Be Fruitful And Multiply? An Alternative Message For High School Students

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I’ve listened to many “be fruitful and multiply” sermons over the years and have always chalked them up to preachers who never found the New Testament in their Bibles. But I heard one recently that was addressed to graduating high school seniors that left me speechless. In high Baptist style, the students marched in single file with caps and gowns on to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, sat on the first two pews marked “reserved,” and waited for their names to be called to walk onstage to get a new Bible and a picture with the preacher. Before the last one could sit down though, the preacher directed the audience (or is it still a congregation?) to turn their Bibles to Genesis Chapter 1. I felt a little dizzy and said a quick prayer, “Oh God, please don’t let this be what I think it’s going to be.” Unfortunately, it was, and to a degree I’ve never heard before. Just a few quotes:

“Okay seniors, you’ve reached your destination. Now it’s time to take your next step. Do you know what that’s going to be? It’s right here in the Bible. You’re going to be fruitful and multiply. That means it’s your time to make babies. That means one man and one woman. Let me say that again, one man and one woman.” The woman sitting behind me almost knocked my head off as she jumped to her feet clapping and cheering. Hoots and applause broke out all over the church, as if the home team just scored a touchdown. The pastor continued with other advice for them. “Now, let me make it clear that if you’re not physically defective in some way it’s your responsibility to make babies. The Bible says be fruitful and multiply. The people who don’t are immature and lazy. You’ve got to take the next step, because the future of the church depends on you.” Again, the congregation erupted in applause. I think I saw some confetti stream down from the balcony.

Church, if this is your way of shoring up the defenses around your nuclear families to guard against homosexuality, same sex marriage, and every other evil this world has to offer, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Here’s why: God can speak to a young person’s heart and tell them to remain as they are and not get married before they even know they have the spiritual gift of celibacy. When they reach those crossroads/decisions in their lives, they can be led off course by maps that are not correct and by foolish advice, like the sermon I quoted above. The things they are taught in church CANNOT be ambiguous. They have to be crystal clear. More importantly, they CANNOT be directed at the majority, like the “majority” who will marry and have families. God’s word does not operate on the same statistical principles as birth control pills. Advice given in church must include all of God’s children, not just those who will grow up and have families one day. If someone is considering a life of celibacy, they should be studying both the Old Testament and the words of Christ in the New Testament, especially 1 Corinthians. Other than serving as a historical lesson, the Mosaic Law as it pertains to human reproduction has no place in church teaching. A person who has the celibate gift will have enough insight into the New Testament to know that Christ’s death and resurrection nullified the Old Testament’s command to be fruitful and multiply. But confusing that insight with false teaching is JUST AS WRONG as a man asking another man’s wife out on a date. It’s even worse to assume that the first big decision a young person makes is who to marry and not discerning if they should get married at all. Teenagers mature sexually at different rates – both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Though it may seem unfathomable to the idolatrous church today, it is possible to mature sexually without having sex. Of the high school seniors present in church that Sunday morning, some of them could have been making marriage plans, some of them could have been dating, some of them could have been without boyfriends or girlfriends, and some of them could be totally confused and have no idea what they want to do. For the church to assume all young people are called to marriage and making babies is blasphemy.

For the students there that morning who didn’t feel called to traditional marriage, what did they PERCEIVE as their choices? There could be only two. 1) They could pursue the default lifestyles of cohabitation and homosexuality. There is plenty of support for them out there; in college, on the streets, and even in churches. How do churches support the homosexual lifestyle? By idolizing marriage and family and not presenting celibacy as a viable alternative, by not upgrading their denominational theology from the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament to the Jesus of the New Testament, and by defining family only in terms of the nuclear family and not recognizing spiritual children resulting from repentance and salvation. Many conservative congregations take pride in not being middle of the road churches. They regularly quote Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The same principle should apply to their teachings. They are either one hundred percent biblical and true or one hundred percent non-biblical and false. The admonition to be fruitful and multiply, when taken out of context and without explaining the new covenant of the New Testament, is one hundred percent false.

