Celibacy – Life Beyond Circumstances

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I’ve always found it interesting that churches consider marriage a sacred commitment and “singleness” a state of selfish abandonment and uncontrolled desires, when in fact the Bible talks more about celibacy than it does marriage. How did the church come to worship sex and toss out celibacy as an unfortunate circumstance? There are many reasons. But at the top of the list is the fact that the Protestant Reformation rejected not only celibate priests, but the whole idea of spiritual rebirth and fruitfulness, claiming that making babies was the only way the human species could reproduce. Unfortunately, the church never learned to think long term and never learned anything from what Jesus taught Nicodemus:

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'” John 3:5-6

In other words, Protestants rejected the whole message of the New Testament because they refused to move beyond the flesh. Sex in marriage became just as important as food in the stomach. And babies became the holy grail of life itself. When they abolished monasteries and convents, they erased the identities of generations of people who had the God-given charism of virginity. Christ was one of those people. Protestants no longer saw their choice as between marriage and celibacy as outlined by Paul in the New Testament, but between marriage and “living in sin” as outlined by a culture of divorce. These are the circumstances they want you to forget. When the reformers established settlements in the American colonies, they brought the Old Testament and all of its sexual fulfillment and fruitfulness with them and burned the New Testament and spiritual rebirth to make way for a new sexual awakening. Marriage was no longer a right. It was a rule. As a matter of fact, weddings were founded on divorce, courthouses and redistribution of land. Marriage became the social expectation. Honorable singles became the dishonorable outcasts because, if young people were not married by a certain age, it was assumed they were either fornicators or homosexuals. With the choice of celibacy out of the way, any lifestyle besides marriage became viewed as an unfortunate circumstance. For the Protestants, church was not about salvation through Christ. It was about circumstances. It was about salvation through marriage and children, because that was the only way they could “redeem” their sexual desires. Their idea of an afterlife never got any further than the inheritance they left their children. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity today is not built on Christ. That would take an amount of invisible faith. Rather, today’s Christianity is built on a woman’s visible ability to give birth to children and a man’s ability to be responsible for them. Christ is not in the picture. The Southern Baptists make that very plain in their Faith and Message Statement: “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.” Nowhere in the Bible does God grant any special privilege to the nuclear family or “persons related to one another by marriage.” As a matter of fact, it says just the opposite: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29. The Baptists’ “message” is merely the creation of a couple of preachers who had one too many drinks after a Wednesday night prayer meeting.  Sadly though, people still believe it.

But rejecting celibacy had long term consequences the Protestants were not aware of. While tooting their horns about how the commitment of a man and woman in marriage represents Christ’s marriage to the church, they forgot how the commitment of a celibate person represents total faith in God for the necessities of daily living and how it symbolizes eternal life in heaven where there are no marriages. The only problem is that celibacy is something that can’t be seen. For Protestants to have faith in anything, they have to see it. That’s why the invisible vocation of celibacy was replaced with the circumstance of an empty ring finger called “singleness.” They could see who had not “put a ring on it.” So the only commitment the church knows anything about today starts with “courtship” and ends with “I do” and a wedding night of sexual salvation.

Celibacy became a circumstance when the church replaced biblical truths with moral relativism and lowered their standards to the level of the masses. As Russell Moore of the SBC said recently, “We have a responsibility not only to speak truthfully. But we have a responsibility to contextualize not only to the present culture but to the future.” Contextualize?  That is so clever.  Leave it to wordsmith Moore to figure out a politically correct way of describing moral relativism. Protestants have for a long time based their beliefs on changing circumstances. They learned how to contextualize their pocketbooks too, and learned that talking about divorce and other circumstances in a “fallen world” was a lot more profitable than talking about the truth in a world that had turned its back on God or about the realities of hell.  Comfort sells. They learned that marrying a cohabitating couple with a child in tow was like money in the bank.  The church was no longer a body of believers, but a group of seekers with different circumstances. No one could claim to know the truth anymore, because the “gospel” changed with the times. DivorceCare was a lot more profitable than talking about uncomfortable subjects such as adultery and fornication. Circumstances make a lot of victims. Victims make the church a lot of money.  Can you imagine an older man standing up during a Baptist service today and saying, “I wish all men were like me”?  What a scandal!  Who does he think he is!  Celibacy is just a circumstance Protestants associate with the Catholic Church and the same sex marriage scandal.  When churches are seated at the golden calf of marriage and family, it’s not possible for them to live without sex. They must show the world visual proof of their marital bliss with wedding rings and marriage licenses, and how committed they are to their spouses until . . . they divorce. After all, it’s just a season of marriage, right?  It’s no longer about who a man is. It’s what he looks like. Who he’s married to. What his family looks like. How many children he has. Where he works.  People today believe all men have the capacity to reach the same spiritual significance, no matter what their station in life is.  That may be true if we didn’t have choices about our stations in life.  But all of us make our own choices, no matter how popular or unpopular they may seem to the rest of the world.  That’s why so many churches report the results of opinion polls and statistical charts and ring their hands over people marrying later in life. As unbelievable as it sounds, they claim to know how many people God expects to be married and how many people he expects to be single. They email a copy of the opinion polls and numbers up to God every 90 days or so and wait on his pronouncement.  I’m sure that will put a smile on grandpa’s face.  People know so little about the Bible that they buy into it.

