Celibacy, Discerning A Higher Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage – Turning The Tables

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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 Surprising Comfort Of Celibacy

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If I live to be 100 years old, the one thing I will remember about the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage is their assumption that gays were “condemned to live in loneliness” without marriage. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that they were just expressing what most Americans already felt and what most churches already taught – that a family and comfortable sex lives were required to enter adulthood in America. I’ve written for years about the church’s idolatrous worship of sex, but never thought I see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would declare marriage a constitutional right. But this didn’t happen overnight. So what was it that made Justice Kennedy believe that gay people were “condemned to live in loneliness?” The church. Not just the Catholics and Protestants, but all of them. Where do people get married? The church. What institution has traditionally set the standards for sexual ethics? The church. I believe Kennedy was calling out churches as hypocrites because the sexual ethics that they preached didn’t match the sexual ethics that they practiced. He packed a lot of punch into that one word, “condemned.” I can hear him asking churches, “Who are you to condemn those who can’t get married when you can’t remain faithful in your own marriages?” “Who are you to talk about marriage when half of your congregations will get divorced?” With “condemned,” he was also taking a stab at church weddings and the false separation of church and state that has existed in this country since its founding. Indeed, here we have a case where the church is not condemning the state. Rather, the state is condemning the church. So this contrived separation may get even wider. What condemned gay people to live in loneliness? Are we so naive as to believe that they didn’t have sexual relationships because they didn’t have marriage licenses and the blessings of church weddings? No. What condemned them was the church’s idolatrous worship of heterosexual marriages and families. What condemned them was the absence of any other alternative besides family life. What condemned them was the church’s narrow mindedness and inability to see reality beyond their own stained glass windows and rose colored glasses. What condemned them was their own pride, greed, and unwillingness to talk about such matters in their churches. So I think Justice Kennedy was also saying to the church, “You made some false assumptions. So I’ll make some false assumptions.” For instance, the church has also seen single adults as adolescents until they married. So, the Supreme Court lumped them in with gays too. Why not? They never had an identity to begin with. It was like Kennedy was giving the faithful a taste of their own medicine. He took the church’s own traditions and unwritten rules, twisted them around a bit, and threw them right back at the pulpits.

However, all of these assumptions and elevation of marriage to a civil right also underscore why lifelong virginity is a spiritual gift. Not only is it difficult in and of itself, society’s dismissal of it does not lead to a life of comfortable acceptance. Yes, I get lonely, very lonely indeed. But I don’t think I’m any lonelier than Christ was while on this earth. I don’t expect the state, church, or anybody else to do anything about my loneliness. I accept it. I relish it. And I dare say most of us with this gift would say the same thing. I realize that for a person to live today with unmet desires is unheard of and that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is sacred as scripture. But all traditions and family legacies were tossed out the door when Christ entered the world. I live by different rules. In a real way, I see my role today as making comfortable people uncomfortable and taking the padded cushions out of comfortable padded pews. I don’t look to a marriage to define me as an adult. God has already done that. I don’t look at surveys. I don’t take votes. And I don’t care how popular or unpopular I may be. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that just because the Bible allows for a life of marriage or celibacy that half the people must be married and half the people must be celibates. That will never be the case. Even if there have been only five people with the charism of virginity since the time of Christ, the Bible is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. God is not a God of democracy. He is a king. He does not have to consult a supreme court. He is the court and final judge.

What Is Marriage?

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What is the one thing that epitomizes sexual immorality, debauchery, greed, lust, unfaithfulness, broken homes, and selfishness? I think it’s marriage. What could be more hypocritical than lavish church weddings and a 50% divorce rate? The truth is, God was never present in most of these choreographed ceremonies. No matter how much money preachers were paid off, they couldn’t take his place. Did I mention the pineapple punch? Most weddings are nothing more than extended celebrations of greed and flagships of social class, cocktail parties with a twist. Did I mention gossip? How many children are they going to have? Who is his father? Has she been married before? What does he do for a living? Where are they going to live? Oh, the drama, the excitement. Oh please. How long is “’til death do us part?” The divorce culture is indeed largely responsible for the downward spiral of ethics in America today. It’s responsible for the emotionally crippled children who will carry the same patterns into future generations. What a price to pay for sex worship. Now there are children who don’t even know who their fathers are. Marriage has become such an expectation to enter adulthood that homosexual marriage has been accepted. Come one, come all. Get your marriage licenses today! Desire has become such a major part of the human narrative that it’s not natural for anyone to deny their sexual desires, no matter how perverted they may be. Is it any surprise that the number one group responsible for pedophilia in the U.S. is married men? Greed knows no end. Let’s not forget the women. After bored housewives read 50 Shades of Gray, many “master bedrooms” took on a whole new meaning. The big question now is whether traditional marriage between a man and woman is even relevant today. Its definition has changed so much that its biblical significance is not even recognizable.

Why am I so down on marriage? Because married people are down on celibacy. In recent years, the main context within which Christians have spoken about celibacy has been homosexuality. And since the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage last year, it’s taken a more aggressive tone. You will be hard pressed to find anything positive written about celibacy today, especially within Protestant circles. Parents today are more worried about their children living celibate and lonely lives than they are about them getting an education and a job. It’s a fate worse than AIDS or any mosquito born disease. The only thing evangelicals understand about celibacy is that it’s what gays and lesbians are supposed to do to keep them in line with God’s word. “It’s what keeps them from sinning,” one older charismatic preacher told me. To them it’s abnormal and not natural. It’s the identity they can assign to any single person over 25. It’s the reason they feel good about avoiding them and excluding them from their church “families.” They are the people they protect their children from, those sinister celibate people. As one little boy said to his mother as they passed me on a hiking trail last year, “Mom, he must be one of those single people you talked about, one of those people who are lost and don’t know where they’re going.” Good job mom. But what about the gift of celibacy Paul spoke of in the Bible? Parents who call themselves Christians today don’t have a clue. All they care about is protecting their brood and looking out for their own comfort. They’re quick though to tell you celibacy is a Catholic problem and they want no part of it. Many of them think it’s a natural result of trying to enforce it on men who should have been married because sexual desire, as they repeat over and over again, cannot be controlled. Well, I guess they have a track record that proves that. The Southern Baptists have even become so paranoid that their Andrew Walker said it is “sinful” for young people to wait beyond their teenage years to get married and that it’s “impractical” to expect virginity beyond that age:

“The reality is, starting at the age of 12, 13, boys and men, growing up into maturity, are hardwired for something that God gave us a desire for and an outlet for. And so to suppress that becomes more difficult the older you get.”

Yes, it’s difficult for people like the Baptists because they idolize sex and marriage. They know no other way of life. Their “reality” has replaced any biblical principles they may have had at one time. It’s hard wired in them. It’s the same excuse they used for divorce. Faithfulness became too difficult after years of boring marriages, so they had to look for other outlets. No fault divorce was the answer. Yes, dear Jesus, it’s just too hard for people who are slaves to sex. I should have been married at 12 and here I am at 55. What would a good churchgoing, married-up, iron sharpened “man of God” say about me? I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know that this is what happens when a society places too much value on either celibacy or marriage. It happened 500 years ago with celibacy and the Protestant reformation and it is happening today with marriage and the idol worship of sex and children. So married folks and church “families,” I would encourage you to think before you speak and be aware of your history and legacies, or else you may be the ones “condemned to live in loneliness” as Justice Kennedy so eloquently put it. Just because something is traditional does not mean it’s Christian. As a matter of fact, there is nothing innately Christian about having children. There is, however, something innately Christian about the charism of virginity. Get to know the people in your congregations who do not fit your typical “church family” and see how they line up with your stereotypes. Allow your minds the possibility that celibacy may be possible in your children if they live beyond teenage years. And if you really want to expand your thinking, allow the possibility that celibacy may be God’s will for some of their lives. Accept the fact that it can be a very positive response to Christ and just as natural as your own marriages. Otherwise, just as you look at my biblical celibacy as wrong and sinful, I will continue to look at your adulterated marriages as state sanctioned sexual partnerships. If you can’t make room for exceptions in your narrow minds, I can’t make room for you.

http://www.npr.org/2015/03/10/388948950/southern-baptist-leaders-highlight-benefits-of-youthful-matrimony

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/

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/

Click to access 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?

 

Celibacy And Visual Ethics

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I’ve always wondered what people mean when they say men are more visual than women. Do they mean men can read an eye chart better than women, that men can see the figure of women from a greater distance, that men can’t control their sexual desires? I think it’s the latter. Our society says sexual immorality is not a self-control problem, but a visual problem. It says that men are just not able to tame their sexual desires and that their eyes focus at the mercy of a “fallen” world, a world that has “evolved” with its own innate wisdom. This reasoning falls in line with what most churches are practicing today – visual ethics. Not the ethics associated with visual arts, but a theology of ethics based on things that can be seen while ignoring things that cannot be seen. Kate Hurley has an excellent example of this on Single Matters:

“When my dad died, I lost something tangible. People called me. They held me when I cried and asked me to talk about what I was going through. They came to his memorial service. It meant the world to me. I needed family around me during that grieving process. People bound up the wounds, told me it was going to be okay, and walked with me through the healing process. They rose to the occasion and helped me recover. When it comes to being in my 30s and facing the prospect of not having a traditional family, though, people don’t know what to do with my frustration. “There’s nothing there. How could you be in pain?”

The only way to see the invisible pain of barrenness is to get to know a person on a level that is deeper than what we know as “friends.” In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), consider how the concept of neighbor changed for a lawyer who was concerned with his own eternal life. At first, he was worried about definitions – like any good lawyer would be – and asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus told the story of the man who was stripped and beaten and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. When Jesus asked the lawyer which three men was his neighbor, it would have made more sense for him to answer it was the priest or Levite. They would have been expected to show compassion to the sick and injured. But instead of answering with the only choice left, the Samaritan, he said it was “The one who had mercy on him.” Luke 10:37. Jesus forced the lawyer to see the invisible virtue of mercy. The kind of neighborliness Jesus had in mind required him to see beyond the taken for granted stereotypes of a priest, Levite, and a Samaritan. The same principles apply to us today. Meeting people’s needs should not depend on the visual of a situation. In this parable, mercy happened to be found in the least expected Samaritan, an enemy of mixed race, the very man who would be expected to walk on by. For the Samaritan to show mercy and stop and render aid, the visible stereotypes of a priest and Levite had to give way to the invisible thing called hope. Jesus did this by reframing the lawyer’s question from “who is my neighbor?” to “who is the neighbor?” He might have expected Jesus to give him the names of people he should and should not consider neighbors. Instead, Jesus expanded the question to “what does it take to be a neighbor?” In this case, it took mercy.

Likewise, meeting people’s needs should not depend on the presence or absence of wedding rings. Without the visuals of a family, soccer mom bumper stickers, and membership in the local PTA, single adults tend to disappear beneath the pews of American churches. They too have been beaten up and left for dead. Real faith does not wait on something to be seen or someone to cry for help. Just like life itself and the invisible human embryo, it puts other people first and us last. Just as we don’t need proof of God’s existence, we don’t need proof of a need before we can act on it. Consider Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

For many in the religious community though, faith goes no deeper than what they see. Their moral compass is guided by the rightness of their sex lives, the visual of a pregnant abdomen, and sanctified by the love for children. It looks good. It feels warm and fuzzy. It brings money into the church. But it’s not biblical. Family values are not Christian values. Maternal love is not the pinnacle of love in this universe. And there is absolutely nothing eternal about marriage. If churches base their faith on the superficial and tangible, they will only respond to the superficial and tangible. The assurance about what they don’t see will be replaced by evidence of things they do see. That’s a shallow faith, one just as legalistic as the lawyer in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As Abraham Lincoln said: “To believe in the things you can see and touch is no belief at all; but to believe in the unseen is a triumph and a blessing.”

Married people may be tempted to say, “but I don’t do anything to make singles feel unloved or not part of our church family.” That’s precisely my point. Silence can be louder than anything you say or do, especially in the absence of action. This is especially true when it comes to lifestyle affirmations because we have only two choices, marriage and celibacy. Affirming one often discourages the other. When married life is affirmed without a concomitant affirmation of celibate life, it results in a discrimination that cuts just as deep as any racial discrimination. It throws salt into the open wounds of barrenness. It leads to a grief more profound than the loss of a family member. Think of all the things your church does to visibly affirm marriage and family life – requiring married preachers, marriage sermons, marriage conferences, wedding announcements, wedding ceremonies, baby showers, receptions, birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, graduation celebrations, age and marital status based groups, etc. Everything a church does sends signals to the community. Singles are free to draw their own conclusions. That’s part of human preservation. For instance, if a Protestant man walked into Jewish synagogue where he was the only person not wearing a yarmulke, would you expect him to feel out of place? Would it be reasonable for him to assume that wearing one was a requirement for that group of people? I would think so. A single adult can feel the same way in a church where everyone is wearing wedding rings and all activities are centered on nuclear families. Just like the man who was beaten could rightly assume the priest and Levite did not care about his situation, he can rightly assume that marriage is a requirement for that church. He could be waiting for someone to stop and just say hello, for someone to listen to him, for a neighbor who can see beyond the absence of a wedding ring on a finger.

Why It Stinks To Be Unintentionally Overlooked

https://books.google.com/books?id=ifG7Mmp6RXUC&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139&dq=%22good+samaritan%22+%22least+expect%22+enemy+-.com&source=bl&ots=u3nu4CSf5x&sig=kLBUvmhH7HqY0cDs527afBYwjRY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbjvLE-KnKAhXIQyYKHa46CrgQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q=%22good%20samaritan%22%20%22least%20expect%22%20enemy%20-.com&f=false

Eunuchs For The Kingdom Define Marriage For The World

feast-of-the-tabernacle-yvette-co

Feast Of The Tabernacle by Yvette Co

After the Pharisees had asked Jesus about divorce and remarriage and after he reinforced the permanency of marriage in Matthew 19, note who was the most dismayed. It was the disciples. “If we can’t get rid of our wives when we want to, then it would be better for us not to marry! We will stay single for the rest of our lives!” The very men who knew Jesus best and were on the front lines of the new Christianity were now joining the Pharisees in defense of divorce. Why? The reason is because it allowed them to continue to have sex without commitment. It allowed them to continue to make a mockery of marriage. This should tell us something about what marriage had become in 1st century society. And really, if they had such a shallow view of marriage, their lifestyles between marriages probably weren’t much better. They could pretend to be married for a while and then pretend to be single for a while, and on and on. If their wives got old and cranky, they could divorce them. If their wives burned the biscuits, they could divorce them. If their wives got sick, they could divorce them. They could divorce them and find a hot young babe to meet their sexual needs. Does that sound familiar? It should, because we’re in the same boat today. And we’re still asking the same questions. Consider what Tim Rymel, a man who identified himself as an “Exodus Casualty,” wrote in The Baptist Standard in August of 2014:

“How would heterosexuals feel about being told celibacy is their only option? They could never marry, never have families and never experience the love, joy and intimacy of being with the loves of their lives?”