2) Of course the only other choice they perceived is a life of celibacy. What support is there for that option? There is certainly no support in the secular world. There is certainly no support in Protestant churches. So which lifestyle do you think those who don’t see marriage in their future are going to choose? Love and acceptance shacking up outside of marriage, a universally accepted homosexual lifestyle, or ridiculed as defective and fruitless in a church that doesn’t know what the truth is? It’s pretty obvious. The sermon I referred to above was streamed live on the internet and could potentially be responsible for untold numbers of young people entering the gay lifestyle where they are accepted and encouraged and where they don’t have to fit a predefined traditional “church family” role. I consider telling a group of high school seniors that they are expected to be fruitful and multiply to be pastoral malpractice, one of the highest forms of treason any church leader can be held responsible for.

The question I keep asking myself is why would a church silence the New Testament and Apostle Paul’s writings on human sexuality? After all, he had the most to say on the subject. Why would they not see a life of celibacy as a viable option and just as sacred as marriage and as meaningful as Paul presented it in 1 Corinthians? The only answer I can come up with is that the Baptist churches have sunken so deep in their divorce, adultery, birth control, abortion culture that the idea of self-control and a life without sex is beyond their comprehension. Maybe they are that averse to the word “celibacy” and everything it conjures up in their minds. Maybe they think it’s too Catholic. If that’s the case, may I suggest that the church reclaim the word “celibacy” and wipe it clean of the homosexuality and perversion the world has cast on it. If churches continue to play their one note chord of marriage and family, with celibacy an implied impossibility, all they are multiplying is the number of same sex marriages in the future and they are guaranteeing the death of traditional Christian marriage. Instead of looking at those with the celibate gift today as defective, consider us a witness to the power of God and proof that he still works miracles. Instead of seeing us as selfish and wanting to avoid responsibility, look at what we are giving up and what we are looking forward to in eternity with Christ. Instead of dismissing Paul’s words as only relevant for his time, consider us evidence that the Bible is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. Instead of trying to work us into your fruitful nuclear families, think of us as heralding a new age where there will be no marriages, babies, or families. So my advice for students is this: Read the Bible for yourself. If you hear anything in church about Genesis and being fruitful and multiplying without a discussion of the New Testament and celibacy for the kingdom of God, consider it false teaching. It doesn’t matter what the credentials of the person doing the talking is. It doesn’t matter what his job title is or how much money he makes. It doesn’t matter who is wife is or how many kids he has. He is not qualified to whisper one syllable of advice on this subject. He is more than likely a married man who has no clue. We are no longer living under Mosaic Law. You are free to remain as you are with lifetime chastity or get married. Notice that I used the words chastity and freedom in the same sentence. Is that radical enough? Apostle Paul said both marriage and celibacy are good. That’s what I say.

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The Hypocrisy Of The Church

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Many articles have been written about churches refusing to accept the resumes of qualified unmarried men when they look for a pastor. Not surprisingly, the reasons remain the same – They want a man who can relate to their families, they want a man who knows about the responsibility of a family, they want a man with a proven track record, they want a man who will not hit on the women in their church, they want a man who is not a homosexual, they want a man who has sewn his wild oats and settled down. Churches take pride on looking for their family man. They even brag about their family church and how they need a family preacher. The only problem is that none of it is in the Bible. Who will relate to unmarried people? Or do they not really matter? The requirement of a married preacher is never mentioned in scripture. What these churches are doing, however, is providing a deeply perverted witness to the rest of the world. The hypocrisy of the church is the number one reason we have same sex marriage in this country today. I realize many of them claim that a married man is what their congregations want. If that’s the case, then what gives congregations the authority to overwrite the scripture? Isn’t it really just a case of moral relativity disguised in choir wardrobes? Isn’t it just bigotry dressed up in Sunday clothes? If a congregation preferred a homosexual preacher, would that be written down as scripture too?

Now, if you asked a churchgoer what they had against an unmarried man being called to preach in their church, most of them would say they loved all single men and welcomed them into their church. This is another problem that needs to be underscored – Churches and their good intentions are far removed from reality and from what the world sees. Questions about marital status and number and age of children have been used for years to discriminate against women. What would happen if the EEOC had authority over the hiring practices of churches? That’s easy. All churches would be without a preacher tomorrow. But for now, they continue to work their cotton fields with a good rope on a tree limb for anybody that’s not white enough, married enough, or wealthy enough. To come under compliance with EEOC regulations, at least half of their preachers (CEOs) would have to be single men. What’s the chance of that ever happening?

