Celibacy And Authenticity

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Even for the few preachers who do mention anything about the gift of singleness from the pulpit, it all falls flat when you see them getting in their SUVs after church with wives and children in tow. Then you realize that they were only talking about the circumstance of singleness before marriage. Or, more specifically, the circumstance of their daughter’s singleness as they face up to the fact that there are few good men left. “Don’t worry honey. We’ll find one for you. You’ve got the gift of singleness for now.” Yes, we live in a society that worships sex. In such a society, celibacy can’t be allowed to be authentic. But how did we get here? Well, there are several underlying factors that have crossed my mind. I’ve already mentioned one of them. Protestants only hire married preachers. Most of them have kids too. And they have wives who can play the piano and do nursery duty. So it’s at least a double bonus package deal for the church hiring them. Which sets up a classic blackmail scenario right from the start because a preacher’s livelihood depends on the church’s tithes and offerings. They wouldn’t even have medical insurance without the church. They are furnished with nice pastoriums, “love offerings,” and some churches even provide the preacher’s children with scholarships. Are they in any position to say anything that would make one person in their church uncomfortable or withhold one dime from the offering plates? I don’t think so. Basically their hands are tied when it comes to telling Bible truth. They’re only allowed to preach what is comfortable. Some churches claim they are only obeying “the husband of but one wife” command in Timothy 3:2 when they hire married preachers. But it’s clear to me that Timothy meant that if the man was married he had to be a one-woman man. Preachers try to give credibility to this false belief by claiming they can relate to both marriage and singleness because they were once single too, which is not to clever. That’s like a man saying he can relate to being an astronaut because he went for a balloon ride when he was a kid. Marriage and celibacy are not even in the same universe. Which brings us to reason #2. Celibacy has no authenticity because such a long-term commitment has no plausibility in a culture that only celebrates marriage as a short term means to an end, a short term means to prosperity and happiness. It follows then that the only status that would have any value in their churches is the short-term singleness of “true love waits” until marriage. I’ve asked many preachers what the opposite of marriage was, and 100% of them said it was singleness until marriage. It seems like in their minds they somehow see chastity before marriage as being the opposite of committed sex in marriage. They are unable to place any value on the long-term chastity in celibacy, yet if both lifestyles have “equal value before God” as a lot of them claim, shouldn’t both of them be of equal longevity and sacrifice? With that kind of theology, “singleness” is indeed in the same universe as marriage. It’s a stone’s throw away. It’s this kind of hypocrisy that has killed the authenticity of the church. Which brings me to reason #3. They don’t see celibacy as a viable alternative to marriage because they still see mankind as a slave to his desires. They are still living in the “fallen” reality of Adam and Eve, while at the same time trying to convince the world that their nuclear families represent Christianity itself to a lost world. Christianity without celibacy is like marriage without a wife.

The fourth reason celibacy has no authenticity in Protestant churches is that they don’t see any necessity for discerning between it and marriage. They see celibacy as something unnatural and evil that only Catholics practice. They are still protesting it and . . . whatever else they protested some 500 years ago. They don’t want their children to think about such things. They want them on track for a ring by spring and a bun in the oven. What good is retirement without grand kids? If only Paul could setup a phone conference with their preachers. “But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing (1 Cor 7:35).” Which brings us to the 5th reason celibacy has no authenticity. In their world, this man not only does the wrong thing, but also commits the sin of not being “fruitful” and “manning up.” Men with control over their wills don’t exist in their churches. The Southern Baptist’s David Platt, a high-ranking officer in the SBC, even contends that celibacy is a sin because it “nullifies reproduction.” They also believe that homosexuality is a sin not because the Bible says it is, but because two people of the same gender can’t have kids.

“It is not a misunderstanding of Genesis 1 and 2, a misrepresentation. It is total defiance of the picture of Genesis 1 and 2 when it comes to the picture of sexuality in Genesis 1 and 2. It nullifies reproduction. It defies the design of God and marriage in Genesis 2:24 and it takes sexual expression outside of that context and it brings it into our lives. It is direct disregard of Genesis 1 and 2.”  See footnote 1.

Think about the Baptist’s rules a second. No homosexuality. No celibacy. No singleness. What does that leave? You guessed it. Holy and righteous marriage. Breaking news for Baptists: There are other people who don’t have kids and are not homosexuals. Their lifestyles are probably godlier than those of the people sitting in your churches. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but it’s not because a person lacks children. Somebody needs to introduce Platt to the New Testament. Wait, how many theological degrees does he have? Outside the command to not commit adultery in the Ten Commandments, there is not a sexual ethic in the Old Testament that can be transferred to the New Testament and to our lives today.

The 6th reason is because celibacy is still defined as what a person is not supposed to have by means of religious vows, not what a person does have by means of voluntary sacrifice for a greater good. Protestants see us pitiful souls trying to fight back sexual desires at every turn, always just one step away from raping, groping, or sexually harassing someone. We are people they need to guard their children against. Imagine their shock when they find out Christ is celibate and doesn’t welcome their children into heaven anyway. Because when he returns, there will be no second chances.