How would Christ respond to those questions? The same way he responded to the disciples: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Who does that leave to be married? It leaves only those who were not chosen to be single. Christ didn’t say, “all men can’t be married, only those I have chosen. Instead, he bases his definition of marriage on the third type of eunuch he described, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. That does not include homosexuals. It can’t because the definition of a eunuch has nothing to do with sexual orientation, only reproduction. Actually, there’s no such thing as sexual orientation. That’s a figment of modern man’s imagination. On top of that, homosexuals can’t reproduce – biologically or spiritually. I think the reason Christ may have chosen the metaphor of the eunuch is because reproduction could be confirmed visually through pregnancy and children. And the visual of pregnancy serves as a direct link to the sexual relationship that is needed for reproduction. Hence, the eunuch for the kingdom points to the gift aspect of celibacy and self control. If becoming a eunuch for the kingdom of God cut off sexual desire, then what did Christ mean in verse 12 when he said “made themselves eunuchs?” He’s certainly not talking about a man taking a knife to himself. Made themselves eunuchs here is the equivalent of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:37: ” Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.” A eunuch for the kingdom can still have sexual desire and intercourse. That’s the will he has power over. Otherwise, why would the disciples have bitterly complained about marriage and its permanency? Only the third type of eunuch addresses a man’s will.

There are several instances of a series of three in the Bible with the emphasis on the third, such as Peter denying Christ three times and then the rooster crowing. In the same manner, Christ uses the first and second eunuch to build up to the third type, the main focus of verse 12. This is so because the disciples have a choice, and this is the only option that has a choice. They were not born with genetic abnormalities and they were not castrated, or at least we have no record of that. But they did have a choice about remaining celibate for the kingdom of heaven. It’s also interesting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the third and last feast commanded by the Lord, the Israelite men lived in small huts outside their houses. Living in these small huts reminded them that mortality is not the final resting place for mankind. Likewise, choosing to be a eunuch today for the kingdom of heaven, the third eunuch described, reminds us that our mortality is not the final resting place for mankind.

So Christ actually used the eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven to connect sex back to marriage and to reinforce the permanency of the commitment. At the same time, he gave a new definition and identity to those who choose not to marry or have sexual relations and reinforced the permanency of that commitment.

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/texas-baptist-forum/16827-letters-celibacy-a-personal-decision

http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Papers/John7-9.5.html

The Sacredness Of Celibacy

read-holy-bible

No responsibility, no commitment, extended adolescence, wasting time. You can’t trust them. I know what the world – and the church – says about singleness. To understand the sacredness of celibacy, we first have to uncover the pretense of singleness. It all starts in church. Churches typically segregate members based on age and marital status, under the assumption that these criteria determine a person’s “life stage.” Division by age is pretty much a no brainer for kids. But things get a little more complicated with adults, especially adults who are not holding a marriage license. In a typical singles class, you could have a 20 year old virgin, a 30 year old divorcee, a 40 year old widow, a 50 year old transgender, and a 60 year old homosexual. How do they relate to each other? They don’t. It’s just more comfortable and more politically correct to pile everybody into the same boat. And it provides everybody with an equal shot in the dating game. You see, relating to each other and meeting each other’s needs doesn’t matter much to the church. What matters is that people keep coming back and putting more money in the offering plates.

But biblically speaking, what is marriage and what is singleness? According to Webster’s Dictionary, marriage is a legal contract between two people and singles are people who don’t have one. However we know in the Bible that sex initiates marriage, not a wedding ceremony or legal contract (1 Cor 6:16). Sadly, the church has adopted the standards of the world. It does not see sexual ethics as the responsibility of individual members, but of the courthouse. The courts define marriage, all types of marriages, and the courts define singleness. Sexual purity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage have been relegated to quaint old-fashioned ideas. So when Paul talks about marriage, he is not talking about our idea of a temporary living arrangement. When he talks about virgins, he is not talking about our idea of singleness. He says something else that is foreign to our ears, that everybody is either called to celibacy or to marriage between a man and woman. But if you choose celibacy, the U.S. Supreme Court will tell you that you’re doomed to loneliness. If you choose marriage, you’re expected to have kids and circle your wagon around the throne of the family. It may seem like a loose-loose situation. But it’s a decision that every Christian must make. If you enter marriage without considering celibacy, you are – in effect – denying the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ and casting doubt on salvation and spiritual rebirth.

When Paul talks about the gift of celibacy and remaining unmarried (a virgin), he is not talking about single people waiting on marriage. He is talking about a commitment between God and a believing Christian that is just as real as the commitment between any husband and wife in marriage. Matthew 19 and Jesus’ comment about eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven makes that a little clearer, I think. I know that many churches teach that if you’re single you have the gift of singleness and if you’re married you have the gift of marriage. That’s not true. When you consider the whole metaphor of the eunuch, it’s clear that choosing to be a spiritual eunuch concerned about the coming kingdom of God is much more than a default state of waiting on a spouse. Being any one of the three eunuchs in Matthew 19:12 requires an event; whether it’s a birth with genetic anomalies or an act of violence or a conscious decision. All of them preclude a sexual relationship required for marriage. In the case of a conscious decision to be a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven, it is intentionally chosen for a specific reason, much the same as husbands and wives choose each other in marriage. It is not the default state of singleness while waiting on a spouse. I would say celibacy is even a deeper commitment because it involves caring for the things that belong to the Lord, not the world. Notice also in 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul does not define those with the gift of celibacy based on their marital status and something they don’t have, but rather on something they do have. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33:

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

I think it’s fair to substitute values for cares. The married person expresses his values for the world through marriage. The celibate person expresses his cares for the Lord through virginity. Viewed in this light, it’s easy to see why Paul considered it a better choice. So discerning marriage or celibacy comes down to a question of whom do you want to please – the world or God? That does not mean that a person cannot serve God in marriage. It means they cannot serve God with the same energy, insight, motivation, identity, or frame of mind that a virgin can. So in celibacy, a person remains totally devoted in Christ during his entire lifetime and his priorities do not change. However, in marriage, a person’s devotion is divided and his priorities do change. Change is consistent with the world. It’s not consistent with eternity.

Have you ever noticed how married people sometimes become so one flesh that they even look like each other? I have known people whose very identities are tied up with their spouses. It’s even hard for me to think of them as individuals. They’re couples. That’s a good thing and I think it’s what God intended for marriage. Think about the ramifications though when that same “oneness” occurs in the gift of celibacy. Instead of taking on the image of a spouse, we are called to take on the image of Christ. It’s our job to change the meaning of procreation from childbirth to spiritual birth. It’s our job to announce his eminent return and to bridge the time between the ages, between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. Yes, marriage is sacred. But celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God is sacred and supernatural.

Misconceptions About The Spiritual Gift Of Celibacy

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“They’re Gay, They’re Christian And They’re Celibate!” the headline screams. I think I’ll write an article and title it, “They’re Horses, They’re Flying And They Have Four Legs!” There are so many false beliefs about the gift of celibacy I can’t keep up with them. The world has infiltrated the church and has replaced the word of God with opinion polls and statistics. In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the misconceptions surrounding celibacy.

First, the word “gift” that the world uses to describe celibacy is not the same “gift” that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 7. It is not something that is bestowed on a person for good behavior. It’s not a reward. It is not something that can be earned. It is not a lifestyle that is set against marriage. Biblical celibacy is freely chosen. It is not associated with vows. When understood from a biblical point of view, celibacy does not disparage marriage. It can’t exist without it and marriage can’t exist without celibacy. But many people refuse to acknowledge this biblical dichotomy and choose to follow whichever road gets them a seat at the right hand of God. If you do an internet search on “marriage and celibacy – which one is better?” you’ll be reading for a long time. To the question “which one is better,” I would answer: Which is better – Day or night? Summer or winter? Male or female?

At the heart of the gift of celibacy though is self-control. The real Christian lifestyle dichotomy consists of those who cannot control their sexual desires and choose marriage and those who can control their sexual desires and choose celibacy. Both of them require faith. I think this is one of the reasons Christ chose the metaphor of the eunuch in Matthew 19 to represent those who are called to celibacy. It’s just as hard for a man to castrate himself as it is for him to bring every aspect of his life under control, including his sexual desires – just like it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Of course, churches lean heavy toward the marriage and family side of the equation. When they do, they are denying the part of the Bible that’s called “The New Testament.” One of the gifts that the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ brought into the world was the spiritual rebirth of those who believe in him. We have a world today that is just as blind as Nicodemus in John 3:4 when he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” During the Old Testament, there was only one path to fruitfulness – procreation through sex. After Christ, it became possible to procreate through discipleship and making spiritual believers. The focus was no longer on having sex and making babies. It was on multiplying the number of souls for the kingdom of heaven. If you deny that, you are denying Christ. So really the only gift in this whole story is Christ himself. Unfortunately, there are still churches who teach the only way to be fruitful and multiply is to get married, heave sex, and make babies. They are living under the Old Covenant and creation order mandate. I would put over 90% of all Protestant churches in that category. Consider how big the wedding business is in this country – $55 billion dollars in 2014.

Even worse, instead of associating celibacy with self-control, sacrifice, rebirth and spiritual children, churches today associate it with homosexuality. In my opinion, that is an abomination. Non-Christians are constantly mocking and laughing at the church. And right now the world could sell front row tickets to a comedy show in most any church in America. If a young man or woman today feels called to the celibate life, they’re not going to find much support in church – because gay and celibacy are talked about as if they go together like a hand in glove. Here are a few recent headlines from churches and religious organizations:

Detroit Catholic Couple Provide Example Of ‘Gay Holiness’
New Dallas Episcopal Bishop Tells Gay Members To Marry
The Next Synod Battle: Married Priests?
Priest Paid His Male ‘Sex Master’ From Collection Plate
The Challenge Of Being Gary, Married, And Mormon
Why Gay Celibacy Is Not The Gospel-Centered Answer
Heterosexuality Is Godliness
The Plausibility of the Celibate Life for the Same-Sex Attracted
At Issue: Could it be celibacy, not homosexuality?
Celibate Gay Christians: Is That Biblical?
Finding Love In The Church As A Celibate Gay Christian
Gay, Catholic, And Doing Fine
Does God Have A Plan For Same-Sex Relationships?
Is Divorce Equivalent To Homosexuality?
Same Sex Marriage And The Future
50 Resources For Equipping The Church On Homosexuality

So if you had a daughter who was trying to discern marriage or celibacy, where would you point her? Who is even talking about celibacy as a spiritual gift? Not Protestant churches. If you do a Google search on celibacy and church, 100% of the first 100 results are about homosexuality and celibacy in the Catholic Church. On their Baptist Press web site in 2011, the SBC even conceded: “In today’s twisted world, Paul’s gift of celibacy would most likely be misinterpreted as homosexual tendencies.” I’ve got news for them. It’s way beyond that point. Let’s turn the tables a while. If I viewed marriage the same way Protestants view celibacy, I may be inclined to approach a married couple in the fellowship hall of your church and make a few observations:

“Gee, are you two still married?”
“How long did you wait before you adulterated?”
“You’re really faithful to each other? I don’t believe it. Sexual desire is just too powerful for that kind of commitment.”
“How can you be faithful with so much porn around?”
“You know, only a few people are truly called to marriage.”
“What are you really doing on the weekends dude?”
“How did you know marriage was really for you?”
“So, did you rape her on your first date?”
“Well, I’m sure ya’ll had to get married.”
“After you had premarital sex, had long did it take to get married?”
“Do you have a voluntary or involuntary marriage?”
“Are you two accountable to anybody?”
“Are you sure you’re qualified to teach a Sunday School class? There are single people in there.”
“You both are getting up in age. How long are you going to keep up this extended marriage charade?”
“Do ya’ll have a clerical marriage or common law marriage?
“Just admit that you can’t be faithful to each other and get a divorce.”
“Excuse me Mrs. Jones, but you’ve been spending time alone with your refrigerator repairman. Have you any shame?”
“Marriage goes against nature because all men play the field.”

Churches, if you feel compelled to offer commentary that links celibacy with homosexuality without offering commentary on celibacy as a positive response to God, be prepared to hear negative commentary about the state of your marriages. I’m doing it face to face. It’s never pleasant.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/04/gay-christian-celibacy_n_5649015.html

http://www.bpnews.net/35684/at-issue-could-it-be-celibacy-not-homosexuality

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

Celibate Sexuality

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The title of this post may sound contradictory. After all, how can a person be celibate and still sexual? The problem is that we have simplified human sexuality to mean one thing – intercourse. We have dumbed down male/female relationships to mean one thing – romance and pursuit of marriage. When I say dumbed down, I mean that the intelligence and culture of mankind has indeed been held back because marriage and the affairs of the world are valued more than celibacy and the affairs of the Lord. I’m not saying that the IQs of married people are necessarily lower than celibate people. But I am saying that a married person cannot reflect the omnipotent glory of God like a celibate person can. The immediate needs of a wife and children will always trump eternal aspirations. The Bible tells us that. The role of the monastic artists during the Middle Ages and Renaissance was to “transform the desert into paradise.” Rather than create art for a museum, they created art to transcend the everyday aesthetics of the monastery and bring glory to God. They defined beauty beyond the human figure. Their artwork made men think beyond tomorrow and into eternity. Hence, there is an entire field of study devoted to monastic arts. Monks didn’t lose any sleep worrying about their unmarried status or how old they were. They were monks – not husbands. At one time in the ancient world, these two ideals were given equal respect. But after the Protestant Reformation, the role of the monk was decapitated and the role of the parent was catapulted higher than the stars in heaven. Now, the very idea of a person living a chaste life without sex has been bastardized with an ongoing “national conversation” on homosexuality and pedophilia. Have you heard a sermon lately defending celibacy or the monastic ideals?

I know a lot of people probably look at my 54 years of age and think: The pressure is so great, he’s going to explode any day now.” Some people may think I avoid all contact with women and that I’m sitting at home all day taking cold showers and singing chants to myself. That’s the farthest from the truth. I enjoy talking to women – married/single, young/old, Catholic/Protestant/Jewish, whether neighbors in my community or friends in another country. I’m just as much in awe and wonder of them today as I was when I was 10 years old. In my mind, I have put the mysteries of women in the same category as Fermat’s Last Theorem. They’re not for me to understand. But that’s not what the world expects of a 54 year-old “mature” man. At my age, I’m expected to have been married at least twice, hold some kind of grievance toward all women, and have a passel of grandchildren back at home. I’m supposed to be wise to the ways of the world and know how to get what I want sexually. In that regard, I guess you could say I’m quite uneducated. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about that. That’s why I put a high a value on single women who don’t make those assumptions and who value me as a friend – not a romantic interest. Those are few and far between. Will they still accept me if I don’t pursue them romantically? Can they have an intelligent conversation with me without worrying about seeing me again? Can they enjoy a moment for a moment’s sake? Will they be able to look past my age or will they ask: “So you’re 54 and never married. What’s up with that?” Will they make me feel like a leper or a real human being? A loser or a man with dignity? Will they ask what I do for a living or delve deeper into the art I’ve been working on lately? I think human sexuality without sex is one thing that keeps us sensitive to the needs of the opposite sex, whether married or not. It brings us together and facilitates civilization. Yes, I’m attracted to the appearance of beautiful women. But I’m more attracted to kindness and gentleness, softness and gracefulness, and all things that make a woman a woman. I try to stay focused on what I can learn from them, not what I can get from them.  I am more attracted to virtuous women, but not in the kind of sexual way that the world associates with virginity. I want my legacy to encourage young people to understand the value of virginity, whether waiting chastely on the right person to come into their lives or living celibate lives for the glory of God, and I want them to understand that marriage and sexual relations are but a blink of an eye in the long run. I believe patience is still a virtue and that there are still men and women who understand the importance of waiting.