For many Protestants, moral relativism started in 1 Corinthians 7:26 when Paul mentioned remaining a virgin because of the “present distress.” It was exaggerated to mean all of Paul’s writings in the New Testament, especially those dealing with sexual ethics, were dependent on his circumstances. They didn’t think it applied to them because they knew the “end of the world” was not going to happen anytime soon. Not only that, they really didn’t think they had to take anything Paul said seriously because it was “just his opinion.” So their solution was to consider what he wrote not even part of the Bible. That was a grave mistake. Paul was not just another bloke Christ called off the street to write some of the Bible. He wasn’t just a dude who happened to fall into these circumstances. He was heavenly inspired. God placed him in that place at that time for a reason. In actuality, Paul declared that God’s call to salvation reversed a person’s circumstances. People with the gift of celibacy pointing toward eternity are necessary for that to happen. They are necessary witnesses to spiritual rebirth and to the Christian slave becoming the Lord’s freedman and to those who were free becoming Christ’s slaves. A wedding is a very short-lived event. What happens after that? Paul did not fall into the unfortunate circumstances of celibacy because of some impending catastrophe. His choice between marriage and celibacy is the same as ours today. He had a right to marry, as he straightforwardly states in 1 Cor 9:5-6: “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? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?”  Paul was not secretly cohabitating with Timothy’s sister or getting free milk from a cow.  He wasn’t staying up late nights playing video games.  What “life group” class would you put him in?  What kind of circumstances would your church have to build up around him to make everybody comfortable?

My life of celibacy is something I also freely chose and something God has allowed me to do. Yes, I have the right to marry just like anyone else. But I have not denounced marriage as being evil, as popular thinking may have you believe.  I have renounced it for something better, for life beyond this earth. Denounced and renounced are two words that sound the same but have very different meanings. I know a life of sacrifice is hard to believe in churches today because their faith goes no deeper than a wet diaper and after school childcare. So while I may have not have a ring on my finger, I do know what commitment is. I ask that you keep an open mind for commitments you cannot see and levels of faith you cannot understand. While I may not have the trophy wife, passel of kids, and graduation pictures hanging on the walls, be mindful of children who are not the products of flesh, but of spirit.

http://christiandaily.com/article/russell-moore-laments-how-evangelicals-today-regard-politics-as-their-own-religion/56127.htm

The Twisted Marriage Idolatry Of Al Mohler And Southern Baptists

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Just when I think the Southern Baptists can’t sink any deeper in sex worship, somebody comes along and does even better. In this case, it’s Al Mohler. You can read his latest article, “Marriage as a Part of Adulthood,” here:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/preparing-for-marriage/marriage-as-a-part-of-adulthood

There’s really nothing new because he has been preaching his marriage mandate for many years. He’s one of those mature Baptist brethren who think single adults over 23 are “living in sin.” And yes, he’s one of those “full quiver” men who do not think sex hormones can be controlled and recommends marriage at 12 and 13 years of age to prevent fornication.  I guess that makes sense on a primordial level if we assume men have no more self control than the apes.   And I’m sure he’s passing on his “wisdom” to the Baptist preachers of tomorrow.  He bemoans the current generation of cohabitation.  But what else can we expect from his generation, the generation of divorce and adultery? In this piece he does something I’ve written about before and, as always, I think it’s rather comical. He throws in the obligatory “unless given the calling of celibacy” footnote in one sentence, just in case somebody reminds him that Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus himself never married.