The 7th reason is that we are still living under the false notion that sexual values can be taught from an academic standpoint. That is wrong. Sex education classes may go over mechanics. But they can’t teach values. Those can only be transferred to another person through one-on-one modeling, not reading something in a book. Ideally, such modeling would come from a young person’s parents. But many of them today don’t have such luxury. Real mentors don’t have official job titles and most of them go unknown, which is quite okay. They take it upon themselves to be the mothers and fathers young people don’t have. There’s not much chance this is going to occur in churches because they have everybody so age-segregated. By modeling, I mean qualified to exemplify chastity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage. For example, those who are saving sex for marriage can support others who are saving sex for marriage. Those who have the charism of celibacy can support others who have the charism of celibacy or who are discerning between it and marriage. Those who are not called to celibate life can do little to counsel someone who is, no matter how many years they have been preaching, no matter how many years they have taught Sunday School, no matter how many degrees they have, and no matter how old they are. I know some people think celibacy can’t be a spiritual gift because we don’t “do” anything like healing or speaking in tongues. I think that’s why Paul included it separately in 1 Corinthians 7. It’s a being gift, not a doing gift. Sacrificing marriage and sex and children for the cause of heaven itself is far more life altering than a dozen marriages. Just like the checkered flag in a NASCAR race signals the last lap, we signal that time is almost up for mankind when all of us will be standing before God alone with no spouse or family to learn our fate, whether we are beamed up to heaven or dropped down to hell; and that regardless of where we end up there will be no husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, preachers, or Sunday School teachers.

The 8th reason celibacy is given no authenticity is because many Protestant churches believe that a person comes to Christ by confessing and repenting of sexual sins only and “redeeming” them through marriage. This is especially true in cases of young couples with out of wedlock children who are led to believe that Genesis 2:18 tells them they were just being fruitful and multiplying. “No harm, no foul. Just let us give you a right hand of Christian fellowship so you can come back next Sunday and put more money in our plates.” There are two main problems with this line of thinking. First, celibacy was an option for them. Even if their parents didn’t tell them about it, their preachers didn’t preach about it, or their friends didn’t tell them about it, it was still an option. So their only option in life was not to lose control somehow in some circumstance and have sex and get pregnant. Second, Christ had not come into the world in Genesis 2:18 when God commanded the ancient Jewish people to be fruitful and multiply to populate the earth and add numbers to the Israelite armies. After his birth, death, and resurrection, all of this Old Testament fruitfulness with babies was replaced with fruitfulness of souls, and celibacy was given a position of importance over marriage, even if it’s not realized in this present age. Read about the memorial to eunuchs in heaven and how they will be given “a name better than that of sons and daughters” in Isaiah 56.

1. http://www.radical.net/resources/sermons/the-gospel-and-homosexuality/

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Celibacy, Discerning A Higher Love

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I have written about discerning the call to the charism of virginity (celibacy) on my blog before. Here I will try to add some new things to consider. Even though I use the word celibacy, I am addressing those who are virgins, both men and women, exclusively. I’m not talking about a period of time of not having sex or even someone choosing celibacy after having a sexual relationship. It’s just that celibacy is the word you’ll have more luck with when you research this subject. So if you read this post from the perspective of someone who has had a sexual relationship, looking for discernment, whether or not you should get remarried, etc., you will probably be lost. I happen to think it’s way past time for virginity to be given a little exclusivity. The biggest challenge when talking about discernment from a Protestant perspective is that it is a rare calling and so little is known. I usually have no idea how many people read my blog or what anybody thinks about it. I just try to picture an imaginary audience and go from there. So, how does one discern the call to celibate life? We first have to come to grips with the fact that Protestant churches, even the one you may be attending, have gotten it wrong since the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. So don’t expect things to change overnight.

One of the things you will definitely need is a rebellious spirit. I’m not talking about taking up arms against a rogue government or drag racing behind the liquor store. I’m talking about saying no to the idol of family worship and all the comforts and conveniences society has bestowed upon them; saying no to sex worship, mother and child worship, and all the materialism and comforts we associate with the American dream. We have to be okay with not having children to pass inheritances to. We don’t have to hate women and children, but we have to be able to prioritize their status when comparing them to eternity. So if the current status quo of “family church” makes you uncomfortable, don’t rule out celibacy just yet. Don’t rule out the chance to help bring the value of married life and celibate life more into balance. After time, you will be the one making families take a second look at their priorities. Yes, it is a rebellious lifestyle.

We also have to be able to say no to ourselves and any plans for nuptial bliss, while saying yes to a closer walk with God and serving as witnesses of the world to come. That means we have to look at our motivations very closely. If you’re in college, are you looking for a spouse? A choice for celibacy should not be made based on the notion that the opposite sex don’t find you attractive, that you can’t get a date, or that men don’t ask you out. It should be based on the realization that there are some things in the world more important than sex. It’s one thing to hear somebody say that. It’s quite another thing to live it out. When I was in college, I jokingly told people that I had so many girlfriends I couldn’t make up my mind about which one to marry. And I think that’s actually a good way to look at the call to celibate life. God has allowed us to have hearts that have enough love for more than one person or one family.

Timing. We are invariably comparing the timing of a wedding to the timing of . . . something that doesn’t even have a name in Protestant circles. The New Testament has only one mention of a wedding in Matthew 22, the marriage at Cana, where Jesus turned the water to wine. Nothing is said about the timing of the wedding or even the ceremony. What we have made of marriage today is exactly that – It’s manmade. All of the hoopla that we associate with weddings, including church ceremonies, bridesmaids, vows, dresses, cakes, marriage licenses, rings, is the product of manmade tradition. None of it is mentioned in the Bible. Does that make marriage or weddings wrong? Here’s how I answer that: Not necessarily. But to the extent marriages are undertaken with no regard for celibacy, with not even a fleeting thought given to a life with Christ, they are worse than the unfaithfulness and divorces to which most of them lead. I know that Catholic tradition is all we have to go on, but I don’t think celibate vows or ceremonies are necessary. So instead of timing a ceremony, I think it’s appropriate that we begin to tell our close friends and family of the decision we have made to remain as we are and devote our lives to other worthwhile (eternal) causes. And I think it would be okay to do that when you know you’ll never love a spouse more than you love the people you are forgoing marriage for. So it’s not about us having more free time to do God’s work. We actually have less time, because there is no free time doing his work.