I’m still waiting too. Not for a wedding on earth, but for a marriage in heaven with Christ. So my celibacy is not about avoiding women, avoiding responsibility, getting ahead in my career, playing the field, extending my adolescence, getting the milk without paying for the cow, or getting the perks of a husband as a single man. It’s about renouncing marriage, sex, and family as the world knows it today in favor of an eternal kingdom where no one is given in marriage and no babies are born. Imagine a world with a stable population with no abortions, adoptions, birth control, infanticide, child support, deadbeat dads, or stay at home moms. I don’t just imagine it. I see it. All I can do is hope my friends see that in me and respect my renunciation as just as sacred and serious as their pursuits of romance and marriages.

http://abbeyofreginalaudis.org/art.html

Seeing Is Believing

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I recently posted something on Facebook that sparked a very interesting conversation. The other person has a name, but on the quote below I changed it to what he is, a preacher:

Me: If you believe in salvation by marriage or having children, as is taught by the majority of churches today, you’d better take some suntan lotion with you to eternity. You’re gonna need it.

Preacher: Who believes in salvation by marriage or having children?

Me: Take the population of the world, which currently is 7.3 billion, and subtract the number of Matthew 19:12c eunuchs you can name. That should give you a rough estimate.

Churches spend a great deal of time and money elevating marriage and family as the ideal lifestyle. Think of all the singles groups where people pair up and mate, the millions of wedding ceremonies every year, and all the wedding anniversaries that are celebrated. The married lifestyle is affirmed beyond recognition. I find this beyond ironic because a marriage ceremony is never described in the Bible. I can already hear people screaming, “but Jesus went to a wedding!” Yes, he did. But his attendance at the marriage in Cana is the only mention of a marriage in the New Testament. John 2:1-2: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.” What many people miss is that the wedding in Cana is not what is news here. It’s the fact that Jesus, a celibate man, chose a wedding to perform his first miracle, turning water into wine, thereby announcing his presence in the world. This was Jesus’ way of saying “I’m here.” I’m sure such a miracle turned many doubters into believers. He could have chosen any place in the world to do this. But he chose a wedding. In an instant, the ordinary nature of water and weddings was made supernatural by the presence of the King of Kings. You would think there would be many weddings to follow. After all, who wouldn’t want Jesus to show up at their wedding? But it’s the only one recorded in the New Testament. Could this in itself be telling us something? Could it be that Jesus had one hand on the urn of water and the other hand pointing to heaven where no one is given in marriage? I think so. He is telling us how insignificant marriage should be now. In an instant, he showed the “power of God” as described in the Gospel of Mark:

23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

So Jesus didn’t attend the wedding at Cana only to pronounce his blessings on marriage. He attended it to affirm celibacy and to show that the natural world of the Old Testament (water) had given way to the supernatural world of the New Testament (wine). The water of the well was transformed into the blood of Christ. Jesus could have written a letter to the couple at Cana, wishing them well in their new marriage. But he made his affirmation public by being there and taking his disciples with him. He could have gotten up and made a speech about the temporary nature of marriage and the importance of making spiritual children. But he chose this mellow transition of water to wine. It’s beautiful symbolism, but it’s been all but lost in a society today that worships sex and still holds marriage and family up to represent the be-all and end-all of human existence, one that still clings to the old Mosaic law of “be fruitful and multiply.”

It’s important to note though that Jesus found it necessary to attend the wedding. This should tell us something about the power of public commitments and the affirmation of witnesses. The names of the couple that got married that day in Cana have been long forgotten. It is Jesus’ presence and first miracle that are remembered today. He showed up to put marriage in a new perspective.

Which begs the question – How is celibacy being affirmed today? Who is checking to see if the water has been turned into wine? Are there any public ceremonies to affirm it? In the Protestant church, I don’t know of any. They have focused on the family so long that they’re walking around like blind zombies. Other than a few occasional words about how special “singles” are in mission statements, they don’t have a clue. It would behoove the church to remember that actions speak louder than words. If marriage and celibacy are of equal value, why should one be celebrated with ceremonies of public commitment and the other forgotten? Can you imagine celebrating a wedding anniversary in your church where the couple was not identified? The same thing holds true for celibacy. In order for it to be biblically affirmed and learned from, people have to be identified – whether that’s 3 in the whole world or 3,000,000. When the power of God is felt, the relationship between men and women is not governed by patriarchal marriages, sexual desire, or a man’s need to secure a name or heir. It is governed by worshipping the same God and respecting each other as equal in his site. Would you rather tell your children “it’s okay if you don’t get married” and that these people theoretically exist somewhere out there in the world or would you rather have them meet some in the real world? If you were at the wedding at Cana, would you be happy with the water, or would you want to taste the wine? Indeed, when a society is fully engulfed in idolatry, they’re not even aware of it. They know of nothing different.

Single Vs. Concencrated Life

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Ask anybody in church today what the opposite of marriage is and you’ll probably here one answer. “It’s not getting married and staying single.” Not pursuing marriage implies no commitment and staying single implies a life of selfish greed, ambition, faster cars, younger women, and older whiskey. I’ve asked a lot of church people over the years what singleness means to them and this is basically the answer I always here: There’s no commitment, no trust, no maturity, no responsibility. The only problem is that none of it is biblical. Unfortunately, the church has adopted the world’s values to replace their own. And they place too much importance on keeping everybody comfortable and entertained than preaching the truth. Take a look at what Paul said about the married and unmarried in 1 Cor 7:

“32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

Pay particular attention to verse 32. Paul used “He,” in an attempt to bring this down to a personal level. He was answering a specific letter from the Corinthians about marriage and virginity. In actuality, “He that is unmarried” is referring to all men and women who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven that Christ mentioned in Matthew 19:12. However, the word “unmarried” here is not the equivalent of our contemporary “single.” Paul is not basing what he says here on who has and who doesn’t have a marriage license. And more importantly, biblical celibacy has nothing to do with meetup groups, dating and mating, or compatability. Unmarried here as Paul uses it has more to do with total consecration to God and a life of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. It is a lifetime commitment to God that a married person cannot make. In my personal opinion, it is a more profound commitment and one that the world today doesn’t know much about. Hence, my blog.

The careth in “careth for the things that belong to the world” refers to the responsibilities inherent in marriage and family life, like raising children. They are cares of an earthly kind. That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with them. But we need to remember that neither the love between mother and child nor the love between husband and wife represents the ultimate love on this earth. Christ’s relationship with the church does. Careth in “careth for the things that belong to the Lord” refers to the responsibilities inherent with a life 100% devoted to Christ. However, I don’t like to use the word ministry to describe the charism of celibacy because I think we all have equal responsibility in that.

I think the “But” at the beginning of verse 33 is one of the most significant words Paul wrote. It marks a complete turn in the opposite direction. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, BUT the married man is concerned for the things of the world. He is describing two completely different men (and women). What two value sets could be more different?

One of the most interesting things to see in these verses is that this is not a “teaching.” So many people today are asking what the Bible teaches on celibacy. It doesn’t teach anything. Like marriage, the celibate gift is NOT something a person can learn. Paul is not telling us how we ought to live in these verses. He is stating FACTS. He is describing reality. “Is concerned” is on the opposite side of the world than “ought to be concerned.” It would be like me walking up to an older married couple and asking “shouldn’t ya’ll be married?” They would look at me and say “we are married!” They’d probably think I’m crazy. I think the same thing when someone asks me when I’m going to get married. I think this is one of the main reasons why commitment is not associated with singleness today and it’s one of the reasons I don’t identify as being single. And I think it’s why celibacy is not regarded as an institution on the same level with marriage. Pope Francis has called for 2015 to be the Year Of Concencrated Life and I fully support it. Even though the Protestant church doesn’t even know what it means yet, I pray that this will be an educational opportunity for them to see that the Bible is as true today as it was 2000 years ago. The Lord’s concerns ought to break all barriers that exist between chuches, denominations, and even languages.

Marriage And Celibacy – The Tragedy Of Hypocrisy

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What I’m about to say may make preachers uncomfortable. And in a way, I hope it does. I think much of the problem is that you’re too comfortable with your wives, two kids, parsonages, SUV’s, tax exempt statuses, and weekend retreats. As such, you can’t begin to relate to people who fall outside of your comfortable world, like adults who never married and Christ himself. Yes, I said it. I don’t even consider most church going people Christians. I consider them sex and money worshippers. One interesting thing about our sexuality is that God allowed us to choose between only two paths – marriage or celibacy. When preachers utter one sentence or do anything to affirm married life without a counterbalancing affirmation of celibate life, they are bowing down to the God of sex. When they celebrate wedding anniversaries, engagements, mother’s day, father’s day, childbirths, etc., without even acknowledging the existence of celibate adults, they are bowing down to the god of the nuclear family, not the family of God. There is nothing eternal about a nuclear family. There is nothing eternal about sex. Imagine if an alien visited your church and you told him all about how God made the sun and how it lights the earth during the day, but you didn’t tell him about the nighttime and the moon and stars in the heavens. You didn’t tell him about the delicate balance between night and day. That’s what you would call a misrepresentation of God’s creation. Imagine if a lost soul visited your church and you told him about the glories of family values, married life, and you introduced him to your wife and kids and all the deacons’ wives and their families; but you didn’t tell him about the never married in your congregation who subside only on Christ. You didn’t tell him about the delicate balance between marriage and celibacy. That is also a misrepresentation of God’s creation. The only difference is that it really happens every Sunday morning during every sermon, during every baby dedication, during every wedding anniversary, during every engagement announcement, during every family night, and hammered home with every “Family Life Center” plastered on your church buildings. By focusing on the greed of families, you are misrepresenting what Christianity is all about to those who don’t even know Christ. Since you hold out family life as the only option, is it any wonder that some of those lost souls wind up in the lifestyle of homosexuality? What alternative to the nuclear family and white picket fence have you offered them? When’s the last time you affirmed celibacy? You have focused on the family so long that your eyes have become crossed. When’s the last time you even mentioned celibacy in your pulpits? When’s the last time you visited Matthew 19? How do you even know who’s married and who is not married in your church? Would you have to go to your local courthouse and check the marriage license register? Would you have to inspect all ring fingers? What a comical thought. Would you call up your local community gossip line? If you take away the legal aspect, how do you even define what marriage is?

This will probably come as a shock for a lot of you, but the highest form of love on this earth is not between mother and child or husband and wife. It’s between Christ and the church. Since preachers have failed to communicate this and don’t see the world outside the comfort of their bedroom windows, we now live in a society that celebrates homosexuality, same sex marriage, adultery, cohabitation, and every other perversion known to man. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to talk about human sexuality on Sunday mornings, but look where silence has led us. If sex is just as part of God’s good creation as the moon and stars, why shouldn’t we talk about it? If you don’t feel qualified, find someone who can address these issues. You may be afraid of losing church members and their tithes to another church. Do you think God is going to count church membership and tithes and offerings at the gaits of heaven? Are you willing to pay that kind of price for comfort? What are you doing to integrate singles and celibates into your church and keep them from leaving?

Please keep in mind though that the opposite of marriage is not singleness. It’s not waiting on God to send a husband or wife. It’s not youth. It’s not college and career. It’s not waiting on a wedding day. It’s not a holding state. It’s not waiting on a marriage license. Singles are waiting on a spouse. Celibates are waiting on God and they represent the opposite of marriage. There’s a big difference between the two. I think it would help if we were consistent with terminology. I do not identify myself as a single person. The person who has been called to celibacy is not waiting for anything on this earth. That’s probably the most difficult truth for churches to understand. It’s hard to undo something that has been taught for over 500 years. Married people – Think about the commitment to your spouse and your wedding vows, “until death do us part.” Do you take your marriage and faithfulness seriously? I take my celibacy and commitment to chastity just as seriously. The big difference, though, is that death will not separate me from my spouse. I have the same lifestyle today as I will have in heaven. I encourage you take age, gender, and marital status completely out of the picture of your church’s vision. They will not be part of eternity. The higher the hedge you try to put around marriage and family without addressing faithful celibate people in your congregation, the higher you will fall from grace on the day of reckoning.

Can Virginity Be Defined Outside The Context Of Sex?

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The Annunciation by Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)

One thing that has become more obvious as I’ve gotten older is that I do not like my identity as a person to be dependent on whether or not I have had sex. When I was younger and marriage was still halfway on the table, I thought of my virginity as more of preparation for a wife and family. I was waiting on “that girl,” whoever she was. And it seems like that’s the only definition society has ever had for it – the period of time before a person gets married and starts a sexual relationship. But as time has gone on, it has become obvious to me that long term celibate chastity actually has little to do with saying no to sex and preparing for marriage – but it has everything to do with saying yes to Christ’s concerns and preparation for heaven. It has everything to do with acknowledging God as the creator of our bodies and the sacredness of marriage and sexual relationships. The world may ask us “why are you afraid of women?” and “what do you have against marriage?” What more respect can I show women than not breaking and entering into their temples? I’ve never understood why the Christian community has so much empathy for thieves and bank robbers, but so little support for the guards. So the irony of it is that those who have chosen the celibate life are actually respecting women and honoring marriage more than most married people themselves. But yet we are called adolescents and banned from leadership roles in churches. Would you have given Mary or Joseph leadership roles in your church before Christ was born? If you answered yes, why is that? How would you know Mary if you saw her? Would she have a big “virgin” tattooed on her forehead? I don’t think so. Outside of the homosexuality scandals, churches today don’t even know what celibacy is. That’s so true for Protestants. They repented from slavery. There’s a lot more they are going to have to repent from.

Why was it necessary for Mary, the mother of Christ, to be a virgin in the first place? Was it to ensure she would have a great sex life with Joseph? Was it to ensure her marriage to him would not end in divorce? Was it because she had to be perfect? I don’t think so. I think one of the main reasons was to proclaim to the world the divine nature of Christ as both God and human in the same body. To serve as evidence of his supernatural existence and that his birth did not come about by ordinary means. Christ himself walking on this earth represented both the sacred world of eternity in heaven and the physical world of human life on earth, a balance that only he could represent. If the church is supposed to become more Christ-like, shouldn’t it strive for this spiritual/physical balance? It seems to me that our conversations lately regarding marriage and family and sexual ethics have completely missed the mark. It’s not possible for us to point to this behavior or that and say it is ungodly without focusing first on God himself. The church will never have a proper respect for marriage without a proper respect for celibacy. That’s true for Catholics, Protestants, and all Christians. When we put virginity in perspective and take it out of the sexualized world of 21st century America, only then can we realize it’s true significance.