Another thing that needs to be taken seriously is authenticity. For anybody to speak about the gift of celibacy (singleness) in church, they need to possess the gift themselves or have someone standing beside them who does. You can theorize all you want and talk about how things should be. But this is something the church must see. Paul was not afraid to say “I wish every man was like me.” But would Paul even be allowed in churches today? Married folks – How would you like me to host a marriage retreat at your church? See how light is thrown into dark shadows when the tables are reversed?

The Christmas Gift Nobody Wants

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The Southern Baptists’ David Platt recently posted a transcript of one of his sermons titled “The Gospel and Singleness.” See the link below to his radical.net web site. At first I thought it was a spoof, like a standup comic routine, except I didn’t hear any laughter. Like most Baptist preachers, he denies that the gift of celibacy even exists, but now he takes it a step further and calls it the Christmas gift nobody wants. Platt has a long history of shaming single men and telling them to man up and get married. Here are a few excerpts from the sermon. He focused mainly on 1 Corinthians 7:

“It’s clear that, obviously, there’s Paul making a statement here about singleness being a gift and marriage being a gift. The discussion revolves around what kind of gift is he referring to? Some people think he is talking about a subjective gift, much like the picture we have in 1 Corinthians 12, when it comes to spiritual gifts. This divine enabling for someone to be a single. Just like you have another spiritual gift, you have a gift of singleness.”

As usual, Platt starts out ridiculing Apostle Paul and anything to do with the gift of singleness. It’s still “singleness” to the Baptists because they can’t bring themselves to utter the word celibacy. In their comfortable “focus on the family” worlds, they don’t think twice about mocking those with such a gift by calling them “divinely enabled.” There are some protestant scholars today who are so uncomfortable with celibacy that they believe Paul had been married before he wrote the epistles. To acknowledge that much self control would shed too much light on their adulterous marriages. See the link to Denny Burk’s article. Paul did not identify himself as having the gift of celibacy because he was widowed or didn’t have a marriage license, but because he was giftedly committed to God to live without a sexual relationship. Yes, he was indeed divinely enabled, just as some people are today. But Platt speculates he might have been a homosexual. Like most Baptists, he has to discuss these matters amongst his brethren to see how they match up with the Bible. It’s called moral relativism, where popular opinion determines if something is accepted as biblical fact or dismissed as a “subjective gift.” It’s a theology based on changing culture, which Platt so eloquently described:

“How many people with the gift of marriage sit around and wonder, ‘Well, do I have the gift of marriage?’ Don’t answer that too quickly. The picture is, of course, I’ve got the gift of marriage . . . the reality is Scripture said you’re married.”

Yes, reality is scripture for the Baptists. Not the Bible. And they need to sit down for this shocking revelation: Marriage licenses are not scripture. Marriage licenses are not required for salvation. It almost seems as if Platt’s treatise is a study in how to talk about a trojan horse (marriage licensees) without ever mentioning them by name. It’s unfortunate that our morally bankrupt and totally depraved and Calvinized churches today can comfortably assume that every adult who is alive and breathing either has a marriage license or is “living in sin.” As a matter of fact, the SBC’s Ethics Commission President, Russell Moore, recently said marriage “preaches” the gospel and that single people are lost without one. He even believes fornication is “more dangerous” than adultery for a man because it takes a wife to forgive him. See links below. If you’re caught in a Baptist church not preaching the gospel with sex, woe be unto you:

“Here’s what I mean. What if what Paul is saying here is not, ‘We’ve got to figure out whether or not we’ve got the gift or not’ – because let’s be honest, regardless of whether or not a single person in this room thinks they have the gift or not, the reality is they’re still single.”