It helps to understand celibacy’s role in relation to marriage. This is a big one and the one that took the most time for me. Of course, the biggest challenge is that we live in a married world. Celibacy has to be looked at with at least as much honor, value, and respect as marriage and family. If you know of a godly family, you can learn a lot by watching them in public with their kids. Watch their interactions, not only amongst themselves, but also with other people. There is a certain grace and dignity that comes with being comfortable in your own shoes. Watch a husband jump into action to protect his wife or children from harm. It’s like an inborn instinct. He doesn’t have to stop and think about it. He acts. Whether it’s pulling them out of the way of oncoming traffic or shielding their eyes from sexually explicit images, the drive to protect his family comes very natural. The same thing is true of mothers. So it is with a person called to celibate life. We are not saying no to paternal or maternal instincts. Rather, by sacrificing much more than is possible in marriage, we are taking them to a higher level. We ought to care just as much about marginalized people as a father cares about his family. Our hearts should be ready to respond in a heartbeat. If you feel that tug, a tug beyond passive empathy, then celibacy may be right for you. I’m not necessarily talking about being a missionary in a third world country. There are lots of needs all over the U.S.A. Needs that can only be met with the passion of a celibate person. Unfortunately, all that we’re likely to hear about virginity in Protestant churches is from the standpoint of true love waits on a spouse. It’s most likely to come from a very comfortable and frumpy married white preacher dude who depends on the tithes and offerings collected in church to take care of him and his family. So as far as discussing anything besides family life, he has a conflict of interest the moment he opens his mouth. I’ve heard many preachers claim that they can relate to the gift of singleness because “I was once single before I met my wife.” That is simply not true. Waiting on marriage as a single person and waiting on the return of Christ as a person with the gift of celibacy are not even in the same hemisphere. As far as someone in the Protestant church having insight into celibacy, the only exception may be a preacher who lived a chaste life into his 30’s-40’s before he got married. Then he might have a hint. So we have to be willing to educate, tactfully.

We have to understand celibacy in relation to society. One very common notion that is passed around when people talk about celibacy is that it frees us to do “greater service.” Well, okay. But that’s about as informative as saying the sky is blue. If all we understand about celibacy is that is frees up our time to do greater service to help greater numbers of people, we have missed the mark. We have become nothing more than a refried preacher. First, from a spiritual standpoint, we have to accept that celibacy itself is a higher calling than marriage. That doesn’t mean we are better than married people. It means that we have more responsibility, are better qualified to represent the love of God, and have a straighter path to heaven. If we just see celibacy as freeing up time, then it could very well become a means to an end. Our lives would be rated according to how much we did, how much we stayed busy, and how many people we served. We must see the gift of celibacy as something good in itself. Churches have to see it more than extended adolescence and a failure to “man up.” I’ve often wondered what families’ reactions to me would be if I treated them with the same suspiciousness and cynicism I see from them. “Well, congratulations on your 25th wedding anniversary Carl. How many women did you bang last year?” Or “Sorry to hear your wife has been dead 10 years. Have you found a homosexual lover yet?”

In discerning celibacy, we also must have our sexual desires under control and be content with living a life without sex. One word many Catholic authors use is sublimation, which just means that something is raised to a higher standard. For example, the short-term goal of sexual energy can be redirected to taking care of orphaned children in third world countries. The higher good has to be something we are passionate about and not just something to pass the time with until we figure out what we want to do. And we make the final call about what those other worthwhile causes are. There will always be people who will not see our long-term goals and higher values. It helps to have friends on the same journey to discuss these matters with. I think sexual desires tend to sublimate naturally as we get older, to a certain extent. When I’m with people I don’t know, I’m usually conscious about how I’m being perceived. It can be downright dangerous to be a single man in public today. I don’t want to come across as a monk in silent piety and prayer. But I don’t want to come across as a single man looking for a romantic partner either. Striking that balance is an ongoing challenge. Since I’m still the class clown, I’m always looking for ways to make people laugh. What I have found is that it only takes knowing a person is human to do that. I don’t need to know gender, age, marital status, race, or anything else society says is important. I have gotten to know several hermaphroditic/intersex-identified people through the years. It really is remarkable how people can relate to each other when cultural expectations are taken out of the picture. And it is even more remarkable how a small “hello” and recognition of another person’s existence can spark a conversation and a lifetime friendship. So if we are able to put aside our stereotypes and see all people as human beings in need of other people to relate to, God can take those desires and reshape them into passions and endeavors that far surpass romantic love.

Advent – More Than Waiting

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The Annunciation by Godfried Schalcken (Dutch, 1643 – 1706)