Rape Culture

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If someone had told me this was going to happen 20 years, I would have gotten a good laugh. But we have actually come to the point in our society where all men are considered rapist. Yes, until proven otherwise, all men are guilty of crossing . . . boundaries of some sort. Say hello to someone on the street – “He’s raping me!” Sit down too close to somebody in a restaurant – “He’s raping me!” Send an email to somebody – “He’s raping me!” Ask someone their name – “He’s raping me!” But that’s what happens in a women/children worship society when all ethics are handed over to women. That’s what happens when women are put in charge of churches. That’s what happens when the visual ethics of a gravid abdomen trump any value of a good man. I am not saying that all women are evil. I’m saying that God created an order of checks and balances in our world that did not put women at the top of a morally superior throne. Sadly though, this is what happens when all single women believe God has a man waiting for them somewhere and that the white picket fence is just around the corner. It’s called idol worship of family. When a society reaches that point, friendship and love for neighbor go out the door and perversion takes up residence. Why is that? It’s because there is NOTHING ETERNAL about marriage. There will be no marriages in heaven, no weddings, no babies, no bridal showers – none of it. But single women spend their time idolizing over marriage, sex, and making babies – when it will all be gone in the blink of an eye. Every ounce of their energy goes into finding the “perfect man” and being fruitful and multiplying, when their concern should be on multiplying souls for the kingdom of heaven and giving birth to spiritual children, while keeping their eye on the perfect man in heaven. That cannot happen as long as their focus is on this world. If they happen to walk by a man who is hungry and crying in pain, they’ll slap his face and keep on walking. If they walk by a man who is being persecuted for upholding Christian beliefs, they’ll spit in his face. Yes, I’ve seen these things myself, especially among women of the millennial generation. What’s is truly sad is that many of them are sitting in churches pretending to be saints sent from heaven. I’m not saying that there are no bad guys out there. There are. But distrust and false accusations are not fruits of the spirit. They are fruits of the devil. Do we really need to wonder why nonbelievers level the charge of hypocrisy against church going people?

Virginity – The Great Equalizer

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Virginity. I know it’s a word that’s not politically correct these days. Pedophiles get more positive press coverage than virgins. It’s unbelievable that we live in a world where virginity is ridiculed and homosexuality is celebrated, where “purity culture” is put down as condemning and and Ashley Madison is hailed as the next best thing since day after pills. And the ultra-religious right and chastity advocates are getting in on the action. For many of them, true love doesn’t wait any more, and chastity successfully integrates with whatever feels good at the time and what you need to be popular. Yes, we live in a time where a personal history does not exist. Whatever you did last week, just ask God for forgiveness and all is forgotten. After all, why should a pesky little thing like virginity get in the way of your self-discovery and the guy or girl of your dreams? Chastity doesn’t remember your past, right? It does for Christians. How can we learn and grow without a past? There are those today who are trying to remove any remnant of the Confederate Army from America’s history. They are comfortable with repeating all of our mistakes. As uncomfortable as it may be, all of us have histories. Just because a person has not had sex does not mean they are perfect. I am not trying to condemn anybody with my post, because I know that most people do not accept my belief that marriage begins with sex, regardless of the legal and social formalities. I am trying to point out that sex changes a person at all levels of their existence – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. And that the state before marriage is just as important as the state after marriage. It doesn’t matter if we accept it or not. It doesn’t matter if we call virgins “holy rollies” or “40 year old fruitcakes.” God calls everybody to wait on marriage before having sex. And there are people who are waiting. That’s a biblical fact. The world hates the idea of sexual innocence and praises experience of all sorts, from bed post notches to orgy score cards. Its idea of sex has devolved into a cage of groping animals. The deeper it sinks into perversion, the more uncomfortable it will be with virginity. We don’t have to answer to straw men. The Bible stands on its own.

It’s always been interesting to me that the subject of Christian sexuality usually goes no further than what rules not to break, how far is too far, and what to do if you get pregnant – a two-part dumbed-down view of human sexuality. But what can we expect from a society that believes a wedding ceremony is the same thing as a marriage? It’s my belief that sex is a divine mystery, the magnitude of which we will not completely comprehend until we get to heaven. For me, over the years, virginity has become less and less about the physical – and more and more about the spiritual. That’s one of the reasons why it’s part of God’s plan for marriage. Virginity is the great equalizer that ensures two people take off on the same level and that leads to the greatest chance of a successful marriage. It neutralizes any male or female stereotypes and allows two people to interact on a spiritual level. It nixes objectification and doesn’t allow any baggage on board. It gives a couple comfort knowing that one doesn’t have any knowledge or experience that the other doesn’t have. It takes age off the table. That’s hard to believe for a world that equates virginity with adolescence. It also allows a level of communication and trust that cannot be reached if one person has already become one with another. In essence, virginity closes out the influences of the world and protects marriage from unseen calamities.

Virginity is also a paradox because inexperience becomes the one thing that results in the greatest chance of a lifetime experience with marriage. It’s also the one thing that orients a person with the celibate gift towards God’s concerns. It’s not a matter of “I think I’ll take a vow of celibacy and try to be about God’s concerns.” Those of us who have accepted it are about those concerns. It’s who we are. Just like a married person is naturally concerned about their spouse. We are naturally concerned about our spouse. Am I knocking you over the head with that? No. Am I saying celibacy is right for everybody? No. Read the Bible. Get your answers from the Bible, not from public opinion polls.

When looked at in light of God’s word, how can virginity just be about the physical? That’s where many of us have fallen to the world’s straw men. We have to articulate the divine mystery of sex. We have to explain the spiritual nature of sex, because we have separated it from marriage. For me, that involves telling the world that I have said no to sex. It involves telling the world that I believe every word of the Bible is true and that there is a life beyond the temporal pleasure of this world. My renunciation of marriage does not mean that I think marriage is a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that I’m any better than anybody else. It means that I have faith that there is something better beyond what this world has to offer. Since I do not have the sexual relationship that everybody else takes for granted, it equalizes me to be able to relate to any human condition, no matter what they have or don’t have.

What Happens During A Wedding Ceremony That Makes Sex Okay?

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The Wedding Ceremony of Andrea Kastner and Thomas Morton by Thomas Thorspecken

The good old American wedding. It’s as comfortable as applie pie. So steeped in tradition we accept it as God’s word. Wedding dates, wedding planners, wedding rehearsals, rehearsal dinners, invitations, announcements, wedding ceremonies, wedding vows, engagement rings, wedding rings, legal witnesses, marriage licenses, preachers, money for the preachers, wedding cakes, bridesmaids’ luncheons, buttercream icing, buffets, entrances, preludes, interludes, processionals, recessionals, receptions, wedding dresses, tuxedos, ball gowns, veils, headpieces, open stocks, bridal registries, place settings, bridal showers, what to toss, flowers, garter belts, trains, corsages, boutonnieres, cascades, fillers, freeze-dried petals, pomanders, English garden arrangements, Tuscan arrangements, beveled edges, deckled edges, embossed, engraved, suits, proofs, sets, albums, escorts, place cards, overlays, pickups, sweetheart tables, first dances, honeymoons, best men, bridesmaids’ dresses, maids of honor, grooms, grooms’ mothers, ushers, wedding songs, ring-bearers, flower girls, father’s left arm, wedding parties, formal photographs, guest books, rose ceremonies, thresholds, frogs, spiders, black cats, rice tosses, stag parties, toasts, tin cans, five sugar-coated almonds, candlesticks, thirteen coins.

The problem is, none of it is in the Bible.  There is absolutely no description of a wedding ceremony in scripture. And there is nothing about weddings that make them innately biblical. No vows. No marriage licenses. No punch. Did you just did dizzy? If weddings are considered spiritual events on the same order with births and deaths, at what point during the wedding does God say, “Okay, you can have sex and become one flesh now”? Does a preacher become a stand-in for God when he asks, “do you take this woman/man to be your wife/husband?” Protestant churches would have you believe that.  So if marriages don’t start with wedding ceremonies, when do they start? Maybe we should consult the Bible. Take a look at Ephesians 5:30-32:

“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

I cannot think of a more dignified and accurate metaphor for the sexual union than a man and woman becoming “one flesh.” Leave it to the genius of Apostle Paul and his way with words. Am I saying we’ve had it wrong all these years? Yes I am. The church slipped off the tracks when marriages became separated from sex with pomp and circumstance and assumed it could take on the role of God and unite two people forever.  Of course, all of this was done to allow and legalize divorce.  The church can’t do that. A preacher can’t do that. A thousand bowls of coconut-pineapple punch can’t do that. Even more sobering is the fact that man’s vocabulary can’t superimpose itself on top of God’s vocabulary. A classic example is “premarital sex.” If all sex before marriage is premarital, what do you call sex after marriage? Postmarital? Does all that bad sex before marriage suddenly become good when a preacher says, “You may now kiss the bride” in front of two witnesses and a gaggle of onlookers? Most churches will tell you it does because they routinely marry “cohabitating partners.”  I just don’t think so. Does that mean there are millions of people walking around today who are married through fornication and don’t know it? I’m afraid so. God’s word and commandments are so far removed from today’s reality that they’ve become unrecognizable. The church didn’t defend them and the congregants tossed them out the window in favor of comfort and pleasure. Instead of conforming our lives to God’s word, we have conformed God’s word to fit our lives.

Notice what Paul says in verse 32. I think it’s one of the most overlooked passages in the Bible. In very plain language, he is telling us that marriage is a mystery we will not understand on this earth. Could it be that sex actually bonds a man and woman beyond our comprehension so that they are more “one flesh?” than we even realize? Could sex chemically change our bodies permanently so that a man does become one with a prostitute when he has sex with her? Those are uncomfortable questions. And the world today doesn’t want the discomfort of a mystery. Every answer is in the palm of our hands. Just Google it. Is there anything science cannot explain? It tries. But, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).”

Marriage And Celibacy – A House Divided?

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Here in Alabama, the one thing that is worshipped almost as much as sex is football. Actually, most guys make it a weekend package deal with beer and sex thrown in on the sidelines. And the Alabama and Auburn game is one of the biggest rivalries in college football. People like to talk about their “divided houses,” where one spouse is an Alabama fan and the other spouse an Auburn fan. They let the world know about it by painting half of something of insignificance red and white and the other half orange and blue. Or they have both teams’ colors represented equally in some way. For instance, some “divided” automobiles have an Alabama flag hanging out one window and an Auburn flag hanging out the other window. Who would have thought football would be hit with such political correctness? If you asked them though, most fans would tell you that they root for both teams up until the Iron Bowl when Alabama takes on Auburn each year.

Isn’t it a shame that the same can’t be said about Christian lifestyles? Just like the world, churches today have bowed down to the god of sexual desires or, as they call it, God-honoring marriages. They flaunt their families with more gusto than any football fan could imagine. What’s really remarkable about this is, unlike football where there are many teams to choose from, the Christian lifestyle only has two choices – marriage and celibacy. If you ask a preacher about singleness, he’ll probably say something like “that’s okay too.” The only problem is that actions speak louder than words. Is his church flying both the flags of marriage and celibacy while cruising down the lanes of Sunday morning worship? I’m afraid not. Chances are his church has a marquee out front that reads “nursery provided.” The affirmation of singleness is only as good as the time and energy a church puts into it. That means it not only has to be talked about, it has to be demonstrated. In other words, how does the three words “that’s okay too” balance out with the thousands of hours of marriage and family seminars, premarital counseling sessions, baby dedications, weddings, marriage sermons, one flesh sermons, be fruitful and multiply sermons, youth retreats, family worship centers, missionary children, etc?  It doesn’t balance.  The truth of the matter is that the emphasis churches place on family values is in direct opposition to the emphasis the Bible places on it. Instead of the church hanging two flags out their car windows, they have one great big sign that reads “Family Comes First!” Since the same sex marriage controversy, family wagons have circled tighter around churches and the family banner has been hoisted higher and higher. Churches may be willing to occasionally talk about singles faithfully waiting on their spouses, but you won’t hear anything about a committment to celibacy that is on par with marriage. You might be saying, “but just because a church doesn’t talk about celibacy doesn’t mean they disregard its importance.” Yes it does.  If you’re talking about a football team, that may be true. But this is a matter of Christian lifestyles where silence can sometimes speak louder than words. Where silence breeds assumptions. This is even more true today because sex has socially been separated from marriage and making babies. What so many churches don’t realize though is that every time they talk about family they are talking about sex. Every time a preacher talks about children, he is talking about sex. Every time the women’s gossip line talks about weddings, they are talking about sex. As hard as he may try, man cannot undo human nature. That is difficult to grasp in an era where children have become a choice and life itself hinges on how convenient babies are. Every time children, husbands, and wives are discussed, a choice has been made, whether they acknowledge it or not. They have chosen to raise another flag in salute of marriage and hide the dignity of celibacy under another joke about gay marriage.

Respecting celibacy requires church leaders to take a look at a picture that’s bigger than the love between husband and wife and mother and child. It requires them to take a closer look at their relationship with Christ, which can be very uncomfortable. They can easily say, “but, there’s no one in our church called to singleness.” The question of course is how do they know that? Have you ever been in a church service that called for a show of celibate hands? Think of all the younger singles who passed through their doors and did not feel called to marriage, but never saw any support for celibacy. Instead, they heard about the Song of Solomon one Sunday and Daniel in the lion’s den the next. Since celibacy was never discussed, they assumed marriage to be the norm. Why shouldn’t they? Human nature will always choose support over neglect if no viable option is apparent. Many young people today are trying to discern marriage and celibacy.  They hear nothing in the sermons, read nothing in the literature, and they don’t know where to look in the Bible. They see no exit sign on the freeway of life.  If your neighbor had his radio up loud while you were doing yard work and you kept hearing “roll tide roll!” – you would probably assume he was an Alabama football fan. It’s even worse in churches, which have become more or less social support groups. What is preached and discussed is what is affirmed. What is not discussed is what is wrong. If the church operated under the same rules as the business world, preachers would have been found guilty of malpractice years ago, not to mention sex discrimination. They would be gripping their families tightly through the cold steel bars of a prison cell. The Bible actually has very little to say about families beyond husbands loving their wives, wives submitting to husbands, and children obeying their parents. Just a very few verses. That ought to tell us just how unimportant family is in the long run. It has nothing to do with eternity. On the other hand, the Bible does have much to say about virginity and how those called to celibate life are concerned with the Lord’s affairs. It also has much to say about our spiritual family and being fishers of men. It has nothing to say about a nuclear family.