They’re still single? Why is it so easy for Platt to peg everyone in his audience as married or single? It’s because marriage and celibacy are not spiritual or sexual issues for the Baptists. They are legal issues. Marriage to them means no more than a marriage license and a preacher collecting his fee and singleness means no more than the absence of a marriage license. God comes to them through courthouse doors. That’s why they still haven’t figured out there’s a difference between “single” people waiting on marriage and people with the gift of celibacy waiting on the return of Christ. That’s why they don’t recognize the difference between a wife and a virgin (1 Corinthians 7:34). They can’t see virgins. They can only see marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies, wedding rings and bridal registries. To believe in something they can’t see would take faith. How would a young man (or woman) even discern if they had the gift of celibacy today? Should they read their Bibles? Should they pray and ask the Lord for guidance? Should they talk to their pastor? No. The Baptists have some new advice for them: They should ask their frat buddies in college:

“What’s interesting is I remember in college talking with guys and this was often the topic of conversation – the gift of singleness – and guys would kind of talk about it and wonder, ‘How do you know if you’ve got it?’ And if a guy, you know, wasn’t getting a date or something, he was like, ‘Well, maybe I’ve got the gift.’ And they would talk about it. But the reality is, if we’re really honest, they were talking about it like they certainly didn’t want it. This was like the Christmas gift you didn’t want, that you would immediately return when you got it. It was like, ‘Well, I hope I don’t have the gift. You know, I hope this doesn’t mean I have the gift. And I started thinking, ‘Okay, well, how do you know if you have the gift? And if it’s a gift, then why does nobody want it?’ So thinking about this picture here, I don’t believe this is what Paul is talking about here.”

What a decision to make – a keg of beer or a weekend without sex. If you consider the divorce rate, I’d say marriage is a Christmas gift nobody wants. This is where the moral relativism and comfortable assumptions come to their rescue. Since none of his frat buddies had the gift of celibacy, he felt comfortable assuming nobody had it. Can’t get a date? The Baptists have you covered. Don’t want a date? Your fate is worse than hell itself.

“The reality is every single one of us has one of those two gifts. Some of us have the gift of marriage at this moment and some of us have the gift of singleness – not necessarily a gift of singleness that will last 60 years.”

That’s so comfortable. Everybody has to have a gift to unwrap under the Christmas tree at this moment, right? Paul wasn’t even saying that marriage is a gift. The truth is, society can never understand the commitment of marriage as long as they don’t acknowledge the commitment of celibacy for people called to that life. The disrespect for marriage has finally caught up to the disrespect for celibacy. That’s why I consider marriage today to be a “subjective gift” and a “divinely enabled” disaster. In Matthew 19, Christ made it clear that the gift of celibacy cannot be understood or accepted by everybody. That includes men with five degrees, like David Platt. It does not mean it cannot be acknowledged and respected, though. As long as there are people like him in positions of church leadership, the gift of celibacy will never see respect. I understand he’s now in charge of the SBC’s International Mission Board and has recently cut the positions of over 1000 missionaries in order to funnel the savings to one of his internet startup companies. Hypocrisy – It’s what a lot of churches do best. Maybe he’s found a new place to share all of his . . . Christmas toys.

It’s really no surprise that Platt christened himself as an expert on singleness because he’s been married all of his adult life, since he was 21 years old. The only thing that can be gleaned from his “The Gospel And Singleness” is how to make up something if you don’t know what you’re talking about and how to rewrite scripture when it becomes uncomfortable and doesn’t agree with popular opinion. We have to keep in mind, though, what “gospel” means to the Baptists. They’ve used it to describe everything from “the gospel and homosexuality” to “the gospel and the American dream.” I understand they’re working on “the gospel and fried green butterbeans.” It basically means, “This is our opinion.” There’s no telling what Platt will have his hands on next. Stay tuned, though. He could take a vote to see if Jesus was married.

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

Was the Apostle Paul Married?

Premarital Sex?

http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2016/02/pastors_should_refuse_to_marry.html

http://www.thealabamabaptist.org/print-edition-article-detail.php?id_art=35171&pricat_art=10

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

If I Had A Son Or Daughter

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At the peach water tower in Clanton, AL

I live in an area where there are a lot of peach farms. Imagine that a peach growers seminar came to town, sponsored by our county cooperative extension office. Hundreds of people showed up asking a lot of similar questions about peaches. We were on the same wavelength, so to speak. The county had experts talking about different varities of peaches, soil types, irrigation systems, dormant hours, pesticides, everything you can think of that was related to peaches. When it was all over, everybody agreed that it was most informative and several people asked about another one next year. A week later, I got a call from the county agent, telling me that he received a letter from a man complaining about the seminar. He said he was a blueberry grower and lost his entire crop because he followed the seminar’s recommendations. The county agent called the man and explained to him the seminar was strictly for peach growers, which was made clear on all the publicity. The only answer the man could give was that he thought there was no difference in how blueberries and peaches were grown. He wrote an editorial for the newspaper, saying that he thought the county extension service was insensitive and non-inclusive and that we were all wrapped up in peach culture. Not wanting to leave anybody out, the county did a survey and found there were only two blueberry farms in the county, which makes sense because this is peach territory. It was later reported that we had the best peach crop in 15 years.  If we have a peach seminar next year, do you think it should include a half-day of blueberry advice just in case somebody else shows up who is confused, or should we continue with an all-peach seminar?

