Virgins – Without A Care In This World

Travelling-Alone1

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. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.

What would your friends think if you told them you didn’t have a care in this world? They’d probably think you were a lazy slacker. But Apostle Paul said just that. How many “likes” do you think that would get him on his Facebook page? He is responding here to a letter he received from the church at Corinth. I think this letter brought up many areas where they were confused. But the main question was: Is it better to marry or remain unmarried and is it even possible to choose celibacy just as one chooses marriage? Isn’t it interesting that we are still debating the same issues today? We’re still debating what marriage even is. With that in mind, look at verse 32. First, notice that Paul recommended the unmarried and celibate life himself. Why? On top of providing more people with undivided devotion to Christ, it may be because he liked the idea of more celibate friends. I can relate to that very, very well. He also lived in a marriage and sex worship society. Few people were choosing to live without marriage. Therefore, few people were concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Few understood that what they did with their sexuality determined what route their hearts would take – permanently. Few understood that celibacy was an honorable option.

We have to remember too Paul’s definition of “cares.” He would rather have his followers in Corinth be “without carefulness” because he understood that choosing sex and marriage linked us to God’s creation (world) and that choosing no sex and celibacy linked us to God’s creation called heaven – because there are no marriages in heaven. Contrary to what theologians believe today, there is nothing innately evil about this world. I’ve always wondered why the idea of celibacy is so divisive. Every time the subject comes up, people think they have to take sides. It’s like we’re still debating Matthew 19 and Jesus’s explanation of eunuchs. I’ve noticed that if I mention the word celibacy, especially around preachers, they automatically assume I’m making disparaging remarks about marriage. They assume that I’m putting myself on some “holier than thou” level of existence. “Wait a second now John. There’s nothing wrong with marriage.” If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be a millionaire. Why is that? I think it’s because many church leaders have reverted back to Mosaic law and believe everything in the world is evil, especially sex. They think every intention in a man’s heart is evil. In 1978, Margaret Clarkson even remarked that: “Singleness is a result of sin in this world – one of a host of evils in which we all share.” Calvinism has taken a strong hold on churches today. On top of that, many Protestants today are still fighting the Protestant Reformation. They still think they are at war against the Catholic Church and celibate priests.

There have been many theologians through the years (including Charles Spurgeon) who have interpreted Paul’s “without carefulness” no further than singles waiting on marriage and the absence of sexual responsibilities to a wife and raising children. That is a grave error. If that were the case, then the gift of celibacy Paul recommends would go no further than what a person did or did not do in a bedroom. Yes, a life without sex is part of celibacy. But there is a whole lot more to “without carefulness” than “Single and Feeling Good.” Just as there is a whole lot more to caring for the things of the world than worrying about the next time you will have sex with your husband or wife. I think this mindset came about because of the popular belief in the separation of the body from the soul. This theology is a hallmark of Calvinism and “reformed” thinkers. Paul is clearly telling us here with the open-ended word “careth” that our bodies and souls are divinely connected. Thomas Merton wrote a book titled “No Man is an Island.” In 1 Cor 7:32, Paul is saying that no sex is an island without consequences. Paul is not describing what a married person should do or what an unmarried person should do. These verses are not instructions. They are reality. He is telling us how the Holy Spirit operates in the world, not what an ideal world should look like. “The word “careth” in verse 32 is a verb, not an adjective or noun. He isn’t saying, “husbands should be concerned about . . . ” or “single people are free to do . . . ” And he certainly isn’t saying that all people with the gift of celibacy are called to serve in some church-sanctioned, publically identified, nonprofit, tax exempt “ministry” or to set up a tent in a third world country. I realize many authors have contributed to this way of thinking, including William Isley who saw celibacy as a “charism appropriate for missionaries.” One of John Piper’s blog followers recently asked him what’s the point was in getting married if that meant she now served the world and not God. He tried to explain what Paul meant by things of the Lord: “He has in mind a focused, more formal, official ministry effort of evangelism and nurture.” I don’t agree with that. I read nothing about a formal suit and tie ministry in the words of Paul. Actually, complete devotion to the Lord requires no specific activity. It sounds as if Piper is trying to overhaul the Protestant’s miserable track record of dishonoring celibates by making them all out to be Billy Grahams. How quaint. He went on to make these disparaging remarks about Apostle Paul and 1 Cor 7:

“Does he really want us to think that the effort to please the Lord is only possible in singleness and that in marriage all the dynamics are different? We don’t please the Lord there, we please each other there. He can’t mean that because he said it is not a sin to marry and it would be a sin to marry if we didn’t try to please the Lord while we were married. That is what sin means is not pleasing the Lord . . . Those are very striking, strange depictions of how to live.”

