The Lord’s Affairs Vs The World’s Affairs

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I don’t think anybody can deny that dichotomies are at the heart of God’s creation. Beginning in Genesis, he separated darkness from day, land from water, and earth from sky. Binary opposites are God’s idea. They compliment each other. Two parts make a whole. One can’t exist without the other. And oftentimes, the two parts can’t be easily separated with a dividing line, like night and day. Down through the history of mankind though and his rejection of creation, binary opposites have devolved into various forms of secular dualisms where one half is evil and the other half is good. Instead of two parts making a whole, the whole is divided into two parts. That is not God’s idea. Good and evil are only temporary dichotomies because God will inevitably destroy Satan. For example, dualism is seen in the scientific method where you have a subject being studied by a supposed objective observer. It’s also seen in Chinese Yin-Yang where everything has an opposing force, where heaven is masculine and earth is feminine, where everything is sexualized. Sound familiar in America today? Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that male and female are temporary dichotomies, that one day there will be no male or female.

But when will that day come? That is the big question I want to tackle here. The typical answer from the standpoint of Christianity is when we get to heaven. As Matthew 22:30 tells us: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” But notice that this verse does not say that one day men will have no penises and women will have no vaginas. It does not say that one day we will have sleek android bodies. Gender is not defined by the presence or absence of body parts. Rather, the Bible says we will be like the angels – unmarried. They may not even know what marriage is. In a very real sense, there are people alive today who are neither male nor female, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, those who have chosen the celibate lifestyle, those who have chosen to take care of the Lord’s affairs. They are just as unmarried today as they will be in heaven. As 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 states:

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.

The word concern in Greek is merimna which means care or anxiety. Amerimnos means free from anxiety or care. Notice that both the unmarried man and unmarried woman are both concerned about the same thing – the Lord’s affairs. So the real dichotomy is not between male and female. It is between those called to marriage and those called to celibacy – because they are the only two choices in Christian theology. So the big question for singles should not be who will you marry. It should be is marriage for you? Even though there may be few called to unmarried life, the chances of being called are the same for everybody. Note too that the choice has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality. It is the sinful lifestyles of 21st century America and scandals in the Catholic church that have aligned celibacy so closely with homosexuality.

So, can the married be concerned about the Lord’s affairs? Compared to the capacity of concern in an unmarried person, the simple answer is no. It is a testament to the spiritual change that takes place when two people marry and have sex for the first time. Their priorities are no longer the same, their concerns are no longer the same, and their responsibilities are no longer the same. Yet, we have churches and even denominations today calling all single people to marry as young as possible and to have as many children as possible. You can’t get more unbiblical than that. It’s probably because they haven’t even read the Bible. The only truth they know is what feels comfortable and what the opinion polls say is trending at the moment.

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Celibate Singleness? Can I Get A Witness?

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I’ve noticed a new trend lately. Some churches are amending their mission statements to include “celibate singleness” in addition to heterosexual marriage. Here is an example from the First Baptist Church of Monroeville in Pennsylvania:

“We believe that God calls us to either of two patterns He has designed for us: celibate singleness or a faithful heterosexual marriage. We believe that marriage was instituted by God as a sacred and permanent covenant between a man and a woman for the purposes of companionship, enjoyment, completeness, fruitfulness, protection, and illustration of Christ’s relationship with the church. We believe that parents’ chief responsibility is to raise their children to love and serve the Lord.” http://www.fbcmon.org/we-believe.html

