Marriage And Celibacy – A House Divided?

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Here in Alabama, the one thing that is worshipped almost as much as sex is football. Actually, most guys make it a weekend package deal with beer and sex thrown in on the sidelines. And the Alabama and Auburn game is one of the biggest rivalries in college football. People like to talk about their “divided houses,” where one spouse is an Alabama fan and the other spouse an Auburn fan. They let the world know about it by painting half of something of insignificance red and white and the other half orange and blue. Or they have both teams’ colors represented equally in some way. For instance, some “divided” automobiles have an Alabama flag hanging out one window and an Auburn flag hanging out the other window. Who would have thought football would be hit with such political correctness? If you asked them though, most fans would tell you that they root for both teams up until the Iron Bowl when Alabama takes on Auburn each year.

Isn’t it a shame that the same can’t be said about Christian lifestyles? Just like the world, churches today have bowed down to the god of sexual desires or, as they call it, God-honoring marriages. They flaunt their families with more gusto than any football fan could imagine. What’s really remarkable about this is, unlike football where there are many teams to choose from, the Christian lifestyle only has two choices – marriage and celibacy. If you ask a preacher about singleness, he’ll probably say something like “that’s okay too.” The only problem is that actions speak louder than words. Is his church flying both the flags of marriage and celibacy while cruising down the lanes of Sunday morning worship? I’m afraid not. Chances are his church has a marquee out front that reads “nursery provided.” The affirmation of singleness is only as good as the time and energy a church puts into it. That means it not only has to be talked about, it has to be demonstrated. In other words, how does the three words “that’s okay too” balance out with the thousands of hours of marriage and family seminars, premarital counseling sessions, baby dedications, weddings, marriage sermons, one flesh sermons, be fruitful and multiply sermons, youth retreats, family worship centers, missionary children, etc?  It doesn’t balance.  The truth of the matter is that the emphasis churches place on family values is in direct opposition to the emphasis the Bible places on it. Instead of the church hanging two flags out their car windows, they have one great big sign that reads “Family Comes First!” Since the same sex marriage controversy, family wagons have circled tighter around churches and the family banner has been hoisted higher and higher. Churches may be willing to occasionally talk about singles faithfully waiting on their spouses, but you won’t hear anything about a committment to celibacy that is on par with marriage. You might be saying, “but just because a church doesn’t talk about celibacy doesn’t mean they disregard its importance.” Yes it does.  If you’re talking about a football team, that may be true. But this is a matter of Christian lifestyles where silence can sometimes speak louder than words. Where silence breeds assumptions. This is even more true today because sex has socially been separated from marriage and making babies. What so many churches don’t realize though is that every time they talk about family they are talking about sex. Every time a preacher talks about children, he is talking about sex. Every time the women’s gossip line talks about weddings, they are talking about sex. As hard as he may try, man cannot undo human nature. That is difficult to grasp in an era where children have become a choice and life itself hinges on how convenient babies are. Every time children, husbands, and wives are discussed, a choice has been made, whether they acknowledge it or not. They have chosen to raise another flag in salute of marriage and hide the dignity of celibacy under another joke about gay marriage.

Respecting celibacy requires church leaders to take a look at a picture that’s bigger than the love between husband and wife and mother and child. It requires them to take a closer look at their relationship with Christ, which can be very uncomfortable. They can easily say, “but, there’s no one in our church called to singleness.” The question of course is how do they know that? Have you ever been in a church service that called for a show of celibate hands? Think of all the younger singles who passed through their doors and did not feel called to marriage, but never saw any support for celibacy. Instead, they heard about the Song of Solomon one Sunday and Daniel in the lion’s den the next. Since celibacy was never discussed, they assumed marriage to be the norm. Why shouldn’t they? Human nature will always choose support over neglect if no viable option is apparent. Many young people today are trying to discern marriage and celibacy.  They hear nothing in the sermons, read nothing in the literature, and they don’t know where to look in the Bible. They see no exit sign on the freeway of life.  If your neighbor had his radio up loud while you were doing yard work and you kept hearing “roll tide roll!” – you would probably assume he was an Alabama football fan. It’s even worse in churches, which have become more or less social support groups. What is preached and discussed is what is affirmed. What is not discussed is what is wrong. If the church operated under the same rules as the business world, preachers would have been found guilty of malpractice years ago, not to mention sex discrimination. They would be gripping their families tightly through the cold steel bars of a prison cell. The Bible actually has very little to say about families beyond husbands loving their wives, wives submitting to husbands, and children obeying their parents. Just a very few verses. That ought to tell us just how unimportant family is in the long run. It has nothing to do with eternity. On the other hand, the Bible does have much to say about virginity and how those called to celibate life are concerned with the Lord’s affairs. It also has much to say about our spiritual family and being fishers of men. It has nothing to say about a nuclear family.

It’s my opinion that the number one reason biblical marriage has failed and same sex marriage has been accepted is because the church reinforced the world view that marriage is needed to be a responsible adult, that sexual desire cannot be controlled, that marriage is nothing more than legalized sex, and celibacy nothing more than lack of sex. Instead of a one flesh union between husband and wife, marriage became a trip to the courthouse to pick up a marriage license. Celibates? “Well, those are the poor miserable people who haven’t found an outlet for their sexual desire yet.  They’re too greedy, too picky, too hung up on themselves.” “Adolescents who will never grow up.” Sexual ethics have become no more than the identification of the haves and have nots, those who have sanctified their sexual desires from those living in sin, and those who have found their sexual partners from those “condemned to live in loneliness.” That’s what happens when only one lifestyle flag flies from the steeples of churches. It allows one lifestyle to take over the house of God, which ultimately leads to the whole house being destroyed.  You can see and hear it in everything they do. The absence of visible celibates within churches and communities makes one clear statement, that marriage and sexual pleasure are idols of worship and that singles are less than whole people. We cannot recognize the goodness of God’s creation in the Old Testament unless we can recognize the goodness of Christ’s sacrifice in the New Testament and those willing to sacrifice their whole lives for him today. We will not be able to balance both marriage and celibacy if we can’t transform “Be fruitful and multiply babies” in the Old Testament to “Be fruitful and multiply God’s children” in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, only celibate people can truly represent complete love for Christ and total dependence on him. Only their witness can herald an eternity where there will be no marriages and no babies. A church without visible eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven leaves its doors wide open for sexual idolatry and every abdomination known to man. There are many people who think the opposite of a one man/one woman marriage commitment is singles who are waiting on marriage or same sex marriage. That is absolutely false.  The opposite of marriage is a commitment to celibacy.  If you can accept that there is an opposite to marriage and the committment between a husband and wife, then you have to accept that it involves a sacrifice. If a man is not committed to a wife, what is he sacrificing for? It has to be Christ. If it’s Christ, then he’s committed to celibacy. That is logically the only answer and the only answer found in the Bible. What happens to a society that chooses to only fly the flag of family values and neglect Christ? Read the news headlines from the last six months.

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