Yes, that’s exactly what he means. This is another classic example of why married men are not qualified to give advice about celibacy. The reason Paul sounds so striking and strange today is because he defines marriage based on a one-flesh union through sexual intercourse. We define marriage based on courthouses, legal contracts, wedding vows, and a string of cans tied to the bumper of a car. Likewise, Paul’s definition of singleness is based on virginity – not the absence of a marriage license or wedding rings. Given those dynamics, the differences between the married and unmarried are that striking. Very striking indeed. I think Mr. Piper’s thoughts on the subject are fairly typical for a 21st century Calvinist Baptist Preacher. They don’t even know what celibacy is any more. They wouldn’t know Paul if he knocked on their church doors. If we enjoin our bodies back to our spirits, we’ll understand how what we do with our sexuality determines what road our hearts take, the road of human reproduction or the road of spiritual reproduction. The concerns of the world still take a backseat to the concerns of the Lord.

So where does marriage licenses and wedding vows fit in? They really don’t. Man’s world is an ever-changing maze of legalese, formalities, and courthouses. God’s world is made up of natural laws that are as true today as they were 2000 years ago. We can attach any definition to any word. But our words don’t matter. Only the word of God does. He’s much more in control than we think he is. Spouses who live under one roof have to listen to each other. Compromises have to be made. They don’t have a choice. Their chemistries have been merged into one vessel. The same thing happens when a person with the celibate gift is united with Christ. They have no choice but to respond to God and they respond in different ways. Some remain at his feet – like Mary of Bethany, some enter monasteries and continue lives of prayer, some reach out to young people by encouraging sexual purity, some hit the streets of inner cities, some take care of animals and endangered species, etc. Some even choose to be hobos for the kingdom of heaven and travel the globe with no job or steady source of income, etc. I think of my friend Meg Hunter-Kilmer.

There will always be Marthas yelling from the kitchen, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I’m sure Martha thought Mary didn’t have a care in the world. We have to remember though that Martha yelled out of ignorance. Either she did not know what Mary was doing or didn’t understand the importance of it. Mary could have been with Jesus simply because she didn’t want to leave him alone and with no one to talk to. A sensitivity based on social order and dinner schedules would not be able to do that. Only a celibate like Mary could have understood how important this moment was in time. Likewise, there are many moments today that only those with the gift of celibacy understand and have insight on while those who are married and have families, busy in their kitchens and garages, and maintaining the rhythms of life do not. When they complain, remember what Jesus told Martha: “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42. He could have been a bit more harsh and told her “Martha, you chose marriage and a family over me and with that comes the responsibility of feeding those in your house. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Mary chose to be fully devoted to me. She can stay right here at my side as long as she wants to. You can’t take that away from her. She makes me comfortable. She makes me laugh. Likewise, she can’t take away what you are about to put on the table for us to eat. We would all starve.” So when someone is complaining about you not settling down with a husband and having children and asking if you have a boyfriend, remember what Christ said: It will not be taken away from you. When someone is complaining about you not manning up with a wife and becoming a responsible and trustworthy man, remember what Christ said: It will not be taken away from you. No one can take our lamps. The world is still upset about many things. It defines maturity based on the number of sexual partners. Those bowing at the altar of sex are very uncomfortable with the idea of someone renouncing married life. At the time of the reformation, celibacy was under attack because it was associated with the rules of the Catholic Church, which is ironic because such a charisma can only be freely chosen. Today celibacy is under attack because it is associated with homosexuality and same sex marriage. In eternity, it will be the norm.

So, is there a difference between the concerns of a married person and a single person? Probably not. A person can hop from bed to bed and still claim legal single status. Plus, singles are just in a holding pattern waiting for marriage. Much is written for them. They are lonely, bitter, can’t find themselves, and blame God for their misfortune. This is the dichotomy the world operates under. And sadly, it is the world the church has settled for. But is there a difference between a married person and a virgin? Yes. It’s in the Bible. Take a look at verse 34 in 1 Corinthians 7:

“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.”