Have you ever wondered why it was necessary for Christ to be born of a virgin? Quite simply, Mary’s supernatural pregnancy interrupted mankind’s reproductive cycle and redefined life as we knew it on earth. Up until the time of Christ, there was only one way to create new life, through sexual relationships, nine months of gestation, and the birth of a baby. By choosing a virgin to give birth to his son, God put an end to the endless lineages we read about in the Old Testament. So Christ not only defeated death, he defeated birth. He also confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that the population of heaven did not depend on matrimony, sex, or childbirth. Instead, as Jesus told Nicodemus when he asked how it was possible for an old person to be born again, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:5-6).” In a very real sense then, sex and childbirth are markers of life on earth and everything temporal and virginity and spiritual rebirth are markers for life in heaven and everything eternal. As Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:29, “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not.” Do you know any husbands who live like that? I don’t. Since there will be no marriages in heaven, we are living today the same “sexless lives” we will be living in heaven. People who have had sex (married people) cannot do that. Whatever the dependence husbands and wives have on in each other should be rightly multiplied an infinite number of times to get an idea of the virgin’s expectation of Christ’s arrival. It is here we see God’s intended balance between marriage and celibacy and the difference between a wife and a virgin, because it’s not possible to have spiritual rebirths without earthly childbirths. Whereas marriage symbolizes Christ’s marriage to the church, virginity symbolizes the reality of heaven that is coming for believers and hell for unbelievers. It symbolizes our total dependence on him and a void that no husband or wife can ever fill. It symbolizes our expectation of his return on a level deeper than possible in marriage. “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:29).” The virginity of Mary was supernatural evidence for a world wallowing in sexual sin that she was carrying the one and only Son of God. So it is with us today. We are supernatural evidence of a kingdom that is fast approaching. Mary’s response to Gabriel when he told her she would give birth to the Son of the Most High was, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Note that she did not say, “That can’t be possible, since I haven’t found the husband God has picked out for me.” Or “I don’t see how since I haven’t slept with my boyfriend yet.” The darker the world gets, the more ironic – and miraculous – the Christmas story becomes. What was special about Mary? Mary’s vessel was empty enough, faithful enough, and humble enough to bring Christ into the world. Her wait was like none other. She was expecting, but was expecting the King of Kings. And it all started with Gabriel’s announcement to her, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” Our response to the coming of Christ should be the same as hers, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled (Luke 1:38).” It is our responsibility as virgins for the kingdom of heaven to announce the eminent return of Christ, to show evidence of a faith and sacrifice that can’t be realized through husbands and wives, and to multiply the number of spiritual rebirths. Yes, the world as we know it is fading away. Wedding rings, marriage licenses, honeymoons, baby carriages, and the white picket fence are all vanishing. But we have the privilege to wait with Mary once again for the return of the Son of the Highest.

Does Jesus Need To Get Married?

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“Love Power” Jesus mural in Minneapolis’ West Bank neighborhood.  Photo by David Joles, Star Tribune.

” . . . the most fundamental social problem every community must solve is the unattached male. If his sexual, physical, and emotional energies are not governed and directed in a pro-social, domesticated manner, he will become the village’s most malignant cancer. Wives and children, in that order, are the only successful remedy ever found.” Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family. Read here.

If the recent Focus on the Family article is to be believed, somebody needs to send Jesus a text and tell him he needs to get married ASAP or else he is a “malignant cancer” on society.  We probably ought to copy in Paul too.  This is what happens when a country is overtaken by sex worship, or any form of idolatry.  It becomes the “social justice” norm, backed by opinion polls and stereotypes.  Unfortunately, most churches are soaking this up. Preachers from every denomination in my area are posting such rhetoric on their social media pages, telling unmarried men they are “malignant cancers” until they get married. But what makes this pagan idea so appealing? I think it’s because churches and other so called “religious” institutions have sunken to such a level of Calvinized “total depravity” that they don’t think it’s impossible for men, or women for that matter, to control their sexual desires. A lot of them have also accepted the world view that there are multiple choices on the sexual lifestyle menu.  LGBTQRSOK2BMEPANTRSRCH.  Take your pick.  I can’t keep up with the alphabet soup.  But the New Testament is clear that Christians have two choices when it comes to their sexual lifestyles – committed marriage or committed virginity.  Religious talking heads today would have everybody believe the choice is between marriage and cohabitation or marriage and homosexuality because everybody is going to have sex sooner or later, in their twisted way of thinking. That’s what the opinion polls tell them, which they put more faith in than the Bible itself.  After all, if it’s not popular, it’s not going to make people open up their purses and wallets. The possibility of leading a lifetime of chastity, as recommended by Apostle Paul, is not even part of their God-forsaken theology. It’s just too uncomfortable, too unpopular, and the preacher and his precious family might not be able to buy five thousand movies on Netflex and cable TV every month. So the choice between marriage and celibacy is not even a consideration.  For Protestants, celibacy is linked exclusively to Catholicism and homosexuality.  They have assigned the very life that Jesus himself lived to the depravity of homosexuality.  Unmet desires would be too harmful . . . or even hateful. Yes, church people today have got to have their sex, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual. And now they are so bold as to pedestalize women and children as victims of barbaric “unattached males.”   As Stanton says, “They make men behave. All their other important contributions are secondary.” I wonder how many women take comfort in the idea that their sole purpose on earth is to make men behave and have children?

Besides pigeon-holing every unmarried man into this cohabitating/homosexual bucket, this kind of rhetoric also appeals to people wringing their hands over all the recent accusations of sexual harassment against politicians. Have you noticed they are all married men? They are not “unattached males.”  Bashing single men also appeals to parents who have children “shacking up” without the social and legal sanctification of a marriage license.   It makes things “right.”  The truth is, it’s always easier to try to make something right than to do right the first time. Little do they know that marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies are not going to help their children’s situations. If they don’t know God, they are still just as lost. So why are their sons and daughters cohabitating instead of getting married? That’s easy. It’s because so many men and women have lost site of what a biblical marriage is. With their parents’ divorces and unfaithfulness, they have come to see marriage as nothing more than a legal arrangement made necessary by the looming possibility of divorce. Marriage-mandaters serve as further evidence that the church today is all about relative morality, a morality that takes its cues from opinion polls and surveys. For instance, Stanton says that marriage is a “social justice imperative.”  Read here.  Does that language sound familiar? It should. Adolf Hitler used it in Germany’s Third Reich. He fined and over-taxed “unattached males.” Breeding a pure race was indeed his social justice imperative, just as it is with most white middle class preachers today looking at a diminishing flock.  What would Apostle say if someone told him that marriage was his social justice imperative? Actually, he answered that in 1 Corinthians 9:5: “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas.” He had the right. But he did not have the obligation. Paul spent several chapters in the New Testament explaining the importance of a balanced view of marriage and celibacy. Yet, the religious talking heads today have taken his words out of their Bibles and erected their golden calves of marriage and family instead.  They have elevated opinion polls to the same level as scripture. So as students are being dumbed down today by the educational system, church people are being moralized down by preachers and others who decided to settle on a more socially acceptable view of human sexuality; one that doesn’t take too much effort, just a trip to the courthouse.  Focus on the family also believes that “marriage itself is “a wealth-generating institution.” I couldn’t find a bible reference for that either.  Sorry.  Actually, there are no Bible references in the two articles I cited.  I’m not sure if Focus on the Family knows what the Bible is.  Maybe someone should send them a copy.  Just make sure it includes the New Testament.  Money and sex.  I think that speaks for itself as to where their priorities are.  What else could possibly be more important for churches today?  I’m a senior citizen now and I know what I believe.  But there are multitudes of younger people who are hearing such false teachings.  So if you are reading this and don’t know what God’s plan is for your life just yet, I encourage you to read the Bible for yourself.  If you listen to married preachers, do so with caution.  Most of them have other ulterior motives, like daughters they are trying to marry off.   They have no clue about Christian celibacy as Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians.  By the way, Stanton has four daughters he has to marry off or they will soon become clumsy nonproductive spinsters.

