notice that I used the words chastity and freedom in the same sentence. Is that radical enough? Apostle Paul said both marriage and celibacy are good. That’s what I say.
Many articles have been written about churches refusing to accept the resumes of qualified unmarried men when they look for a pastor. Not surprisingly, the reasons remain the same – They want a man who can relate to their families, they want a man who knows about the responsibility of a family, they want a man with a proven track record, they want a man who will not hit on the women in their church, they want a man who is not a homosexual, they want a man who has sewn his wild oats and settled down. Churches take pride on looking for their family man. They even brag about their family church and how they need a family preacher. The only problem is that none of it is in the Bible. Who will relate to unmarried people? Or do they not really matter? The requirement of a married preacher is never mentioned in scripture. What these churches are doing, however, is providing a deeply perverted witness to the rest of the world. The hypocrisy of the church is the number one reason we have same sex marriage in this country today. I realize many of them claim that a married man is what their congregations want. If that’s the case, then what gives congregations the authority to overwrite the scripture? Isn’t it really just a case of moral relativity disguised in choir wardrobes? Isn’t it just bigotry dressed up in Sunday clothes? If a congregation preferred a homosexual preacher, would that be written down as scripture too?
Now, if you asked a churchgoer what they had against an unmarried man being called to preach in their church, most of them would say they loved all single men and welcomed them into their church. This is another problem that needs to be underscored – Churches and their good intentions are far removed from reality and from what the world sees. Questions about marital status and number and age of children have been used for years to discriminate against women. What would happen if the EEOC had authority over the hiring practices of churches? That’s easy. All churches would be without a preacher tomorrow. But for now, they continue to work their cotton fields with a good rope on a tree limb for anybody that’s not white enough, married enough, or wealthy enough. To come under compliance with EEOC regulations, at least half of their preachers (CEOs) would have to be single men. What’s the chance of that ever happening?
Another thing that needs to be taken seriously is authenticity. For anybody to speak about the gift of celibacy (singleness) in church, they need to possess the gift themselves or have someone standing beside them who does. You can theorize all you want and talk about how things should be. But this is something the church must see. Paul was not afraid to say “I wish every man was like me.” But would Paul even be allowed in churches today? Married folks – How would you like me to host a marriage retreat at your church? See how light is thrown into dark shadows when the tables are reversed?
The Southern Baptists’ David Platt recently posted a transcript of one of his sermons titled “The Gospel and Singleness.” See the link below to his radical.net web site. At first I thought it was a spoof, like a standup comic routine, except I didn’t hear any laughter. Like most Baptist preachers, he denies that the gift of celibacy even exists, but now he takes it a step further and calls it the Christmas gift nobody wants. Platt has a long history of shaming single men and telling them to man up and get married. Here are a few excerpts from the sermon. He focused mainly on 1 Corinthians 7:
“It’s clear that, obviously, there’s Paul making a statement here about singleness being a gift and marriage being a gift. The discussion revolves around what kind of gift is he referring to? Some people think he is talking about a subjective gift, much like the picture we have in 1 Corinthians 12, when it comes to spiritual gifts. This divine enabling for someone to be a single. Just like you have another spiritual gift, you have a gift of singleness.”
As usual, Platt starts out ridiculing Apostle Paul and anything to do with the gift of singleness. It’s still “singleness” to the Baptists because they can’t bring themselves to utter the word celibacy. In their comfortable “focus on the family” worlds, they don’t think twice about mocking those with such a gift by calling them “divinely enabled.” There are some protestant scholars today who are so uncomfortable with celibacy that they believe Paul had been married before he wrote the epistles. To acknowledge that much self control would shed too much light on their adulterous marriages. See the link to Denny Burk’s article. Paul did not identify himself as having the gift of celibacy because he was widowed or didn’t have a marriage license, but because he was giftedly committed to God to live without a sexual relationship. Yes, he was indeed divinely enabled, just as some people are today. But Platt speculates he might have been a homosexual. Like most Baptists, he has to discuss these matters amongst his brethren to see how they match up with the Bible. It’s called moral relativism, where popular opinion determines if something is accepted as biblical fact or dismissed as a “subjective gift.” It’s a theology based on changing culture, which Platt so eloquently described:
“How many people with the gift of marriage sit around and wonder, ‘Well, do I have the gift of marriage?’ Don’t answer that too quickly. The picture is, of course, I’ve got the gift of marriage . . . the reality is Scripture said you’re married.”
Yes, reality is scripture for the Baptists. Not the Bible. And they need to sit down for this shocking revelation: Marriage licenses are not scripture. Marriage licenses are not required for salvation. It almost seems as if Platt’s treatise is a study in how to talk about a trojan horse (marriage licensees) without ever mentioning them by name. It’s unfortunate that our morally bankrupt and totally depraved and Calvinized churches today can comfortably assume that every adult who is alive and breathing either has a marriage license or is “living in sin.” As a matter of fact, the SBC’s Ethics Commission President, Russell Moore, recently said marriage “preaches” the gospel and that single people are lost without one. He even believes fornication is “more dangerous” than adultery for a man because it takes a wife to forgive him. See links below. If you’re caught in a Baptist church not preaching the gospel with sex, woe be unto you:
“Here’s what I mean. What if what Paul is saying here is not, ‘We’ve got to figure out whether or not we’ve got the gift or not’ – because let’s be honest, regardless of whether or not a single person in this room thinks they have the gift or not, the reality is they’re still single.”
They’re still single? Why is it so easy for Platt to peg everyone in his audience as married or single? It’s because marriage and celibacy are not spiritual or sexual issues for the Baptists. They are legal issues. Marriage to them means no more than a marriage license and a preacher collecting his fee and singleness means no more than the absence of a marriage license. God comes to them through courthouse doors. That’s why they still haven’t figured out there’s a difference between “single” people waiting on marriage and people with the gift of celibacy waiting on the return of Christ. That’s why they don’t recognize the difference between a wife and a virgin (1 Corinthians 7:34). They can’t see virgins. They can only see marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies, wedding rings and bridal registries. To believe in something they can’t see would take faith. How would a young man (or woman) even discern if they had the gift of celibacy today? Should they read their Bibles? Should they pray and ask the Lord for guidance? Should they talk to their pastor? No. The Baptists have some new advice for them: They should ask their frat buddies in college:
“What’s interesting is I remember in college talking with guys and this was often the topic of conversation – the gift of singleness – and guys would kind of talk about it and wonder, ‘How do you know if you’ve got it?’ And if a guy, you know, wasn’t getting a date or something, he was like, ‘Well, maybe I’ve got the gift.’ And they would talk about it. But the reality is, if we’re really honest, they were talking about it like they certainly didn’t want it. This was like the Christmas gift you didn’t want, that you would immediately return when you got it. It was like, ‘Well, I hope I don’t have the gift. You know, I hope this doesn’t mean I have the gift. And I started thinking, ‘Okay, well, how do you know if you have the gift? And if it’s a gift, then why does nobody want it?’ So thinking about this picture here, I don’t believe this is what Paul is talking about here.”
What a decision to make – a keg of beer or a weekend without sex. If you consider the divorce rate, I’d say marriage is a Christmas gift nobody wants. This is where the moral relativism and comfortable assumptions come to their rescue. Since none of his frat buddies had the gift of celibacy, he felt comfortable assuming nobody had it. Can’t get a date? The Baptists have you covered. Don’t want a date? Your fate is worse than hell itself.
“The reality is every single one of us has one of those two gifts. Some of us have the gift of marriage at this moment and some of us have the gift of singleness – not necessarily a gift of singleness that will last 60 years.”
That’s so comfortable. Everybody has to have a gift to unwrap under the Christmas tree at this moment, right? Paul wasn’t even saying that marriage is a gift. The truth is, society can never understand the commitment of marriage as long as they don’t acknowledge the commitment of celibacy for people called to that life. The disrespect for marriage has finally caught up to the disrespect for celibacy. That’s why I consider marriage today to be a “subjective gift” and a “divinely enabled” disaster. In Matthew 19, Christ made it clear that the gift of celibacy cannot be understood or accepted by everybody. That includes men with five degrees, like David Platt. It does not mean it cannot be acknowledged and respected, though. As long as there are people like him in positions of church leadership, the gift of celibacy will never see respect. I understand he’s now in charge of the SBC’s International Mission Board and has recently cut the positions of over 1000 missionaries in order to funnel the savings to one of his internet startup companies. Hypocrisy – It’s what a lot of churches do best. Maybe he’s found a new place to share all of his . . . Christmas toys.
It’s really no surprise that Platt christened himself as an expert on singleness because he’s been married all of his adult life, since he was 21 years old. The only thing that can be gleaned from his “The Gospel And Singleness” is how to make up something if you don’t know what you’re talking about and how to rewrite scripture when it becomes uncomfortable and doesn’t agree with popular opinion. We have to keep in mind, though, what “gospel” means to the Baptists. They’ve used it to describe everything from “the gospel and homosexuality” to “the gospel and the American dream.” I understand they’re working on “the gospel and fried green butterbeans.” It basically means, “This is our opinion.” There’s no telling what Platt will have his hands on next. Stay tuned, though. He could take a vote to see if Jesus was married.
In Justice Kennedy’s majority ruling legalizing same sex marriage, he stated that, “The homosexuals’ hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” In his mind, homosexuals are not condemned to live in loneliness because they are homosexuals. They can have “sex” and get rid of that loneliness anytime they want to. He considered them condemned because they didn’t have what every pious church-going person has worshiped for the last 500 years – a marriage license. It just took that long for these sacred pieces of paper to be declared civil rights and erected as graven images. That shouldn’t be a shock. Churches have worshiped “holy matrimony” and “family values” for years, while turning a blind eye to the biblical meaning of marriage. What happened to the people who didn’t fit this nuclear family ideal? What happened to people who didn’t marry? Justice Kennedy couldn’t have said it better. They were excluded.
It’s interesting that he used the civil rights language of “excluded” in his majority opinion. To be excluded requires that a person be denied something they feel they have a right too. When any social construct reaches the level of mass acceptance that same sex marriage has, it doesn’t matter what the church says. It doesn’t matter what it thinks the rules are. It only matters what the masses think. And right now they think marriage just exists as a kind of financial contract, to divide up property in cases of divorce and to minimize tax liabilities. On a spiritual level, it has no meaning whatsoever. So it would be inhuman to exclude someone from all its glories, not to mention adulthood itself. So the Obergefell ruling was never about Christian marriages or any of that one flesh union kind of thing, because the church took sex out of the marriage equation decades ago. It also took self-control out of the single equation and replaced it with child marriages and acceptance of sexual immorality. According to the Southern Baptist’s Al Mohler:
“Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s. Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It’s battling our Creator’s reproductive designs.
The truth is, churches consider sexual restraint an impossibility. Their choirs break out in glorious exaltation if their members can make it from the parking lot to the pews without breaking out in mass orgies. But celibacy? That’s just an unreasonable expectation. Without faith in those who have the gift of celibacy, they can never have any faith in the gift of marriage. What do young people in church think about marriage? What is it that they are waiting on? It can’t be sex because that’s an unreasonable expectation. It’s a marriage license, of course. For just a small fee, they are granted full adulthood status and the men are even allowed to preach. So the marriage license itself has become the tradition in which marriage is based on, not the sacred union described in the Bible. Weddings came to be about “making things right” instead of doing things right to begin with. When a woman today is identified as a wife and serves as a role model in church, does that mean she has been faithful to her husband all those years or does it mean she has a marriage license? It has to be the marriage license because sex is too dirty to talk about in church. When a woman is identified as a single, does that mean she has been faithful to God and remained chaste all those years or does it mean she does not have a marriage license? It has to be the marriage license. What witness does that send to the world? How many county clerks defended marriage like Kim Davis did? How many churches have supported single adults? When Justice Kennedy effectively broadened the plaintiffs in the same sex marriage case to include those who did not have a marriage license, he included all single people who had been condemned to this horrific fate. Justice Kennedy merely turned the tables and used the church’s own traditions against them. The church killed biblical marriage, not the Supreme Court.