“For all these reasons and more, Christians must understand that, unless given the calling of celibacy, Christians should honor marriage and seek to marry and to move into parenting and the full responsibilities of adulthood earlier rather than later in life.”

“Unless given the calling of celibacy.”  Isn’t it wonderful what commas can do for you?  They make it look like everything that’s wedged in between them is a passing thought.  Not only is Bro. Al a full quiver man, he’s a full Oxford comma man too.   But Al, I have a couple of questions.  I visited your fine Baptist church recently and what you need to understand is that all of your single women leave a lot to be desired. That’s right. All of them are prostitutes, except the ones who are Christian women of course. They’re on the streets of Louisville every weekend making money to buy their next fix of drugs. Your women should honor their bodies as temples of God and become full time mothers. Then they can step into their role as responsible adults.  How would I know who the good Christian women of your church are? How would I even know you have any? Would they wear different colored dresses? Have a different hairstyle? I would have no way of knowing. My question for you is this: How would you know who does and does not have “the calling of celibacy?” Since you regularly throw in this “rare exception” clause when you write about marriage, you must know such a person. Can you give us a name? Have you polled the unmarried people in your church to see who has what calling? Has anyone helped them discern celibacy? Let’s take it one step further. I’m sure you can name thousands of married couples you’ve known over the years. Of the 7,125,000,000 people on earth, can you name two Baptist preachers who are called to celibacy? If you can’t, then you probably shouldn’t mention it at all. It really is pathetic.  I can only speak for myself as one of those people called to celibate life, but I do not wish to be included in such a sordid “family focused” soap opera and Cialis sponsored worship hour.

The Unholy Marriage License

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In Justice Kennedy’s majority ruling legalizing same sex marriage, he stated that, “The homosexuals’ hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” In his mind, homosexuals are not condemned to live in loneliness because they are homosexuals. They can have “sex” and get rid of that loneliness anytime they want to. He considered them condemned because they didn’t have what every pious church-going person has worshiped for the last 500 years – a marriage license. It just took that long for these sacred pieces of paper to be declared civil rights and erected as graven images. That shouldn’t be a shock. Churches have worshiped “holy matrimony” and “family values” for years, while turning a blind eye to the biblical meaning of marriage. What happened to the people who didn’t fit this nuclear family ideal? What happened to people who didn’t marry? Justice Kennedy couldn’t have said it better. They were excluded.

It’s interesting that he used the civil rights language of “excluded” in his majority opinion. To be excluded requires that a person be denied something they feel they have a right too. When any social construct reaches the level of mass acceptance that same sex marriage has, it doesn’t matter what the church says. It doesn’t matter what it thinks the rules are. It only matters what the masses think. And right now they think marriage just exists as a kind of financial contract, to divide up property in cases of divorce and to minimize tax liabilities. On a spiritual level, it has no meaning whatsoever. So it would be inhuman to exclude someone from all its glories, not to mention adulthood itself. So the Obergefell ruling was never about Christian marriages or any of that one flesh union kind of thing, because the church took sex out of the marriage equation decades ago. It also took self-control out of the single equation and replaced it with child marriages and acceptance of sexual immorality. According to the Southern Baptist’s Al Mohler:

“Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s. Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It’s battling our Creator’s reproductive designs.

The truth is, churches consider sexual restraint an impossibility. Their choirs break out in glorious exaltation if their members can make it from the parking lot to the pews without breaking out in mass orgies. But celibacy? That’s just an unreasonable expectation. Without faith in those who have the gift of celibacy, they can never have any faith in the gift of marriage. What do young people in church think about marriage? What is it that they are waiting on? It can’t be sex because that’s an unreasonable expectation. It’s a marriage license, of course. For just a small fee, they are granted full adulthood status and the men are even allowed to preach. So the marriage license itself has become the tradition in which marriage is based on, not the sacred union described in the Bible. Weddings came to be about “making things right” instead of doing things right to begin with. When a woman today is identified as a wife and serves as a role model in church, does that mean she has been faithful to her husband all those years or does it mean she has a marriage license? It has to be the marriage license because sex is too dirty to talk about in church. When a woman is identified as a single, does that mean she has been faithful to God and remained chaste all those years or does it mean she does not have a marriage license? It has to be the marriage license. What witness does that send to the world? How many county clerks defended marriage like Kim Davis did? How many churches have supported single adults? When Justice Kennedy effectively broadened the plaintiffs in the same sex marriage case to include those who did not have a marriage license, he included all single people who had been condemned to this horrific fate. Justice Kennedy merely turned the tables and used the church’s own traditions against them. The church killed biblical marriage, not the Supreme Court.

