Eunuchs – Only To Those Whom It Is Given

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There’s a lot in the Bible that flies in the face of modern man. One concept that has to be at the top is exclusivity. The very idea that some people will go to heaven and some people will go to hell is offensive to most today. On top of that, it’s not going to be a politically correct 50-50 split. The Bible even tells us that few people will enter heaven: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14.

There are other exclusions in the Bible that are hardly ever mentioned. For example, when was the last time you heard the eunuchs of Matthew 19 discussed in church? Probably never. However, what seems to be an irrelevant biblical term takes on a whole new meaning when looked at from a different perspective. In Matthew 19, Jesus was having another heated discussion with the Pharisees and disciples about adultery and divorce. After Jesus explained what the standards were in marriage, one of the disciples came to the conclusion that “if this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Matthew 19:10. He erroneously came to the conclusion that everybody could skip marriage and have eternal fun forever and forever. But Jesus answered: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 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 19:11-12. I want to focus on the third type of eunuch, those who choose singleness for the kingdom of God. Can you see Jesus stepping on the breaks? Can you see the car come to a screeching stop with the words “only those to whom it has been given?” Besides the Lamb of God, the eunuch metaphor mentioned here in Matthew 19 in my opinion is the most profound – and least understood – in the entire Bible. First, we must understand that a metaphor is “a word or phrase for one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar.” Merriam-Webster. The definition of a eunuch today is: “A man who has been castrated, especially (in the past), one employed to guard the women’s living areas at an oriental court.” What is he referring to?

The metaphor Jesus is using is the link between the permanence associated with castration and the permanence associated with those who choose to live without marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. It has nothing to do with a surgical procedure. And it is just as true for women as it is for men. I’m sure Jesus’ audience understood what he was referring to a lot better than we do today. “Okay, if we decide not to marry, we won’t be playing around and making babies. We’ll be eunuchs.” Eunuchs in Jesus’ time and all throughout the Old Testament were considered the lowest of the low on the social ladder, absolutely useless to society, just a clump of dry trees. Since they had no heirs, a few of them were used to guard royal jewelry and property. Deuteronomy 23:1 tells us: “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” So not only were they excluded from society, they were excluded from religious ceremonies. They weren’t even allowed in church. Does that sound a little like the plight of singles today? Hebrew men thought that passing their name to offspring was the only way to guarantee the survival of their name and their country. The idea of an honorable single man was completely foreign. They were dead-enders. Families with children were the gold standard in Old Testament times. Sounds a whole lot like today, doesn’t it?

But the status of eunuchs was about to change. The Old Testament hints of the coming changes in Isaiah 56:4-5: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” God is referring to young Hebrew men who forsook choosing a wife, sex, children, and propagating the nation of Israel. He is affirming those who chose a life of celibacy and concerns about his affairs.

Their status did change forever when Christ came to earth as a eunuch, standing in solidarity with them. He chose to come in the form of the lowest of the low. In Matthew 19, Christ is stating the same thing God did in Isaiah, that those who choose celibacy for the Kingdom of God (eunuchs) will have a special place in heaven and their names will endure forever. I’ve always wondered how the status of eunuchs in the Old Testament and during Jesus’ time compare to the status of eunuchs today. I have a feeling not much has changed for those whom it is given.

Let us be mindful that we need to delete the world’s dictionary when we read God’s word. Think about how eunuchs today serve as reminders of a coming heaven where there are no marriages or nuclear families and where there are things more important than sex. Only to those to whom it is given may not be politically correct lingo today. It doesn’t have that ring of inclusiveness. But statistics do not matter to God and they shouldn’t matter to us. There could be three eunuchs in the world today or three million. Is your daily life based on the unlimited possibilities of God or the limited expectations of man?

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False Assumptions

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Assumptions have become so much a part of our everyday life that it’s difficult to tell the biblical from the non-biblical. Yes, there are issues about sexuality that are not addressed in the Bible. And our human brains are pretty good at filling in the blanks with worldly expectations. But that does not mean that God is silent. If you know him, he speaks to your heart. He writes his laws in your heart. But all the wisdom of God and all the wisdom you need to know to be fruitful on this earth cannot be contained within the pages of one book. That’s why a relationship with him is imperative before we stoke the flames of a romantic relationship. If marriage is for you, it’s absolutely necessary to be able to discern the right person to marry. But doesn’t discernment take time?

If there’s one word in the English language I would change the definition of, it would be “wait.” According to the Oxford dictionary, it means: “Stay where one is, or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.” A hundred years ago, waiting was probably looked at more favorably. It was associated with the hope that people of the depression era had to have to survive. It was associated with the conservative values that America was built on. More importantly, waiting was associated with Christians who were looking for the second coming of Christ. But today we have an America of gluttony. Nobody waits to get what they want. Today we have an America that has been taken over by the liberal agenda where everybody has a right to everything. Today we have an America where the majority are not Christians and are not looking for anything except their next dollar and moment of pleasure. To them, waiting has no more meaning than standing in a checkout line, lining up at a service station, and waiting on the interest rates to go up.