I realize this is not a perfect analogy, but if I had a son or daughter of any age waiting on marriage who attended a purity seminar, it wouldn’t matter to me how many people showed up who had made past mistakes, how dirty they felt, what their expectations were, whether it improved their dating life or self esteem, what kind of people they eventually married, how loud they complained, how uncomfortable they felt, how less of a person they felt, how religious or hateful they thought we were, how much shame they felt, how alienated or out of place they felt, or if they felt their lives were of less value. Honestly, I’ve wondered why anybody who was not a virgin would show up at a purity seminar to begin with. Are they confused? Do they not know what sex is? Actually, I’d like it better if they didn’t show up. If my child got something out of it and felt more committed to wait, that’s the only thing that would be important to me. I would do all I could to get the seminar back next year. Purity is always going to make people uncomfortable. Even the language we use is so offensive to the world that it brings up more straw men than we can keep up with. But we do have control over how our time and resources are spent. And we do have a choice about what our priorities are. Dirty chewing gum?  If it works, bring a truckload of it.  Christian priorities should never be rearranged to placate emotions or to be politically correct.

Eunuchs Through The Ages

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Mural painting from Sucevita monastery located in Bucovina (Northern Romania)

I think there are many people still confused about Christ’s words when he spoke of “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” in Matthew 19:12:

“For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

The disciples may not have known many eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb, or if they did they had never thought of them as eunuchs.  Plus, the technology to do sperm counts did not exist at that time.  But they certainly knew eunuchs who were made so by men. We are not told of the disciples’ reaction, but I can only imagine it was one of shock and horror, much like ours today. In wide-eyed amazement, they probably recalled the few people they knew who had met such a tragedy. They might have relived for a moment the gruesomeness that led to such a condition – the knife, blood, screams, and inhumanity of it all. And who knows, one of them could have participated in such a barbaric act. But what probably baffled them the most was the fact that these eunuchs were made so voluntarily by their own free will, without the cruelty of castration. I’m sure they were thinking, “What else but the blade of a knife could create a eunuch?” “Can a person will himself to be childless?” Plus, people with defective bodies were seen as unclean during that time. These are probably some of the same questions we ask today when we read these verses. We first have to see that Christ wanted us to think beyond the physiological effects of castration and understand the principle of permanence.  The thing that is really cut off with such an act is a man’s name and the possibility of heirs.  And I’m sure this slammed the breaks on the disciples expectations of divorce so hard that they are still sliding down the road today.  A person’s procreative abilities at the time of Christ were not something that could be turned on and off. This requires us though to see our bodies as God made them, not as they are made by 21st century vasectomies and tubal ligations. A eunuch at the time of Christ was a eunuch forever. There were no reversal procedures. Likewise, a person with the celibate gift is celibate forever. There are no reversal procedures. There doesn’t need to be.  And if you read closely, Christ didn’t say a person had to be a Catholic priest, take vows, or walk down the isle of a wedding chapel.  All of that is man-made tradition.  The person with the celibate gift is committed to Christ forever. Just like a husband and wife are committed to each other in marriage forever. I do believe eunuchs for the kingdom can be men or women. So the eunuch went from a state of disgrace and uncleanness at the bottom of Jewish society to a position of dignity for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He also gained the ability to produce children. In Isaiah 56:4-5, we read:

“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.”