It’s my opinion that when we don’t equally honor and value marriage and celibacy, we deny God’s creation. That’s the system he put in place. He did not put in place a sliding scale based on public sentiment and he didn’t put in place a system based on “the American dream.” If you like to think that the American dream is synonymous with Christianity, go right ahead. But you would be wrong. And think about this – We do not have access to God’s numbers. Would it matter if 5 people were called to celibacy since the time of St. Paul or 5 Billion? Would it matter if 5 people were called to marriage or 5 Billion? I don’t think so. But for mankind today, those numbers equal biblical certainty. There is nothing spiritual about majority opinion, just as there is nothing spiritual about the nuclear family. When we focus on opinion polls and surveys and “generating wealth,” and focus only on the family and not biblical truth, we are turning the clocks back to the Old Testament and Mosaic Law.  The shock for the church is going to come on Christ’s return when their members are standing before God individually and very “unattached,” without being surrounded by husbands, wives, children, grandmas, elves, or bunny rabbits.

 

 

Marriage – Turning The Tables

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If  I read one more article or hear one more sermon telling single people they need to get married, I’m going to be sick enough to require hospialization.  So in the spirit of providing a balanced perspective, here are the marks I see today of marriage and married people.

  1. Married people are prideful and greedy. They are concerned only with their own comfort and pleasure. From the biggest SUVs to the biggest houses and white picket fences, they want the whole world to see that they have it all. They invented the phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses.” Getting ahead and making each other happy is their religion. Who needs faith in God when they’ve got faith in each other? It should come as no surprise because the Bible tells us that married men are concerned with the world’s affairs and how to please their wives (1 Cor 7:33). They live lives that are out of control, in every way you can imagine.  They really can’t be expected to please God.   They can only see how “blessed” and wonderful their lives are. Their selfishness and pride prevents them from seeing the needs of other people, especially single people. Married, white, middle-aged preachers are the worse. They take pride in reminding unmarried folks how immature they are until they “man up” and get married. And single women? Well, they’re nobody until they take their subservient place beside a man.
  2. Married people worship sex. Whatever form it takes, the church believes in sex, and lots of it. And they want to make sure everybody gets their fair share. If bestiality came into fashion next year, the church would be handing out gift certificates for the Humane Society every Sunday morning, out of “convictional kindness” of course. Marriage is the holy grail of their adulthood. Preachers have even put their beds on their rooftops to show the world just how good sex is. To make it even worse, Bible thumping married people think the only way they can combat homosexuality is by glorifying their own heterosexual relationships, whether married or not. Fornication? There’s no such thing anymore. Now it’s cohabitation.  Just get a marriage license and “make it right.” They think that since God created everyone male or female that everyone has an obligation to have as much sex as possible, to show the world their maleness and femaleness. Idolizing the nuclear family and leaving no room for any other way of life except marriage is what drove scores of young people out of their churches and into the gay culture. I’m sure there are people in that lifestyle today that God originally tapped for the gift of celibacy. But with no acceptance and no support in their churches, they were drawn to a lifestyle that offered all of those things. The worship of sex through marriage and family has consequences we can’t even imagine.
  3. Churches have never defined what a biblical marriage is. Instead, they cling to the state’s definition of a legal marriage with marriage licenses and probate judges and divestments of assets after divorce. They would have everyone think that the longstanding tradition of marriage is what makes it biblical. Unfortunately, they have never come to understand that man-made traditions are not inherently biblical. As a matter of fact, there is nothing inherently Christian about families, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, grannies, grandpas, or white picket fences.  If you feel like you’re going into shock, you might want to call the paramedics.  It gets worse.
  4. Married people are insecure in their own gender. For them, a sexual relationship is the only thing that defines their masculinity or femininity. A man is not a man until he “mans up” with the right woman. A woman is not complete until she finds her Romeo and starts having babies to grow the offering plate.
  5. Married people worship children. Instead of seeing an eternity in heaven, they can only see the smiling faces of their children and grandchildren and how they resemble kinfolks long gone. “Oh look, he’s got Uncle Earl’s nose.” I have personally seen alters in churches made with baby bottles complete with stage lighting to add a nice warm glow to the throne of child worship. And I’ve also seen special services called to consecrate children’s lunch boxes and backpacks, complete with laying on of hands and mumbling incoherent “prayers” to Dr. Seuss.
  6. Married people don’t believe anyone has the self-control to live without sex. They didn’t, and they don’t expect their children too either. They believe we are at the mercy of evolutionary-mandated desires that are as necessary as food and water to survive. A man controlling his sexual desires would make him less of a man. A real man has to be ready when the time is right. He has to be ready to pounce on every woman to “lead her to Christ.” A real woman is one of who knows how to please her man.  If you mention Paul or Jesus and their sexless lives, they have ready explanations about how Paul was dealing with some crisis that made him forget women and Jesus didn’t have any thoughts about sex.  Right.
  7. The only salvation married people believe in comes through making sexual relationships right with a marriage license, wedding ceremony, and wedding rings. As the Baptists have said repeatedly, it is not our relationship with Christ that turns a boy into a man, but marriage to the right woman who can reign in his sexual appetite. (1) In other words, they believe their boys can have sex with as many women as they want until they decide on the one to “come to the Lord” with and get “saved.” Women are expected to remain sweet virgin angels until the right boys take them to bed.  It’s some twisted version of Mosaic Law.  This represents the highest standard of married sexuality in our present culture.
  8. Married people have very little faith. Instead of faith in God, they have faith in orgasms, fertile seasons, and making babies.   They have faith in 401Ks, bigger SUVs, and their daughters making the cheerleader squad. They believe lust is a guiding spiritual force in the world. Whatever everybody else is doing is what is right for them. If polygamy becomes popular in the next century, they will mandate that all men must have more than one wife. It’s called relative morality. The Protestants invented it. Married people have honed it to a fine art. They always want to be tuned in to the will of the people. The latest Pew Research Poll numbers fall somewhere between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Whether it’s cohabitators or people marrying later in life, they have the numbers at their fingertips to “prove” the sky is falling. They are always ready to tell single people they are out of step with the times and that everybody must bow down to the God of sex.
  9. Married people are judgmental. They look down on single people as “perpetual adolescents” and accuse single men of shirking from responsibility. The real problem is that, with all their adultery and divorces, they have no ground to stand on. They are not qualified to whisper one syllable of advice to people with the charism of virginity.
  10. Marriage people are dangerous. They commit the vast majority of sex crimes; whether it’s pedophilia, sexual assault, rape, incest, etc. According to the latest Bureau of Justice statistics, 6 in 10 of the people who commit rape and sexual assaults are married people. (2)