It’s my opinion that the number one reason biblical marriage has failed and same sex marriage has been accepted is because the church reinforced the world view that marriage is needed to be a responsible adult, that sexual desire cannot be controlled, that marriage is nothing more than legalized sex, and celibacy nothing more than lack of sex. Instead of a one flesh union between husband and wife, marriage became a trip to the courthouse to pick up a marriage license. Celibates? “Well, those are the poor miserable people who haven’t found an outlet for their sexual desire yet.  They’re too greedy, too picky, too hung up on themselves.” “Adolescents who will never grow up.” Sexual ethics have become no more than the identification of the haves and have nots, those who have sanctified their sexual desires from those living in sin, and those who have found their sexual partners from those “condemned to live in loneliness.” That’s what happens when only one lifestyle flag flies from the steeples of churches. It allows one lifestyle to take over the house of God, which ultimately leads to the whole house being destroyed.  You can see and hear it in everything they do. The absence of visible celibates within churches and communities makes one clear statement, that marriage and sexual pleasure are idols of worship and that singles are less than whole people. We cannot recognize the goodness of God’s creation in the Old Testament unless we can recognize the goodness of Christ’s sacrifice in the New Testament and those willing to sacrifice their whole lives for him today. We will not be able to balance both marriage and celibacy if we can’t transform “Be fruitful and multiply babies” in the Old Testament to “Be fruitful and multiply God’s children” in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, only celibate people can truly represent complete love for Christ and total dependence on him. Only their witness can herald an eternity where there will be no marriages and no babies. A church without visible eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven leaves its doors wide open for sexual idolatry and every abdomination known to man. There are many people who think the opposite of a one man/one woman marriage commitment is singles who are waiting on marriage or same sex marriage. That is absolutely false.  The opposite of marriage is a commitment to celibacy.  If you can accept that there is an opposite to marriage and the committment between a husband and wife, then you have to accept that it involves a sacrifice. If a man is not committed to a wife, what is he sacrificing for? It has to be Christ. If it’s Christ, then he’s committed to celibacy. That is logically the only answer and the only answer found in the Bible. What happens to a society that chooses to only fly the flag of family values and neglect Christ? Read the news headlines from the last six months.

Faith In Waiting

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We wait in retail store lines, post office lines, service station lines, doctor’s office lines, theme park lines, and restaurant lines. People actually wait for days waiting to buy concert tickets. The longer they wait, the more publicity for the show. It’s been estimated that Americans spend 37 billion hours waiting in line each year. Most of our waiting time is written off as a waste. So the big question is always the same: Is it worth waiting for? For the mundane activities of everyday life, the answer will often be no. For example, if I asked a single mom who had been standing in a checkout line for an hour, she might say “no, but I had no choice.” But if I asked a Rolling Stones fan if the concert was worth the wait, he might say, “you bet it was!” What’s even more remarkable is that some music fans would rather stand in line and get to know fellow stoners or parrotheads or whatever rather than order tickets on the internet. Waiting becomes part of the concert experience because it is so closely linked to the reward. If I had waited and asked the Walmart mom after she had gotten home and was eating some of those groceries with her family, her answer might have been “yes, it was well worth waiting for.” Then she might have told about how she switched lanes several times to get the shortest line. She might have told how she thought about going across the street to a competitive store, but that they wouldn’t have had all the items on her grocery list. She might have pointed to the smiles on her children’s faces as proof she did the right thing.

Imagine what would happen if waiting became the norm in human sexuality. What if we could break down sexual ethics like we did a mother waiting in line to buy groceries? We can to a certain extent. First, we have to identify the key elements in the process: Who is waiting? How many other people are waiting? What are they waiting for? How is waiting linked to the reward? What are the alternatives to waiting? What are the consequences for a person who doesn’t wait? Who are the witnesses and does their opinion count? Of course, with chastity we are talking about every Christian single and sex. No one is exempt from God’s commandment to save sex for marriage OR for eternity. The problem comes in with linking waiting to the reward. With marriage, what is the reward? It should be sex. Paul tells us that it’s better to get married than to burn with passion. So biblically, marriage is supposed to be a means to an end. It is the means by which a person satisfies their sexual desire. At one time, self- control and patience were marks of chivalry. They were the backbone of courage and perseverance. Now they are considered a weakness because men are expected to be in pursuit of everything they want, from sex to money.

When I was open to marriage, I was willing to wait forever for that one special girl. I dreamed about her. You know, the girl who would follow me into the Brazilian rain forest with a camera in her hand. Even though I met many girls who came close to that dream, I was never willing to compromise myself sexually with anybody until I met her. Even though my waiting did have a religious basis, I knew it was best for me emotionally and intellectually. I didn’t want to live with that guilt and knowing that I gave something of myself to someone who was not my wife. I didn’t want to rationalize such a decision to myself. I knew most other guys did not wait, but that didn’t deter me. I knew she would be worth it. Word got around about what my standards were. And while I was dating, a lot of my friends knew I was waiting. I had faith that God would take care of me whether I married or remained single.

Unfortunately, it is not sex that people are waiting on today. It is a legal document called a marriage license. Why should a guy wait on marriage today when he can have sex tonight with no responsibilities? After all, he doesn’t have to marry her. I think it’s because God’s commandments are no longer followed and faith has been exchanged for convenience. Patience has been tossed in favor of instant gratification. And faith has become something only right wing religious zealots have. The separation of the sacred act of sex from the public act of marriage ensures that sexual immorality will be handed down to future generations. Men and women now hookup one night and go their own way the next morning, pretending their temples never crossed paths. Fornication has become as ubiquitous as a smartphone app. After the couple has sex, the next stage of commitment is typically cohabitation, then maybe a baby, and possibly marriage. A marriage license is just an afterthought to “make things right” and to identify the father legally responsible for the child. Filling in the blanks on a marriage license and printing it out doesn’t take much faith. It just takes hormones, a probate judge, and $43.00 here in Alabama.

Our witnesses while we’re alive and our legacies after we die are the means by which we pass biblical values down to the next generation, whether it’s a $43.00 marriage license or something a little more long term. Whether we like it or not, our sex lives are a part of our witness. As we well know, the world likes to point out discrepancies between the principles that we live by and the principles outlined in the Bible. When we do things out of order, there will always be consequences more serious than if we broke in line while getting groceries. We can look at statistics all day and count the number of people not married and the ages at which they married. But the Christian community would not be complaining about the increasing numbers of singles in their pews and increasing ages at marriage if all of us were waiting on marriage before having sex. Instead, the church would be celebrating. They might be pointing out exemplary examples of faith and self-control. Instead, what do they do? Well, most churches practice visually based ethics. That means their faith goes no further than what their eyes can see. If the church sees only infidelity and divorce in marriage, then that becomes their ethical high bar. If the church sees only cohabitation and fornication in singles waiting on marriage, then that becomes their high bar. I think those of us called to the celibate lifestyle have just as much responsibility to show the world what we sacrifice for our faith. It’s up to us to show the world that sex is not the be all and end all of human existence. We could spend years listening to married couples tell of their sacrifices for each other and their concerns for their children and so forth. Shouldn’t celibate people do the same thing? Don’t we have just as much faith as married people? Don’t we serve the same Christ?

In the realm of sexuality, Christian standards require a level of faith the world does not know. If the church has faith in an eternal marriage with Christ and is awaiting his second coming, we must have faith that our lives will follow his will as well. The church is made up of every single believer. That means that we wait patiently for a spouse if marriage is in our plans or wait patiently for his return if celibacy is in our plans. Keeping his commandments does not require us to choose either one. It requires us to wait faithfully and not yield to the world’s temptations.

Loneliness

woman-web

“Field of Dreams” by Steve Henderson.

Since my blog deals with virginal celibacy, there are two groups of people I talk about: Those with the gift of celibacy and those who are waiting on marriage. What’s interesting is that people who are called to the celibate life forever also pass through a time of waiting on marriage. While I do think there is some genetic predisposition to celibate life, I don’t think anybody is born with either lifestyle encoded in their DNA. If they were, the charism of virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven would not be possible. A gift requires not only a giver and a receiver, but also a period of time without the gift and a period of time with the gift. However, receiving a spiritual gift is not like receiving a birthday gift. There are no lollipop whistles, no songs, no candles, no hugs from Aunt Mattie Lou. No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away.  It actually can be pretty quiet.

Have you ever been in a crowded place and thought you heard someone call your name? I have. Sometimes there is another person named John close by and then sometimes I don’t know what I heard. But whatever the case, I always stop what I’m doing, get really quite, and listen really hard. I think God sometimes uses loneliness in the same way to get our attention. It’s like a call from the spiritual realm. First, ask yourself if there is anything that is making you feel lonely. For example, do you spend time with friends who have boyfriends and girlfriends? Do you find yourself often in “couples” situations? Do you hang around couples expecting children? Do you attend a lot of weddings? Do you spend a lot of time babysitting? All of these scenarios can create an artificial loneliness that is void of any godly direction. Cares of the world need not become a part of our lives until we are married. Young ladies, you are not required to babysit during your church services. Learn to say no. When we have an active prayer life, I think loneliness can actually be a good thing. It forces us to take a look at ourselves – as God does – without any external trappings of manmade success or pleasures. It forces us to rely on him. It peels away the husk and reveals who we really are.  More importantly for the single person, it allows us to define our loneliness and determine if anything is lacking in our lives. Is it a longing for a husband? Is it a longing to be with other people? Or, is it a longing to be closer to Christ? I think wanting to be closer to Christ can be interpreted as loneliness. And that is a very GOOD thing. Christ spent much time on this earth as a lonely man. Not only that, he was a very poor man. He never owned anything beyond the clothes he wore. He never owned a home, property, mode of transportation, not even a cemetery plot. So much of the world’s idea of happiness today is tied up with what we own. Everybody has to have the biggest, fastest, loudest, brightest of . . . everything. Our very identities are tied up with what we own, especially for men.

But the person who is called to celibacy is able to experience loneliness as a sacred closeness to Christ.   When people think of celibacy today, their minds automatically go to “no sex,” when actually celibacy is more about being completely alone and depending on God for everything.  It’s about sacrificing the pleasures on earth for something better in heaven.  Our pain and loneliness is a constant reminder for everyone that there is nothing in this world that can satisfy us. Not a thousand friends. Not a million dollars. Not even a celebrity model for a husband or wife. That only in heaven with Christ by our sides will we find ultimate love and companionship.  So if you have a crush on someone and they are not reciprocating, your first reaction should not be “I’m not attractive enough to get their attention.” It should be “who do I really love?” Use it as an opportunity to discern if God is calling you to marriage or celibacy. Sometimes God can only speak to us when we are lonely and very quiet. If you find yourself in that spot, ask yourself these two questions: Do you believe God made everything in the universe, including sex? If so, do you believe there is anything else in the world better than sex? Do you have a passion for something that comes close to your sex drive? I’ve always been drawn to people who have special needs including Down’s syndrome, Savant syndrome, autism, mental retardation, and intersexed people. For me, making a connection with one of them is better than any sex I could experience. Do they ever feel lonely?

You bet they feel lonely. This may sound completely backwards, but a person has to be lonely in order to relate to people who are lonely. That includes special needs people and Christ. So if you’re in the process of discerning celibacy, remember that your sex drive can be transformed supernaturally into a passion drive. Don’t look at loneliness as a completely negative part of the human experience. Experience it with Christ and be still and listen to his suggestions. The word of the Lord may not come unto you as it did Jeremiah and say “Thou shalt not take a wife.” But he may come in other ways. Don’t hang a sign on your single life that says “looking for marriage” because it could very well close doors that need to be open. If you look at your life as a jet airliner that has to make a choice between two runways, marriage or celibacy, set a course in that direction, but don’t start a descent for landing until you are sure that’s where God wants you to be.  If you drop your plane down to marriage altitude, it will be much more difficult to bring it up again to the level of celibacy if that’s what God ultimately calls you to do.  We all leave a legacy on this earth, and what runway we land on is woven into it. So savor your time alone on this earth. But don’t accept the world’s defiition of lonely; because if you are walking with Christ, you are never really alone. Keep your destination in mind.

What’s Better About Celibacy?

Much has been made about Apostle Paul’s statement that those who choose celibacy “doeth better.” 1 Corinthians 7:37-38:

37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

These verses have fueled the marriage/celibacy debate for centuries. And then of course Paul also referred to celibacy as a “gift of God (1 Cor 7:7). But why is it better than marriage?  First of all, I don’t think Paul is talking about a father-daughter relationship here.  He is still talking about single men and single women, as he was in the previous verses. He is not talking about fathers giving away their virgin daughters in arranged marriages, which is a common interpretation. He is not talking about father/daughter purity balls. “Power over his own will” can only be referring to single men who are thinking about getting married. Today we call it self-control.  Also, I think these verses apply equally to men and women.  In verse 37, he is saying that if a man makes the choice under their own free will to get married and commit to a life of sexual fidelity to their wives, he does well.

Notice that verse 38 starts with “So then.” These two simple words are a testament to the literary genius of Apostle Paul and the divine inspiration of his writing. He had just described the self-control that a man and woman need to remain chaste until marriage. “So then” transfers all of that standing “stedfast in his heart” and “power over his own will” to the man who chooses celibacy.  “But he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better” adds to it an honor and dignity that is above marriage. In other words, Paul is saying: “It takes steadfastness and willpower to commit yourselves to an honorable marriage and sex with one woman for the rest of your lives. If you think that’s tough, it takes even more to commit to a life of celibacy and no sex.”  Also notice how Paul juxtaposes a man who giveth her in marriage with a man who giveth her not in marriage.  The word “giveth” is a verb.  In order to give something, you have to make a decision.  In other words, he is placing just as much importance on the decision to get married as he is on the decision not to get married.  It is a sacred decision; not an extended period of adolescence and greedy singleness as many preachers would have you to believe.   Another point to remember from earlier verses in chapter 7 is that when a man chooses a life of virginity, he is never again defined by something he will never have.  When he chooses to giveth her not in marriage, he is not required to continually look at women in the future and contemplate the merits of that decision.  Paul hinted to that in these verses.  “His virgin” in verse 37 is carried to verse 38 as “her.”  Unfortunately, we live in a world today where virginity means only thing – waiting until marriage to have sex.  That is directly opposite of what Paul is saying here.  People who choose celibacy are only waiting on one thing – the return of Christ.  We are not waiting on weddings, on finishing college, on finding a better job, on saving enough money, etc.   We are defined by what we are saying yes to, a life of dedicated focus on God’s concerns; and not defined by what we say no to, marriage and concern for a spouse.  1 Corinthians 7:32-33:

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

A lot of people today are asking: “What’s the difference between married men and single men?” This ought to serve as an answer.  Married men have chosen to keep their virgins and care for the things of the world (having babies, education, domestic chores, securing the home, etc).  Single men have chosen to keep Christ and care for the things that belong to him.  How do we know when we do things that please the Lord?  In general, when we do these things, it will make the world very angry.  For example, if we try to defind the very definitions of virginity and chastity in order to provide virtuous role models for children, we may be called judgmental, narrow-minded, unforgiving,, etc.  While waiting on the rain to slack up in front of a Walmart store recently, a young black man, who works as a greeter in the store, walked up to me and said “I have this ex-girlfriend and she’s thinking about leaving town with this other guy.”  I asked him what he thought about the other guy and he said “well, I really don’t know him, but the thing is they are going to live together.”  I asked him what he thought about two people living together who were not married and he said:  Well, I don’t think it’s right.  But she keeps talking about how Russell Wilson and his girlfriend did the same thing.”  I just told him that I didn’t think they provided good examples of Christian behavior.  I said the same thing about Russell Wilson and Ciara on an internet blog and was called a narcissist along with a half dozen other names.  There are a few good celebrity role models out there.  I think Lolo Jones is a good example.  She’s not afraid to tell the world that she’s a virgin and waiting on marriage.  Is Lolo a better person than Ciara?  No.  But she does provide a better role model for young adults, just as the man who giveth her not in marriage doeth better than the man who marries her from an eternal standpoint.  It’s not about being a better person than someone else.  It’s about what we take and don’t take, our actions, our witness to the world, and our availability to help other people.  It’s about humbling ourselves enough to know that our purity doesn’t even begin to compare to the standard of purity that Christ has already established.

