What The Gift Of Celibacy Is Not

monkprayer2

These points are from a Biblical perspective and not from the perspective of opinion polls, majority votes, church tradition, or doctrinal statements, etc.

First of all, celibacy is not a choice you make. It’s a supernatural ability (spiritual gift/charism) given by God to only a number of people. We can pray that we recognize and nurture it. But the choice we have is whether to accept it or not. Think of an athlete who was born with the body and balance for the high beam. She has the God given ability to win a medal at the Olympic games. But it’s up to her to start training and go for the gold.

Celibacy is not something that is instructed in the Bible. There is no formula and no special prayers. It is, however, affirmed as being a higher calling than marriage, in that heaven is higher than earth. It doesn’t matter whether or not your church respects it. It’s a Biblical fact.

The gift of celibacy is not the absence of sexual desires. It is the ability to control them. People who have it are able to remain unmarried without sex and not burn. However, they are not cold prudes with no appreciation for the mystery of sex.

The gift of celibacy (or singleness) is not what a person has while waiting for marriage. It’s not what a couple does before they get married. While God calls everybody to remain a virgin and celibate before marriage, the gift of celibacy is a long-term commitment, just like marriage.

Someone with the gift of celibacy is not going to fit any “life stage” group or similar gender/age/marital status-based group that a church may conjure up.

The gift of celibacy is not tied Biblically to the Catholic Church. It’s merely part of their church tradition. Considering the Protestant Reformation, this is probably the hardest truth Protestant churches will have to accept.

The gift of celibacy has nothing to do with monks, nuns, or any other religious persons. And it has nothing to do with living in communities such as monasteries and convents.

The gift of celibacy has nothing to do with homosexuality or same sex marriage. Many churches are simply replaying what they hear in the media because they don’t understand what the Bible says on the subject.

The gift of celibacy is not compatible with someone who has had sex. If we are to believe that a faithful marriage involves a husband and wife who have not had sex with anybody else during their marriage, we are compelled to believe the same about faithful celibacy. The Bible deals with ideals when it comes to sexual ethics. It does not deal with “should have beens.” Otherwise it would not contain the terms adultery and fornication. That does not mean a person can’t be forgiven and commit again to live without sex until marriage.

Celibacy is not a social status that affords people special privileges. It is not something given to only third world missionaries in order to do “ministry service.”

Celibacy is not perfection. If you believe that, you have fallen for a straw man.

Celibacy has nothing to do with having more time to do God’s work. Because there are so many things to do, it often results in less time.

A life of celibacy is not a life of failure. It is a life of faith and sacrifice that married life cannot attain.

Celibacy is not emptiness. It is a life that has been filled by something much more than sex.

The gift of celibacy is not a label you put on someone after their death and after a vote has been taken to determine their worthiness. If we’re going to do it that way, we should do the same for marriage – take a vote after both the husband and wife are dead to determine if they were faithful to each other and if they were really married.

Celibacy is not the denial of our maleness or femaleness and it is not the denial of our sexuality.

Celibacy is not a byproduct of some negative life experience, such as a troubled home life or a bad relationship with a mother or father.

Celibacy is not a life without commitment. It is a life with more commitment. Who is more worthy of sacrifice, a spouse or God himself? It reminds the world that there is more to commitment than the bells and whistles of a wedding ceremony.

Celibacy is not a default state a person enters when a single adult can’t find a spouse. It is an intentional choice and a positive response to God. It is made public for that very reason. It symbolizes our total dependence on God and eternal life in heaven for all believers.

Celibacy is not living selfishly for ones’ self. It’s just the opposite. It is living for everybody else. Marriage is about exclusion. Celibacy is about inclusion.

Celibacy does not lead to a life without children. That may be so from a biological standpoint. But from a spiritual standpoint, we have more children than anybody else.

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3 thoughts on “What The Gift Of Celibacy Is Not

  1. Great article as usual, but I find myself asking you the same questions I might pose to a Protestant pastor on the other side of the celibacy divide — one who preaches skepticism against celibacy…

    “First of all, celibacy is not a choice you make. It’s a supernatural ability (spiritual gift/charism) given by God to only a number of people … The gift of celibacy is not the absence of sexual desires. It is the ability to control them. People who have it are able to remain unmarried without sex and not burn.”

    So what if a person has *not* been given the gift of celibacy, and *not* given the gift of marriage either? There are many people who burn, and have been burning for decades, but cannot find anyone to marry because they lack whatever it takes to attract someone. What happens to them?

    “The gift of celibacy is not compatible with someone who has had sex. … That does not mean a person can’t be forgiven and commit again to live without sex until marriage.”

    So if a person has had sex, are they then “condemned” to a marriage mandate? What happens to them if they don’t manage to make it to the altar before they die?

    Liked by 1 person

    • “So what if a person has *not* been given the gift of celibacy, and *not* given the gift of marriage either?” Great question because it gets to the heart of the comfort culture we’ve grown so accustomed to. First, to clear up some vocabulary confusion, my definitions of marriage and celibacy are light years from the world’s definitions. This may sound crazy, but in a very real sense, I don’t think we have a choice in what label we apply to ourselves. But we have a choice over our behavior, and I think that’s what defines the biblical terminology dealing with sexual ethics. If we voluntarily have sex with a member of the opposite sex, that is marriage as defined in the Bible. We may feel better about ourselves by calling it “premarital sex” because a preacher hasn’t said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife” in the middle of a wedding ceremony. But I don’t think it’s possible to bargain with God and say, “Okay, God, I know I’ve done wrong by living with my girlfriend for the last six months. But I’m going to make it right by going to the courthouse next week and getting married.” I don’t think God is going to stop by the courthouses to check the marriage records on his return to earth. I think it’s our self control, or lack thereof, that that determines these definitions. Not a courthouse, not a lawyer, not a judge, and not even a wedding. If a person has prayed for discernment on this matter and feels that their sexual desire is such that they don’t think they can control it for a lifetime and they feel like they’re burning, then I would say he/she probably doesn’t have the gift of celibacy. However, they do still have a responsibility to control their desires until they do find someone they want to have sexual relationship with and make a lifetime commitment of faithfulness in marriage.

      “So if a person has had sex, are they then “condemned” to a marriage mandate?” That’s the same question the disciples asked Christ in Matthew 19. I would say the person is not condemned if they ask God for forgiveness and change their ways. That’s why Christ told the disciples that living a life of celibacy is as difficult as a man castrating himself and becoming a eunuch (metaphorically).

      “What happens to them if they don’t manage to make it to the altar before they die?” They die a virgin, faithful to God until the very end. Even though the world may be incredulous over such a thing, I don’t think it’s a sin. I know there are older virgins who never come to a point in their lives where they can confidently say, “I have said yes to the affairs of heaven and I pass on marriage and family.” So whether you remain a virgin until marriage or until death, it’s a win-win situation. But that doesn’t mean that life will be comfortable. Marriage has its challenges. So does celibacy.

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  2. Lifelong virginity is a gift and a blessing. Getting married is a gift and a blessing. Becoming celibate after sexual misconduct is a gift and a blessing. No need to be precious about any of it.

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