You won’t find these verses mentioned in too many self help books. The only time virginity sells is when it is discussed in relation to waiting on marriage, or waiting on Boaz. This is fine and good. But it’s not half the picture. Notice how Paul interchanges “virgin” and “unmarried woman.” He uses the same language when talking about men in verses 25 and 26. Think about that. A man who had lived a celibate life understood the profound effect of a eexual relationship. He knew it far beyond a few minutes of pleasure. That it affects a person’s soul. That it guides what their heart cares about. It’s interesting too that “there is difference” in verse 34 is singular. I think this indicates that there are many differences rather a singular difference and that there are too many differences to allow the use of the pleural “differences.” Because using the pleural would lead to questions about what the differences are. That’s not possible because the cares are so different from person to person; just as the cares in marriages can’t be true for every couple.

Much has been written about the gift of celibacy allowing extra time and freedom to do the will of God, freedom from sexual need, liberation from family responsibility, freedom to love all people, ability to take more risks, etc. While all of those may be true, they don’t begin to adequately explain the difference between a wife and a virgin. Paul is not talking about the situational circumstances of a person not holding a marriage license, which didn’t even exist at the time he wrote this letter. He is talking about how every cell of a virgin is realigned to Christ’s needs. I’m tempted to use the word genetic because that comes very close to describing the celibate charism Fr. Thomas DuBay described in his book “And You Are Christ’s: The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life. Just as brain chemistry (i.e., oxytocin) bonds a man and woman’s cares when they have sex, I believe people who have the gift of celibacy have brain chemistry that bonds their cares permanently to Christ. But don’t look for that discovery on the cover of Science magazine. What do you care about?

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-marriage-eternally-futile

http://www.piercedhands.com/

https://baylor-ir.tdl.org/baylor-ir/bitstream/handle/2104/3004/russell_hobbs_phd.pdf?sequence=4

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The Language Of A Eunuch

john waiving-web2

A single life, single parent, single thread, single take, single entry, single row, single line, single player. Life is full of singles. The problem is that when a word becomes so ubiquitous it completely loses its meaning. But our society likes ubiquitous words, words that keep everybody on the same level. They are the comfort buffers of a politically correct world, especially one where socialism is the norm. Comfort words don’t single out anything or anybody and allow everybody’s opinion to have equal value. They serve the same function as cardboard cutouts of angels, feather dream catchers and scoops of ice cream with chocolate drizzled on top. Convictional kindness, diversity, inclusiveness, transparency, it takes a village. They’re supposed to make us feel good about ourselves. They also play a big part in a society’s moral standards. A society that worships sex doesn’t change its values to meet the Bible’s standards. They change the Bible to meet their standards. The fastest way to do that is through language. The media know that all too well. How fast did churches adopt gay, transgender, LGBT, equal rights, age of consent, diversity, and committed relationship? They have used the church as the biggest patsy in the history of humankind. In a world where the meaning of marriage goes no further than a courtroom, a bag of rice, and a couple of memorized prayers, the sacredness of sex has all but ceased to exist. The idea of God calling someone to live without sex and focus exclusively on his concerns is a foreign concept. It only follows then that churches define singles strictly on the absence of a marriage license. The pharisaical language of legalism is the only one they know. When it comes to celibacy being a spiritual gift, even the thought is offensive to most Protestant churches. Consider the First Baptist Church of St. John’s, MI:

“When Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, he isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it.”

The Bible does not tell us that we choose our own spiritual gifts. God does that. We live in a world though where no one can have a “particular ability” that everybody else doesn’t have. That wouldn’t be fair. People would feel left out. It would be uncomfortable. Wait a second. She got more cookies than you? Let’s take some off her plate and give to you. Socialized values. They fit in rather well with a socialist state. Acknowledging spiritual gifts would acknowledge God’s presence in the world. Churches today can’t do that, especially when it comes to human sexuality because they think they know more than God. Every topic related to sexuality that comes up in churches has to be discussed, debated, and voted on. Take the Southern Baptists, for example. They’ve talked so long about affirming, loving, and accepting gays that their feeble “it’s a sin” holds as much water as the idea of one of their marriages lasting till death do us part. Plus, today’s Calvinist-leaning churches are so totally “depraved,” the mere thought of chastity falls way outside their glorification of sex in the “marriage bed.” Many of them even believe that the only way to salvation is through marriage. That’s why you won’t find an unmarried Protestant preacher.