Marriage should never have been associated with the state or legal system to begin with. I’m not even sure how anyone can claim there is separation of church and state in this country. Preachers and priests are still acting as agents of the state and signing marriage licenses. I guess the display of nativity scenes is a much more grievance offense. The fascination with legal documents, distribution of wealth, inheritance claims, collection of tithes, and child custody have always served as the foundational building blocks of traditional Protestant churches. It has always been the marriage way or no way. In his majority opinion, Kennedy even stated, “Marriage remains a building block of our national community.” He copied that from the Southern Baptist’s own ethics manual: “The family is the basic building block of society and a biblical understanding of the family is essential for building a healthy society.” So the church killed marriage, not the Supreme Court.
Is there anything Christian about a nuclear family? Is there anything holy about a marriage? According to the Bible, there’s not. Jesus rejected the tradition of biological kinship: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:19-21, Matthew 12:46-50. So while Christ opened the doors for everyone to know him, even eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, the church closed their doors on everybody who was not a member of a nuclear family. They may have advertized “church family” on billboards, but reality was much different inside their church walls. Some of the faithful are even expecting Christ to visit courthouses first when he returns, so that he can check the marriage and divorce records. What a shock it will be when they receive even greater condemnation than the scribes and Pharisees and come face to face with a celibate Christ who doesn’t care who their families are. However, those who have been faithful celibates will have their spiritual children by their side. So, we may end up with a longer term marriage and more kids than all the Supreme Court justices combined. And Kennedy will look like a very lonely man. Who will be condemned then?
When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. Actually, I didn’t know who I was. I felt dizzy. Nauseated. Everything was spinning. Where was I? It was a big room with a lot of whirling machines and bright lights. I was freezing cold. I could smell rubbing alcohol and plastic. There was a lot of clanking metal. I could hear people talking. Then the faces of two ladies came into focus as they leaned over my bed. “Mr. Morgan, everything went just fine. We’ll be sending you back to your room in just a minute.” I was in an operating room. They were the anesthesia team who had put me to sleep for the first in a series of electroconvulsive therapy treatments. I was waking up. “Oh God, I’m not still alive am I? I want to die.”
I have bipolar I disorder. Medicines had failed to work on this cycle of depression and the ECTs were a last ditch effort to bring me out of the darkness. I’d rather have both arms and legs cut off than to have to go through this again. Don’t worry though. I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for about 30 years. Hospitals have become a way of life, or should I say a tortured way of life. Everybody knows me in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. My art work is hanging on their hallways. The nurse sees my stretcher coming down the hall and yells, “John! You’re back again?” I call it making the most of a bad situation. They roll me into my room. Some of my memory is coming back. I’ve been here before. Hope I have a quiet roommate because I don’t want to deal with anybody. Wait, what year is it? Who are the two old people in my room? The lady bends down and hugs my neck as she wipes away tears. I know that perfume. “Just remember that mama loves you.” Mama? Is that my mother? They walk out of the hospital room and I wipe tears from my eyes. Oh God, why me? The evening wears on and some of the other patient’s gather in the day room to watch T.V. One guy walks in with a guitar. Everybody gets quite. I remember this young man from a previous admission. He’s really sick. Somebody turns the T.V. volume down. He tunes it up a bit and looks up and says, “Would you like to hear a song?” Everybody cheers him on. For about the next hour I listened to a classical guitar performance that I should have paid money to see. The most gifted people I know live in psych units and long term psych facilities.
I wake up the next morning and cannot move. “Time to get up!” the nurse yells through my door. My roommate groans. I drag myself down the hallway to the third door on the left to get in the shaving line. When it comes my turn, I step up to the same little piece of metal bolted to the wall. I always miss a real mirror. I splash water on my face, shave, and then go get in the breakfast line. Many people question whether miracles still happen. I can tell you they do. I’m still alive. I have spent years of my life in hospitals and psych facilities, seen enough doctors to start my own medical clinic, taken enough medicine to start my own pharmacy, and had enough electrical energy passed through my brain to build my own power grid. I’ve been launched into the stratosphere of bipolar mania and buried under the shadow of death. I should have been dead a long time ago.
But wait a second. This is a celibacy blog. People with bipolar disorder have wild sex lives, don’t they? They can’t control themselves and the men rape every woman in site. You probably believe that. Unless you or someone in your family has been affected by mental illness, you’re at the mercy of public ignorance. Just based on my bio, most people would have me pegged as just another free frolicking “John” living the good life as a single dude. Some may even think I know all the girls on the streets by their first names. Chalk my case up to a miracle. I would even say that having bipolar disorder has given me insight into mental illnesses and developmental disorders I otherwise would not have. Most of my best friends live with them – schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, and OCD, etc. I try to keep up to date on the latest research and treatments and am a mental health advocate. I work with NAMI, crisis centers, and speak to classes in high schools about our brains and what can go wrong. What I really miss is my memory.
So if there are still any romanticized ideals out there about people with the gift of celibacy being highly exalted and honored and perfect people, I hope this serves to break that stereotype. I’m not a bright and happy shiny person. If you still have me pictured as a monk floating blissfully over a field of “celibate service” while performing 15th century Gregorian chants, please replace that with reality. Reality is not always pretty.
I live in an area where there are a lot of peach farms. Imagine that a peach growers seminar came to town, sponsored by our county cooperative extension office. Hundreds of people showed up asking a lot of similar questions about peaches. We were on the same wavelength, so to speak. The county had experts talking about different varities of peaches, soil types, irrigation systems, dormant hours, pesticides, everything you can think of that was related to peaches. When it was all over, everybody agreed that it was most informative and several people asked about another one next year. A week later, I got a call from the county agent, telling me that he received a letter from a man complaining about the seminar. He said he was a blueberry grower and lost his entire crop because he followed the seminar’s recommendations. The county agent called the man and explained to him the seminar was strictly for peach growers, which was made clear on all the publicity. The only answer the man could give was that he thought there was no difference in how blueberries and peaches were grown. He wrote an editorial for the newspaper, saying that he thought the county extension service was insensitive and non-inclusive and that we were all wrapped up in peach culture. Not wanting to leave anybody out, the county did a survey and found there were only two blueberry farms in the county, which makes sense because this is peach territory. It was later reported that we had the best peach crop in 15 years. If we have a peach seminar next year, do you think it should include a half-day of blueberry advice just in case somebody else shows up who is confused, or should we continue with an all-peach seminar?
I realize this is not a perfect analogy, but if I had a son or daughter of any age waiting on marriage who attended a purity seminar, it wouldn’t matter to me how many people showed up who had made past mistakes, how dirty they felt, what their expectations were, whether it improved their dating life or self esteem, what kind of people they eventually married, how loud they complained, how uncomfortable they felt, how less of a person they felt, how religious or hateful they thought we were, how much shame they felt, how alienated or out of place they felt, or if they felt their lives were of less value. Honestly, I’ve wondered why anybody who was not a virgin would show up at a purity seminar to begin with. Are they confused? Do they not know what sex is? Actually, I’d like it better if they didn’t show up. If my child got something out of it and felt more committed to wait, that’s the only thing that would be important to me. I would do all I could to get the seminar back next year. Purity is always going to make people uncomfortable. Even the language we use is so offensive to the world that it brings up more straw men than we can keep up with. But we do have control over how our time and resources are spent. And we do have a choice about what our priorities are. Dirty chewing gum? If it works, bring a truckload of it. Christian priorities should never be rearranged to placate emotions or to be politically correct.
There’s a recent article on Boundless titled “An Older Virgin in a Sex-Crazed World.” In it, a young lady complains about an “interrogation” she endured while undergoing x-rays to treat a ruptured lung. The technician asked her if she was on birth control, how she knows she’s not pregnant, and if there was any chance she could be pregnant now. She goes on to tell about her friend grilling her about her virginity in high school, how the world has placed pleasure before commitment, how fornication is everywhere, and how sex crazed society is today. What’s interesting is that the young lady who wrote it describes herself as a 32-year-old “older virgin.” Oh please. Do people not get out and meet each other anymore? Or are we wrapping ourselves up in our own little virtual cocoons? The 20-30 year-old young ladies who assume they are old enough to have the last word on virginity never cease to amaze me, and there are hundreds more on the internet. To quote Leslie Ann: “I’m no longer a naïve 19-year-old eager to spring into a relationship just to be romanced. I know the realities of married life by years of study and observance.” Well, gosh darn it, let’s go ahead and give her a Ph.D. Or maybe she could write a book. Let me just say this to Miss Leslie Ann and the hundreds of other young ladies who write on this subject – You are to be commended for making it to your 20s and 30s and still be a virgin. That does indeed put you in rare company. But there are much older virgins than you. As difficult as it is to believe, there are some old enough to be your fathers and grandmothers. I always find it quite interesting that they’re never discussed on your blogs. Honestly, I think arrogance is the fastest way for a beautiful young lady to become . . . not so beautiful. So in the big scheme of things, you are still quite a child and your opinions are not as important as you think they are. Some people may think I’m being cruel. But here’s why I think putting age in perspective is important: By making such assumptions about chastity and age and considering it only from the female perspective, we are reinforcing the age old stereotypes and double standards that cause such awkward questions as those Leslie Ann heard from her x-ray technician. When age is mentioned in the Bible, it is usually to break a stereotype – like the old ages of Elizabeth and Sarah when they gave birth. Imagine the people who scoffed when they heard about their pregnancies. What was the purpose of them being old at childbirth? Was it to teach them or their husbands a lesson? Or was it to teach us a lesson today? I tend to think it is the latter. If 32 years of age is considered an older virgin, I guess I should see 54 years as one foot short of the grave. I could write an article and title it, “54 Year Old Virgin Calls For Priest During Last Hours.” While you may never meet me on the streets, you are able to read my story through the miracle of the internet. I do hope it inspires you. So even though the internet has brought with it a lot of bad things, I think our blogs and different ways of communicating can be very good things. Since I live in a very rural area, the internet has allowed me to get to know many people I would not have otherwise known. Plus, it allows me to stay in touch with my mentor, a virgin much older than myself. Yes, Leslie, they are out there. If we are only aware of the immediate world around us, like the people we go to school with and people we work with, then we will age much faster as virgins. At 30 we will look at ourselves in the mirror and see an old person who is odd and out of place. Sexual abstinence before marriage will indeed look very unrealistic. But if we expand our realities with every means of communication at our disposal and humble ourselves enough to know there are older and wiser people out there, we will age much slower. Then at 30 we can look at ourselves in the mirror and see our younger selves with the confidence that comes from following God’s will and courage from knowing that others have come before us. I believe virginity is very much a relational issue on a social scale. It’s not enough to tell someone, “We waited until we were married to have sex. You can too.” That rings hollow. It takes real authentic people to pass this virtue to the next generation. So when you put everything in perspective Leslie Ann, I hope being a virgin at 32 doesn’t feel so old after all. Let’s not bow down to the expectations of this world, but allow God to intervene in our lives beyond our wildest dreams. He is still the same God who rescued Moses from the pharaoh and the same God who performs miracles today.
Mural painting from Sucevita monastery located in Bucovina (Northern Romania)
I think there are many people still confused about Christ’s words when he spoke of “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” in Matthew 19:12:
“For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
The disciples may not have known many eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb, or if they did they had never thought of them as eunuchs. Plus, the technology to do sperm counts did not exist at that time. But they certainly knew eunuchs who were made so by men. We are not told of the disciples’ reaction, but I can only imagine it was one of shock and horror, much like ours today. In wide-eyed amazement, they probably recalled the few people they knew who had met such a tragedy. They might have relived for a moment the gruesomeness that led to such a condition – the knife, blood, screams, and inhumanity of it all. And who knows, one of them could have participated in such a barbaric act. But what probably baffled them the most was the fact that these eunuchs were made so voluntarily by their own free will, without the cruelty of castration. I’m sure they were thinking, “What else but the blade of a knife could create a eunuch?” “Can a person will himself to be childless?” Plus, people with defective bodies were seen as unclean during that time. These are probably some of the same questions we ask today when we read these verses. We first have to see that Christ wanted us to think beyond the physiological effects of castration and understand the principle of permanence. The thing that is really cut off with such an act is a man’s name and the possibility of heirs. And I’m sure this slammed the breaks on the disciples expectations of divorce so hard that they are still sliding down the road today. A person’s procreative abilities at the time of Christ were not something that could be turned on and off. This requires us though to see our bodies as God made them, not as they are made by 21st century vasectomies and tubal ligations. A eunuch at the time of Christ was a eunuch forever. There were no reversal procedures. Likewise, a person with the celibate gift is celibate forever. There are no reversal procedures. There doesn’t need to be. And if you read closely, Christ didn’t say a person had to be a Catholic priest, take vows, or walk down the isle of a wedding chapel. All of that is man-made tradition. The person with the celibate gift is committed to Christ forever. Just like a husband and wife are committed to each other in marriage forever. I do believe eunuchs for the kingdom can be men or women. So the eunuch went from a state of disgrace and uncleanness at the bottom of Jewish society to a position of dignity for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He also gained the ability to produce children. In Isaiah 56:4-5, we read:
“4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”
So sex and babies were no longer needed to reproduce sons and daughters in the kingdom of God. I’m sure that the change in priorities in Jewish heritage was a traumatic experience in itself. But honoring eunuchs did not disparage marriage. By making a pitiful condition a state to be admired, God highlighted the distance between the Jewish mind and his own kingdom. He highlighted the difference between the lineage on earth and no lineage in heaven. In addition to permanence, I think the metaphor of the eunuch also indicates how difficult and painful celibacy can be. I think the image of a surgical procedure gets that point across pretty well. The renunciation of a sexual relationship and sons and daughters hurts. Unfortunately, many religious leaders today (like Al Mohler and Russell Moore) can only defile the gift of celibacy with homosexuality and the call for all men to “man up” and get married. Even though our culture may not be able to conceive of virginity beyond “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” its biblical reality to come will not be counted in years. And the euphemism of “singleness will fair no better.