Another thing to look at is how Paul is using the word “better.” When our 21st century consumer-driven brains think of better, we think of an object being better than another. We automatically default to objectification. This car is better than that car. This peanut butter is better than that peanut butter. Paul is not using the word in that sense. We must connect the body back to the spirit and consider man as more than a bag of tissue and bones. Paul said that the man who passes on marriage “doeth better.” The word “do” is also a verb. It is not a subject. Since it is not a subject, he cannot be saying that those who choose celibacy are better humans than those who choose marriage. So really, we’re talking about a difference that goes beyond apples and oranges. He is not disparaging marriage whatsoever. I think he’s trying to communicate that celibacy is a more efficient and straighter route to heaven. Without a spouse obstructing our vision, we can see the gaits of heaven directly in front of us. It’s like choosing flying over driving. You wouldn’t explain your choice of air to your friends by telling them that jet planes are better than automobiles. It’s just the shortest and most efficient route to your destination. Likewise, people who choose celibacy and remain virgins for their lifetimes are simply taking the shortest and most efficient route to heaven. In addition, it’s a more accurate representation of what heaven will be like because there will be no marriages or families in heaven. Also, note that virginal chastity is not compared with any other form of chastity, including conjugal chastity.  Yes, it’s difficult. But that does not negate its reality. Christ was also a virgin, which reinforces that truth. And by giving birth to Christ and remaining a virgin, Mary ushered in an era where fruitfulness did not destroy virginity and virginity did not destroy fruitfulness, because the multiplication of children of God became more important than the multiplication of human lives to populate the earth.

Statistics – What Do They Mean To God?

numbers

Nowhere else will you find more statistics than human sexuality and reproduction. Marriage rate, divorce rates, pregnancy rates, birth rates, infant mortality rates, cohabitation rates, premarital sex rates, fertility rates, etc. If you wake up one morning and ask yourself, “Why am I still waiting on marriage to have sex when I’m XX years-old,” you may find yourself looking at those numbers. “Am I the only virgin left in the world.” I’ve been there and done that. If you’re just trying to find a reason to throw a pity party for yourself, I don’t recommend it. The reason is because, if we’re living in God’s will, numbers are absolutely meaningless. Yes, the ages for marriage may be going up. But I think that has more to do with guys getting marital benefits in relationships without getting married first. As long as girls are willing to have sex outside marriage to keep their boyfriends or for whatever reasons, many guys don’t see a reason to get married. But if you’re still waiting for marriage and you know what you’re standards are, you don’t need to worry about numbers. Do you want to date one of those guys who couldn’t keep his hands to himself or his pants on? God’s power is not limited by how few or how many single men are in your city. He doesn’t consult a statistics table before he allows you to meet somebody. In a lot of ways, I do think we try to put God in a box. When we do that, we only make it harder for our eyes to see miracles.

The story of how my mom and dad met is almost hard to believe. They grew up in the same small rural Alabama town. This was during the early 1950s in an area that was poverty stricken. They attended churches about 5 miles apart. One day my dad’s brother told him about a girl he had met, how pretty she was, and bet him five dollars that he couldn’t get a date with her. Her name was Jean. My dad, being the clever guy he is, found out where she went to church and showed up one Sunday night. He sat behind her and at the “right moment” asked her to come to his church. She accepted. The only problem was . . . it was not the right Jean. Unbeknownst to both of them, there were two Jeans in the neighborhood. They apparently hit it off very well. They’ve been married 57 years. This was in the days before computers and email. Neither family had a phone.

So let other people worry about statistics. If they mean anything to you, let them remind you how right you are and how far off course the world has become. If you put all your faith in God, they can also remind you of how big your miracle will be. That doesn’t mean that you should sit where you are maintain the status quo. For example, if your best friend asked you to come visit at her church – but you don’t like crowds – think twice before you say no. I have learned just how God works through other people in my life. Sometimes I’m not even aware of how much until years later when I’m trying to put together the pieces of my life. It could be that God wants you to remain unmarried, which is just as much a sacred calling as marriage is. You will have a relationship with him that not many people experience. Numbers hold about as much water as a wet feather on a duck’s back.

Would Martin Luther Be Celebrating Marriage Today?

ssm posters

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on same sex marriage, I’ve asked myself a lot of questions. Like how did we get here? I don’t think we arrived in the land of Sodom overnight. Our country has been sliding down the path of moral decay for several years. What was Martin Luther’s role in all of this, the leader of the Protesant Reformation? Since I’ve been in Protestant churches all my life, I can only speak from that standpoint. I think our problems do indeed go all the way back to the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago and their rejection of celibacy. Just think, one little misguided man – Martin Luther, who thought he had the gift of celibacy, is responsible for the misplaced theology of over 150,000,000 Protestants in the United States today. Was celibacy abused in the Catholic Church in 16th century Europe? No doubt it was. But that was no reason to completely abandon a biblical principle. I’m sure there were a lot of priests – and married people – who had inappropriate sexual relationships. Imagine if Apostle Paul’s followers came to him one day and said: “Hey, I thought you should know that some of the men in Corinth claiming to be eunuchs for the kingdom of God have been caught having sex with children.” Would Paul reply with something like: “Oh no. I guess the Big Man really got it wrong on this one. Tell you what, just go back and tell everybody that celibacy is really not possible. We’re all bent toward sexual sin. It was just a little miscommunication.” The reality is that not all Catholic priests have the gift of celibacy and not all people who have the gift of celibacy are Catholic priests.

I’ve always thought the world had two realities – man’s reality dictated by tradition, legalism, ceremonies, pride, greed, majority rule, comfort, and pleasure – and God’s reality dictated by the Ten Commandments, The Holy Bible, chastity, sacrifice, commitment, patience, and denial of self. The biggest thing that separates these two realities is language. Take the word marriage for example. Do you think it means the same thing today as it did when Jesus attended the marriage at Cana and turned the water into wine? I don’t think so. When Jesus returns as the ultimate judge of this world, do you think he’s going to stop by all the courthouses first to check the marriage records? I don’t think so. Do you think he will tell eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, “Sorry, but I can’t find where you ever signed up for the priesthood. Are you sure you got a package that was marked celibate gift?” Or would you expect him to say: “Geez, a 40 year old virgin? You mean you didn’t find the one I had picked out for you?” See what a fantasy world we live in? Even worse is the fantasyland churches live in. They don’t even talk about sex. It’s just too dirty. The only sexuality they know is “premarital sex,” “same sex,” and “can’t deny your husband sex.” It’s always something negative. Churches can readily identify for the world what they consider sexual sin, but they can never seem to identify their own sins. Worse yet, they can’t even model Christian lives of sexual integrity. They continue to assume that all single people are “fornicators who haven’t made things right yet.” As a matter of fact, that’s the only definition they know. If you die before you get married, well . . . you might have had the gift of celibacy. They can’t fathom celibacy as a positive response to God and a commitment equal to that of marriage. If anything, celibacy today is seen as disordered and sinful. If I find a Baptist guest envelop in the back of a pew with “eunuch” listed as a choice under marital status, I’ll let you know. In an article titled “Dismantling The Cross” in First Things, Patricia Snow recently made the following comments while reflecting on the life of St Francis:

“But once the struggle was over, and the miracles and answered prayers began to appear, the celibate in former times was reclaimed by the human family, because he had proven himself fertile after all. Resistance gave way to acceptance, and acceptance to passionate acclaim. Then everyone wanted a piece of the saint; everyone wanted access to his body and his prayers. Then the one once coldly spurned for choosing heavenly over earthly goods was joyfully embraced for bringing heavenly goods to earth.”

I’m certainly no saint. But I think the same kind of prejudice happens to celibates today. Isn’t it unfortunate they have to die first in order to be accepted? That’s one of the big reasons biblical marriage has dissolved into a quagmire of same sex marriage and decadence beyond comprehension. A society cannot have a healthy view of marriage without a healthy view of celibacy. If Christian sexual ethics are taken off the table for either one, both will fail. This is especially true in a society that has no distinction between married life and celibate life, other than clerical clothing. As John Chrysostom said, quoting CCC 1620: “Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.” In other words, if we consider the only good in marriage is to keep us from lust and fornication and other evils, then we appreciate only half of God’s intention in human sexuality. The good of marriage can never outweigh the bad of those evils. Only when we acknowledge that there is something better than sex waiting in eternity will we understand the true meaning of both marriage and celibacy. The only way to do that is by placing proper value on celibacy today, not in a cemetery tomorrow.

There’s a quaint little slogan going around that many churches have adopted: “Celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage.” On the surface, that may sound biblical, but it’s not because it’s not half the story. The Bible never defines something called “singleness.” Go to any local bar and you’ll see how the world defines it. Could it be that Paul had the worldview of today in mind when he specifically addressed marrieds, virgins, widows, and divorced? He did not define his gift of celibacy as a default state because he never found someone to marry. Did Paul ever lament not finding “the one” or “manning up” because he wasn’t attractive enough or smart enough? I don’t think so. But that’s how the world would define him today. He defined his unmarried state, or celibacy, as concern for the Lord’s affairs instead of the cares of this world. Before Eve was created, imagine what Adam would have said if you had asked him: “So Adam, how long do you plan on living in that celibate state?” What do you think he would consider the default state to be, celibacy or marriage? How could he even make a “covenant commitment” and marry without first being unmarried? The same thing is true today. How is it possible to have marriage without celibacy? It’s not. How is it possible for a society to put all their focus on the concerns of the world and forget about the concerns of God? It is only possible when man thinks he knows more than God. That’s where we are today. With condoms, contraception, abortion, and fornication, he has tried to completely disconnect sex from marriage and procreation. Can you imagine God saying: “Okay, you practiced safe sex and wore condoms. That’s good enough. Come right on in.” I don’t think so. Neither can I imagine him saying: “So, you had unnatural desires for the same sex? That’s okay. At least you lived in a committed relationship. Oh, wait a second! You lived in the United States after 2015? That means your committed relationship was actually a marriage. Come on in and have a seat. I’ve got a special table for you over in the rainbow room.”

So the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriages grieves me just as much as any couple with a biblical marriage. It reinforces the strong belief, both by the world and by the church, that celibacy is not possible, and that marriage is the holy grail of adult life – in whatever arrangement you choose. And I’m sure Martin Luther would be very pleased. After all, he believed that to reject God’s gift of marriage, or to require celibacy for priest and monastics, was to court the sins and crimes of destructive lust. When you consider just how happy he would be, you get an idea of just how wrong Protestants continue to be.

http://www.bpnews.net/39818/the-bible-and-sex-debated-at-seminary

https://books.google.com/books?id=I5pJAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA168&lpg=PA168&dq=%22self+absorption%22+marriage&source=bl&ots=BuN4dc59SX&sig=D3thcl4wHKqu5gBw4l1Y9TxMOeY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HqWRVfmmA4nj-QHemKOAAw&ved=0CEcQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22self%20absorption%22%20marriage&f=false

http://arleenspenceley.com/marriage-crisis/

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1851129

Virgins – Without A Care In This World

Travelling-Alone1

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.

What would your friends think if you told them you didn’t have a care in this world? They’d probably think you were a lazy slacker. But Apostle Paul said just that. How many “likes” do you think that would get him on his Facebook page? He is responding here to a letter he received from the church at Corinth. I think this letter brought up many areas where they were confused. But the main question was: Is it better to marry or remain unmarried and is it even possible to choose celibacy just as one chooses marriage? Isn’t it interesting that we are still debating the same issues today? We’re still debating what marriage even is. With that in mind, look at verse 32. First, notice that Paul recommended the unmarried and celibate life himself. Why? On top of providing more people with undivided devotion to Christ, it may be because he liked the idea of more celibate friends. I can relate to that very, very well. He also lived in a marriage and sex worship society. Few people were choosing to live without marriage. Therefore, few people were concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Few understood that what they did with their sexuality determined what route their hearts would take – permanently. Few understood that celibacy was an honorable option.

We have to remember too Paul’s definition of “cares.” He would rather have his followers in Corinth be “without carefulness” because he understood that choosing sex and marriage linked us to God’s creation (world) and that choosing no sex and celibacy linked us to God’s creation called heaven – because there are no marriages in heaven. Contrary to what theologians believe today, there is nothing innately evil about this world. I’ve always wondered why the idea of celibacy is so divisive. Every time the subject comes up, people think they have to take sides. It’s like we’re still debating Matthew 19 and Jesus’s explanation of eunuchs. I’ve noticed that if I mention the word celibacy, especially around preachers, they automatically assume I’m making disparaging remarks about marriage. They assume that I’m putting myself on some “holier than thou” level of existence. “Wait a second now John. There’s nothing wrong with marriage.” If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be a millionaire. Why is that? I think it’s because many church leaders have reverted back to Mosaic law and believe everything in the world is evil, especially sex. They think every intention in a man’s heart is evil. In 1978, Margaret Clarkson even remarked that: “Singleness is a result of sin in this world – one of a host of evils in which we all share.” Calvinism has taken a strong hold on churches today. On top of that, many Protestants today are still fighting the Protestant Reformation. They still think they are at war against the Catholic Church and celibate priests.