As those know who are familiar with this topic, Jesus addressed the topic of the gift of celibacy in Matthew 19 by using the metaphor of eunuchs. Protestant churches deny the existence of “only to those to whom it is given” for the kingdom of heaven as described in Matthew 19. Their theology is quite elementary: If you don’t have a marriage license, you have the gift of singleness. If you have a marriage license, you have the gift of marriage. That doesn’t take much thought, does it? It’s quite comfortable. Isn’t it amazing that courthouses have been given the power of dispensing spiritual gifts? This is what happens when the sacredness of sex is separated from the commitments of marriage and celibacy. They become mere paperwork. Apostle Paul makes it clear that there are only two lifestyle choices for the Christian, both of which have equal value: Celibacy as a eunuch or marriage as a spouse. But look at where churches are today. Instead of eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, we have support for singles meat markets. Instead of one-flesh unions, we have support for committed relationships, covenant commitments, civil unions, same sex couples, young couples, childless couples, cohabitating couples, engaged couples – and the perversion continues.

Many more comfort words have been used to replace biblical principles. How are your “family values” holding up? Who talks about fornication anymore? The church latched onto the world’s language of “premarital sex” and never looked back. Who talks about sodomy? That’s just hate speech. The church latched onto the world’s language of “gays” and never looked back. And “convictional kindness” glossed over every abomination imaginable. Where are the eunuchs Jesus spoke of? I’m starting to wonder how many pastors even know what a eunuch is. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, MI has an article on its web site that I think is representative of their insight. Their pastor Shaw states that:

“I don’t ever remember entertaining the thought that I might not be married. Diane and I met when she was 16 and I was 18 and we were married two years later. Looking back, that seems crazy. What were we thinking? But, after almost 34 years, I have no regrets. Yet I would not recommend the choice we made for everyone. Not because I don’t like being married but because of the words of Jesus. In our text for Sunday (Matthew 19) Jesus reminded the disciples that some people can “accept” being single and some cannot. (It appears the weak ones get married :)).”

At least he acknowledged he was married and not the best person to write on the subject. It’s interesting that he thinks everybody who does not choose marriage has automatically been granted the status of a Matthew 19 “single.” There’s only one tiny problem with that: Jesus never used the word “single.” He used the word “eunuch.” In verse 12, he used it three times. Do you prefer God’s language or the world’s langugage? Jesus tried so hard to make it clear that there was an alternative to marriage, yet so many professing Christians today, especially preachers, don’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. For most, the only alternative to marriage they can think of is homosexuality. So the big question in life is who to marry. As Rev. Shaw said: “Yet I would not recommend the choice we made for everyone.” What choice is he talking about? Which girl to marry? When to get married? Whether too continue in sexual sin or “make it right” in the eyes of the Lord? It could be all of them. But his choice was not between marriage or celibacy. “I don’t ever remember entertaining the thought that I might not be married.” And since he never understood he had a choice between marriage and celibacy, he never really understood marriage to begin with. A committment requires a default state. We come into this world alone. That is our default state. We cannot choose marriage if we don’t know what the options are. The big choice is whether or not to get married – not who, when or where to get married.

In Matthew 19 where Jesus described the three types of eunuchs, the disciples did not complain about whom they should marry, when they should get married, or if they should marry the girl they had sex with. Instead, they complained about the idea of not marrying at all! In verse 11 after hearing his prohibition against divorce, they said: “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” Jesus’s HUGE revelation here is that the opposite of committed marriage is committed celibacy and that all of us, like the disciples, have to choose between a life of sex as a spouse or a life of no sex as a eunuch. The disciples were familiar with the langugae of sex and the choice of marriage. But they were not familiar with the language of no sex and the choice of celibacy. Like today, it hardly existed in their world. Jesus communicated this with the metaphor of a eunuch, someone incapable of having sex. It probably knocked the disciples over, just like it does us today. Can you think of a better metaphor for someone with the gift of celibacy? It effectively strenthened marriage by ruling out anything short of a one man and one woman sexual relationship for life because the alternative is so difficult Apostle Paul considered it a special gift. The eunuch metaphor also did away with the option of divorce or any other infiedlity in marriage. What has always struck me about these verses is Jesus’s succinctness and matter-of-factness. I’m sure the disciples’ mouths were left gaping as they scrambled to digest what they heard. “Have sex and I’m married? Oh no! But I don’t know if I can do the eunuch thing.” A couple of them might have gone to a “man up” conference that night to think things over.