So sex and babies were no longer needed to reproduce sons and daughters in the kingdom of God.  I’m sure that the change in priorities in Jewish heritage was a traumatic experience in itself. But honoring eunuchs did not disparage marriage. By making a pitiful condition a state to be admired, God highlighted the distance between the Jewish mind and his own kingdom. He highlighted the difference between the lineage on earth and no lineage in heaven.  In addition to permanence, I think the metaphor of the eunuch also indicates how difficult and painful celibacy can be.  I think the image of a surgical procedure gets that point across pretty well. The renunciation of a sexual relationship and sons and daughters hurts. Unfortunately, many religious leaders today (like Al Mohler and Russell Moore) can only defile the gift of celibacy with homosexuality and the call for all men to “man up” and get married. Even though our culture may not be able to conceive of virginity beyond “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” its biblical reality to come will not be counted in years. And the euphemism of “singleness will fair no better.

By choosing the metaphor of a eunuch, Christ acknowledged that celibacy does not stand in opposition to marriage. It strengthens it. To me, there even seems to be a reciprocal relationship between the two – the difficulty of faithful marriage linked to the difficulty of faithful celibacy. The person with the celibate gift can give up no more than what is realized as an ideal marriage in the current age. But his status is always on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. By making a pitiful condition a state to be admired, God still highlights the distance between the American mind and his own kingdom in heaven. Christ was also a eunuch, the same man who created marriage. He and his disciples may actually have been ridiculed as eunuchs. Marriage today may be broken with same sex marriage, divorce, domestic partnerships, and civil unions. But celibacy for the kingdom is as intact as it was 2000 years ago.

http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/03/02/permanence-before-experience-the-wisdom-of-marriage/

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-reviews-same-sex-attraction-and-the-church

http://pulpitandpen.org/2015/12/10/why-gay-celibacy-is-not-the-gospel-centered-answer/

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/11/04/3588151/southern-baptists-ex-gay-mixed-messages/

http://www.ebireflections.com/2/9/6

Paul’s Present Distress

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” I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.” 1 Corinthians 7:26.

Paul’s “present distress” has been used to discount this section of his letter to the Corinthians. Some think that since there a calamity of some type being inflected on the people – whether famine, disease, earthquake, etc. – that Paul was writing for people who were undergoing circumstances that we can’t relate to. This distress is often interpreted to be no more than a disclaimer that reads, “This is all my opinion. So don’t take anything too serious.” But how should we take it? I don’t think we should take one inch off of it that we don’t give the rest of the Bible. All of Paul’s words are the inspired word of God. Yes, we are living in a time when the Bible strikes a sharp contrast to surrounding culture. And I’m sure many people who are reading it for the first time are looking for “outs” and disclaimers and reasons why it doesn’t apply to their lives. But this is not one of them. Paul could have considered the present distress to be the period of time he was living in and waiting for the second advent of Christ. We are in the same distress, living in a time between ages. The distress is spreading the good news around the world and making as many children of God as possible, with the knowledge of what happens to people who perish without accepting Christ. Do you think Paul’s distress could have been any worse that Christians are experiencing in 21st century America? Paul spent time in prison for expressing his religious beliefs. People in America have too, like Kim Davis. Christians are being targeted and executed all over the world by terrorists and other extremists. The gunman in a recent shooting at a campus in Oregon shot only those students who said they were Christians. If we exhumed Paul from the grave and took him on a guided tour through our big cities and halls of government, what would be his assessment? Would he think it was a walk in the park? I tend to think he would consider our circumstances quite a distress.

Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament. By our standards today, he was beyond a genius. God could have chosen anyone to write the epistles. He could have created anyone to play the role of Paul. He did. He made Paul. He could have transported Shakespeare back in time. He didn’t. Paul was a humble man who didn’t want to appear superior or authoritative. He was not writing his letters on an iPad from the comfort of a beach side condo. He was in prison. I don’t think we should use his humility as an excuse to bypass sections of the Bible that do not fit our times or make us uncomfortable. We should use it as a reason to take him more seriously.