By choosing the metaphor of a eunuch, Christ acknowledged that celibacy does not stand in opposition to marriage. It strengthens it. To me, there even seems to be a reciprocal relationship between the two – the difficulty of faithful marriage linked to the difficulty of faithful celibacy. The person with the celibate gift can give up no more than what is realized as an ideal marriage in the current age. But his status is always on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. By making a pitiful condition a state to be admired, God still highlights the distance between the American mind and his own kingdom in heaven. Christ was also a eunuch, the same man who created marriage. He and his disciples may actually have been ridiculed as eunuchs. Marriage today may be broken with same sex marriage, divorce, domestic partnerships, and civil unions. But celibacy for the kingdom is as intact as it was 2000 years ago.
Sex education in high schools has been an ongoing discussion in this country for a long time. It’s actually disheartening to think that parents would relinquish that responsibility to schools. But many of them do, I would estimate over 80%. Even Christian parents. I think the main reason for this is because so many parents have sexual baggage that prevents them from talking about it. They’d rather remain silent than face the ghosts of their past. The freedom and empowerment they experienced as teenagers is now an embarrassment they wish they could forget. But they can’t. They can’t start over again. It still comes back to haunt them. Now the single mom understands why her dad wanted her back home by 10:00. Now the single dad understands why his dad wouldn’t let him stay over at his girlfriend’s house. They know they can’t be role models for their children. Because the hard truth is that chastity can’t be taught. No amount of books can come close. It has to be modeled with the lives and legacies of adults in an exemplary environment of open communication and honesty. Chastity is a moral truth that has to be practiced, not learned. To teach a subject only requires knowledge of it – like history. It only involves the written word, symbols, and reasoning. To educate about a subject, though, requires a person to be something more than a teacher. It requires a mentor that can guide a person with personal experience beyond what books can teach. It takes someone willing to open up and provide examples of the right way to do things, not examples of the way things should be. Ideally, this role model would be the parent. Oftentimes it’s not. The parent may be able to teach on a lot o subjects. But there’s a big difference between teaching and educating. It’s a fairly easy endeavor to draw diagrams of the human reproductive system and demonstrate how to put on condoms. Any sex education program can do that. It’s quite another thing for a teenager to make these decisions in the backseat of a car when hormones are raging. What we know as sex education is really sex teaching programs. They educate on nothing. The true influence of an educator does not consist of what he says, does, or teaches – but rather of what he is. They give themselves as living models, as real examples of how to live. Most of them volunteer their time. But we live in a time when a man’s worth is determined by his job title and credentials. Not who he is.
We live in a time when young people are strictly segregated according to age and gender. Churches and schools have gotten this down to a fine art. Maybe one day we will come to a point when we realize that the information found in textbooks is not a fraction of the wisdom needed to live fulfilling Christian lives. If young people stay boxed in with people in their own demographic categories, that’s what will happen, very soon. Each generation thereafter will gradually devolve until we’re back at the hunter-gatherer stage, living on wild plants and animals, where men take multiple wives and become his property. To put a stop to all this and get us back on the road to Christian ethics will take people willing to take risks. Make a difference. Get involved in somebody’s life.
The world would probably look much different if we had kept God’s original design of human sexuality in place, monogamous sexual relationships in marriage and faithful chastity in singleness. Most of the ethical crises that we face in the world today can be traced back to breaks in that design. One of the biggest breaks came when we separated sex from life with birth control. Whether in marriage or outside marriage, it is not part of God’s plan. It’s violates the fifth commandment which prohibits us from taking a human life. Calling it birth control may have been an attempt to put some noble spin on it, like population control. But there’s not much there. How many women would take contraception if babies were really delivered by storks? Not too many, I suppose. Would we be trying to control the inbound flights of storks? Birth control is not so much about controlling births as it is opening the doors of sexual freedom. It frees up sexual pleasure from that pesky little thing called pregnancy. God did not design sex to be free of responsibility. He did not design it to be a recreational sport. Think about the dignity he built into the whole process. He could have designed our reproductive systems with a more direct link between sex and pregnancy. Sex one day. Baby next day. That would have been too easy. But he threw in the variables of ovulation, fertility windows, sperm counts, and genetics, among a host of other things to remind us of his ultimate control. We tried to take that control. It failed. The feminists looked at birth control as their salvation, the way for women to have it all – the husband, the job, the status, and the children. It was about women’s rights and their ability to take their place in society. They were no longer trapped at home raising children. Mrs. Sanger would have been so proud. But she forgot that it took men to make babies too. Men looked at the pill as their ticket to paradise. This was especially true for single guys because it meant all women were available. Guys were now free to put the pressure on all women to have sex. They could have their cake and eat it too with no worries about the responsibility of becoming a father. Now we have a culture of kids with no fathers, single mothers, deadbeat dads, child support, and child abuse. A lot of single guys have had the benefits that only husbands should have. And a lot of single girls have had the benefits that only wives should have. Their sexualization may be illegitimate, but they are still socially identified as singles. Now it’s quite socially acceptable to refer to single men as predators and single women as promiscuous. Such social dynamics make the dating process even harder for Christian singles waiting until marriage to have sex, especially single women. The odds of them finding appropriate mates fall with each successive generation. We may like to think sex is a private thing between two people. It’s not. Every sexual relationship is a public event one way or another. And when you throw in birth control, it’s like setting up a podcast from your very own bedroom.
Even in marriage, birth control separates sex from marriage. It tells the world that we know more about what’s better for our lives than God does. It replaces our faith in God with faith in technology. It affirms that sexual pleasure is greater than the responsibility of being husbands and wives and moms and dads. Separating sex from responsibility also prevents married couples from seeing the real purpose and value of sex. If they don’t see the value of their own physical relationships in marriage, how will they appreciate the single people around them who have never had sex? On a deeper level, if all married people think about when they think of single adults is the yoke of our sexual desires, how will they ever appreciate someone for whom God has taken away those desires? How will their pessimism transcend the primordial forces of this earth and allow them to see the supernatural workings of God today? Maybe it’s time for married couples in churches to explain just what they have and what marriage means to them and what role sex plays in their marriages. Then maybe singles can explain what they don’t have and what role the absence of sex plays in their lives. Is honesty to much to ask?
When I was a boy, Paul’s use of the word “burn” for sexual desire in 1 Corinthians 7 probably did more to educate me about sex than my parents or anything I learned in school. During the Dog Days of Summer in Alabama, one of my jobs was to help my dad rake and burn leaves in the backyard. The raking part wasn’t fun. But I always liked the fire. My dad made sure I knew everything about it. The whole process would start with him watching the weather forecast that morning. The time had to be right. If it were too wet, nothing would burn. If it were too dry, it would be too dangerous. He would choose a day that was not windy. He would put the fire in a big open space, far away from the house, usually the same spots year after year. He also made sure there was nothing else close by that could catch fire; like overhanging limbs, trees, buildings, plants, fence poles, etc. He said the flames could reach a lot higher than the pile of leaves. He allowed nothing but leaves and limbs on the fire. No rubber, glass, metal, or any kind of plastic. He did include paper bags and cardboard boxes. He said those were exceptions because they were made out of wood too. Oh, and privacy was important to him. He didn’t want anybody to see the black scars they left on the ground. So he would build the fires out of view of company. So, we sat off to gather the fallen limbs first. He would drive his tractor around the yard and I would pitch them in the trailer in back. After the limbs were gathered, we would start raking leaves on top of them. When the pile got to be a certain size, my dad would say “that’s enough!” Only he knew when that was. Then he got the kindling, which was usually a few shavings of heart pine or a crumpled newspaper. He put that at the base of it, on the side with the least wind. Then he struck a match and we watched the tiny flame shoot up through the wood and into the leaves. O’er the ramparts we watched! It only took a few minutes and the fire and smoke was rising over the pine trees. My dad also lectured (taught) me how the flames could leap out of the burning brush and onto the surrounding leaves and “get away from you before you know it.” He said a fire left unattended could spread out of control into a bigger fire, and that he would be responsible for anything else it burned – including a house. He also told me about how burning embers could also be carried by the wind, land in somebody else’s yard, and start a fire – all without you knowing it. That is, until the neighbor called. That was scary. That’s why he always had either me, my sister, or my mom standing guard with a hosepipe and buckets of water. We stayed with the fire until it was extinguished. It had to be completely out with cold ashes before we went to bed. If it wasn’t, he poured water on it, and finished it another day. My dad did everything he could to minimize the risk of a fire getting out of control. It seemed to me that he actually had them contained before he built them. He planned things so meticulously. My dad wasn’t afraid of fire, though. He respected it and understood its capabilities. He also spent time telling me how beneficial lightning fires were in the forest, getting rid of dead trees, and making room for the sun to shine on new growth. In 1963, fire researcher Herbert Stoddard discovered that one of the most harmful things modern man has done to birds has been his attempt to exclude fire from fire-type pine forests. As he said: “Within a few years most forests choke up with brush, lose their prairie-like vegetation, and can no longer support birds dependent on periodic burning for their food supply and proper cover.” There are a lot of other things a fire can do too.
A warm fire is wonderful on a cold night in a fireplace under control. But if it gets out of control, that same fire can burn your house down. The fires may look the same, but one keeps you warm and the other kills you. It’s the same way with the fires of our sexual desires. They can keep us warm in the incinerators of our own passions while we wait on a spouse, burn our houses down if we don’t contain them, or they can be transformed into something entirely different than fire. When the flames of desire leap out of control, they can consume all of our lives – and leave scars of regret and heartbreak as permanent reminders. But controlling those flames still comes down to taking away at least one of the three things a fire needs for survival – oxygen, heat, or fuel. Take oxygen, for example. Lust thrives in the right environment. I’m sure you know of places where the flames will meet you at the door. There’s hardly anywhere we can go today that is not saturated with sex. That’s where we have to be vigilant and step away from the gases of superficial pleasures. Taking lust out of the air will work wonders in controlling your fire. The same thing is true about the heat that ignites our fires. We can follow the masses and ignite our fires with meetups in a bar, fuel them with pornography, stoke them with our imaginations, and let them burn out of control – destroying ourselves and anyone they come in contact with. Or we can do it God’s way and wait patiently on marriage before having sex. If your fire has already jumped over the line, it’s never too late to get it back under control.
Paul must have understood the nature of fires very well because the word “burn” so accurately describes what I felt as a teenager. It felt like my body was the pile of leaves, that my sexual desire was the flame, and girls were the sparks. I came to understand what Christ meant when he said it was good for a man not to touch a woman. I was certain one spark would do it. But I knew there was nothing inherently wrong with fire if it was kept under control, and that God created sexual desire as a good thing. That seemed a little less daunting when I realized God expected everybody to keep their fires under control, whether waiting on marriage or waiting on his return, and that he wasn’t holding me to any higher firefighting standards than he was anybody else.