It is clear in the Bible that, unless given the rare gift of faithful marriage, celibacy is the more Christ-like way of life.   From the prophet Jeremiah all the way down to Christ himself, celibacy has been the only lifestyle sanctioned by God to be concerned with heaven and eternal matters. Apostle Paul himself said celibacy is a spiritual gift and that all those who are unmarried should remain so (1 Cor 7).  God himself ordained, sanctified, and consecrated celibacy as the foundational institution of human society.  We should pray that married people see the err of their ways and get out of bed long enough to see the needs of people around them. We should pray that they realize God only called the few people who cannot control their lusts to marriage, and the rest he calls to holiness and contentment going about the Lord’s business. We should also pray that churches lay down their ungodly idols of sex worship and perversion, and come to understand that the birth, death and resurrection of Christ abolished the Genesis command to reproduce the human species and, instead, requires us to reproduce new spiritual beings who have accepted Christ and are ready for his return.

 

 

  1. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/04/21/from-boy-to-man-the-marks-of-manhood-part-one/

 

  1. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF

How Single Are You?

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How would you define single people? People who don’t wear wedding rings? People who don’t have a marriage license? People who haven’t had a wedding? People who are not cohabitating? People not married but too old to be in a youth group? People who were once married but are now divorced? People who don’t file joint income taxes? People whose spouses have died? Actually, singles can be anybody today. “Single” is merely a legal status and social euphemism that means absolutely nothing from a biblical standpoint. It offers acceptance for the divorced and all those not holding marriage licenses because traditional teaching in the church says that when God forgives he forgets everything and so should we. It’s a word created for comfort to allow those with a sexual past to pretend it didn’t happen and be available on the singles social scene again. After all, the church says, there are secondary virgins and there are real virgins. What’s the difference? Well, in case you didn’t know, my blog defends virginity. I think it’s a special physical and spiritual state, and I happen to be one myself. Bella DePaulo in the 4/3/2011 edition of Psychology Today said there are three definitions of singles:

  1. You are legally single if you are not legally married.
  2. You are socially single if you are not in a romantic relationship that other people regard as serious.
  3. You are personally single if you think of yourself as single.

 These are the world’s definitions. If it feels good, put on your hat and play the part. However, is a legal piece of paper going to matter to God? No. Is how other people regard us going to matter to God? No. Is how we think of ourselves going to matter to God? No. Our behavior matters to God. And as painful as it may be to our ears, our past matters to God. Not the legalities and formalities of current culture. Not the courthouses where we pick up marriage licenses. The Samaritan woman at the well found this out the hard way when she tried to cling to the legal definition of marriage. She probably lived an exciting life as a single woman, strutting down to the well a couple of times a day to flirt with available men. That is, until Jesus showed up for a drink. Then she found out that not having a marriage contract mattered very little to him and that she was in fact married to all the men she had had sex with. As Jesus told her, she had had five husbands and was not officially married to the man she was living with.  I have a feeling that Christ would receive an even more startled reaction by the church today. I can already hear the front row of deacons mumbling, “But she’s not wearing a wedding ring!” It doesn’t matter, Jesus says. “She doesn’t have a marriage license!” It doesn’t matter, Jesus says. “She hasn’t had a wedding ceremony!” It doesn’t matter, Jesus says. If we think of the water at the bottom of Jacob’s well as representing the fruitfulness of the womb, including Jacob’s entire lineage, and the eternal life-giving water that Jesus offered the woman as representing the end of that lineage and the beginning of eternity in heaven, the story makes more sense. It is another classic story of the world we know juxtaposed with the world that is to come. Notice too that Jesus never took a drink from the woman. But what stands out is Jesus’s vocabulary lesson. He replaced the Samaritan woman’s social status of being single with the biblical status of being married. No marriage license was needed. It was done in the blink of an eye. This is why Christ repeated the words “say” and “said.” “You are right when you say” and “what you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18.   He is contrasting her prior social identity and what she saith as a single woman to her current biblical reality and what she had done as a married woman. As she said, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” John 4:29. Even more important, he is contrasting her socially comfortable “singleness” with the biblical reality of her multiple marriages, which are one in the same as sexual relationships. Note too that her repentance and salvation did make her forget all her past lovers, cause her to be a “secondary virgin,” or require everybody in her neighborhood to forget her past mistakes. Nor did it erase the consequences of her sin. It was just the opposite. After she realized she was talking to Christ, she acknowledged that she had been married multiple times.  Laws and traditions say many things and leave open a lot of back doors. In Christian sexual ethics, though, they take a backseat to what we do. Words will disappear like a vapor in the presence of Christ. What we do though will remain standing. Like the common practice today, the Samaritan woman’s social identity was miles apart from her biblical identity.

