We wait in retail store lines, post office lines, service station lines, doctor’s office lines, theme park lines, and restaurant lines. People actually wait for days waiting to buy concert tickets. The longer they wait, the more publicity for the show. It’s been estimated that Americans spend 37 billion hours waiting in line each year. Most of our waiting time is written off as a waste. So the big question is always the same: Is it worth waiting for? For the mundane activities of everyday life, the answer will often be no. For example, if I asked a single mom who had been standing in a checkout line for an hour, she might say “no, but I had no choice.” But if I asked a Rolling Stones fan if the concert was worth the wait, he might say, “you bet it was!” What’s even more remarkable is that some music fans would rather stand in line and get to know fellow stoners or parrotheads or whatever rather than order tickets on the internet. Waiting becomes part of the concert experience because it is so closely linked to the reward. If I had waited and asked the Walmart mom after she had gotten home and was eating some of those groceries with her family, her answer might have been “yes, it was well worth waiting for.” Then she might have told about how she switched lanes several times to get the shortest line. She might have told how she thought about going across the street to a competitive store, but that they wouldn’t have had all the items on her grocery list. She might have pointed to the smiles on her children’s faces as proof she did the right thing.
Imagine what would happen if waiting became the norm in human sexuality. What if we could break down sexual ethics like we did a mother waiting in line to buy groceries? We can to a certain extent. First, we have to identify the key elements in the process: Who is waiting? How many other people are waiting? What are they waiting for? How is waiting linked to the reward? What are the alternatives to waiting? What are the consequences for a person who doesn’t wait? Who are the witnesses and does their opinion count? Of course, with chastity we are talking about every Christian single and sex. No one is exempt from God’s commandment to save sex for marriage OR for eternity. The problem comes in with linking waiting to the reward. With marriage, what is the reward? It should be sex. Paul tells us that it’s better to get married than to burn with passion. So biblically, marriage is supposed to be a means to an end. It is the means by which a person satisfies their sexual desire. At one time, self- control and patience were marks of chivalry. They were the backbone of courage and perseverance. Now they are considered a weakness because men are expected to be in pursuit of everything they want, from sex to money.
When I was open to marriage, I was willing to wait forever for that one special girl. I dreamed about her. You know, the girl who would follow me into the Brazilian rain forest with a camera in her hand. Even though I met many girls who came close to that dream, I was never willing to compromise myself sexually with anybody until I met her. Even though my waiting did have a religious basis, I knew it was best for me emotionally and intellectually. I didn’t want to live with that guilt and knowing that I gave something of myself to someone who was not my wife. I didn’t want to rationalize such a decision to myself. I knew most other guys did not wait, but that didn’t deter me. I knew she would be worth it. Word got around about what my standards were. And while I was dating, a lot of my friends knew I was waiting. I had faith that God would take care of me whether I married or remained single.
Unfortunately, it is not sex that people are waiting on today. It is a legal document called a marriage license. Why should a guy wait on marriage today when he can have sex tonight with no responsibilities? After all, he doesn’t have to marry her. I think it’s because God’s commandments are no longer followed and faith has been exchanged for convenience. Patience has been tossed in favor of instant gratification. And faith has become something only right wing religious zealots have. The separation of the sacred act of sex from the public act of marriage ensures that sexual immorality will be handed down to future generations. Men and women now hookup one night and go their own way the next morning, pretending their temples never crossed paths. Fornication has become as ubiquitous as a smartphone app. After the couple has sex, the next stage of commitment is typically cohabitation, then maybe a baby, and possibly marriage. A marriage license is just an afterthought to “make things right” and to identify the father legally responsible for the child. Filling in the blanks on a marriage license and printing it out doesn’t take much faith. It just takes hormones, a probate judge, and $43.00 here in Alabama.
Our witnesses while we’re alive and our legacies after we die are the means by which we pass biblical values down to the next generation, whether it’s a $43.00 marriage license or something a little more long term. Whether we like it or not, our sex lives are a part of our witness. As we well know, the world likes to point out discrepancies between the principles that we live by and the principles outlined in the Bible. When we do things out of order, there will always be consequences more serious than if we broke in line while getting groceries. We can look at statistics all day and count the number of people not married and the ages at which they married. But the Christian community would not be complaining about the increasing numbers of singles in their pews and increasing ages at marriage if all of us were waiting on marriage before having sex. Instead, the church would be celebrating. They might be pointing out exemplary examples of faith and self-control. Instead, what do they do? Well, most churches practice visually based ethics. That means their faith goes no further than what their eyes can see. If the church sees only infidelity and divorce in marriage, then that becomes their ethical high bar. If the church sees only cohabitation and fornication in singles waiting on marriage, then that becomes their high bar. I think those of us called to the celibate lifestyle have just as much responsibility to show the world what we sacrifice for our faith. It’s up to us to show the world that sex is not the be all and end all of human existence. We could spend years listening to married couples tell of their sacrifices for each other and their concerns for their children and so forth. Shouldn’t celibate people do the same thing? Don’t we have just as much faith as married people? Don’t we serve the same Christ?
In the realm of sexuality, Christian standards require a level of faith the world does not know. If the church has faith in an eternal marriage with Christ and is awaiting his second coming, we must have faith that our lives will follow his will as well. The church is made up of every single believer. That means that we wait patiently for a spouse if marriage is in our plans or wait patiently for his return if celibacy is in our plans. Keeping his commandments does not require us to choose either one. It requires us to wait faithfully and not yield to the world’s temptations.