Marriage should never have been associated with the state or legal system to begin with. I’m not even sure how anyone can claim there is separation of church and state in this country. Preachers and priests are still acting as agents of the state and signing marriage licenses. I guess the display of nativity scenes is a much more grievance offense. The fascination with legal documents, distribution of wealth, inheritance claims, collection of tithes, and child custody have always served as the foundational building blocks of traditional Protestant churches. It has always been the marriage way or no way. In his majority opinion, Kennedy even stated, “Marriage remains a building block of our national community.” He copied that from the Southern Baptist’s own ethics manual: “The family is the basic building block of society and a biblical understanding of the family is essential for building a healthy society.” So the church killed marriage, not the Supreme Court.

Is there anything Christian about a nuclear family? Is there anything holy about a marriage? According to the Bible, there’s not. Jesus rejected the tradition of biological kinship: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:19-21, Matthew 12:46-50. So while Christ opened the doors for everyone to know him, even eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, the church closed their doors on everybody who was not a member of a nuclear family. They may have advertized “church family” on billboards, but reality was much different inside their church walls. Some of the faithful are even expecting Christ to visit courthouses first when he returns, so that he can check the marriage and divorce records. What a shock it will be when they receive even greater condemnation than the scribes and Pharisees and come face to face with a celibate Christ who doesn’t care who their families are. However, those who have been faithful celibates will have their spiritual children by their side. So, we may end up with a longer term marriage and more kids than all the Supreme Court justices combined. And Kennedy will look like a very lonely man. Who will be condemned then?

http://cslr.law.emory.edu/fileadmin/media/PDFs/Lectures/Witte_Freedom_Christian.pdf

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/fixgov/posts/2015/06/26-obergefell-v-hodges-same-sex-marriage-rauch

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/14-556

http://www.albertmohler.com/category/topics/singleness/

https://baptistnews.com/faith/theology/item/8107-redeeming-fornication

http://www.hunewsservice.com/news/view.php/50567/Atlanta-Church-Leads-in-Accepting-LGBT-C

http://www.frontstreet.org/preschool

How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness?

The Shadow Of Death

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Code in Ambulance by Daniel Sundahl

When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. Actually, I didn’t know who I was. I felt dizzy. Nauseated. Everything was spinning. Where was I? It was a big room with a lot of whirling machines and bright lights. I was freezing cold. I could smell rubbing alcohol and plastic. There was a lot of clanking metal. I could hear people talking. Then the faces of two ladies came into focus as they leaned over my bed. “Mr. Morgan, everything went just fine. We’ll be sending you back to your room in just a minute.” I was in an operating room. They were the anesthesia team who had put me to sleep for the first in a series of electroconvulsive therapy treatments. I was waking up. “Oh God, I’m not still alive am I? I want to die.”

I have bipolar I disorder. Medicines had failed to work on this cycle of depression and the ECTs were a last ditch effort to bring me out of the darkness. I’d rather have both arms and legs cut off than to have to go through this again. Don’t worry though. I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for about 30 years. Hospitals have become a way of life, or should I say a tortured way of life. Everybody knows me in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. My art work is hanging on their hallways. The nurse sees my stretcher coming down the hall and yells, “John! You’re back again?” I call it making the most of a bad situation. They roll me into my room. Some of my memory is coming back. I’ve been here before. Hope I have a quiet roommate because I don’t want to deal with anybody. Wait, what year is it? Who are the two old people in my room? The lady bends down and hugs my neck as she wipes away tears. I know that perfume. “Just remember that mama loves you.” Mama? Is that my mother? They walk out of the hospital room and I wipe tears from my eyes. Oh God, why me? The evening wears on and some of the other patient’s gather in the day room to watch T.V. One guy walks in with a guitar. Everybody gets quite. I remember this young man from a previous admission. He’s really sick. Somebody turns the T.V. volume down. He tunes it up a bit and looks up and says, “Would you like to hear a song?” Everybody cheers him on. For about the next hour I listened to a classical guitar performance that I should have paid money to see. The most gifted people I know live in psych units and long term psych facilities.