But we must rise above these assumptions and maintain the dignity that was once associated with waiting. If we put everything in perspective, which is more important: Waiting faithfully for a spouse or waiting faithfully for the second coming of Christ? Which signal do we send the world? How are we defining the “wait” in waiting for marriage to have sex? If we follow the Oxford dictionary, we are “delaying action.” I’d say we’re following God’s will for our lives. It’s sort of like asking someone who is parked at a red light “Hey, are you driving on the road?” That should be obvious, right? The same thing applies to our lives. Our walk with Christ should be so obvious that no one has to ask “Are you waiting for marriage to have sex?” We should not shirk from breaking assumptions, from putting the positive back into waiting. I like the word anticipation better. Advent is built on anticipation. Whether we marry or not, all Christians are anticipating the return of Christ. That timing is completely in his hands. It is not something we delay. Do we stand idle until that time? Certainly not. We have the Great Commission:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20.

He made no mention of go ye therefore and find our spouse. He made no mention of planning our marriage. He made no mention of planning our children. If we go forth and teach about Christ, there is no need to put a label of “dating” or “courting” on every relationship we have. If we cherish friends, there is no need to sexualize every person we meet. When we adopt the assumptions of the world, we are telling everybody that finding a spouse is more important than leading people to Christ. We are all walking testaments of either the world’s assumptions or heavenly expectations.

Advent this year is November 30th to December 24th. What are you waiting for?

Why Am I Waiting?

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I guess the first question should be: What am I waiting for? My life has taken a different course. I’m not waiting for an earthly marriage, but for Christ’s imminent return and the marriage feast in heaven. At 53, I know that puts me off of any statistical chart. But I decided that in my 20s. It’s a done deal. I’ve walked down the isle. The unending challenge for me has been – How do I live a celibate life outside the walls of a monastary and the Catholic church? How can a guy be a monk in a Protestant world? How do I relate to a world that worships marriage and family? A deeper question: Why is sex even necessary to define who I am? Is it necessary for a deep sea creature to be able to define air to all the other fish he encounters? No, God designed him without a requirement for air. God designed me without a requirement for sex. So why should I describe myself as “celibate,” a word that is associated with homosexuality and catholicism? I’m afraid it’s the best word we have. What word would Apostle Paul use today if he were alive? Would he be in your church’s singles class planning the next movie night out? Where would you put him? Answers to these questions would probably take a book. I would LOVE to hear my readers answers.

Over the years, I’ve heard many reasons why sex should wait until marriage. And I’m sure you’ve heard them too: STDs, unplanned pregnancies, it’s what my parents expect, to avoid heartbreak, because I signed a pledge, the Bible said so, preacher said so, etc. Some of those reasons helped me through the early years. But today I’d say there are two main reasons:

1. I know God created my body and knows what’s best for it. Sex without marriage would be a disaster for my entire being, especially emotionally. It was harder for me to understand that when I was younger and testoserone was raging through my brian. But I’ve come to the realization that God’s ways are beyond my reasoning. He created every cell in my body. I don’t need to know the how and why behind every function. I’ve always liked mysteries. Really. Books, movies, stories – all mysteries. I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Orson Welles. I can live without knowing a woman’s body. It’s unfortunate that’s not respected today.

2. The words Paul used in 1 Corinthians 7 have become a part of who I am. I’ve freely chosen the concerns of the Lord as a completely solitary man instead of the concerns of the world as a married husband. I definitely don’t feel single or incomplete. In some ways, I don’t think “waiting” is an accurate word to describe my life. That’s because the world associates waiting and sex with one thing – marriage. Celibacy takes it to a more spiritual level. The biblical word “eunuch” (Matthew 19) is better – but the masses wouldn’t be able to define that without a scalpel. I do know for sure that I’m content with who I am. And for those of us who are called to this life, I really don’t think it’s necessary for the world to understand these things.

Am I completely void of desire? No.
Does a celibate life require some sort of supernatural intervention? Yes.
Does it re-arrange every cell in your body? Yes.
Does it alter the priorities in your life? Yes.
Do I have a heart as cold as ice? No.
Can I appreciate feminine beauty? Yes.
Do I value marriage? Yes. It’s just as biblical as celibacy.

But all of this has been trumped by the glimpse of what I’ve seen on the other side of eternity.

One of those concerns of the Lord that I care deeply about – Making sure Christian young people today know that it is possible to wait until any age to have sex, that sex is not as important as food and water, and that God does not promise everybody marriage.