Burning was one of the most common ways of describing unfulfilled passion throughout Greek and Roman literature, as well as the Bible. Job 31:12 describes sexual immorality as “fire that consumeth to destruction” I think this is the fire Apostle Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when he said “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” He was talking about the sexual passion that can consume our time, energy, creativity, trust, and anything else that makes us who we are when we don’t moderate our fires with the outlet of sex in marriage. There’s a difference between the flame of natural sexual desire that is consumed (consummated) in marriage and one that is allowed to burn out of control with the heat of sexual immorality. With marriage, two unstable flames of desire come together to create one stable fire. They use each other’s oxygen, fuel, and heat. It consumes all of their energy and time and reproduces with the embers of children and the rhythm of life. It’s ignited with romance and fueled with committed love. In a marital relationship, the other person becomes the object of our love. In a celibate relationship with God, he becomes the object of our love. It is fueled with a passion to please him; whether that be meeting the needs of forgotten people or endeavors of a supernatural nature. For example, instead of the flames of passion burning your time and energy, the fire of celibacy could be fueled by a desire to end human trafficking, homelessness, or end an epidemic. Instead of being spread with human children and birthrights, it is spread with spiritual children. Of course, a married person can love both God and their spouse. But they can never love him with the same intensity and capacity as a person with the spiritual gift of celibacy can. That’s because the fire of romance is fueled by romantic love, not God’s love. Celibate fires often hidden behind the smoke of marriage, glossy photo packages, wedding ceremonies, diamond rings, and white picket fences. Some work behind the scenes. People who live celibate lives remind us that love is never satisfied on this earth, and that the transformation of human nature is possible through union with Christ. The fire of romance propagates the earth. The light of celibacy points us to heaven and propagates eternity. Maybe it’s time to revisit the lessons a simple fire can teach us.
I’ve always wondered what people mean when they say men are more visual than women. Do they mean men can read an eye chart better than women, that men can see the figure of women from a greater distance, that men can’t control their sexual desires? I think it’s the latter. Our society says sexual immorality is not a self-control problem, but a visual problem. It says that men are just not able to tame their sexual desires and that their eyes focus at the mercy of a “fallen” world, a world that has “evolved” with its own innate wisdom. This reasoning falls in line with what most churches are practicing today – visual ethics. Not the ethics associated with visual arts, but a theology of ethics based on things that can be seen while ignoring things that cannot be seen. Kate Hurley has an excellent example of this on Single Matters:
“When my dad died, I lost something tangible. People called me. They held me when I cried and asked me to talk about what I was going through. They came to his memorial service. It meant the world to me. I needed family around me during that grieving process. People bound up the wounds, told me it was going to be okay, and walked with me through the healing process. They rose to the occasion and helped me recover. When it comes to being in my 30s and facing the prospect of not having a traditional family, though, people don’t know what to do with my frustration. “There’s nothing there. How could you be in pain?”
The only way to see the invisible pain of barrenness is to get to know a person on a level that is deeper than what we know as “friends.” In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), consider how the concept of neighbor changed for a lawyer who was concerned with his own eternal life. At first, he was worried about definitions – like any good lawyer would be – and asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus told the story of the man who was stripped and beaten and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. When Jesus asked the lawyer which three men was his neighbor, it would have made more sense for him to answer it was the priest or Levite. They would have been expected to show compassion to the sick and injured. But instead of answering with the only choice left, the Samaritan, he said it was “The one who had mercy on him.” Luke 10:37. Jesus forced the lawyer to see the invisible virtue of mercy. The kind of neighborliness Jesus had in mind required him to see beyond the taken for granted stereotypes of a priest, Levite, and a Samaritan. The same principles apply to us today. Meeting people’s needs should not depend on the visual of a situation. In this parable, mercy happened to be found in the least expected Samaritan, an enemy of mixed race, the very man who would be expected to walk on by. For the Samaritan to show mercy and stop and render aid, the visible stereotypes of a priest and Levite had to give way to the invisible thing called hope. Jesus did this by reframing the lawyer’s question from “who is my neighbor?” to “who is the neighbor?” He might have expected Jesus to give him the names of people he should and should not consider neighbors. Instead, Jesus expanded the question to “what does it take to be a neighbor?” In this case, it took mercy.
Likewise, meeting people’s needs should not depend on the presence or absence of wedding rings. Without the visuals of a family, soccer mom bumper stickers, and membership in the local PTA, single adults tend to disappear beneath the pews of American churches. They too have been beaten up and left for dead. Real faith does not wait on something to be seen or someone to cry for help. Just like life itself and the invisible human embryo, it puts other people first and us last. Just as we don’t need proof of God’s existence, we don’t need proof of a need before we can act on it. Consider Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
For many in the religious community though, faith goes no deeper than what they see. Their moral compass is guided by the rightness of their sex lives, the visual of a pregnant abdomen, and sanctified by the love for children. It looks good. It feels warm and fuzzy. It brings money into the church. But it’s not biblical. Family values are not Christian values. Maternal love is not the pinnacle of love in this universe. And there is absolutely nothing eternal about marriage. If churches base their faith on the superficial and tangible, they will only respond to the superficial and tangible. The assurance about what they don’t see will be replaced by evidence of things they do see. That’s a shallow faith, one just as legalistic as the lawyer in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As Abraham Lincoln said: “To believe in the things you can see and touch is no belief at all; but to believe in the unseen is a triumph and a blessing.”
Married people may be tempted to say, “but I don’t do anything to make singles feel unloved or not part of our church family.” That’s precisely my point. Silence can be louder than anything you say or do, especially in the absence of action. This is especially true when it comes to lifestyle affirmations because we have only two choices, marriage and celibacy. Affirming one often discourages the other. When married life is affirmed without a concomitant affirmation of celibate life, it results in a discrimination that cuts just as deep as any racial discrimination. It throws salt into the open wounds of barrenness. It leads to a grief more profound than the loss of a family member. Think of all the things your church does to visibly affirm marriage and family life – requiring married preachers, marriage sermons, marriage conferences, wedding announcements, wedding ceremonies, baby showers, receptions, birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, graduation celebrations, age and marital status based groups, etc. Everything a church does sends signals to the community. Singles are free to draw their own conclusions. That’s part of human preservation. For instance, if a Protestant man walked into Jewish synagogue where he was the only person not wearing a yarmulke, would you expect him to feel out of place? Would it be reasonable for him to assume that wearing one was a requirement for that group of people? I would think so. A single adult can feel the same way in a church where everyone is wearing wedding rings and all activities are centered on nuclear families. Just like the man who was beaten could rightly assume the priest and Levite did not care about his situation, he can rightly assume that marriage is a requirement for that church. He could be waiting for someone to stop and just say hello, for someone to listen to him, for a neighbor who can see beyond the absence of a wedding ring on a finger.
” I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.” 1 Corinthians 7:26.
Paul’s “present distress” has been used to discount this section of his letter to the Corinthians. Some think that since there a calamity of some type being inflected on the people – whether famine, disease, earthquake, etc. – that Paul was writing for people who were undergoing circumstances that we can’t relate to. This distress is often interpreted to be no more than a disclaimer that reads, “This is all my opinion. So don’t take anything too serious.” But how should we take it? I don’t think we should take one inch off of it that we don’t give the rest of the Bible. All of Paul’s words are the inspired word of God. Yes, we are living in a time when the Bible strikes a sharp contrast to surrounding culture. And I’m sure many people who are reading it for the first time are looking for “outs” and disclaimers and reasons why it doesn’t apply to their lives. But this is not one of them. Paul could have considered the present distress to be the period of time he was living in and waiting for the second advent of Christ. We are in the same distress, living in a time between ages. The distress is spreading the good news around the world and making as many children of God as possible, with the knowledge of what happens to people who perish without accepting Christ. Do you think Paul’s distress could have been any worse that Christians are experiencing in 21st century America? Paul spent time in prison for expressing his religious beliefs. People in America have too, like Kim Davis. Christians are being targeted and executed all over the world by terrorists and other extremists. The gunman in a recent shooting at a campus in Oregon shot only those students who said they were Christians. If we exhumed Paul from the grave and took him on a guided tour through our big cities and halls of government, what would be his assessment? Would he think it was a walk in the park? I tend to think he would consider our circumstances quite a distress.
Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament. By our standards today, he was beyond a genius. God could have chosen anyone to write the epistles. He could have created anyone to play the role of Paul. He did. He made Paul. He could have transported Shakespeare back in time. He didn’t. Paul was a humble man who didn’t want to appear superior or authoritative. He was not writing his letters on an iPad from the comfort of a beach side condo. He was in prison. I don’t think we should use his humility as an excuse to bypass sections of the Bible that do not fit our times or make us uncomfortable. We should use it as a reason to take him more seriously.
After the Pharisees had asked Jesus about divorce and remarriage and after he reinforced the permanency of marriage in Matthew 19, note who was the most dismayed. It was the disciples. “If we can’t get rid of our wives when we want to, then it would be better for us not to marry! We will stay single for the rest of our lives!” The very men who knew Jesus best and were on the front lines of the new Christianity were now joining the Pharisees in defense of divorce. Why? The reason is because it allowed them to continue to have sex without commitment. It allowed them to continue to make a mockery of marriage. This should tell us something about what marriage had become in 1st century society. And really, if they had such a shallow view of marriage, their lifestyles between marriages probably weren’t much better. They could pretend to be married for a while and then pretend to be single for a while, and on and on. If their wives got old and cranky, they could divorce them. If their wives burned the biscuits, they could divorce them. If their wives got sick, they could divorce them. They could divorce them and find a hot young babe to meet their sexual needs. Does that sound familiar? It should, because we’re in the same boat today. And we’re still asking the same questions. Consider what Tim Rymel, a man who identified himself as an “Exodus Casualty,” wrote in The Baptist Standard in August of 2014:
“How would heterosexuals feel about being told celibacy is their only option? They could never marry, never have families and never experience the love, joy and intimacy of being with the loves of their lives?”
How would Christ respond to those questions? The same way he responded to the disciples: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Who does that leave to be married? It leaves only those who were not chosen to be single. Christ didn’t say, “all men can’t be married, only those I have chosen. Instead, he bases his definition of marriage on the third type of eunuch he described, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. That does not include homosexuals. It can’t because the definition of a eunuch has nothing to do with sexual orientation, only reproduction. Actually, there’s no such thing as sexual orientation. That’s a figment of modern man’s imagination. On top of that, homosexuals can’t reproduce – biologically or spiritually. I think the reason Christ may have chosen the metaphor of the eunuch is because reproduction could be confirmed visually through pregnancy and children. And the visual of pregnancy serves as a direct link to the sexual relationship that is needed for reproduction. Hence, the eunuch for the kingdom points to the gift aspect of celibacy and self control. If becoming a eunuch for the kingdom of God cut off sexual desire, then what did Christ mean in verse 12 when he said “made themselves eunuchs?” He’s certainly not talking about a man taking a knife to himself. Made themselves eunuchs here is the equivalent of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:37: ” Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.” A eunuch for the kingdom can still have sexual desire and intercourse. That’s the will he has power over. Otherwise, why would the disciples have bitterly complained about marriage and its permanency? Only the third type of eunuch addresses a man’s will.
There are several instances of a series of three in the Bible with the emphasis on the third, such as Peter denying Christ three times and then the rooster crowing. In the same manner, Christ uses the first and second eunuch to build up to the third type, the main focus of verse 12. This is so because the disciples have a choice, and this is the only option that has a choice. They were not born with genetic abnormalities and they were not castrated, or at least we have no record of that. But they did have a choice about remaining celibate for the kingdom of heaven. It’s also interesting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the third and last feast commanded by the Lord, the Israelite men lived in small huts outside their houses. Living in these small huts reminded them that mortality is not the final resting place for mankind. Likewise, choosing to be a eunuch today for the kingdom of heaven, the third eunuch described, reminds us that our mortality is not the final resting place for mankind.
So Christ actually used the eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven to connect sex back to marriage and to reinforce the permanency of the commitment. At the same time, he gave a new definition and identity to those who choose not to marry or have sexual relations and reinforced the permanency of that commitment.
No responsibility, no commitment, extended adolescence, wasting time. You can’t trust them. I know what the world – and the church – says about singleness. To understand the sacredness of celibacy, we first have to uncover the pretense of singleness. It all starts in church. Churches typically segregate members based on age and marital status, under the assumption that these criteria determine a person’s “life stage.” Division by age is pretty much a no brainer for kids. But things get a little more complicated with adults, especially adults who are not holding a marriage license. In a typical singles class, you could have a 20 year old virgin, a 30 year old divorcee, a 40 year old widow, a 50 year old transgender, and a 60 year old homosexual. How do they relate to each other? They don’t. It’s just more comfortable and more politically correct to pile everybody into the same boat. And it provides everybody with an equal shot in the dating game. You see, relating to each other and meeting each other’s needs doesn’t matter much to the church. What matters is that people keep coming back and putting more money in the offering plates.