There have been many theologians through the years (including Charles Spurgeon) who have interpreted Paul’s “without carefulness” no further than singles waiting on marriage and the absence of sexual responsibilities to a wife and raising children. That is a grave error. If that were the case, then the gift of celibacy Paul recommends would go no further than what a person did or did not do in a bedroom. Yes, a life without sex is part of celibacy. But there is a whole lot more to “without carefulness” than “Single and Feeling Good.” Just as there is a whole lot more to caring for the things of the world than worrying about the next time you will have sex with your husband or wife. I think this mindset came about because of the popular belief in the separation of the body from the soul. This theology is a hallmark of Calvinism and “reformed” thinkers. Paul is clearly telling us here with the open-ended word “careth” that our bodies and souls are divinely connected. Thomas Merton wrote a book titled “No Man is an Island.” In 1 Cor 7:32, Paul is saying that no sex is an island without consequences. Paul is not describing what a married person should do or what an unmarried person should do. These verses are not instructions. They are reality. He is telling us how the Holy Spirit operates in the world, not what an ideal world should look like. “The word “careth” in verse 32 is a verb, not an adjective or noun. He isn’t saying, “husbands should be concerned about . . . ” or “single people are free to do . . . ” And he certainly isn’t saying that all people with the gift of celibacy are called to serve in some church-sanctioned, publically identified, nonprofit, tax exempt “ministry” or to set up a tent in a third world country. I realize many authors have contributed to this way of thinking, including William Isley who saw celibacy as a “charism appropriate for missionaries.” One of John Piper’s blog followers recently asked him what’s the point was in getting married if that meant she now served the world and not God. He tried to explain what Paul meant by things of the Lord: “He has in mind a focused, more formal, official ministry effort of evangelism and nurture.” I don’t agree with that. I read nothing about a formal suit and tie ministry in the words of Paul. Actually, complete devotion to the Lord requires no specific activity. It sounds as if Piper is trying to overhaul the Protestant’s miserable track record of dishonoring celibates by making them all out to be Billy Grahams. How quaint. He went on to make these disparaging remarks about Apostle Paul and 1 Cor 7:

“Does he really want us to think that the effort to please the Lord is only possible in singleness and that in marriage all the dynamics are different? We don’t please the Lord there, we please each other there. He can’t mean that because he said it is not a sin to marry and it would be a sin to marry if we didn’t try to please the Lord while we were married. That is what sin means is not pleasing the Lord . . . Those are very striking, strange depictions of how to live.”

Yes, that’s exactly what he means. This is another classic example of why married men are not qualified to give advice about celibacy. The reason Paul sounds so striking and strange today is because he defines marriage based on a one-flesh union through sexual intercourse. We define marriage based on courthouses, legal contracts, wedding vows, and a string of cans tied to the bumper of a car. Likewise, Paul’s definition of singleness is based on virginity – not the absence of a marriage license or wedding rings. Given those dynamics, the differences between the married and unmarried are that striking. Very striking indeed. I think Mr. Piper’s thoughts on the subject are fairly typical for a 21st century Calvinist Baptist Preacher. They don’t even know what celibacy is any more. They wouldn’t know Paul if he knocked on their church doors. If we enjoin our bodies back to our spirits, we’ll understand how what we do with our sexuality determines what road our hearts take, the road of human reproduction or the road of spiritual reproduction. The concerns of the world still take a backseat to the concerns of the Lord.

So where does marriage licenses and wedding vows fit in? They really don’t. Man’s world is an ever-changing maze of legalese, formalities, and courthouses. God’s world is made up of natural laws that are as true today as they were 2000 years ago. We can attach any definition to any word. But our words don’t matter. Only the word of God does. He’s much more in control than we think he is. Spouses who live under one roof have to listen to each other. Compromises have to be made. They don’t have a choice. Their chemistries have been merged into one vessel. The same thing happens when a person with the celibate gift is united with Christ. They have no choice but to respond to God and they respond in different ways. Some remain at his feet – like Mary of Bethany, some enter monasteries and continue lives of prayer, some reach out to young people by encouraging sexual purity, some hit the streets of inner cities, some take care of animals and endangered species, etc. Some even choose to be hobos for the kingdom of heaven and travel the globe with no job or steady source of income, etc. I think of my friend Meg Hunter-Kilmer.

There will always be Marthas yelling from the kitchen, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I’m sure Martha thought Mary didn’t have a care in the world. We have to remember though that Martha yelled out of ignorance. Either she did not know what Mary was doing or didn’t understand the importance of it. Mary could have been with Jesus simply because she didn’t want to leave him alone and with no one to talk to. A sensitivity based on social order and dinner schedules would not be able to do that. Only a celibate like Mary could have understood how important this moment was in time. Likewise, there are many moments today that only those with the gift of celibacy understand and have insight on while those who are married and have families, busy in their kitchens and garages, and maintaining the rhythms of life do not. When they complain, remember what Jesus told Martha: “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42. He could have been a bit more harsh and told her “Martha, you chose marriage and a family over me and with that comes the responsibility of feeding those in your house. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Mary chose to be fully devoted to me. She can stay right here at my side as long as she wants to. You can’t take that away from her. She makes me comfortable. She makes me laugh. Likewise, she can’t take away what you are about to put on the table for us to eat. We would all starve.” So when someone is complaining about you not settling down with a husband and having children and asking if you have a boyfriend, remember what Christ said: It will not be taken away from you. When someone is complaining about you not manning up with a wife and becoming a responsible and trustworthy man, remember what Christ said: It will not be taken away from you. No one can take our lamps. The world is still upset about many things. It defines maturity based on the number of sexual partners. Those bowing at the altar of sex are very uncomfortable with the idea of someone renouncing married life. At the time of the reformation, celibacy was under attack because it was associated with the rules of the Catholic Church, which is ironic because such a charisma can only be freely chosen. Today celibacy is under attack because it is associated with homosexuality and same sex marriage. In eternity, it will be the norm.

So, is there a difference between the concerns of a married person and a single person? Probably not. A person can hop from bed to bed and still claim legal single status. Plus, singles are just in a holding pattern waiting for marriage. Much is written for them. They are lonely, bitter, can’t find themselves, and blame God for their misfortune. This is the dichotomy the world operates under. And sadly, it is the world the church has settled for. But is there a difference between a married person and a virgin? Yes. It’s in the Bible. Take a look at verse 34 in 1 Corinthians 7:

“There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”

You won’t find these verses mentioned in too many self help books. The only time virginity sells is when it is discussed in relation to waiting on marriage, or waiting on Boaz. This is fine and good. But it’s not half the picture. Notice how Paul interchanges “virgin” and “unmarried woman.” He uses the same language when talking about men in verses 25 and 26. Think about that. A man who had lived a celibate life understood the profound effect of a eexual relationship. He knew it far beyond a few minutes of pleasure. That it affects a person’s soul. That it guides what their heart cares about. It’s interesting too that “there is difference” in verse 34 is singular. I think this indicates that there are many differences rather a singular difference and that there are too many differences to allow the use of the pleural “differences.” Because using the pleural would lead to questions about what the differences are. That’s not possible because the cares are so different from person to person; just as the cares in marriages can’t be true for every couple.

Much has been written about the gift of celibacy allowing extra time and freedom to do the will of God, freedom from sexual need, liberation from family responsibility, freedom to love all people, ability to take more risks, etc. While all of those may be true, they don’t begin to adequately explain the difference between a wife and a virgin. Paul is not talking about the situational circumstances of a person not holding a marriage license, which didn’t even exist at the time he wrote this letter. He is talking about how every cell of a virgin is realigned to Christ’s needs. I’m tempted to use the word genetic because that comes very close to describing the celibate charism Fr. Thomas DuBay described in his book “And You Are Christ’s: The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life. Just as brain chemistry (i.e., oxytocin) bonds a man and woman’s cares when they have sex, I believe people who have the gift of celibacy have brain chemistry that bonds their cares permanently to Christ. But don’t look for that discovery on the cover of Science magazine. What do you care about?

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-marriage-eternally-futile

http://www.piercedhands.com/

https://baylor-ir.tdl.org/baylor-ir/bitstream/handle/2104/3004/russell_hobbs_phd.pdf?sequence=4

The Language Of A Eunuch

john waiving-web2

A single life, single parent, single thread, single take, single entry, single row, single line, single player. Life is full of singles. The problem is that when a word becomes so ubiquitous it completely loses its meaning. But our society likes ubiquitous words, words that keep everybody on the same level. They are the comfort buffers of a politically correct world, especially one where socialism is the norm. Comfort words don’t single out anything or anybody and allow everybody’s opinion to have equal value. They serve the same function as cardboard cutouts of angels, feather dream catchers and scoops of ice cream with chocolate drizzled on top. Convictional kindness, diversity, inclusiveness, transparency, it takes a village. They’re supposed to make us feel good about ourselves. They also play a big part in a society’s moral standards. A society that worships sex doesn’t change its values to meet the Bible’s standards. They change the Bible to meet their standards. The fastest way to do that is through language. The media know that all too well. How fast did churches adopt gay, transgender, LGBT, equal rights, age of consent, diversity, and committed relationship? They have used the church as the biggest patsy in the history of humankind. In a world where the meaning of marriage goes no further than a courtroom, a bag of rice, and a couple of memorized prayers, the sacredness of sex has all but ceased to exist. The idea of God calling someone to live without sex and focus exclusively on his concerns is a foreign concept. It only follows then that churches define singles strictly on the absence of a marriage license. The pharisaical language of legalism is the only one they know. When it comes to celibacy being a spiritual gift, even the thought is offensive to most Protestant churches. Consider the First Baptist Church of St. John’s, MI:

“When Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, he isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it.”

The Bible does not tell us that we choose our own spiritual gifts. God does that. We live in a world though where no one can have a “particular ability” that everybody else doesn’t have. That wouldn’t be fair. People would feel left out. It would be uncomfortable. Wait a second. She got more cookies than you? Let’s take some off her plate and give to you. Socialized values. They fit in rather well with a socialist state. Acknowledging spiritual gifts would acknowledge God’s presence in the world. Churches today can’t do that, especially when it comes to human sexuality because they think they know more than God. Every topic related to sexuality that comes up in churches has to be discussed, debated, and voted on. Take the Southern Baptists, for example. They’ve talked so long about affirming, loving, and accepting gays that their feeble “it’s a sin” holds as much water as the idea of one of their marriages lasting till death do us part. Plus, today’s Calvinist-leaning churches are so totally “depraved,” the mere thought of chastity falls way outside their glorification of sex in the “marriage bed.” Many of them even believe that the only way to salvation is through marriage. That’s why you won’t find an unmarried Protestant preacher.

As those know who are familiar with this topic, Jesus addressed the topic of the gift of celibacy in Matthew 19 by using the metaphor of eunuchs. Protestant churches deny the existence of “only to those to whom it is given” for the kingdom of heaven as described in Matthew 19. Their theology is quite elementary: If you don’t have a marriage license, you have the gift of singleness. If you have a marriage license, you have the gift of marriage. That doesn’t take much thought, does it? It’s quite comfortable. Isn’t it amazing that courthouses have been given the power of dispensing spiritual gifts? This is what happens when the sacredness of sex is separated from the commitments of marriage and celibacy. They become mere paperwork. Apostle Paul makes it clear that there are only two lifestyle choices for the Christian, both of which have equal value: Celibacy as a eunuch or marriage as a spouse. But look at where churches are today. Instead of eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, we have support for singles meat markets. Instead of one-flesh unions, we have support for committed relationships, covenant commitments, civil unions, same sex couples, young couples, childless couples, cohabitating couples, engaged couples – and the perversion continues.

Many more comfort words have been used to replace biblical principles. How are your “family values” holding up? Who talks about fornication anymore? The church latched onto the world’s language of “premarital sex” and never looked back. Who talks about sodomy? That’s just hate speech. The church latched onto the world’s language of “gays” and never looked back. And “convictional kindness” glossed over every abomination imaginable. Where are the eunuchs Jesus spoke of? I’m starting to wonder how many pastors even know what a eunuch is. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, MI has an article on its web site that I think is representative of their insight. Their pastor Shaw states that:

“I don’t ever remember entertaining the thought that I might not be married. Diane and I met when she was 16 and I was 18 and we were married two years later. Looking back, that seems crazy. What were we thinking? But, after almost 34 years, I have no regrets. Yet I would not recommend the choice we made for everyone. Not because I don’t like being married but because of the words of Jesus. In our text for Sunday (Matthew 19) Jesus reminded the disciples that some people can “accept” being single and some cannot. (It appears the weak ones get married :)).”

At least he acknowledged he was married and not the best person to write on the subject. It’s interesting that he thinks everybody who does not choose marriage has automatically been granted the status of a Matthew 19 “single.” There’s only one tiny problem with that: Jesus never used the word “single.” He used the word “eunuch.” In verse 12, he used it three times. Do you prefer God’s language or the world’s langugage? Jesus tried so hard to make it clear that there was an alternative to marriage, yet so many professing Christians today, especially preachers, don’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. For most, the only alternative to marriage they can think of is homosexuality. So the big question in life is who to marry. As Rev. Shaw said: “Yet I would not recommend the choice we made for everyone.” What choice is he talking about? Which girl to marry? When to get married? Whether too continue in sexual sin or “make it right” in the eyes of the Lord? It could be all of them. But his choice was not between marriage or celibacy. “I don’t ever remember entertaining the thought that I might not be married.” And since he never understood he had a choice between marriage and celibacy, he never really understood marriage to begin with. A committment requires a default state. We come into this world alone. That is our default state. We cannot choose marriage if we don’t know what the options are. The big choice is whether or not to get married – not who, when or where to get married.

In Matthew 19 where Jesus described the three types of eunuchs, the disciples did not complain about whom they should marry, when they should get married, or if they should marry the girl they had sex with. Instead, they complained about the idea of not marrying at all! In verse 11 after hearing his prohibition against divorce, they said: “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” Jesus’s HUGE revelation here is that the opposite of committed marriage is committed celibacy and that all of us, like the disciples, have to choose between a life of sex as a spouse or a life of no sex as a eunuch. The disciples were familiar with the langugae of sex and the choice of marriage. But they were not familiar with the language of no sex and the choice of celibacy. Like today, it hardly existed in their world. Jesus communicated this with the metaphor of a eunuch, someone incapable of having sex. It probably knocked the disciples over, just like it does us today. Can you think of a better metaphor for someone with the gift of celibacy? It effectively strenthened marriage by ruling out anything short of a one man and one woman sexual relationship for life because the alternative is so difficult Apostle Paul considered it a special gift. The eunuch metaphor also did away with the option of divorce or any other infiedlity in marriage. What has always struck me about these verses is Jesus’s succinctness and matter-of-factness. I’m sure the disciples’ mouths were left gaping as they scrambled to digest what they heard. “Have sex and I’m married? Oh no! But I don’t know if I can do the eunuch thing.” A couple of them might have gone to a “man up” conference that night to think things over.

Jesus did not tell his disciples that some people can ‘accept’ being single and some cannot. The verb “accept” in Matthew 19:11 specifically refers to eunuchs, not singles who just haven’t found the right one yet. Eunuchs accept a permanent commitment to Christ, just as married people accept a permanent commitment to each other. Are there public vows? No. Wedding cakes? No. Wedding rings? No. But there other things in the spiritual world we do not see. There is a big, big difference between how the world defines “singles” and how Jesus defined eunuchs. The biggest difference is that eunuchs live chaste lives without sex. This is one of the biggest reasons it is not talked about in churches today. It reminds married people of the faithfulness God expects in marriage. I also think eunuchs include women because Jesus didn’t say anything that would exclude them. I think the metaphor of the eunuch was mainly used to signify permanence, not any specific gender or body part. Single people who don’t know Christ live as single as the absence of a wedding license allows them to. Meetups, hookups, one-night stands, friends with benefits, etc. You name it. As long as they don’t visit a courthouse, they’re legally single. But there is absolutely nothing biblical about a courthouse document.