I wake up the next morning and cannot move. “Time to get up!” the nurse yells through my door. My roommate groans. I drag myself down the hallway to the third door on the left to get in the shaving line. When it comes my turn, I step up to the same little piece of metal bolted to the wall. I always miss a real mirror. I splash water on my face, shave, and then go get in the breakfast line.  Many people question whether miracles still happen. I can tell you they do. I’m still alive. I have spent years of my life in hospitals and psych facilities, seen enough doctors to start my own medical clinic, taken enough medicine to start my own pharmacy, and had enough electrical energy passed through my brain to build my own power grid. I’ve been launched into the stratosphere of bipolar mania and buried under the shadow of death. I should have been dead a long time ago.

But wait a second. This is a celibacy blog. People with bipolar disorder have wild sex lives, don’t they? They can’t control themselves and the men rape every woman in site. You probably believe that. Unless you or someone in your family has been affected by mental illness, you’re at the mercy of public ignorance. Just based on my bio, most people would have me pegged as just another free frolicking “John” living the good life as a single dude. Some may even think I know all the girls on the streets by their first names. Chalk my case up to a miracle. I would even say that having bipolar disorder has given me insight into mental illnesses and developmental disorders I otherwise would not have. Most of my best friends live with them – schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, and OCD, etc. I try to keep up to date on the latest research and treatments and am a mental health advocate. I work with NAMI, crisis centers, and speak to classes in high schools about our brains and what can go wrong. What I really miss is my memory.

So if there are still any romanticized ideals out there about people with the gift of celibacy being highly exalted and honored and perfect people, I hope this serves to break that stereotype. I’m not a bright and happy shiny person. If you still have me pictured as a monk floating blissfully over a field of “celibate service” while performing 15th century Gregorian chants, please replace that with reality. Reality is not always pretty.

Dear 32 Year Old Virgin . . .

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There’s a recent article on Boundless titled “An Older Virgin in a Sex-Crazed World.” In it, a young lady complains about an “interrogation” she endured while undergoing x-rays to treat a ruptured lung. The technician asked her if she was on birth control, how she knows she’s not pregnant, and if there was any chance she could be pregnant now. She goes on to tell about her friend grilling her about her virginity in high school, how the world has placed pleasure before commitment, how fornication is everywhere, and how sex crazed society is today. What’s interesting is that the young lady who wrote it describes herself as a 32-year-old “older virgin.” Oh please. Do people not get out and meet each other anymore? Or are we wrapping ourselves up in our own little virtual cocoons? The 20-30 year-old young ladies who assume they are old enough to have the last word on virginity never cease to amaze me, and there are hundreds more on the internet. To quote Leslie Ann: “I’m no longer a naïve 19-year-old eager to spring into a relationship just to be romanced. I know the realities of married life by years of study and observance.” Well, gosh darn it, let’s go ahead and give her a Ph.D.  Or maybe she could write a book.  Let me just say this to Miss Leslie Ann and the hundreds of other young ladies who write on this subject – You are to be commended for making it to your 20s and 30s and still be a virgin. That does indeed put you in rare company. But there are much older virgins than you. As difficult as it is to believe, there are some old enough to be your fathers and grandmothers. I always find it quite interesting that they’re never discussed on your blogs. Honestly, I think arrogance is the fastest way for a beautiful young lady to become . . . not so beautiful. So in the big scheme of things, you are still quite a child and your opinions are not as important as you think they are. Some people may think I’m being cruel. But here’s why I think putting age in perspective is important: By making such assumptions about chastity and age and considering it only from the female perspective, we are reinforcing the age old stereotypes and double standards that cause such awkward questions as those Leslie Ann heard from her x-ray technician. When age is mentioned in the Bible, it is usually to break a stereotype – like the old ages of Elizabeth and Sarah when they gave birth. Imagine the people who scoffed when they heard about their pregnancies.  What was the purpose of them being old at childbirth?  Was it to teach them or their husbands a lesson?  Or was it to teach us a lesson today?  I tend to think it is the latter.  If 32 years of age is considered an older virgin, I guess I should see 54 years as one foot short of the grave. I could write an article and title it, “54 Year Old Virgin Calls For Priest During Last Hours.” While you may never meet me on the streets, you are able to read my story through the miracle of the internet. I do hope it inspires you. So even though the internet has brought with it a lot of bad things, I think our blogs and different ways of communicating can be very good things. Since I live in a very rural area, the internet has allowed me to get to know many people I would not have otherwise known. Plus, it allows me to stay in touch with my mentor, a virgin much older than myself. Yes, Leslie, they are out there. If we are only aware of the immediate world around us, like the people we go to school with and people we work with, then we will age much faster as virgins. At 30 we will look at ourselves in the mirror and see an old person who is odd and out of place. Sexual abstinence before marriage will indeed look very unrealistic.  But if we expand our realities with every means of communication at our disposal and humble ourselves enough to know there are older and wiser people out there, we will age much slower. Then at 30 we can look at ourselves in the mirror and see our younger selves with the confidence that comes from following God’s will and courage from knowing that others have come before us. I believe virginity is very much a relational issue on a social scale.  It’s not enough to tell someone, “We waited until we were married to have sex.  You can too.”  That rings hollow.  It takes real authentic people to pass this virtue to the next generation.  So when you put everything in perspective Leslie Ann, I hope being a virgin at 32 doesn’t feel so old after all. Let’s not bow down to the expectations of this world, but allow God to intervene in our lives beyond our wildest dreams.  He is still the same God who rescued Moses from the pharaoh and the same God who performs miracles today.