But biblically speaking, what is marriage and what is singleness? According to Webster’s Dictionary, marriage is a legal contract between two people and singles are people who don’t have one. However we know in the Bible that sex initiates marriage, not a wedding ceremony or legal contract (1 Cor 6:16). Sadly, the church has adopted the standards of the world. It does not see sexual ethics as the responsibility of individual members, but of the courthouse. The courts define marriage, all types of marriages, and the courts define singleness. Sexual purity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage have been relegated to quaint old-fashioned ideas. So when Paul talks about marriage, he is not talking about our idea of a temporary living arrangement. When he talks about virgins, he is not talking about our idea of singleness. He says something else that is foreign to our ears, that everybody is either called to celibacy or to marriage between a man and woman. But if you choose celibacy, the U.S. Supreme Court will tell you that you’re doomed to loneliness. If you choose marriage, you’re expected to have kids and circle your wagon around the throne of the family. It may seem like a loose-loose situation. But it’s a decision that every Christian must make. If you enter marriage without considering celibacy, you are – in effect – denying the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ and casting doubt on salvation and spiritual rebirth.
When Paul talks about the gift of celibacy and remaining unmarried (a virgin), he is not talking about single people waiting on marriage. He is talking about a commitment between God and a believing Christian that is just as real as the commitment between any husband and wife in marriage. Matthew 19 and Jesus’ comment about eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven makes that a little clearer, I think. I know that many churches teach that if you’re single you have the gift of singleness and if you’re married you have the gift of marriage. That’s not true. When you consider the whole metaphor of the eunuch, it’s clear that choosing to be a spiritual eunuch concerned about the coming kingdom of God is much more than a default state of waiting on a spouse. Being any one of the three eunuchs in Matthew 19:12 requires an event; whether it’s a birth with genetic anomalies or an act of violence or a conscious decision. All of them preclude a sexual relationship required for marriage. In the case of a conscious decision to be a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven, it is intentionally chosen for a specific reason, much the same as husbands and wives choose each other in marriage. It is not the default state of singleness while waiting on a spouse. I would say celibacy is even a deeper commitment because it involves caring for the things that belong to the Lord, not the world. Notice also in 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul does not define those with the gift of celibacy based on their marital status and something they don’t have, but rather on something they do have. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33:
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
I think it’s fair to substitute values for cares. The married person expresses his values for the world through marriage. The celibate person expresses his cares for the Lord through virginity. Viewed in this light, it’s easy to see why Paul considered it a better choice. So discerning marriage or celibacy comes down to a question of whom do you want to please – the world or God? That does not mean that a person cannot serve God in marriage. It means they cannot serve God with the same energy, insight, motivation, identity, or frame of mind that a virgin can. So in celibacy, a person remains totally devoted in Christ during his entire lifetime and his priorities do not change. However, in marriage, a person’s devotion is divided and his priorities do change. Change is consistent with the world. It’s not consistent with eternity.
Have you ever noticed how married people sometimes become so one flesh that they even look like each other? I have known people whose very identities are tied up with their spouses. It’s even hard for me to think of them as individuals. They’re couples. That’s a good thing and I think it’s what God intended for marriage. Think about the ramifications though when that same “oneness” occurs in the gift of celibacy. Instead of taking on the image of a spouse, we are called to take on the image of Christ. It’s our job to change the meaning of procreation from childbirth to spiritual birth. It’s our job to announce his eminent return and to bridge the time between the ages, between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. Yes, marriage is sacred. But celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God is sacred and supernatural.
“They’re Gay, They’re Christian And They’re Celibate!” the headline screams. I think I’ll write an article and title it, “They’re Horses, They’re Flying And They Have Four Legs!” There are so many false beliefs about the gift of celibacy I can’t keep up with them. The world has infiltrated the church and has replaced the word of God with opinion polls and statistics. In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the misconceptions surrounding celibacy.
First, the word “gift” that the world uses to describe celibacy is not the same “gift” that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 7. It is not something that is bestowed on a person for good behavior. It’s not a reward. It is not something that can be earned. It is not a lifestyle that is set against marriage. Biblical celibacy is freely chosen. It is not associated with vows. When understood from a biblical point of view, celibacy does not disparage marriage. It can’t exist without it and marriage can’t exist without celibacy. But many people refuse to acknowledge this biblical dichotomy and choose to follow whichever road gets them a seat at the right hand of God. If you do an internet search on “marriage and celibacy – which one is better?” you’ll be reading for a long time. To the question “which one is better,” I would answer: Which is better – Day or night? Summer or winter? Male or female?
At the heart of the gift of celibacy though is self-control. The real Christian lifestyle dichotomy consists of those who cannot control their sexual desires and choose marriage and those who can control their sexual desires and choose celibacy. Both of them require faith. I think this is one of the reasons Christ chose the metaphor of the eunuch in Matthew 19 to represent those who are called to celibacy. It’s just as hard for a man to castrate himself as it is for him to bring every aspect of his life under control, including his sexual desires – just like it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Of course, churches lean heavy toward the marriage and family side of the equation. When they do, they are denying the part of the Bible that’s called “The New Testament.” One of the gifts that the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ brought into the world was the spiritual rebirth of those who believe in him. We have a world today that is just as blind as Nicodemus in John 3:4 when he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” During the Old Testament, there was only one path to fruitfulness – procreation through sex. After Christ, it became possible to procreate through discipleship and making spiritual believers. The focus was no longer on having sex and making babies. It was on multiplying the number of souls for the kingdom of heaven. If you deny that, you are denying Christ. So really the only gift in this whole story is Christ himself. Unfortunately, there are still churches who teach the only way to be fruitful and multiply is to get married, heave sex, and make babies. They are living under the Old Covenant and creation order mandate. I would put over 90% of all Protestant churches in that category. Consider how big the wedding business is in this country – $55 billion dollars in 2014.
Even worse, instead of associating celibacy with self-control, sacrifice, rebirth and spiritual children, churches today associate it with homosexuality. In my opinion, that is an abomination. Non-Christians are constantly mocking and laughing at the church. And right now the world could sell front row tickets to a comedy show in most any church in America. If a young man or woman today feels called to the celibate life, they’re not going to find much support in church – because gay and celibacy are talked about as if they go together like a hand in glove. Here are a few recent headlines from churches and religious organizations:
Detroit Catholic Couple Provide Example Of ‘Gay Holiness’
New Dallas Episcopal Bishop Tells Gay Members To Marry
The Next Synod Battle: Married Priests?
Priest Paid His Male ‘Sex Master’ From Collection Plate
The Challenge Of Being Gary, Married, And Mormon
Why Gay Celibacy Is Not The Gospel-Centered Answer
Heterosexuality Is Godliness
The Plausibility of the Celibate Life for the Same-Sex Attracted
At Issue: Could it be celibacy, not homosexuality?
Celibate Gay Christians: Is That Biblical?
Finding Love In The Church As A Celibate Gay Christian
Gay, Catholic, And Doing Fine
Does God Have A Plan For Same-Sex Relationships?
Is Divorce Equivalent To Homosexuality?
Same Sex Marriage And The Future
50 Resources For Equipping The Church On Homosexuality
So if you had a daughter who was trying to discern marriage or celibacy, where would you point her? Who is even talking about celibacy as a spiritual gift? Not Protestant churches. If you do a Google search on celibacy and church, 100% of the first 100 results are about homosexuality and celibacy in the Catholic Church. On their Baptist Press web site in 2011, the SBC even conceded: “In today’s twisted world, Paul’s gift of celibacy would most likely be misinterpreted as homosexual tendencies.” I’ve got news for them. It’s way beyond that point. Let’s turn the tables a while. If I viewed marriage the same way Protestants view celibacy, I may be inclined to approach a married couple in the fellowship hall of your church and make a few observations:
“Gee, are you two still married?”
“How long did you wait before you adulterated?”
“You’re really faithful to each other? I don’t believe it. Sexual desire is just too powerful for that kind of commitment.”
“How can you be faithful with so much porn around?”
“You know, only a few people are truly called to marriage.”
“What are you really doing on the weekends dude?”
“How did you know marriage was really for you?”
“So, did you rape her on your first date?”
“Well, I’m sure ya’ll had to get married.”
“After you had premarital sex, had long did it take to get married?”
“Do you have a voluntary or involuntary marriage?”
“Are you two accountable to anybody?”
“Are you sure you’re qualified to teach a Sunday School class? There are single people in there.”
“You both are getting up in age. How long are you going to keep up this extended marriage charade?”
“Do ya’ll have a clerical marriage or common law marriage?
“Just admit that you can’t be faithful to each other and get a divorce.”
“Excuse me Mrs. Jones, but you’ve been spending time alone with your refrigerator repairman. Have you any shame?”
“Marriage goes against nature because all men play the field.”
Churches, if you feel compelled to offer commentary that links celibacy with homosexuality without offering commentary on celibacy as a positive response to God, be prepared to hear negative commentary about the state of your marriages. I’m doing it face to face. It’s never pleasant.
The Dating Manifesto – A Drama Free Plan For Pursuing Marriage With Purpose. There’s been a lot written lately on the “marriage mandate” and this title suggests more of the same. You may be asking, “But John, why would you even read such a book if you have chosen a life of celibacy?” Good question. But the answer is quite simple: From a social standpoint, I am just as single as my neighbor who divorced his fourth wife last year. I’m an unknown quantity. My ring finger is just as empty as anybody else’s. So whether I like it or not, I am lumped in with the single and dating/pursuing crowd. I get all the same questions. Does Protestant theology make room for people who are neither married or looking for marriage? Not that I’m aware of. Anderson’s book didn’t make any room either. I read her biography first, which proved to be more of a puzzle. She’s 43 years old, never married, and is director of young adults for Focus on the Family and manages their boundless.org web site. I was curious to see if she would even say anything about the celibate gift. As expected, it didn’t take her long to get the exclusionary clause out of the way for those “pretty rare” people who are called to singleness. From page 48:
“Paul had great things to say about those who are called to singleness, or celibate service. It’s a unique calling and one that should be celebrated. But it’s pretty rare, and those who are called to it generally know who they are. They should be comfortable with that calling. Those who are truly called to a life of celibate service generally don’t struggle overwhelmingly with their sex drive nor do they feel any sense of being less in God’s eyes.”
Celibate service? I must have missed that verse in the Bible. Married folks don’t serve God? The other 241 pages was the dating manifesto. Let’s take a look at some of her assumptions. Celibate lives “should be celebrated”? Where is that being done? “It’s pretty rare?” How many does she know? “They should be comfortable with that calling?” I can’t find that in the Bible. But then again, this is the 21st century and comfort is to be expected. “They don’t struggle overwhelmingly with their sex drive”? Oh, what torture that would be! Oh sweet Jesus, please spare their poor miserable lives! Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very odd that churches and religious organizations put a lot of effort into identifying those who have chosen marriage (heterosexual or homosexual), but put absolutely no effort into identifying those who have chosen celibacy. I guess most people are like Miss Anderson and think we generally know who we are. Why, of course! The Celibacy Club is meeting for brunch next Saturday evening! I need to get those invitations out. The truth is, a lot of people are trying to discern if they have the gift of celibacy and they really don’t know who they are. And the church is no help. At times, it seemed that the author was actually apologizing on behalf of all singles for being single. At other times, she lifted marriage up to such lofty heights I was wondering, “how could this be a book about singleness?” Here’s an excerpt from page 188:
“But staying connected to married friends is crucial. So is honoring their marriages. About eight years ago, I decided I would do everything within my power to honor and protect my friends’ marriages. This has a number of different faces. It means babysitting so my friends can get a night out together or finish their Christmas shopping or address an issue that’s becoming a problem in their relationship. It means building up my married friends verbally and publicly, both in front of each other and in front of our mutual friends and acquaintances. Saying what people are doing right in their marriages can go a lot further than dragging out the tired ball-and-chain metaphor in all its forms. It means praying for my friends’ marriages and refusing to gossip about their issues. It’s not participating in spousal gripe sessions. It’s not joking about marriage or lending credence to those who do. It’s vocally reaffirming God’s heart for marriage, as well as the people whom he’s blessed with it. Your single season is the best time to start preparing for your own marriage.”
