What The Gift Of Celibacy Is Not

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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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What Is A Virtuous Single Man?

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Socrates first posed the question, “What is a virtuous man, and what is a virtuous society?” As a matter of fact, the word virtue comes from the Latin word man. First and foremost, a virtuous single man has to know Christ and has to be striving everyday to be more and more like him. He doesn’t compromise his standards to fit any particular political or corporate agenda. The man who has standards of virtue in private life carries those same standards to every aspect of his life. Hence, I think it’s fair to sair that a man’s work can never be greater than his virtue. He picks up the Bible for his reading pleasure instead of Car and Driver Magazine. He is a man who is conscious of everything he does and is aware of the impact he has on other people. That means he is sensitive to things that a lot of guys are not. He would rather cry than pretend everything is okay. Even though his personal virtue will stand at odds with the surrounding culture, he stands his ground and is willing to be persecuted for his beliefs. He respects God’s creation and is kind to all living things. He protects life. He treats others like he wants to be treated. He’s a good steward of everything in his care and takes what he needs and gives away what he can.

He has compassion for those who are weak and hurting and risks his life to help them. He is humble enough to not see himself as better than anybody else. That means he has compassion for all people who have been treated badly, including women and children who have been abused. He’s familiar with local shelters and safe houses and knows how to go about ensuring someone’s safety. He is generous with his time.

He is a responsible man. He owns up to his mistakes, pays for what he buys, does what he says he will do, and takes care of those who are weaker. He is concerned about the future of young people and tries to be an example for them. He’s not afraid of playing the role of a dad when called to.

He is self-disciplined. He is aware that everything his eyes and ears take in has an impact on him, and he knows about the traps of easy sex, pornography, dishonesty, etc. He is self-controlled. He does not have sex outside marriage. For the single man, that means he saves it for marriage or is an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven. For the married man, that means he is faithful to his wife. Even though the world glorifies anger and short fuses, he is slow to anger and would rather think things over than make a decision he will regret. The virtuous man has standards that are the same whether he’s alone or with a group of people, at home or on a business trip, in a church or in a crowded mall. Consistency is his middle name. He is the same today as he will be tomorrow. He doesn’t flap in the wind. If you want a good gauge of his virtue and integrity, observe what he does with his free time. Does he do anything that he wouldn’t do in public? Is his idea of pleasure all about himself or does he try to bring a smile to everyone he meets?

One thing that separates a virtuous man from others is that he holds the same standards for both men and women. He treats everybody with dignity. His vocabulary is different than the world’s is. He does not objectify women. The virtue of a single man does not depend on whether or not he is pursuing women. The older he gets, the more he is aware that this world is slipping away. He does all he can to rid the world of ageism, sexism, and classism. That is the biggest hindrance to him making friends.

It’s common today to associate the success of a man with his ethical values. The prosperity gospel has reached into every nook and cranny in society. The world looks at a prestigious job, social status, five-column mansion, six-figure salary, golf course membership, and comes to the conclusion, “He must be living right!” The simple life of a virtuous man stands in stark contrast to that. He doesn’t compare himself to anybody else and is content to have Christ. He doesn’t care about instant upgrades.

Of course, the image of a virtuous man depends a lot on how a man is defined. In the world today, a man is defined mostly by his sexual exploits, appearance, job, and money. If he’s not married, he’s expected to be “in pursuit” of women. He’s got to be climbing the corporate ladder. He’s got to have the confidence and enough notches under his belt that he can get any woman he lays eyes on. That’s where the virtuous man who is content to remain celibate falls under the radar because he is trying to cultivate spiritual friendships while the world is trying to cultivate sexual perversion. It’s unfortunate that so many Christian singles bought into Harry’s lie that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. But that’s been the operating principle of every church-based singles group I’ve ever been a part of. Their idea of “fellowship” is to land their next date. “Just friends? You must be joking.” The world’s idea of a man is but a mere shadow of what a real man is.

Virtuous single men, I encourage you to stay strong. Resist the temptation to blend in with the world. Step out and be different. Hold the word of God out in front of you as your guiding light and understand the importance of self control in everything you do, whether its in your dating relationships or how you handle your money. Every little thing that we do says something about us. And you would be surprised at what people remember. So what is a virtuous single man? He’s out of this world.