http://www.boundless.org/blog/an-older-virgin-in-a-sex-crazed-world/

The Tragedy Of Birth Control

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Sulawesi Hand Stencils

The world would probably look much different if we had kept God’s original design of human sexuality in place, monogamous sexual relationships in marriage and faithful chastity in singleness. Most of the ethical crises that we face in the world today can be traced back to breaks in that design. One of the biggest breaks came when we separated sex from life with birth control. Whether in marriage or outside marriage, it is not part of God’s plan. It’s violates the fifth commandment which prohibits us from taking a human life. Calling it birth control may have been an attempt to put some noble spin on it, like population control. But there’s not much there. How many women would take contraception if babies were really delivered by storks? Not too many, I suppose. Would we be trying to control the inbound flights of storks? Birth control is not so much about controlling births as it is opening the doors of sexual freedom. It frees up sexual pleasure from that pesky little thing called pregnancy. God did not design sex to be free of responsibility. He did not design it to be a recreational sport. Think about the dignity he built into the whole process. He could have designed our reproductive systems with a more direct link between sex and pregnancy. Sex one day. Baby next day. That would have been too easy. But he threw in the variables of ovulation, fertility windows, sperm counts, and genetics, among a host of other things to remind us of his ultimate control. We tried to take that control. It failed. The feminists looked at birth control as their salvation, the way for women to have it all – the husband, the job, the status, and the children. It was about women’s rights and their ability to take their place in society. They were no longer trapped at home raising children. Mrs. Sanger would have been so proud. But she forgot that it took men to make babies too. Men looked at the pill as their ticket to paradise. This was especially true for single guys because it meant all women were available. Guys were now free to put the pressure on all women to have sex. They could have their cake and eat it too with no worries about the responsibility of becoming a father. Now we have a culture of kids with no fathers, single mothers, deadbeat dads, child support, and child abuse. A lot of single guys have had the benefits that only husbands should have. And a lot of single girls have had the benefits that only wives should have. Their sexualization may be illegitimate, but they are still socially identified as singles. Now it’s quite socially acceptable to refer to single men as predators and single women as promiscuous. Such social dynamics make the dating process even harder for Christian singles waiting until marriage to have sex, especially single women. The odds of them finding appropriate mates fall with each successive generation. We may like to think sex is a private thing between two people. It’s not. Every sexual relationship is a public event one way or another. And when you throw in birth control, it’s like setting up a podcast from your very own bedroom.