Babysitting? It sounds like she’s been taken advantage of in her own church. Honoring marriages? I’d say there’s plenty of that going around. Building up my married friends verbally and publicly? I see people do that every single day of my life – whether it’s in the grocery store, post office, or in church. I wonder what she’s done to build up her celibate friends? You know, those people who have chosen not to marry or have sex. Saying what people are doing right in their marriages? Who is saying what people are doing right in their celibate lives? I can count the number I know on one hand. It’s not joking about marriage? Actually, I hear more joking about singleness and being condemned to loneliness than I do about marriage. It’s vocally reaffirming God’s heart for marriage? So, God doesn’t have a heart for celibacy?
In my opinion, The Dating Manifesto is just one in a long line of how to get married books. There’s nothing deeper here than a pink twinkie covered in chocolate syrup. It does seem that she has high standards when it comes to premarital sex and marriage and I commend her for that. But her book, like most books for Christian singles, does not present celibacy as a real alternative, other than to say there are not many of us. That is so . . . encouraging. Oh yes, let’s see, it’s right here in 1 Corinthians 7: “People with the celibate gift are pretty rare. So ye therefore assume everybody is either married or has a dating manifesto.” The Bible never says everybody should be dating and getting married. It never says anything about the numbers of people who should be married and the number who should be celibate. That is strictly the world’s assumptions and cannot be taken as scriptural. The only dating manifesto that exists is in the minds of those who idolize marriage and family and are not willing to discern if marriage or celibacy is right for them. I’d like to hear what Apostle Paul would say if Miss Anderson told him he had a “dating manifesto.”
Who has God picked out for me? When will I meet him? What should I do to prepare for my wedding? Should I save sex for marriage? Should I get married in church? There is a whole industry today built around preparing for marriage – books, magazines, newspaper articles, blogs, TV shows, conferences, etc. The list is endless. It’s taken for granted that everybody who is not married is looking for marriage. Singleness is a disease to be cured. Most church singles groups are set up for this very reason – to get you married as soon as possible. The only problem is that it’s not biblical. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:25-26:
25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
“It is good for a man so to be” in verse 26 is directly referring to “virgins” in verse 25. Yes, believe it or not, virginity was defined in terms of both men and women in the Bible. What a stark contrast to the feminine based definition of virginity that permeates society today. Are you in shock? If you are, that’s not all. If it’s good for a man or a woman to be a virgin, why has marriage and family life been elevated to idolatry status? We first have to understand that marriage has become a means to an end. The golden calf of sex is what society worships today. Marriage is but a legal detail to this end. In a culture of greed and superficiality, marriage is but an artificial symbol of adulthood and responsibility. It becomes the substitution for self-control. The vocabulary of “premarital sex” has been used for quite a while in our culture. Does that mean when a person does get married that all the before sex becomes . . . okay? Does the marriage ceremony magically throw a person back in a time warp? I’m afraid not. “Premarital sex” is just euphemism for fornication. It’s supposed to make us feel better about those heavy biblical words. Biblically, marriage and sex should go together like a sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately, we have traveled light years from that ideal. Sexual purity has been separated from single life and sexual faithfulness has been separated from married life. And that adds up to moral decay. According to the latest numbers from the CDC, the average number of sexual partners in a lifetime for men ages 25-44 is 6.6 and 4.3 for women. When the scriptural definitions of marriage and singleness are obliterated and their distinctions disappear, it is only a matter of time before the world redefines both of them. Marriage you say? Would you like that adulterous, open, heterosexual, homosexual, or polygamous? Singleness you say? Would you like that cohabitating, playing the field, loving commitments, or test-drives before you buy? When viewed in light of the big picture, we can see how sexuality is much more than a private decision between two people. A biblical view of it is actually necessary for human civilization to survive. But it starts with each one of us.
It starts with a simple question. For singles waiting for marriage to have sex, I encourage you to take a step back and look at the big picture. Realize the significance of your lives in the world today. Instead of asking “who has God chosen for me?” ask yourself “is marriage right for me?” When a life of celibacy is considered as an option, the natural order of God’s creation is allowed to unfold. God’s concerns must be balanced with the world’s concerns in order for a Christian culture to survive. That cannot be done if everybody is married. Christianity has nothing to do with the majority opinion. When the default question has become “whom will I marry?” the inhabitants of a society will look inward to themselves and to their own pleasures. Self control will become a foreign concept in a land of unrestrained desire. Marriage will become a civil right, whether traditional or same sex. Everybody will have to have a slice of the pie. A baby’s cry will cause gasps of glorious anticipation. Sound familiar? The truth is that the love between a mother and child does not represent the pinnacle of Christian love. The love between Christ and the church does. Contrary to what Southern Baptists may believe, God HAS NOT ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. No, there’s nothing wrong with marriage. But the sexual ethics overlying the scriptures require us to look forward into eternity while spiritually multiplying, not just backward into the Old Testament fruitfully multiplying with babies. That can only be done when both marriage and celibacy are seen as viable alternatives. That has not been done in 500 years.
The marriage/celibacy dichotomy is as much a part of God’s creation as night and day. It cannot be separated without disastrous consequences, like the Supreme Court’s legalization of same sex marriage. I realize there are many church leaders (especially Protestants) who echo the words of Martin Luther on celibacy: “But these are rare; not one in a thousand can do it: it is one of God’s special miracles.” The problem is that God never mentioned numbers and who are we to say who can do it and who cannot? Church leaders use this kind of worldly thinking as an excuse for not discussing the options of marriage and celibacy. And they use the “only a few” rationale as a reason to circle their wagons around traditional families, while trying to fight the onslaught of same sex marriage. “Us against them.” I guess putting God in a box does make everybody feel comfortable. But doesn’t every church have the same odds of having celibates in their congregation as well as marrieds? If you don’t expect faithful singles, how will you ever see them in your church? It becomes a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy. Could somebody pass the Pampers? When we’re contemplating God’s will for our lives, we need to throw away the calculators, toss out the statistical charts, and forget the majority opinions. They will mean absolutely nothing in heaven. Look where the faulty logic of Martin Luther got us. Do we want to continue on the road of satisfying every sexual desire or realize that God’s will requires self-control, both in marriage and celibacy.
Do you remember the game Chinese Whispers? This is the one where a group of people sit in a circle and a message is whispered to one person, who must whisper it to the next person. It continues around the circle until the last person receives the message. Then this person stands up and calls out the message as he received it. The whole point of it is to see if the original message survives the round trip or if it is corrupted. When I played the game growing up, the message that the last person called out was usually totally different from the original. Sometimes it was so funny that people were rolling around on the floor laughing. For instance, “I hope that John gets better” could end up as “nope, that’s a dear John letter.”
The same thing sort of happened with the definition of the word eunuch. It was passed from ear to ear in Old Testament times and always came out the same – a male who was castrated. Eunuchs were traditionally associated with castration, no sexual feelings, no seeds, no children, no heirs, and no witnesses. They were also traditionally known as bed keepers, especially in royal palaces. They were entrusted with guarding the virtue of future kings and queens. But then Jesus came along and took a seat at Chinese Whispers. With one whisper (Matthew 19:12) the traditional job description of a eunuch was immediately transformed into a role for the sake of the kingdom of God. This amounted to the most dramatic revision of a word in the history of mankind. The castrated eunuchs with dry seeds who had been despised on earth were suddenly given an eternal role for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. The metaphor goes deeper than that though. Can you think of a eunuch who was actually despised on earth and given a special role in heaven? Could Jesus also be talking about himself? I think so. A eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake goes much deeper than someone who does not marry. He’s light years from being single. The person actually forfeits the right to marry and have children and makes that decision known publically. He renounces earthly matters and embraces heavenly matters. Another thing that changed with Matthew 19:12 is that eunuchs now included women. Can you see the faces of the Pharisees twisting in confusion? “Excuse me, but how do you castrate a woman.” I think we should take it for granted that Jesus is always at least one step ahead of us. Another reason this is such a drastic change is because of the importance that Jewish society placed on offspring and covenantal blessings. Jesus is actually saying that fruit can now multiply without seeds and that spiritual children are now more important than physical children. This is what tore the veil between the holy place and the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple and allowed everyone, including eunuchs, to enter.
The eunuch metaphor goes still deeper than that. If Jesus was just talking about people who didn’t want to get married or have kids, he could have just used the term “unmarried,” or what we refer to as single. But eunuchs could not have sex. Little did they know that there would be people ahead of them who did not want to have sex. So Jesus was also talking about renouncing sexual relations and abstinence. He is talking about dying a virgin. What a jolting thought for our culture today. Do you think a teenager today would consider that “the bomb?” Just as the ancient eunuchs guarded the royal bedchambers and depended upon the king for their very existence, eunuchs today point to eternity in heaven and dependence upon the king of kings for everything they need to live. Only eunuchs are able to keep in check the ever-growing idolatry of marriage and family. They were not only valued in ancient times because they posed no sexual threat. They were valued because they had no babies and no heirs. They posed no threat to kings because they had no line of succession. Eunuchs are still giving birth to spiritual children and guarding heavenly fortunes today. Is it time you updated your dictionary?
Many people think celibate life is what single people do when they can’t find someone to marry. After a certain age, it becomes a consolation prize, God’s second best, a life of irresponsibility and extended adolescence. Some consider it just a lack of a sex drive and fear of “manning up.” Others see it as a tragedy, a wasted life, a dry seed. When it’s a woman, it’s even more of a tragedy. With her fertile years slipping by, she wonders why God has forgotten her. Church members try to set her up with every breathing animal that has testosterone. They put her on the prayer list and assure her that God will bring the answer to her prayers in due time. They tell her to focus on God and, if she prays enough and is holy enough, God will send her a knight in shining armor. The problem is that God never promised anyone a marriage. As a matter of fact, he instructs us to do just the opposite. “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” 1 Cor 7:17. In other words, if we have never married when we come to Christ, looking for a spouse should not be a priority in our lives. We walk with faith in Christ alone. In these few verses, Paul is very succinctly telling us that divisions and classes do not matter to God at all. He nails this standard of equality home in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think it would be fair to surmise that there is neither married nor unmarried. “All one in Christ Jesus” effectively trumps and nullifies the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate of the Old Testament. It erases all the divisions that we read about from Genesis to Malachi in the Old Testament. If we accept our statuses when we become Christians, it should include the unmarried state as well. A story of someone looking for a spouse does not even appear in the New Testament. A list of qualifications for a spouse does not appear. Contrast that with the sex saturated society we have today. Think about the one birth that really matters. It was supernatural. I realize many people dismiss Paul’s words as “just his opinion.” But I have always considered the entire Bible, including every letter Paul wrote, to be the inspired word of God. Paul wasn’t just any man. He had the gift of celibacy and wrote about these subjects as a celibate man, not as a married preacher speculating about exceptions to the “marriage mandate” rule. He was living the life. He had the insight to write on these subjects. He also wrote the majority of the New Testament. His “disclaimer” only shows his humbleness and acknowledgement that it was Christ who gave him such inspiration. Of course, Paul goes on to say that it’s not wrong to want to marry and it’s not wrong to not want to marry. But our marital state does not matter in the long run. In heaven there will be no marriages, no male and female, no young and old. So if you find yourself panicking about your single state, let these verses put things into perspective for you.
But as God has distributed to every man. Those may be the most painful eight words in the Bible. Turning our focus from ourselves and comfortable family pews and focusing on God alone is not easy. We see what the world has and we want it. We want to fit in. We want our lives to be chillin’, drama free, and without fear. That’s not possible if you pick up the cross of Christ. In my opinion, living a life of faithful celibacy is just as, and probably more, difficult as living a life of faithful marriage. So the marriage equality debate going on in the country today shouldn’t be about heterosexual marriage vs. homosexual marriage. It should be about respecting those who have been called to celibacy just as much as those called to marriage. Right now, the table is tilted toward marriage and family. That has to change.