A Note For Chastity Writers And Speakers

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Much is being written about Christian singles and chastity these days. A lot of it is from concerned parents, religious leaders, and singles themselves. The popular chant has become: There are too many single people and the sky is falling. Since I’m a single person who is waiting myself, that’s the standpoint from which I approach the topic, a single guy. But one who has not had sex. I’m sure that narrows down my audience a bit. BTW, my personal boundary has always been anything below the neck is off limits. When I write an article supporting chastity, I try to imagine myself reading it to a crowd of singles who have gathered to hear someone talk about sex. Then I watch their reactions as I read it and answer their questions. In my mind, I’m just trying to determine how my blog post will be received. There is one really big problem that I’ve never found a solution for: How do you talk or write about chastity and encourage those who are waiting on marriage without discouraging those who did not wait or have made mistakes or have even been abused? I have come to the conclusion that it’s very, very difficult, if not impossible. The main problem is that there will always be people who have had sex and some who have not. That’s the way God made us, not with 50 shades of gray. This is probably the biggest dividing line for an audience. It’s like mixing explosive chemicals. Sparks start to fly as soon as the first person yells “Hey! I feel like a dirty piece of chewing gum!” And the heckling escalates. The same thing happens with blogs on the internet. Any intent of supporting those who are waiting deteriorates into a debate about obedience versus grace. Since we virgins are generally more sensitive people, we concede first. And I’m talking about guys and girls. If you want to be politically correct, you then try to make everybody comfortable. “Oh, I’m really not a virgin. I’m just trying to practice chastity and do the right thing sexually. Here, let me get you a chastity button.” Then the whole discussion turns into an apology for chastity or its entire definition gets twisted. This problem is multiplied when T-shirts, book deals, and money get thrown into the mix. Would you like a cup of virginity or a Diet Coke?

Of course, another problem is that there will be Christians and non-Christians in the audience. It’s only natural for a non-believer who did not wait to lash out at those who are waiting. They can’t be expected to have an accurate concept of what virginity is. It’s only natural for them to feel guilt and shame and try to pass that off to everybody else. Another problem is that we can’t know everybody’s backgrounds. That includes their family histories and how or if their parents discussed sexual standards with them when they were younger. Did they ever even have “the talk?” Did they get sent out into the dating world without even knowing what sex is and what their boundaries should be? There is a huge difference in need between the person who needs counseling for rape or past mistakes and someone who needs encouragement to continue to wait. A big, big, difference. Those two support needs cannot be met in the same room and in the same setting.

Since it’s not possible to know all of these things in advance, how does a person maximize the effectiveness of their blog/talk and minimize the chances that it will deteriorate into a shouting match? I suggest making it clear upfront what the topic will be and that it will be approached from a Christian standpoint, regardless of whether the setting is Protestant or Catholic in nature. Make sure SEX is in huge bold letters. Make sure they know it’s going to be about more than relationships. And make sure that the definition of marriage as being between a man and woman is out front. That’s why the title of my blog is “Christian Celibacy in the 21st Century” and my about page describes me as a lifetime celibate (i.e., virgin), with a subtitle of “straight renunciation.” I may be wrong, but I think guys may be more open to talking about celibacy instead of virginity. That’s because virginity, thanks to all the writers and speakers before us, has been tied so closely to the female gender. A classic case is blogger Samantha Pugsley who concluded: “I’m now thoroughly convinced that the entire concept of virginity is used to control female sexuality.” More unfortunate is the fact that so many chastity writers took her seriously and moderated their messages accordingly. Many even have personal stories that start out with being abused by a man. And their writing never rises above the level of man bashing. Most of them are women, after all. Even being as intentional as I try to be, there are still many who look at my life and scoff, “Lifetime celibate, yeah right. It will last until you meet the right woman.” I receive many comments and emails that I do not make public. So even if it causes stones to be tossed initially, I still recommend that you state your intentions up front before any blog or talk dealing with chastity – or any sexual ethics issue for that matter. Whatever we do to make chastity more comfortable and palpable to the masses will put us one step further away from Christ. If you don’t have enemies, I recommend examining your life to see what you’re doing wrong.

Eunuchs – What’s In A Name?

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I had some very colorful people in my family growing up. One was my Aunt Sudie. She had a different taste in books, food, furniture, and especially music. I always thought of her as more . . . refined, cultured, even more civilized. When I went to visit her, I could always here the soft background music of Birmingham’s only easy listening radio station, WQEN. Everything was slowed down in her house. Well, everything, but intellect. She was a thinking lady. Every response was measured. And even her clothes always seemed to match. I remember playing dominoes and chess with her on Sunday afternoons. You can guess how that went. My taste in music back in the 1980s leaned toward the Bee Gees, Boston, and Bob Dylan. One afternoon on top 40 WERC, I heard that our easy listening station was switching over to country format. I thought “poor Aunt Sudie.” The next time I saw her, it didn’t take long for her to bring up the subject. “How about that? Now I’ve got to choose between being a rock and roller or a honkytonk red neck.” I sympathized with her . . . a little. While I wasn’t an easy listening fan, I didn’t like the idea of someone being forced to listen to music they didn’t like.