The majority of churchgoing people today are of the same mindset. As long as lovers “make it right,” who’s to say what is right and what is wrong? They think once they are forgiven, all consequences of their sins are erased. “Forgive and forget” is the new seeker friendly motto. Like the Samaritan woman, they hide behind legalities and social niceties. I think a lot of people read the story of the Samaritan woman and focus only on Jesus’s “mind reading” magic show and how he revealed her past sexual relationships. That’s half the story. It’s equally important to remember that he also revealed that she was not a single woman. In modern times, she could have been masquerading as a virgin, in charge of the local purity conferences and daddy-daughter dances. Whatever the case, she lived the life of a socially single woman up to that point. She couldn’t have been divorced or widowed because everybody would have known her past. There would have been no reason for Jesus to tell her all the things she had done. I wonder how many singles dating sites she had signed up with and how many men she had waiting in the wing. She misrepresented herself to everyone she was acquainted with. To put it simply, she lived a lie. An uncomfortable fact that churches don’t like to be reminded of is that Christianity allows us two lifestyle choices – marriage or virginity. Another uncomfortable fact is that God intended marriage to be between two virgins. But how many churches defend and affirm these truths? How many churches guard biblical language? How many married couples stand up in churches and tell how they were both virgins when they married? How many married couples tell about how they have been faithful their entire 50 or whatever years of marriage? How many celibate people have you heard in churches tell how God has given them the strength and grace to remain virgins for so many number of years? I don’t know of any churches that do that. Their main focus is on forgiving the fallen, not affirming the faithful. Single donut anyone? If you believe that God’s intention in marriage is for one virgin to marry another virgin, then the only people who are biblically single are virgins. Some of them are waiting on marriage on this earth and some have the charism of virginity and are waiting on marriage in heaven. The world doesn’t know that, though. All they know is a generic singleness. When we take the expectation of virginity out of singleness, whether it be waiting on a spouse or waiting on the return of Christ, we take the expectation of faithfulness out of marriage. As Justin Campbell and other writers have pointed out, there really is no such thing as the gift of singleness because singleness in our vocabulary today points to a temporary state. The gift of celibacy, however, is a permanent state and not related to singles waiting on marriage or even a marriage between husband and wife. A lot of people today still pretend to be single. Maybe if everybody had their own moment at the well with Christ, there would be no more pretending.

Jesus didn’t change the Samaritan woman’s marital status by telling her she had five husbands. He merely took away the courthouses and traditions and told her the biblical reality of her life. If her past mattered to Jesus, should it matter to us? I think so. But we live in a world where even the thought of a sexual past is considered judgmental and hateful. Just as with the Samaritan woman, it’s not going to matter what we say when we meet God face to face, but what we have done. Matthew 16:27 tells us, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” It’s not about taking on labels and thinking certain people are better than others. It’s about relating to each other honestly and openly and coming to grips with our own moment at the well with Jesus.

Sadly, the only thing Protestants know about celibacy is in the context of what they hear in the media about the Catholic Church and pedophile priests. That’s why they cling to their comfortable “singleness.” Singleness doesn’t require a past, just a present circumstance. “Just be happy where you are,” they say. They have no clue of the celibacy Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 7. If they go so far as to say there is a gift of singleness, most preachers still frame it as a circumstance, a period of time (or season) before you get married.   Many church people today think the gift of celibacy is but a circumstance until one gets married, a season of waiting until the right one comes along. If marriage and celibacy are to be equally valued, as many churches claim, then we could assume that marriage is but a circumstance, and that husbands are married until they fall into different circumstances with different women. When you take commitment out of the picture, whether it is commitment in marriage or commitment in celibacy, the whole house of cards falls. However we slice the vocabulary, virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is not the same thing as the “gift of singleness” we know today. Justin Campbell, on his blog “More Than Don’t Have Sex,” said this very well:

“Paul essentially says that there are those who should get married and those who shouldn’t.  He says some have one gift and others another gift.  But the gift he is talking about is not the gift of singleness, he is talking about the gift of celibacy. You are not called to “season” of celibacy.  You may not be married yet, but that is not the same.”