Churches, I can go through your Sunday bulletins, sit through your sermons, read your announcements in the local paper – and give you thousands upon thousands of examples of “faithful heterosexual marriages” through wedding and death announcements. However, I can’t find one example of celibate singleness. I can’t find one living witness to the lifestyle Paul encouraged in 1 Corinthians. Do you think that is . . . odd? I do. Do you think a couple of obligatory words in a mission statement is enough to reverse the idolatry of marriage and family in this country? I find it interesting that when church leaders talk about the gift of celibacy, it is always in terms of some theoretical misionary serving Jesus in some dangerous far off land. It’s never a real person, just some rare individual that may exist . . . somewhere in the world. I guess this makes some churches feel better about themselves and more inclusive. Some of them probably look at the addition of this language as a defense against homosexuality. For some of them, their theology on celibacy gets no further than same sex unions. To them, celibacy is just “something gays do to get right with the Lord.” To see celibacy as a vocation of at least as equal proportion to marriage would take a major theological upgrade. Notice that the above mission statement from Monroeville only included the word celibacy. They did not elaborate on it as they did marriage. So in essence, 99% of their statement on family is . . . marriage and family.

My challenge to churches: For every wedding anniversary that you announce in your church, in your bulletins, in your local newspapers, on your local radios, find at least one celibate single, affirm the godliness of their lifestyle, and announce the number of years they have been celibate – just as you do wedding anniversaries. Who are they? Have you ever asked? Want that make some people uncomfortable? Look at the price you’ve paid for comfort so far – abortion, contraception, fornication, adultery, pornography, prostitution, homosexuality. In a few short years, every church in this country will be required to persom same sex “marriages.” Most churches have a repuation already as “just a bunch of hypocrits.” Words are but ink on paper. Witnesses serve as living testaments to the grace of God. If you can’t affirm celibacy as you do marriage, your not qualified to include celibate singles in your mission statements.

True Singles Versus True Widows

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I’ve asked the question before – What is a single? Fifty years ago they were people who had not married. They were those who made up singles groups in churches. The word “single” had a biblical basis. They were expected to be chaste and to have had no visitors in their temples. They were honored and respected by church families. Single men and women were given responsibilities in church, like mentoring young people. Not anymore. Singles groups have given way to the divorced group, divorced again group, newly widowed group, I left my spouse because of abuse group, single parents group, “I think I might be gay group,” etc. Today, to remind someone of their past is synonymous with making them feel uncomfortable. And sadly churches reinforce the notion that histories don’t matter and that when Jesus forgives sins he erases everything from your memory – sin with no consequences. Yes, for the politically correct church, that’s the goal – to make you feel comfortable and good about yourself – like a glorified support group. “Single? Step this way. Are you widowed or divorced? Door number two.” But is it really possible to separate one’s marital status from their sexual history? Socially yes. Biblically no. Because the Bible makes it very clear that if your vessel has been inhabited, you have been married (1 Corinthians 3:16). That becomes your history, regardless of church attendance or good works.

The Bible also talks about the issue of past histories. In 1 Timothy 5:3-9, Apostle Paul addressed the role of widows this way:

3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.
4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.

Widows indeed? In some versions (NKJV, NAB), they are referred to as “true widows.” Why did Paul qualify them with “indeed”? Because the word widow cannot be defined without a past history. According to the Oxford Dictionary a widow is: “A woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.” Notice that Paul listed four qualifications for a true widow: 1) She did not have children or other family that could take care of her. 2) She did not live in pleasure. 3) She was at least 60 years of age. 4) She had lived without sex since her husband’s death, the wife of one man. The word single cannot be defined without a past history either. With the exception of the minimum 60 years of age (which is irrelevant), what’s the difference between a true widow and a true single? There is none, exceed that a widow has had sex and a single has not. In our family idolatry culture today, the widow is a “known quantity.” The single is not. The widow will leave a legacy of a husband and/or children. The single will not. That’s a good enough reason to punish true singles, isn’t it?