Marriage – Asking The Wrong Questions

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Autumn Colors by Autumn de Forest

Who has God picked out for me? When will I meet him? What should I do to prepare for my wedding? Should I save sex for marriage? Should I get married in church? There is a whole industry today built around preparing for marriage – books, magazines, newspaper articles, blogs, TV shows, conferences, etc. The list is endless. It’s taken for granted that everybody who is not married is looking for marriage. Singleness is a disease to be cured. Most church singles groups are set up for this very reason – to get you married as soon as possible. The only problem is that it’s not biblical. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:25-26:

25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

“It is good for a man so to be” in verse 26 is directly referring to “virgins” in verse 25. Yes, believe it or not, virginity was defined in terms of both men and women in the Bible. What a stark contrast to the feminine based definition of virginity that permeates society today. Are you in shock? If you are, that’s not all. If it’s good for a man or a woman to be a virgin, why has marriage and family life been elevated to idolatry status? We first have to understand that marriage has become a means to an end. The golden calf of sex is what society worships today. Marriage is but a legal detail to this end. In a culture of greed and superficiality, marriage is but an artificial symbol of adulthood and responsibility. It becomes the substitution for self-control. The vocabulary of “premarital sex” has been used for quite a while in our culture. Does that mean when a person does get married that all the before sex becomes . . . okay? Does the marriage ceremony magically throw a person back in a time warp? I’m afraid not. “Premarital sex” is just euphemism for fornication. It’s supposed to make us feel better about those heavy biblical words. Biblically, marriage and sex should go together like a sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately, we have traveled light years from that ideal. Sexual purity has been separated from single life and sexual faithfulness has been separated from married life. And that adds up to moral decay. According to the latest numbers from the CDC, the average number of sexual partners in a lifetime for men ages 25-44 is 6.6 and 4.3 for women. When the scriptural definitions of marriage and singleness are obliterated and their distinctions disappear, it is only a matter of time before the world redefines both of them. Marriage you say? Would you like that adulterous, open, heterosexual, homosexual, or polygamous? Singleness you say? Would you like that cohabitating, playing the field, loving commitments, or test-drives before you buy? When viewed in light of the big picture, we can see how sexuality is much more than a private decision between two people. A biblical view of it is actually necessary for human civilization to survive. But it starts with each one of us.

It starts with a simple question. For singles waiting for marriage to have sex, I encourage you to take a step back and look at the big picture. Realize the significance of your lives in the world today. Instead of asking “who has God chosen for me?” ask yourself “is marriage right for me?” When a life of celibacy is considered as an option, the natural order of God’s creation is allowed to unfold. God’s concerns must be balanced with the world’s concerns in order for a Christian culture to survive. That cannot be done if everybody is married. Christianity has nothing to do with the majority opinion. When the default question has become “whom will I marry?” the inhabitants of a society will look inward to themselves and to their own pleasures. Self control will become a foreign concept in a land of unrestrained desire. Marriage will become a civil right, whether traditional or same sex. Everybody will have to have a slice of the pie. A baby’s cry will cause gasps of glorious anticipation. Sound familiar? The truth is that the love between a mother and child does not represent the pinnacle of Christian love. The love between Christ and the church does. Contrary to what Southern Baptists may believe, God HAS NOT ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. No, there’s nothing wrong with marriage. But the sexual ethics overlying the scriptures require us to look forward into eternity while spiritually multiplying, not just backward into the Old Testament fruitfully multiplying with babies. That can only be done when both marriage and celibacy are seen as viable alternatives. That has not been done in 500 years.

The marriage/celibacy dichotomy is as much a part of God’s creation as night and day. It cannot be separated without disastrous consequences, like the Supreme Court’s legalization of same sex marriage. I realize there are many church leaders (especially Protestants) who echo the words of Martin Luther on celibacy: “But these are rare; not one in a thousand can do it: it is one of God’s special miracles.” The problem is that God never mentioned numbers and who are we to say who can do it and who cannot? Church leaders use this kind of worldly thinking as an excuse for not discussing the options of marriage and celibacy. And they use the “only a few” rationale as a reason to circle their wagons around traditional families, while trying to fight the onslaught of same sex marriage. “Us against them.” I guess putting God in a box does make everybody feel comfortable. But doesn’t every church have the same odds of having celibates in their congregation as well as marrieds? If you don’t expect faithful singles, how will you ever see them in your church? It becomes a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy.  Could somebody pass the Pampers?  When we’re contemplating God’s will for our lives, we need to throw away the calculators, toss out the statistical charts, and forget the majority opinions. They will mean absolutely nothing in heaven.  Look where the faulty logic of Martin Luther got us. Do we want to continue on the road of satisfying every sexual desire or realize that God’s will requires self-control, both in marriage and celibacy.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/n.htm

http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/basicbeliefs.asp