Even in marriage, birth control separates sex from marriage. It tells the world that we know more about what’s better for our lives than God does. It replaces our faith in God with faith in technology. It affirms that sexual pleasure is greater than the responsibility of being husbands and wives and moms and dads. Separating sex from responsibility also prevents married couples from seeing the real purpose and value of sex. If they don’t see the value of their own physical relationships in marriage, how will they appreciate the single people around them who have never had sex? On a deeper level, if all married people think about when they think of single adults is the yoke of our sexual desires, how will they ever appreciate someone for whom God has taken away those desires? How will their pessimism transcend the primordial forces of this earth and allow them to see the supernatural workings of God today? Maybe it’s time for married couples in churches to explain just what they have and what marriage means to them and what role sex plays in their marriages. Then maybe singles can explain what they don’t have and what role the absence of sex plays in their lives. Is honesty to much to ask?

To Burn Or Not To Burn

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When I was a boy, Paul’s use of the word “burn” for sexual desire in 1 Corinthians 7 probably did more to educate me about sex than my parents or anything I learned in school. During the Dog Days of Summer in Alabama, one of my jobs was to help my dad rake and burn leaves in the backyard. The raking part wasn’t fun. But I always liked the fire. My dad made sure I knew everything about it. The whole process would start with him watching the weather forecast that morning. The time had to be right. If it were too wet, nothing would burn. If it were too dry, it would be too dangerous. He would choose a day that was not windy. He would put the fire in a big open space, far away from the house, usually the same spots year after year. He also made sure there was nothing else close by that could catch fire; like overhanging limbs, trees, buildings, plants, fence poles, etc. He said the flames could reach a lot higher than the pile of leaves. He allowed nothing but leaves and limbs on the fire. No rubber, glass, metal, or any kind of plastic. He did include paper bags and cardboard boxes. He said those were exceptions because they were made out of wood too. Oh, and privacy was important to him.  He didn’t want anybody to see the black scars they left on the ground.  So he would build the fires out of view of company. So, we sat off to gather the fallen limbs first. He would drive his tractor around the yard and I would pitch them in the trailer in back. After the limbs were gathered, we would start raking leaves on top of them. When the pile got to be a certain size, my dad would say “that’s enough!” Only he knew when that was. Then he got the kindling, which was usually a few shavings of heart pine or a crumpled newspaper. He put that at the base of it, on the side with the least wind. Then he struck a match and we watched the tiny flame shoot up through the wood and into the leaves. O’er the ramparts we watched! It only took a few minutes and the fire and smoke was rising over the pine trees. My dad also lectured (taught) me how the flames could leap out of the burning brush and onto the surrounding leaves and “get away from you before you know it.” He said a fire left unattended could spread out of control into a bigger fire, and that he would be responsible for anything else it burned – including a house.  He also told me about how burning embers could also be carried by the wind, land in somebody else’s yard, and start a fire – all without you knowing it. That is, until the neighbor called. That was scary. That’s why he always had either me, my sister, or my mom standing guard with a hosepipe and buckets of water. We stayed with the fire until it was extinguished. It had to be completely out with cold ashes before we went to bed. If it wasn’t, he poured water on it, and finished it another day. My dad did everything he could to minimize the risk of a fire getting out of control. It seemed to me that he actually had them contained before he built them. He planned things so meticulously.  My dad wasn’t afraid of fire, though.  He respected it and understood its capabilities. He also spent time telling me how beneficial lightning fires were in the forest, getting rid of dead trees, and making room for the sun to shine on new growth.  In 1963, fire researcher Herbert Stoddard discovered that one of the most harmful things modern man has done to birds has been his attempt to exclude fire from fire-type pine forests.  As he said:  “Within a few years most forests choke up with brush, lose their prairie-like vegetation, and can no longer support birds dependent on periodic burning for their food supply and proper cover.” There are a lot of other things a fire can do too.

A warm fire is wonderful on a cold night in a fireplace under control. But if it gets out of control, that same fire can burn your house down. The fires may look the same, but one keeps you warm and the other kills you. It’s the same way with the fires of our sexual desires. They can keep us warm in the incinerators of our own passions while we wait on a spouse, burn our houses down if we don’t contain them, or they can be transformed into something entirely different than fire. When the flames of desire leap out of control, they can consume all of our lives – and leave scars of regret and heartbreak as permanent reminders. But controlling those flames still comes down to taking away at least one of the three things a fire needs for survival – oxygen, heat, or fuel. Take oxygen, for example. Lust thrives in the right environment. I’m sure you know of places where the flames will meet you at the door. There’s hardly anywhere we can go today that is not saturated with sex. That’s where we have to be vigilant and step away from the gases of superficial pleasures.  Taking lust out of the air will work wonders in controlling your fire. The same thing is true about the heat that ignites our fires.  We can follow the masses and ignite our fires with meetups in a bar, fuel them with pornography, stoke them with our imaginations, and let them burn out of control – destroying ourselves and anyone they come in contact with.   Or we can do it God’s way and wait patiently on marriage before having sex.  If your fire has already jumped over the line, it’s never too late to get it back under control.