Replaying that scene in my mind lately has given me pause because . . . I felt like I was being forced to choose between two things I don’t want – the virginity of bubble-gum popping teenage girls or the celibacy of black-robed Gregorian-chanting bread-making Benedictine monks. I wrestled a bit with that over the years. Who did I identify with? I knew no one who had chosen this life. In the Protestant world, there’s not much to identify with if you’ve chosen a life of celibacy, other than a cold pew in the back of a church. I know what their congregations think of single men. I won’t go there. Actually I identify with refugees, hostages, people with no identity, and others displaced from war-torn areas of the world. I relate to the people of Israel. But I know my real identity is in Christ alone. As Galatians 2:20 tells me:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

It’s interesting that the word “crucified” in this verse is in the perfect tense. The crucifixion was in fact a past action that has present results. Like Paul, I have died to all the expectations and assumptions surrounding a single man in the 21st century. Or I should say, it’s an ongoing process. All Christians are called to do this. But I think people who have chosen celibate life more fully embody that reality. We are more dependent on Christ every day of our lives. So even though a social identity may be a natural part of the human equation, it’s something we have to die to, much more so that any other segment of the population. When you get down to it, we don’t live natural lives. Those of us called to celibacy live supernatural lives. I’m sure Paul went through an identity crisis. Living a life as Saul, he had the responsibility of living in obedience to Mosaic Law. But instead of trying to find acceptance with God through following a set of rules, the person of Paul was now living by a new set of principles based on the Holy Spirit living inside of him. Just as it was the rules Paul had to cast aside, we oftentimes have to cast aside our very own language, our very own social identities. Because in a very real sense we are living outside our time zone. The world sees clocks on a wall and the oscillations of a cesium beam in the form of an atomic clock. We see an ocean of infinity that doesn’t need time. The world sees children holding hands with mom and dad. We see spiritual children in the future that can’t even be counted. We have even chosen to cast aside family and children. But remember that the Bible tells us we will not be forgotten. Isaiah 56:4-5:

4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

When I have an identity crisis, these are my go to verses. So I don’t like the sound of virgin? It doesn’t matter. I don’t like the sound of celibate? It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be a monk? It doesn’t matter. One day I will have an “everlasting name.” I understand that to mean only eunuchs will have an everlasting name. Not moms. Not dads. Not preachers. Not teachers. Only eunuchs. I have no idea what that everlasting name may be. When I’m watching all the other parents pamper their children in church and I’m feeling rather childless, I remind myself that I will have an everlasting name. When the church throws a Christmas party and invites all the families but does not invite me, I remind myself that I will have an everlasting name. When I’m trying to think of people to include in my will, I remind myself I will have an everlasting name – and that my children in the future will get more than that. I don’t look at it as a consolation prize. It’s a biblical promise. All I can do now is savor the mystery.

John Morgan – The Not So Comfortable Life Of Celibacy

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I write a lot on my blog about the Bible and what it says about the gift of celibacy and living a life with no sex. But I still see a lot of misinformation about this lifestyle. So this is to clear things up a bit. First, Paul’s definition of “gift,” as he used in 1 Corinthians 7 does not mean that this life is one of euphoric bliss. It’s a life of mistaken identity and one loaded with more responsibility than being a husband. Think about it this way. The Bible uses the word “know” as a synonym for sex, like in Genesis when Adam knew Eve, and it’s used much the same way today. A man is known today for what he knows and who he knows, not who he is. Nobody has ever “known” me. Married couples who have been together for any length of time will tell you that there are some difficult challenges to overcome. The same thing is true with celibate life. I have periods of loneliness. There are times when I feel misunderstood. There are times when I feel unloved, unneeded, unworthy, and totally incapable. I usually don’t have it together. I’m unorganized. My house looks like a disaster zone. I do try to be ready to go anywhere on a moment’s notice with my shoes at the door. I take more risks than most people. I don’t like mirrors, because I mostly don’t care how I look. I don’t watch TV. I’m not a football fan. I don’t hunt or fish. I know a lot of people, but few people I would call close friends. In the last few years, I’ve been more careful in selecting friends I think I can help. All single girls are my girlfriends. That may sound great. But it can get complicated. “Can we get together and talk sometimes? Now, don’t get the wrong impression because I’m just a monk looking for a social life.” How would that go over for you? Basically it’s just me and my pets. I love photography and go on nature hikes every chance I get. I have never owned a portable device. I don’t do texting. I would much rather talk face to face. Which is why most of my close friends are senior citizens. Young people today can’t seem to talk. I know what pain is. I’ve been close to death three times and I’m grateful to be alive. I’ve been disabled for about 12 years. My income is below poverty level. That’s doesn’t worry me. I worry about young people and their disregard of sexual ethics, persecution of Christians, the downhill spiral of our country, people wrongly imprisoned, abuse of the elderly, children without parents, child abuse, young ladies who can’t see their beauty, and a host of other things. I mentor students in high school, and am a father figure to some. My extended family is big. My choice of celibacy will end my Morgan line, which can be traced back to Glamorganshire, Wales. My maternal grandfather had 18 brothers and sisters. I have one sister. She had twins. All of that will come to a halt when I die. I will have no heirs. I’m still thinking about my options in that regard. Of course, I’ll have spiritual children and am looking forward to the time when I won’t have to think about marital status. I drive a car that has almost 250,000 miles, have not bought new clothes since 1984, still have my record player from the 1970s, and live in a house that’s over 100 years old. How’s that for comfort?