“Liveth in pleasure” can only be interpreted one way. A true widow has lived without a sexual relationship after her husband died. She had enough dignity and class to honor him even after his death by remaining chaste (wife of one man). How did a community determine that? There’s only one way – Sexual histories and reputations were discussed in homes and synagogues. Reputations are not made with gossip, but with facts. Verse 10 even states that a true widow is “well reported of for good works.” Her history mattered that much. What does the history of singles matter? Not too much in churches today. “Taken into a number” in verse 9 suggests that true widows were part of a special social order. If there was a special order, and I think there was, their reputations were the only way of determining who could put their name on the roll. Imagine what would happen today if churches followed the recommendations of Paul and identified the true widows that were qualified to receive assistance from the church. Imagine what would happen if a church set out to determine who had lived a life of chastity after their husband’s death and who were false widows. I don’t think many churches would have to worry about their financial status. I tend to think that the true widows of the New Testament were not only honored – but also had authority in the Christian community, had designated functions, and had leadership roles before the churches came under city/state control. What kind of leadership roles do true singles have today? Outside the Catholic church, single men are not even allowed to be pastors in most denominations. That’s a lot of honor, isn’t it?

Following Paul’s line of thinking, I think we can just as well say there are true singles today and false singles or, biblically speaking, true unmarrieds and false unmarrieds. True singles are authentic solitary people who have had no visitors in their temple. They have had no relationships and have waited on marriage to have sex. False singles live in pleasure and have not waited. Yes, I’m a true single. But the sexual component is not a fraction of who I am as a whole. There are more profound things that separate me from social singles today. Probably the greatest thing is my solitary life. I like peace and quiet. I fix my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wash my own clothes. I shop for my own groceries. I pay my own bills. I clean my own house. I schedule my own activities. I go to bed by myself and wake up by myself. Nobody knows when I leave or come back home. I go to church by myself. And I still live in the dark ages because I don’t have a portable device. Don’t worry. I feel fine. Having an empty vessel has allowed me to do things I would not be able to do if married. My interests are not divided. I’m able to get to know people on a level deeper than most spouses know each other.

Most people today couldn’t comprehend such a solitary life. If true widows were desolate, how much more are true singles who don’t even have children? I think true singles today are even more desolate, trust God just as much, and continue to pray night and day. I have known churches to help widows by establishing dependant funds, providing them with food and clothes, adopting their children, visiting them during the holidays, providing volunteers to help them with ADLs, teaching them new skills, getting them jobs, sending them cards and letters, helping them pay bills, building them new homes, helping them clean their homes, visiting them in the hospital, helping them clean their yards, visiting them, helping them connect with Godly men, taking their children to and from school, giving them a listening ear, assigning deacons and wives to care for their emotional needs, helping them connect to the rest of the church family, creating support networks for them, and helping them with transportation to doctors offices and grocery stores. What has your church done lately to honor true singles?

Purity – The False Witness Of Today

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about purity or, as the critics like to call it, the purity culture. Purity balls have especially come under fire. Here are a few snippets from recent writings on the subject:

“They also assert that purity balls define a woman’s worth by her virginity rather than her whole being, actions and attitudes, and emphasize her role as a possession to be passed by her father to her husband.”

“Instead, the father/daughter purity culture feeds the idea that girls are only valuable inasmuch as they are valued in the eyes of the men around them, be that their boyfriends or their fathers.”

“But what message does it send to that same girl (to have) Daddy publicly announcing to the world in her presence that he alone controls her sexuality until marriage?”

“Purity culture is, at its heart, a shame-based approach to sexual ethics. It creates a world where secrecy, silence, and shame surround sex, all in the name of God. And it harms women.”

Did you notice something missing in the above comments? Yep, that would be boys. Where did the guys go in the purity equation? Let’s take a look at the definition of purity. According to Merriam-Webster it is: 1) Lack of dirty or harmful substances. 2) Lack of guilt or evil thoughts. The giant elephant in the room is this: It is not gender specific. It is not just a girl thing. Not only is purity not gender specific in our dictionaries, it’s also not gender specific in the Bible. Fornication is never defined in scripture as applying to women only. But that is the witness the church is sending out to the world today, a visually based system of ethics that befalls women simply because pregnancy is visible to man’s eyes. Imagine what society would be like if a man’s hair turned purple after he had sex the first time. God could have very well made us that way. But that doesn’t give us the right to abdicate responsibility for sexual ethics. Rather, it should remind us that God created us with an intellectual capacity above that of animals and the ability to control our desires. That means purity is just as important for us guys. It should be MORE our responsibility than the girl’s. So when we’re not included, a false witness is sent to the world; that includes every purity ball, purity conference, abstinence class, etc., not to mention the jewelry and other paraphanalia that sells purity today. And it begs the question – What are the girls waiting for? Is all of your manhood wrapped up in the fact that you have a . . . tool? There are too many girls only purity groups to name all of them. Here are just a few:

Radiant Purity Conferences For Girls
Pure in Heart Conferences For Girls
Power of Purity Conference For Girls
The Pink Lid – A Girls Conference
Girls of Grace
Pure Freedom/Secret Keeper Girl – Dannah Gresh
Hannah Elise Girls Conferences
Life In Progress Purity Conferences For Teen Girls
Strong In The Lord Conferences For Girls
Purity Talks Girls Conferences For Girls
Vertical Love Retreats For Girls
Generation Keepsake Conferences For Girls
SHINE Girls Conferences
Pure Excitement Conferences For Girls
Tina Marie Griffin Conferences For Girls
American Heritage Girls Conferences
Girls On The Move Conferences
Wellspring Girls’ Conferences

There are literally hundreds more. How many purity conferences did I find targeted to guys only? A grand total of zero. What message does that send to a lost world? I’m afraid it sends one message loud and clear – The Christian community endorses a double standard when it comes to sexual ethics: He’s a stud, she’s a slut. Boys will be boys, girls will be Cinderellas. Women are hoes, men are players. Nearly everything the church does today in regards to purity reinforces this double standard. Conferences for girls only says that it’s okay to objectify women, that it’s okay for guys to have sex with as many girls as possible, that it’s okay to revert to . . . being an animal. Traditional thinking faults men for these double standards. But when you consider all of the events targeted to girls and the involvement of churches, I’m afraid that is not the case. In my opinion, the cause of the double standard falls on the shoulders of women just as much as men – maybe even more. Every time one of these gender specific events takes place, every time a purity ball is scheduled, every time a church schedules a purity conference for girls – it’s worse than a chapter of the Bible being ripped out. Apostle Paul talked about the perilous times he lived in. We live in world that is probably darker than what he saw. Lost souls have no clue what the Bible says about sexual ethics. They have no sexual standards to pass to their children. The ONLY thing they know is what they see and hear in the media and how they’re treated by “church people.” They are looking for something to point their fingers at. I’m afraid the double standards reinforced by the purity movement today is giving them quite enough to point at and laugh about.

Churches, think about it this way: Would you consider offering an alter call for women only? That sounds silly, doesn’t it? It’s just as ludicrous to hold women accountable for abstaining from sex before marriage while expecting boys to be boys. Christianity is based on sexual ethics. That’s why we’re in a moral crisis today in America. Sex has been separated from spirituality, thanks to a church that idolizes marriage and family and frowns on solitary lives and celibacy. Sex has been separated from marriage, thanks to man made weddings and state involvement. Sex has been separated from reproduction, thanks to contraception and abortion. And now sexual ethics have been separated from self control thanks to a purity double standard reinforced by the church. Being a real man today means having sex and making babies. Self control is not even in the picture. So men of virtue, I encourage you to speak up on these issues.

Everything the Christian community does that comes under media spotlight does one of two things: It builds up the body of Christ or it tears down the body of Christ. There is no comfortable fence in the middle. Even things that we think are insignificant, like a purity conference, become ammunition for those who wage war against us, the principalities and rulers of darkness. I much prefer an honest witness to the world, a witness that says it is just as much (if not more) the responsibility of guys to master their self control and not define sexual ethics as “whenever she says no.” I prefer a witness to the world that says it is the responsibility of girls to not view their bodies as only objects of man’s desire and to define their value as creatures of God and not just ladies waiting for a man. Dads – What if marriage is not in your daughter’s plans? Do you still want to walk down a church isle with her and promise to protect her virginity until she finds a husband? As Genesis tells us, male and female he made them – not husband and wife. One is not more valuable than the other. Did God guarantee your daughter a husband?