Paul must have understood the nature of fires very well because the word “burn” so accurately describes what I felt as a teenager. It felt like my body was the pile of leaves, that my sexual desire was the flame, and girls were the sparks. I came to understand what Christ meant when he said it was good for a man not to touch a woman. I was certain one spark would do it.  But I knew there was nothing inherently wrong with fire if it was kept under control, and that God created sexual desire as a good thing. That seemed a little less daunting when I realized God expected everybody to keep their fires under control, whether waiting on marriage or waiting on his return, and that he wasn’t holding me to any higher firefighting standards than he was anybody else.

Burning was one of the most common ways of describing unfulfilled passion throughout Greek and Roman literature, as well as the Bible. Job 31:12 describes sexual immorality as “fire that consumeth to destruction”  I think this is the fire Apostle Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when he said “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” He was talking about the sexual passion that can consume our time, energy, creativity, trust, and anything else that makes us who we are when we don’t moderate our fires with the outlet of sex in marriage. There’s a difference between the flame of natural sexual desire that is consumed (consummated) in marriage and one that is allowed to burn out of control with the heat of sexual immorality. With marriage, two unstable flames of desire come together to create one stable fire. They use each other’s oxygen, fuel, and heat. It consumes all of their energy and time and reproduces with the embers of children and the rhythm of life. It’s ignited with romance and fueled with committed love. In a marital relationship, the other person becomes the object of our love. In a celibate relationship with God, he becomes the object of our love. It is fueled with a passion to please him; whether that be meeting the needs of forgotten people or endeavors of a supernatural nature. For example, instead of the flames of passion burning your time and energy, the fire of celibacy could be fueled by a desire to end human trafficking, homelessness, or end an epidemic. Instead of being spread with human children and birthrights, it is spread with spiritual children. Of course, a married person can love both God and their spouse. But they can never love him with the same intensity and capacity as a person with the spiritual gift of celibacy can. That’s because the fire of romance is fueled by romantic love, not God’s love. Celibate fires often hidden behind the smoke of marriage, glossy photo packages, wedding ceremonies, diamond rings, and white picket fences.   Some work behind the scenes.  People who live celibate lives remind us that love is never satisfied on this earth, and that the transformation of human nature is possible through union with Christ.  The fire of romance propagates the earth.  The light of celibacy points us to heaven and propagates eternity.  Maybe it’s time to revisit the lessons a simple fire can teach us.

https://books.google.com/books?id=zMiV__25izEC&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq=%22elements+in+the+bible%22+fire+water++-.com&source=bl&ots=NWUp0wDMMX&sig=vn2eH8K67mJkwNVU3XxWRcnNvTY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwii7YeFkrnKAhXIYyYKHVuWDc4Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

https://books.google.com/books?id=q7R2NFp8mtwC&pg=PA63&lpg=PA63&dq=keener+unfulfilled+passion&source=bl&ots=c-agjPVLar&sig=FPcNMwb71BcsMsWxXL6_Ssrr3Dg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2zIfM1bvKAhWEOD4KHcVVAc4Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-timaeus/

http://www.rockrohr.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Luther-on-marriage-relations.pdf

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/12436318/0614%20proofs%2013%20Nasrallah%20FCNT%201%20Cor%20aca.pdf?sequence=1

https://books.google.com/books?id=s8ml0NOoOdQC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=%22place+for+sex%22+%22song+of+solomon%22&source=bl&ots=4GVotbrdkF&sig=IhAqsTwA90PgR2Wqx1mJbBs-i1U&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjzjdDUtsDKAhUB5iYKHfkQCGgQ6AEIOjAG#v=onepage&q&f=false

Do You Have the Gift of Singleness?