The title of this post may sound contradictory. After all, how can a person be celibate and still sexual? The problem is that we have simplified human sexuality to mean one thing – intercourse. We have dumbed down male/female relationships to mean one thing – romance and pursuit of marriage. When I say dumbed down, I mean that the intelligence and culture of mankind has indeed been held back because marriage and the affairs of the world are valued more than celibacy and the affairs of the Lord. I’m not saying that the IQs of married people are necessarily lower than celibate people. But I am saying that a married person cannot reflect the omnipotent glory of God like a celibate person can. The immediate needs of a wife and children will always trump eternal aspirations. The Bible tells us that. The role of the monastic artists during the Middle Ages and Renaissance was to “transform the desert into paradise.” Rather than create art for a museum, they created art to transcend the everyday aesthetics of the monastery and bring glory to God. They defined beauty beyond the human figure. Their artwork made men think beyond tomorrow and into eternity. Hence, there is an entire field of study devoted to monastic arts. Monks didn’t lose any sleep worrying about their unmarried status or how old they were. They were monks – not husbands. At one time in the ancient world, these two ideals were given equal respect. But after the Protestant Reformation, the role of the monk was decapitated and the role of the parent was catapulted higher than the stars in heaven. Now, the very idea of a person living a chaste life without sex has been bastardized with an ongoing “national conversation” on homosexuality and pedophilia. Have you heard a sermon lately defending celibacy or the monastic ideals?
I know a lot of people probably look at my 54 years of age and think: The pressure is so great, he’s going to explode any day now.” Some people may think I avoid all contact with women and that I’m sitting at home all day taking cold showers and singing chants to myself. That’s the farthest from the truth. I enjoy talking to women – married/single, young/old, Catholic/Protestant/Jewish, whether neighbors in my community or friends in another country. I’m just as much in awe and wonder of them today as I was when I was 10 years old. In my mind, I have put the mysteries of women in the same category as Fermat’s Last Theorem. They’re not for me to understand. But that’s not what the world expects of a 54 year-old “mature” man. At my age, I’m expected to have been married at least twice, hold some kind of grievance toward all women, and have a passel of grandchildren back at home. I’m supposed to be wise to the ways of the world and know how to get what I want sexually. In that regard, I guess you could say I’m quite uneducated. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about that. That’s why I put a high a value on single women who don’t make those assumptions and who value me as a friend – not a romantic interest. Those are few and far between. Will they still accept me if I don’t pursue them romantically? Can they have an intelligent conversation with me without worrying about seeing me again? Can they enjoy a moment for a moment’s sake? Will they be able to look past my age or will they ask: “So you’re 54 and never married. What’s up with that?” Will they make me feel like a leper or a real human being? A loser or a man with dignity? Will they ask what I do for a living or delve deeper into the art I’ve been working on lately? I think human sexuality without sex is one thing that keeps us sensitive to the needs of the opposite sex, whether married or not. It brings us together and facilitates civilization. Yes, I’m attracted to the appearance of beautiful women. But I’m more attracted to kindness and gentleness, softness and gracefulness, and all things that make a woman a woman. I try to stay focused on what I can learn from them, not what I can get from them. I am more attracted to virtuous women, but not in the kind of sexual way that the world associates with virginity. I want my legacy to encourage young people to understand the value of virginity, whether waiting chastely on the right person to come into their lives or living celibate lives for the glory of God, and I want them to understand that marriage and sexual relations are but a blink of an eye in the long run. I believe patience is still a virtue and that there are still men and women who understand the importance of waiting.
I’m still waiting too. Not for a wedding on earth, but for a marriage in heaven with Christ. So my celibacy is not about avoiding women, avoiding responsibility, getting ahead in my career, playing the field, extending my adolescence, getting the milk without paying for the cow, or getting the perks of a husband as a single man. It’s about renouncing marriage, sex, and family as the world knows it today in favor of an eternal kingdom where no one is given in marriage and no babies are born. Imagine a world with a stable population with no abortions, adoptions, birth control, infanticide, child support, deadbeat dads, or stay at home moms. I don’t just imagine it. I see it. All I can do is hope my friends see that in me and respect my renunciation as just as sacred and serious as their pursuits of romance and marriages.
I recently posted something on Facebook that sparked a very interesting conversation. The other person has a name, but on the quote below I changed it to what he is, a preacher:
Me: If you believe in salvation by marriage or having children, as is taught by the majority of churches today, you’d better take some suntan lotion with you to eternity. You’re gonna need it.
Preacher: Who believes in salvation by marriage or having children?
Me: Take the population of the world, which currently is 7.3 billion, and subtract the number of Matthew 19:12c eunuchs you can name. That should give you a rough estimate.
Churches spend a great deal of time and money elevating marriage and family as the ideal lifestyle. Think of all the singles groups where people pair up and mate, the millions of wedding ceremonies every year, and all the wedding anniversaries that are celebrated. The married lifestyle is affirmed beyond recognition. I find this beyond ironic because a marriage ceremony is never described in the Bible. I can already hear people screaming, “but Jesus went to a wedding!” Yes, he did. But his attendance at the marriage in Cana is the only mention of a marriage in the New Testament. John 2:1-2: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.” What many people miss is that the wedding in Cana is not what is news here. It’s the fact that Jesus, a celibate man, chose a wedding to perform his first miracle, turning water into wine, thereby announcing his presence in the world. This was Jesus’ way of saying “I’m here.” I’m sure such a miracle turned many doubters into believers. He could have chosen any place in the world to do this. But he chose a wedding. In an instant, the ordinary nature of water and weddings was made supernatural by the presence of the King of Kings. You would think there would be many weddings to follow. After all, who wouldn’t want Jesus to show up at their wedding? But it’s the only one recorded in the New Testament. Could this in itself be telling us something? Could it be that Jesus had one hand on the urn of water and the other hand pointing to heaven where no one is given in marriage? I think so. He is telling us how insignificant marriage should be now. In an instant, he showed the “power of God” as described in the Gospel of Mark:
23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
So Jesus didn’t attend the wedding at Cana only to pronounce his blessings on marriage. He attended it to affirm celibacy and to show that the natural world of the Old Testament (water) had given way to the supernatural world of the New Testament (wine). The water of the well was transformed into the blood of Christ. Jesus could have written a letter to the couple at Cana, wishing them well in their new marriage. But he made his affirmation public by being there and taking his disciples with him. He could have gotten up and made a speech about the temporary nature of marriage and the importance of making spiritual children. But he chose this mellow transition of water to wine. It’s beautiful symbolism, but it’s been all but lost in a society today that worships sex and still holds marriage and family up to represent the be-all and end-all of human existence, one that still clings to the old Mosaic law of “be fruitful and multiply.”
It’s important to note though that Jesus found it necessary to attend the wedding. This should tell us something about the power of public commitments and the affirmation of witnesses. The names of the couple that got married that day in Cana have been long forgotten. It is Jesus’ presence and first miracle that are remembered today. He showed up to put marriage in a new perspective.
Which begs the question – How is celibacy being affirmed today? Who is checking to see if the water has been turned into wine? Are there any public ceremonies to affirm it? In the Protestant church, I don’t know of any. They have focused on the family so long that they’re walking around like blind zombies. Other than a few occasional words about how special “singles” are in mission statements, they don’t have a clue. It would behoove the church to remember that actions speak louder than words. If marriage and celibacy are of equal value, why should one be celebrated with ceremonies of public commitment and the other forgotten? Can you imagine celebrating a wedding anniversary in your church where the couple was not identified? The same thing holds true for celibacy. In order for it to be biblically affirmed and learned from, people have to be identified – whether that’s 3 in the whole world or 3,000,000. When the power of God is felt, the relationship between men and women is not governed by patriarchal marriages, sexual desire, or a man’s need to secure a name or heir. It is governed by worshipping the same God and respecting each other as equal in his site. Would you rather tell your children “it’s okay if you don’t get married” and that these people theoretically exist somewhere out there in the world or would you rather have them meet some in the real world? If you were at the wedding at Cana, would you be happy with the water, or would you want to taste the wine? Indeed, when a society is fully engulfed in idolatry, they’re not even aware of it. They know of nothing different.
Ask anybody in church today what the opposite of marriage is and you’ll probably here one answer. “It’s not getting married and staying single.” Not pursuing marriage implies no commitment and staying single implies a life of selfish greed, ambition, faster cars, younger women, and older whiskey. I’ve asked a lot of church people over the years what singleness means to them and this is basically the answer I always here: There’s no commitment, no trust, no maturity, no responsibility. The only problem is that none of it is biblical. Unfortunately, the church has adopted the world’s values to replace their own. And they place too much importance on keeping everybody comfortable and entertained than preaching the truth. Take a look at what Paul said about the married and unmarried in 1 Cor 7:
“32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
Pay particular attention to verse 32. Paul used “He,” in an attempt to bring this down to a personal level. He was answering a specific letter from the Corinthians about marriage and virginity. In actuality, “He that is unmarried” is referring to all men and women who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven that Christ mentioned in Matthew 19:12. However, the word “unmarried” here is not the equivalent of our contemporary “single.” Paul is not basing what he says here on who has and who doesn’t have a marriage license. And more importantly, biblical celibacy has nothing to do with meetup groups, dating and mating, or compatability. Unmarried here as Paul uses it has more to do with total consecration to God and a life of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. It is a lifetime commitment to God that a married person cannot make. In my personal opinion, it is a more profound commitment and one that the world today doesn’t know much about. Hence, my blog.
The careth in “careth for the things that belong to the world” refers to the responsibilities inherent in marriage and family life, like raising children. They are cares of an earthly kind. That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with them. But we need to remember that neither the love between mother and child nor the love between husband and wife represents the ultimate love on this earth. Christ’s relationship with the church does. Careth in “careth for the things that belong to the Lord” refers to the responsibilities inherent with a life 100% devoted to Christ. However, I don’t like to use the word ministry to describe the charism of celibacy because I think we all have equal responsibility in that.
I think the “But” at the beginning of verse 33 is one of the most significant words Paul wrote. It marks a complete turn in the opposite direction. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, BUT the married man is concerned for the things of the world. He is describing two completely different men (and women). What two value sets could be more different?
One of the most interesting things to see in these verses is that this is not a “teaching.” So many people today are asking what the Bible teaches on celibacy. It doesn’t teach anything. Like marriage, the celibate gift is NOT something a person can learn. Paul is not telling us how we ought to live in these verses. He is stating FACTS. He is describing reality. “Is concerned” is on the opposite side of the world than “ought to be concerned.” It would be like me walking up to an older married couple and asking “shouldn’t ya’ll be married?” They would look at me and say “we are married!” They’d probably think I’m crazy. I think the same thing when someone asks me when I’m going to get married. I think this is one of the main reasons why commitment is not associated with singleness today and it’s one of the reasons I don’t identify as being single. And I think it’s why celibacy is not regarded as an institution on the same level with marriage. Pope Francis has called for 2015 to be the Year Of Concencrated Life and I fully support it. Even though the Protestant church doesn’t even know what it means yet, I pray that this will be an educational opportunity for them to see that the Bible is as true today as it was 2000 years ago. The Lord’s concerns ought to break all barriers that exist between chuches, denominations, and even languages.
What I’m about to say may make preachers uncomfortable. And in a way, I hope it does. I think much of the problem is that you’re too comfortable with your wives, two kids, parsonages, SUV’s, tax exempt statuses, and weekend retreats. As such, you can’t begin to relate to people who fall outside of your comfortable world, like adults who never married and Christ himself. Yes, I said it. I don’t even consider most church going people Christians. I consider them sex and money worshippers. One interesting thing about our sexuality is that God allowed us to choose between only two paths – marriage or celibacy. When preachers utter one sentence or do anything to affirm married life without a counterbalancing affirmation of celibate life, they are bowing down to the God of sex. When they celebrate wedding anniversaries, engagements, mother’s day, father’s day, childbirths, etc., without even acknowledging the existence of celibate adults, they are bowing down to the god of the nuclear family, not the family of God. There is nothing eternal about a nuclear family. There is nothing eternal about sex. Imagine if an alien visited your church and you told him all about how God made the sun and how it lights the earth during the day, but you didn’t tell him about the nighttime and the moon and stars in the heavens. You didn’t tell him about the delicate balance between night and day. That’s what you would call a misrepresentation of God’s creation. Imagine if a lost soul visited your church and you told him about the glories of family values, married life, and you introduced him to your wife and kids and all the deacons’ wives and their families; but you didn’t tell him about the never married in your congregation who subside only on Christ. You didn’t tell him about the delicate balance between marriage and celibacy. That is also a misrepresentation of God’s creation. The only difference is that it really happens every Sunday morning during every sermon, during every baby dedication, during every wedding anniversary, during every engagement announcement, during every family night, and hammered home with every “Family Life Center” plastered on your church buildings. By focusing on the greed of families, you are misrepresenting what Christianity is all about to those who don’t even know Christ. Since you hold out family life as the only option, is it any wonder that some of those lost souls wind up in the lifestyle of homosexuality? What alternative to the nuclear family and white picket fence have you offered them? When’s the last time you affirmed celibacy? You have focused on the family so long that your eyes have become crossed. When’s the last time you even mentioned celibacy in your pulpits? When’s the last time you visited Matthew 19? How do you even know who’s married and who is not married in your church? Would you have to go to your local courthouse and check the marriage license register? Would you have to inspect all ring fingers? What a comical thought. Would you call up your local community gossip line? If you take away the legal aspect, how do you even define what marriage is?