The words we use are also going to be carried into the future by the young people today. I think the church does them a disservice by focusing on marriage and family, and not doing anything to affirm the celibate life. That’s why I’m not single. I’m not living out a temporary season of my life.  I am the same unmarried John today as I will be in heaven.  Any discomfort someone sees in my life should not be interpreted as bitterness over not having my sexual desires met. It should be seen as discomfort for still being on this earth and separated from Christ. That’s what I long for. And only a person with the charism of virginity can have that kind of longing. Am I saying that churches should ask everybody about their sexual history and attach appropriate lapel buttons on Sunday mornings, like Christ did with the woman at the well? No. We’re not Christ and can’t know what Christ knows. What I’m saying is that churches should be careful when they adopt the world’s language. I know many of them are teaching a theology of Calvinistic circumstances in which all men are assigned the same station in life. That is, they are all either married or want to get married. That is simply not biblical. Most churches make the mistake of trying to cure singles of their singleness. This is sort of like taking a group of young people to see a space shuttle liftoff and instead only seeing a remote controlled airplane whiz around a parking lot. Do you think they would feel let down? They should. They read about a God of risks and wild abandon in their Bibles, a God of unspeakable wrath and untold rewards, a God worthy of their faith and loyalty; only to have him replaced by one of feel good vagueness and comfortable velvet-backed pew inclusiveness. If we are going to continue using feel-good words like singleness, let’s at last make sure the young people know we are talking outside the principles of the Bible. When we take virginity out of singleness and faithfulness out of marriage, we take the spiritual significance of sex out of God’s hands and put it into the world’s hands.  How would you respond if Christ asked you to go get your husband or wife?  Could you honestly say you’ve never had one or would he have to remind you of things you did?   How single are you?

https://www.ccef.org/resources/blog/the-gift-of-singleness

https://justinmcampbell.net/tag/season-of-singleness/

Faith In Celibacy

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I think we would all agree that Christianity is built on faith, the belief in things we cannot see. We believe Christ is returning to earth to claim his virgin bride, the church. And we believe that the church’s virginity is only possible if individual members confess their sins. As Isaiah 1:18 states, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Or as 1 John 1:19 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But we must see things the way God intended, not the way the world has twisted them. Leading up to marriage, two people have faith that someone else is waiting for them, keeping all their sexual desires under control. Yes, God designed those two people to be virgins. I know. It makes the world cringe. And it includes men. Cringe even more. Virgins are not the adjectives you see in locker room graffiti or the buffoon characters in Hollywood movies. They are probably not the people you hear your preacher describe in church. But, most importantly, these “unknown” people have a choice. They can wait on an earthly marriage, as is common today, or they can wait on heavenly marriage, which is the uncommon spiritual gift of celibacy, and have the opportunity to be unknown the rest of their lives. Yes, I said opportunity. They have an opportunity to be barren and unknown with no family for the rest of their lives as far as the world and its kinship goes, but have so many spiritual children and siblings they can’t be counted. Young people today are not conscious of such a choice.  They go through no period of discernment and the church offers no alternative other than matrimony and the standard white picket fence. It’s “ring by spring” or nothing. Why?  It’s because churches today have very little faith, they follow the ways of the world, they worship the nuclear family, and they are still under the influence of Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation of some 500 years ago. The only tomorrow they know is the one they see in the eyes of their children and grandchildren. Unbeknownst to them, virgins are actually in a win-win situation because waiting for either one of those two marriages is what every Christian is called to do. And we can only wait one time because, even though it causes great pain to the world to think about, virginity is binary. That’s the way God designed creation. This is where marriage and celibacy intersect. The person waiting on marriage on earth has faith that they will meet their spouse soon and spend their time on earth together. The person waiting on marriage in heaven has faith that they will meet Christ soon and spend their time in eternity with him. Those two waits require totally different support. When the wait of celibacy fades out of the picture and is no longer respected, there is greater risk for society to elevate marriage to a place of sanctification, which is where we are today. If we do not provide young people a choice, we will never understand the spiritual nature of marriage or celibacy.

Even if that person with the gift of celibacy is as rare as 1 in a 1000 as Martin Luther claimed or 1 in a billion, it is still true. It doesn’t matter how many times a church says “most people.” That doesn’t make it so for everybody. The Southern Baptists have their foundational origins in segregation and slavery. Millions of people bought into those beliefs. Did it make them right? God puts just enough eunuchs on earth, male and female, to meet his needs. Our rarity ought to serve as a reinforcing agent for marriage and cut through the shortsighted quagmire that passes as faith today. Here’s why. If God created everything in this universe, he also created sex and the entire sexual process. Sexual desire had to be made strong in order for us to multiply. And that is a good thing, right? It had to be so strong that it would take a supernatural act of God for someone to resist it or, as Paul put it, for someone to “have power over his own will.” 1 Cor 7:37. Hence, we have the gift of celibacy and the gift of a supernatural faith.

Even if we do not exist in the statistics and opinion polls, as churches love to quote, our presence is nevertheless real and we have a responsibility to reproduce spiritually that eclipses the responsibility to reproduce biologically. Who are we to second-guess God’s numbers or set an “ideal age for marriage”? While marriage symbolizes Christ’s (groom) marriage to the church (bride), these marriages are temporary affairs. All of them will eventually end either in divorce or death, etc. Those who have the gift of celibacy, however, have a marriage that will not end in divorce or death. Their status as a virgin is the same today as it will be in heaven. Their commitment to Christ is just as real today as it will be in heaven. Their anticipation of the arrival of Christ is more real than anybody’s anticipation of a spouse or birth of a child. But their waiting takes a much larger leap of faith, as it should, than those waiting on husbands and wives and children. Even though it may take a little more blurring of the eyes to see the symbolism, people with the celibate gift literally guard in their own personhood what the church guards symbolically. We should see ourselves already separated from this world and drawing closer to Christ, with one foot on the ground and the other foot in heaven. Our advent should be more urgent than anything expressed in traditional candles and wreaths. So while earthly marriages symbolizes Christ’s marriage to the church, the celibate gift symbolizes eternity in heaven after the wedding is over. Like a landing signal officer on aircraft carriers, we point the way to our final destination. Marriage has not caused us detours. In other words, the person with the gift of celibacy has the capacity to serve as a witness for Christ that goes beyond the symbolic because he/she is closer to landing on the ship and closer to God. Since there will be no marriages in heaven, we represent a part of eternity that can be seen today. That does not mean we are perfect. It does not mean we should climb up on rooftops and boast about it. It should be something that other people see in us, a faith so real that it’s visible. That should speak for itself.