Jesus did not tell his disciples that some people can ‘accept’ being single and some cannot. The verb “accept” in Matthew 19:11 specifically refers to eunuchs, not singles who just haven’t found the right one yet. Eunuchs accept a permanent commitment to Christ, just as married people accept a permanent commitment to each other. Are there public vows? No. Wedding cakes? No. Wedding rings? No. But there other things in the spiritual world we do not see. There is a big, big difference between how the world defines “singles” and how Jesus defined eunuchs. The biggest difference is that eunuchs live chaste lives without sex. This is one of the biggest reasons it is not talked about in churches today. It reminds married people of the faithfulness God expects in marriage. I also think eunuchs include women because Jesus didn’t say anything that would exclude them. I think the metaphor of the eunuch was mainly used to signify permanence, not any specific gender or body part. Single people who don’t know Christ live as single as the absence of a wedding license allows them to. Meetups, hookups, one-night stands, friends with benefits, etc. You name it. As long as they don’t visit a courthouse, they’re legally single. But there is absolutely nothing biblical about a courthouse document.

When Jesus spoke of eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, he was not insinuating that a celibate life was as impossible as a man castrating himself. Rather, I think he was trying to explain why celibacy is a gift given only to some, because it is that difficult. In other words, God didn’t deliver a dozen truckloads of apples to my door with a note: “This is my gift to you. God.” Instead, he delivered a small box with a note: “In the box you will find enough seeds to plant 1,000,000 apple trees. It’s up to you to buy the land, till the soil, plant the seeds, and harvest the apples. God.” I hope that puts gift in perspective for you. So, do I walk about with a bright shiny “halo” of celibacy over my head? No. Do I go through life never feeling alone or that I need someone to talk to? No. Do I never notice the beauty of a woman? No. If you’re married, think about all the things your spouse does for you. Think about how much you depend on him or her. I depend on God for those same things everyday. I’m committed to him just as you are to your spouse. You may not find the marriage license in courthouse records. But it’s just as real.

http://stjohnsfbc.com/files/newsletters/newsletterapril2015.pdf

http://www.calvarygreenville.org/blog/46-green-pastures-still-waters/400-single#addcomments

http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabambc/construct-species-page.asp?sp=spring-azure

The False Witness Of Marriage

Marriage Medieval Germany

There are many ways of spreading the word of God today. If you’re a preacher and connected to the internet, then the pulpit may actually be a tiny part of your evangelistic crusade. The drawback, though, is that many lost people who read or hear what you say do not know anything about Jesus or the Bible, or even your church. You can’t see their reactions to your words. Even worse, you can’t answer all of their questions. Here’s a question I would like you to think about: Would you tell a lost soul on the street about Jesus’ death on the cross, but leave out his resurrection and the promise of eternal life if we believe in him? I don’t think so. That would be only half the story, wouldn’t it? However, you do the same thing when you pontificate about the glories of marriage and babies and leave out the alternative of celibacy for the kingdom of heaven. As a matter of fact, marriage is an institution of the Old Testament, not the New Testament. The old covenant between God and the nation of Israel was described as a marriage all the way back in Jeremiah 3:14-15:

“14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

As we know, God ultimately divorced the physical kingdom of Israel. So earthly marriage today can only point to the Old Testament and concerns of the world. It is not symbolic of the marriage between Christ and the church, but between God and Israel. However, in the New Testament and under the New Covenant, God is calling out from the world a spiritual kingdom of Israel. This body of believers is what we know today as the church. The new marriage relationship between God and his church is eternal. There will be no divorce. It cannot, however, be represented by the temporary nature of an earthly marriage. The new marriage relationship between Christ and the church can only be represented by those called to celibate life and the concerns of the Lord. Spouses have to go through each other to get to heaven. People with the gift of celibacy have a direct link. So in a very real way, marriage points to the past while celibacy points to the future. Spiritual circumcision replaced physical circumcision. Instead of making babies, celibates make spiritual children.

So pastors, I encourage you to feed the church with knowledge and understanding, balancing the temporary Old Testament nature of marriage with the eternal New Testament nature of celibacy. Dig yourselves out of the idol worship of marriage and children and into the promise of everlasting life that God promised us in the New Testament. Put down the baby diapers long enough to realize the needs of all of your fellow man. And above all, realize that God did not ordain the nuclear family as the foundational institution of human society. Matthew 16:18 makes it pretty clear that, if anything is the foundational institution of human society, it is the church: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

So remember that when you proselytize marriage to the masses, especially on the internet, and omit the option of celibacy, you are preaching a false gospel. As a matter of fact, your Bible doesn’t even get to the gospels. It ends with the Old Testament and divorce. The past must be balanced with the future.