This will probably come as a shock for a lot of you, but the highest form of love on this earth is not between mother and child or husband and wife. It’s between Christ and the church. Since preachers have failed to communicate this and don’t see the world outside the comfort of their bedroom windows, we now live in a society that celebrates homosexuality, same sex marriage, adultery, cohabitation, and every other perversion known to man. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to talk about human sexuality on Sunday mornings, but look where silence has led us. If sex is just as part of God’s good creation as the moon and stars, why shouldn’t we talk about it? If you don’t feel qualified, find someone who can address these issues. You may be afraid of losing church members and their tithes to another church. Do you think God is going to count church membership and tithes and offerings at the gaits of heaven? Are you willing to pay that kind of price for comfort? What are you doing to integrate singles and celibates into your church and keep them from leaving?
Please keep in mind though that the opposite of marriage is not singleness. It’s not waiting on God to send a husband or wife. It’s not youth. It’s not college and career. It’s not waiting on a wedding day. It’s not a holding state. It’s not waiting on a marriage license. Singles are waiting on a spouse. Celibates are waiting on God and they represent the opposite of marriage. There’s a big difference between the two. I think it would help if we were consistent with terminology. I do not identify myself as a single person. The person who has been called to celibacy is not waiting for anything on this earth. That’s probably the most difficult truth for churches to understand. It’s hard to undo something that has been taught for over 500 years. Married people – Think about the commitment to your spouse and your wedding vows, “until death do us part.” Do you take your marriage and faithfulness seriously? I take my celibacy and commitment to chastity just as seriously. The big difference, though, is that death will not separate me from my spouse. I have the same lifestyle today as I will have in heaven. I encourage you take age, gender, and marital status completely out of the picture of your church’s vision. They will not be part of eternity. The higher the hedge you try to put around marriage and family without addressing faithful celibate people in your congregation, the higher you will fall from grace on the day of reckoning.
The Annunciation by Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)
One thing that has become more obvious as I’ve gotten older is that I do not like my identity as a person to be dependent on whether or not I have had sex. When I was younger and marriage was still halfway on the table, I thought of my virginity as more of preparation for a wife and family. I was waiting on “that girl,” whoever she was. And it seems like that’s the only definition society has ever had for it – the period of time before a person gets married and starts a sexual relationship. But as time has gone on, it has become obvious to me that long term celibate chastity actually has little to do with saying no to sex and preparing for marriage – but it has everything to do with saying yes to Christ’s concerns and preparation for heaven. It has everything to do with acknowledging God as the creator of our bodies and the sacredness of marriage and sexual relationships. The world may ask us “why are you afraid of women?” and “what do you have against marriage?” What more respect can I show women than not breaking and entering into their temples? I’ve never understood why the Christian community has so much empathy for thieves and bank robbers, but so little support for the guards. So the irony of it is that those who have chosen the celibate life are actually respecting women and honoring marriage more than most married people themselves. But yet we are called adolescents and banned from leadership roles in churches. Would you have given Mary or Joseph leadership roles in your church before Christ was born? If you answered yes, why is that? How would you know Mary if you saw her? Would she have a big “virgin” tattooed on her forehead? I don’t think so. Outside of the homosexuality scandals, churches today don’t even know what celibacy is. That’s so true for Protestants. They repented from slavery. There’s a lot more they are going to have to repent from.
Why was it necessary for Mary, the mother of Christ, to be a virgin in the first place? Was it to ensure she would have a great sex life with Joseph? Was it to ensure her marriage to him would not end in divorce? Was it because she had to be perfect? I don’t think so. I think one of the main reasons was to proclaim to the world the divine nature of Christ as both God and human in the same body. To serve as evidence of his supernatural existence and that his birth did not come about by ordinary means. Christ himself walking on this earth represented both the sacred world of eternity in heaven and the physical world of human life on earth, a balance that only he could represent. If the church is supposed to become more Christ-like, shouldn’t it strive for this spiritual/physical balance? It seems to me that our conversations lately regarding marriage and family and sexual ethics have completely missed the mark. It’s not possible for us to point to this behavior or that and say it is ungodly without focusing first on God himself. The church will never have a proper respect for marriage without a proper respect for celibacy. That’s true for Catholics, Protestants, and all Christians. When we put virginity in perspective and take it out of the sexualized world of 21st century America, only then can we realize it’s true significance.
If someone had told me this was going to happen 20 years, I would have gotten a good laugh. But we have actually come to the point in our society where all men are considered rapist. Yes, until proven otherwise, all men are guilty of crossing . . . boundaries of some sort. Say hello to someone on the street – “He’s raping me!” Sit down too close to somebody in a restaurant – “He’s raping me!” Send an email to somebody – “He’s raping me!” Ask someone their name – “He’s raping me!” But that’s what happens in a women/children worship society when all ethics are handed over to women. That’s what happens when women are put in charge of churches. That’s what happens when the visual ethics of a gravid abdomen trump any value of a good man. I am not saying that all women are evil. I’m saying that God created an order of checks and balances in our world that did not put women at the top of a morally superior throne. Sadly though, this is what happens when all single women believe God has a man waiting for them somewhere and that the white picket fence is just around the corner. It’s called idol worship of family. When a society reaches that point, friendship and love for neighbor go out the door and perversion takes up residence. Why is that? It’s because there is NOTHING ETERNAL about marriage. There will be no marriages in heaven, no weddings, no babies, no bridal showers – none of it. But single women spend their time idolizing over marriage, sex, and making babies – when it will all be gone in the blink of an eye. Every ounce of their energy goes into finding the “perfect man” and being fruitful and multiplying, when their concern should be on multiplying souls for the kingdom of heaven and giving birth to spiritual children, while keeping their eye on the perfect man in heaven. That cannot happen as long as their focus is on this world. If they happen to walk by a man who is hungry and crying in pain, they’ll slap his face and keep on walking. If they walk by a man who is being persecuted for upholding Christian beliefs, they’ll spit in his face. Yes, I’ve seen these things myself, especially among women of the millennial generation. What’s is truly sad is that many of them are sitting in churches pretending to be saints sent from heaven. I’m not saying that there are no bad guys out there. There are. But distrust and false accusations are not fruits of the spirit. They are fruits of the devil. Do we really need to wonder why nonbelievers level the charge of hypocrisy against church going people?
Take a close look at how celibacy is being discussed today and the terminology used to ridicule it. Mandatory celibacy, vows, solemn oaths, compulsory celibacy, homosexuality, same sex marriage, antiquated idea, should be abolished, sexual abuse, etc. The Bible describes living without sex as a spiritual gift, not a worldly pursuit. That’s a big difference. Jesus himself in Matthew 19:12 actually said there were “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” He did not say that there would be men who take vows not to marry. He did not say men had to remain unmarried to be preachers. He did not say celibacy is what gay people do to keep from sinning. No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. Misguided men say those things. Unfortunately, celibacy has been so thoroughly catholicized today that there is no 21st century word to describe the gift that Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 7. And since Protestants are still riding on the coattails of Martin Luther and John Calvin, a life without marriage and family is not even part of their sexual ethic. In other words, most Protestants, as well as Catholics, don’t even know who Jesus is or what he taught. The reason that “lifelong celibacy” is so revolting today is because sex is considered a civil right. Being gay is the new black. The marriage license is the new bus. Because, let’s face it, we can’t deny ourselves of any personal pleasures. Add to this the fact that marriage and family have become idols of church worship and it’s easy to see why celibacy is the new waterboard treatment.
Actually, the origin of the word celibacy can be traced to the 1660s and it has nothing to do with vows. It comes from the Latin word caelibatus, “state of being unmarried.” Vows are NEVER mentioned in conjunction with marriage in the Bible and they are never mentioned in conjunction with celibacy. It’s all about commitment. We’re either committed to a spouse or committed to God. Let me say this very plainly. If you have to take a vow to refrain from sex for the rest of your life, you do not have the gift of celibacy that Jesus talked about, whether your a priest or not a priest, whether your a Protestant or Catholic, Jew or Gentile. You are not a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. When you get married, do you take a separate vow to refrain from sexual relationships with other people? Authentic gifts are freely given and freely chosen. They are not compulsions. I freely chose celibacy. I could get married tomorrow. I choose not to. I could have gotten married 30 years ago. I chose not to. Even though society may not have a word for me, it is as natural for me as marriage is for husbands and wives. Even if I am one in a thousand, or whatever figure Martin Luther tossed out, that does not negate the reality of my existence. God does not operate by popular vote. He doesn’t take opinion polls. So it’s your choice. You can either live your life based on the Bible’s eternal truths, as bizarre as they may sound today, or you can live your life based on the popular vote of the masses. A eunuch for the kingdom of heaven is who I am. I don’t have to take cold showers everyday. I don’t question my manhood. Even though it may seem supernatural for the world, celibacy is very natural for those who have chosen this life. If Christ returned tomorrow, who do you think he would better relate to, the precious family on the third pew or the celibate looking in from the outside?
Really, the question should be what happened to the image of purity? What happened to the image of chastity? What happened to the image of virginity? Who took it upon themselves to change the meaning of these words in the first place? The short answer is that a culture of family idolatry derailed purity. Take a look at the intentions of the two men who created the whole idea of abstinence pledges and created the largest purity movement in this country, True Love Waits. The two family men who started it had one agenda – the future marriages of their teenage daughters. In all honesty, the name of the campaign should have been “True Love Waits For Marriage,” because marriage was assumed to be the ultimate goal. So what happens when teenagers wait and wait . . . and are still waiting past youth groups and pizza parties? Disillusionment. Do they wait? Why do you think the age of first marriage is increasing? In the absence of a Christian ethic, why would any man sacrifice his entire life for something he can get in 10 minutes on any street corner? Actually, what happened with all the “pretend” waiting is that the whole marriage/family worship culture came down like a house of cards, falling flat on its face in a cesspool of gay marriage, pornography, and Ashley Madisons. A single man waiting on marriage to have sex? Why, that’s funnier than a 40 year old virgin. But that’s where the family idolatry church culture has led us. While they kissed their babies and bowed down to the golden image of children, their single adult men were out on the streets putting more notches under their belts. After all, it’s not a marriage unless they make it official in a courthouse. Right? I always laugh when I hear church leaders say, “Oh, but marriage is not respected like it used to be.” “Look at all these good Christian women with no decent men to marry.” Churches – You killed marriage by placing it on a pedestal of idol worship. You killed marriage when you failed to show respect to people who chose celibate life. It’s a medical fact that a person can kill themselves by consuming too much of anything, even water. It’s also a fact that the church overdosed on sex and still doesn’t even know why it’s close to death. Even while congregations sit in “family worship centers,” they have no clue they are sitting in their own coffins.
So what’s left of purity culture today? What are people saying about it? Unfortunately, if a person is not Catholic and female, they don’t have a voice on the subject. So we are left with the same old age and gender stereotypes we have dealt with for the past 250 years. Have you heard of a Protestant conference on celibacy lately? As far as I know, there are no other 50+ year-old men “coming out” as virgins. Who wants that kind of disrespect? Honestly, it would have been easier for me if I had came out as a homosexual Mormon married to three men with a child by a previous marriage. Just think – If I were a 20-something Catholic girl, I could be lining up my next book signing tour, scheduling my next speaking engagement, mailing out T-shirts, writing my next advice column, etc.; all the while looking over my shoulder for Romeo. Oh, but I’m content with who I am. I know I make a lot of people uncomfortable. For those of us who have chosen the celibate life, I think challenging the status quo is part of our responsibility. Whose going to take the babies off the pedestals and put equal attention on people who are homeless, in prison, disabled, hungry?