When Jesus spoke of eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, he was not insinuating that a celibate life was as impossible as a man castrating himself. Rather, I think he was trying to explain why celibacy is a gift given only to some, because it is that difficult. In other words, God didn’t deliver a dozen truckloads of apples to my door with a note: “This is my gift to you. God.” Instead, he delivered a small box with a note: “In the box you will find enough seeds to plant 1,000,000 apple trees. It’s up to you to buy the land, till the soil, plant the seeds, and harvest the apples. God.” I hope that puts gift in perspective for you. So, do I walk about with a bright shiny “halo” of celibacy over my head? No. Do I go through life never feeling alone or that I need someone to talk to? No. Do I never notice the beauty of a woman? No. If you’re married, think about all the things your spouse does for you. Think about how much you depend on him or her. I depend on God for those same things everyday. I’m committed to him just as you are to your spouse. You may not find the marriage license in courthouse records. But it’s just as real.

Click to access newsletterapril2015.pdf

http://www.calvarygreenville.org/blog/46-green-pastures-still-waters/400-single#addcomments

http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabambc/construct-species-page.asp?sp=spring-azure

The False Witness Of Marriage

Marriage Medieval Germany

There are many ways of spreading the word of God today. If you’re a preacher and connected to the internet, then the pulpit may actually be a tiny part of your evangelistic crusade. The drawback, though, is that many lost people who read or hear what you say do not know anything about Jesus or the Bible, or even your church. You can’t see their reactions to your words. Even worse, you can’t answer all of their questions. Here’s a question I would like you to think about: Would you tell a lost soul on the street about Jesus’ death on the cross, but leave out his resurrection and the promise of eternal life if we believe in him? I don’t think so. That would be only half the story, wouldn’t it? However, you do the same thing when you pontificate about the glories of marriage and babies and leave out the alternative of celibacy for the kingdom of heaven. As a matter of fact, marriage is an institution of the Old Testament, not the New Testament. The old covenant between God and the nation of Israel was described as a marriage all the way back in Jeremiah 3:14-15:

“14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

As we know, God ultimately divorced the physical kingdom of Israel. So earthly marriage today can only point to the Old Testament and concerns of the world. It is not symbolic of the marriage between Christ and the church, but between God and Israel. However, in the New Testament and under the New Covenant, God is calling out from the world a spiritual kingdom of Israel. This body of believers is what we know today as the church. The new marriage relationship between God and his church is eternal. There will be no divorce. It cannot, however, be represented by the temporary nature of an earthly marriage. The new marriage relationship between Christ and the church can only be represented by those called to celibate life and the concerns of the Lord. Spouses have to go through each other to get to heaven. People with the gift of celibacy have a direct link. So in a very real way, marriage points to the past while celibacy points to the future. Spiritual circumcision replaced physical circumcision. Instead of making babies, celibates make spiritual children.

So pastors, I encourage you to feed the church with knowledge and understanding, balancing the temporary Old Testament nature of marriage with the eternal New Testament nature of celibacy. Dig yourselves out of the idol worship of marriage and children and into the promise of everlasting life that God promised us in the New Testament. Put down the baby diapers long enough to realize the needs of all of your fellow man. And above all, realize that God did not ordain the nuclear family as the foundational institution of human society. Matthew 16:18 makes it pretty clear that, if anything is the foundational institution of human society, it is the church: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

So remember that when you proselytize marriage to the masses, especially on the internet, and omit the option of celibacy, you are preaching a false gospel. As a matter of fact, your Bible doesn’t even get to the gospels. It ends with the Old Testament and divorce. The past must be balanced with the future.

Extraterrestrial Celibacy

andromedauv

Ultraviolet image of Andromeda from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer

Imagine for a second an extraterrestrial sent you a tweet asking what the climate is like on earth because he’s thinking about moving here. Limited to only a few lines of text, you tell him we have 24 hours in a day, a giant sun that is 10 times bigger than earth, all the light needed to sustain life, enough warmth to keep us comfortable, and that we are working on harnessing the sun’s power for solar energy. Are you missing something in your description of earth? What about nighttime? Don’t you want to squeeze in something about the other half of the 24 hours? Many nocturnal species including the Leatherback Turtle, Great Horned Owl, Blacknose Shark, Grey Mouse Lemur, and firefly depend on the nighttime for their survival. Their migration, mating, and even food sources depend on cycles of day and night. It’s a delicate balance such that even artificial lighting has been shown to disrupt their natural cycles of life. So I would suggest you give just as much information on our nighttime as on our daytime to the incoming visitor. You can’t have day without night. And you can’t have night without day. That makes sense. It’s an example of the natural dichotomies God set into motion when he created everything in the universe. A dichotomy is “a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.” I think it’s the perfect word to describe the sharp contrast of day and night and many other opposing forces in nature. The key is that they balance each other.

It’s also the perfect word to describe the difference between God’s call to marriage and God’s call to celibacy. How much more difference can there be between a man called to the concerns of the world and a man called to the concerns of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)? They have totally different values and chemistries. What makes it so unique though is that it’s our choice. When God created Adam and Eve, it was not a one-time event. He continues to create life today. We become part of the ongoing creation process when we bring babies into the world. However, we become just as much a part of the creation process when we propagate God’s family by regeneration of eternal fruit through faith in Christ. We can’t do too much about the other dichotomies in nature, like day and night and hot and cold, but we do have a choice about the lifestyle we choose – faithful marriages or faithful celibacies. Apostle Paul went to great lengths to explain the changes that the arrival of Christ and shortening of time would bring into the world. 1 Corinthians 7:29-30:

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away”

Note in verse 29 that Paul does not say this is his opinion. He plainly states, “What I mean.” Then he uses a series of striking social dichotomies to illustrate how life should change in the short time left after Christ’s ascension into heaven. His use of the word “should” indicates there will be consequences if we don’t make an effort to revert to our normative solitary lives and leave the world behind. All of these dichotomies are fairly easy to spot in society, except one – the presence or absence of a wife (spouse). Take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 and it may be easier:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The man with no wife has not been united with anyone. He has had no visitors in his temple. The same thing applies to a woman. She is the queen of her castle. If he’s had other occupants in his temple, then he is a man who has had a wife. In verse 16, Paul makes it plain that there really is no such thing as prostitutes, but adulterating wives. Did you read anything here about a wedding? Marriage licenses? In a very real sense, we don’t control our spiritual marital status. God does. We can’t create marriages in the eyes of God in courthouses and church buildings. But we can control who we let into our temples. Tufts University recently published an article titled “The Neuroscience of Love” which actually explains how a man who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body:

“Finally, our infatuation produces a decrease in the brain areas associated with “mentalizing” and “theory of mind,” namely the prefrontal cortex, parieto-temporal junction, and the temporal poles. These are the structures responsible for being able to identify other people’s emotions and ascribing reasons for them. Zeki (2007) explained this finding by highlighting that these areas are implicated in the conceptual distinction between the self and the other, therefore their deactivation is necessary for reaching the merging and unity lovers seek with each other. As the popular salsa song Me Repito says “ya no distingo entre tu cara y la mia” (I don’t distinguish between your face and mine anymore).”

It looks like love really is blind. We greatly underestimate how much God is in control of this world. So what’s different about a man who has not had a wife? For one thing, he does read other people’s emotions better. He has all of his original identify. Take a closer look at his temple. Explore his brain chemistry. Does he have bonding potential? Does it look like he has plans to build additional rooms? Is he trying to develop the qualities of a Christian husband? Father? Can he adapt to someone else’s lifestyle? Can he lose some of his independence? Would he be willing to sacrifice his life for his wife and children? If so, then he may be a man looking for a wife.

On the other hand, it could be a man who has had no visitors in his temple and he doesn’t wany any. He is just as honorable, respectful, honest, focused on you, and forthright as the guy above. He will think you’re just as beautiful, but he may not “come on” to you any other guys would. Where are his real passions? Does he seem to have a mission in life that is bigger than he is, out of this world? Is he a rebel? Does he seem to be living in a different time period? Is he a dreamer? Has he mastered self control? Does he have unusual creative abilities or other means of expression? Does he like to spend time alone? If so, then he may be a man called to the celibate life.

You can’t see all of these characteristics between the married and unmarried man from a distance, can you? They’re not as easy to spot as happiness and sadness. You can’t see them on a text message. You can’t see them on an iPhone. Could this be why Boaz’s are so hard to spot? I think so. You’ve got to look much deeper than what you see on the surface. The paint on the outside of his temple may be new and all gaits gaits polished, but on the inside you may find memories of other women that have tarnished his expectations for the future and clouded his ability to trust you. Is he able to distinguish your face from another lover’s face? The differences between men with wives and men without wives are as great as night and day, but their value in God’s eyes is 50/50.

Imagine for a second that an extraterrestrial sent you a tweet asking, instead of climate, about the human experience on planet earth. Limited to only a few lines of text, you replied back that our God had ordained marriage as the glorified and sanctified foundational institution of human society. That it represents the highest ideals of mankind, the ticket to salvation and eternal life in heaven. You could include a few lines about Adam and Eve and fruitfulness and multiplying. Describe how man can’t control his lust and must get married as soon as possible in order not to displease his God. Oh, and you might want to include something about our newfound passion for same sex marriage and gender neutrality. Yes, one big cosmic orgy floating in space. Is that an accurate representation of the human condition? What about people who don’t get married and have children? Should they be part of the story? I’m sure you’re aware that nocturnal creatures slowly die off and become extinct if exposed to too much light.

Could that be the case with celibacy today? Could it be that it is slowly dying off because it’s not valued as much as marriage? Until the church recovers the proper teachings about celibacy and its goodness in Christ and stops its idolatry of the nuclear family, it has no business pontificating about chastity, courting, dating, marriage or its blessings. Until it understands that faithfulness to Christ determines the value of human life, not the faithfulness to a husband or spouse or the love of a child, it will continue to come under the wrath of God. Homosexuality? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. So churches, if you don’t want to acknowledge all of God’s creation, even the least of his children, then your comfortable corner of the world may be shipped off to a place much hotter than the sun. And that does not mean that you give a one hour lecture on the merits of marriage and family and throw in an obligatory 30 second sound bite: “But Paul says singleness is a gift too. So don’t worry. If you’re single, you’re gifted.” That is not what he says. And that is not how it works. If you can’t think of anything to say, just have an equivalent moment of silence.

So what are the extraterrestrials going to think of us? They will probably declare the earth uninhabitable because it has a 24 hour blistering sun and so much fruit crawling on the ground that there is no place to land. They really can’t deal with an over-populated planet. “Let’s move one of the cars out of daycare. No, there’s still not enough room to touchdown.” What did ET enter in his logbook about planet earth? They turned around and set a course for Andromeda.

http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2005/09/jesus-and-paul-on-singlenessmarriage.html

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffryett.org%2Ffiles%2FSinglenessMarriageAndFamily.doc&ei=-TEcVfSuDomggwSbxoKQAQ&usg=AFQjCNEZSzm02q3k7xKfh8oIwom3Ifvkqw&sig2=2HmBQVzaFsb5kFISE1AG9g

https://chizadek.wordpress.com/category/singleness/

http://thosecatholicmen.com/supernatural-fatherhood-and-the-renewal-of-the-priesthood/

http://www.catholicdoors.com/misc/marriage/matri.htm

http://www.sbts.edu/family/blog/marriage-celibacy-and-the-hierarchy-of-merit-in-the-jovinian-controversy/

https://sites.tufts.edu/emotiononthebrain/2014/12/08/the-neuroscience-of-love/

Virginity – Beyond The Mechanics

"The Revelations of Eve and Adam" by Kevin L. Miller (2004)

“The Revelations of Eve and Adam” by Kevin L. Miller (2004)

I think everyone who follows my blog would agree that we live in a world today where right has become wrong and wrong has become right. Nowhere is that more evident than in human sexuality. Homosexuality is glorified while virginity is vilified. Unnatural abominations are cheered while natural processes in God’s creation are ridiculed. Why is it that even Christian people can accept their bodies as part of creation, but see sex as something so dirty it’s unspeakable? It may be because we don’t understand how sex, and thus virginity, fit in with the bigger picture of creation. Why is waiting until marriage so important? Why is sex before marriage, biblically known as fornication, so detrimental to our development as mature adults?

First, we need to understand the mechanics of virginity. I know, that may sound like a contradiction in terms. But we’ve come so far from God’s original design that we need to step back to square one. One of the main things that is tripping us up is our language. Take for instance the word “waiting” itself. Does that sound like a positive term? It doesn’t to me. Did Adam and Eve feel a sense of waiting for each other in the Garden of Eden? I don’t think so. Did Eve wait until her princess started a pursuit before she gave him her cell phone number? No. Did Adam consider his age and how much longer he could hold out for sex before he asked her to marry him? No. Did he consult statistical charts to tell him what age he needed to get married? No. Did they set a date for a wedding and commit to wait until that time? No. When you strip off 21st century eros-driven culture and consider man as a part of God’s creation and “a little lower than angels,” our vocabulary in the area of human sexuality begins to sound like babble. Adam and Eve were married the moment they had sex. They did not go to the courthouse to sign a license and did not call a preacher to officiate a wedding. They did not have premarital sex. When they had sex, they were married. Isn’t that simple to understand? Have you ever wondered why there is only one brief mention of a marriage in the Bible recorded in John 2, where Jesus attended the marriage at Cana and turned the water into wine? It’s probably because the idea of a state sanctioned wedding and marriage with all the formalities was a foreign concept to them. Their understanding of a covenant marriage between a man and woman was a million miles from our understanding of secular marriage and a legal contract between two people in a “committed relationship.”

Back then it was pretty simple: After getting to know each other, a couple agreed to accept one another for life, announced it to their village, had sex the same day, and were joined (married) as one flesh for life. No formalities. No legal bureaucracy. No courthouse. No church building. No preacher. No candles. No vows. No rice. No honeymoon. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church did not recognize marriage as a sacrament until 1215. It took them over a thousand years after the birth of Christ to formally declare its spiritual significance. That may have been because its significance was obvious. Protestants never even defined marriage and simply adopted it as a means to divorce. They left its control up to states, with preachers becoming “civil servants” and wedding ceremonies becoming part of the local economy. I find it ironic that many denominations today, including the Southern Baptists, include separation of church and state in their official “faith and message” statements. Yet, their preachers sign state contracts for weddings everyday. Church and state can’t get more bound than that.

What does all of this have to do with virginity? A lot. When you take away waiting, weddings, engagements, true love, romance, lawyers, preachers, civil servants, marriage licenses, wedding rings, and flowers, what’s left? God’s magnificent creation is left – A man and woman coming together as one flesh, in a holy union forever. Desire becomes something good, not something to be scared of. Trust becomes something earned over time, not something you miserably wait through. We can play gymnastics with the English language from now until eternity. We can conjure up all the “feel good” terms we want. Anybody want to “separate?” But in the end, we will not be able to change God’s natural laws or commandments.

Since God invented sex, he also invented virginity because it’s what works best for us. His commandments against fornication and sexual immorality are not stifling rules that we must follow. They are guidelines for our benefit. He made every neuron and axon in our brains, enabling our capacity for memories. He invented memories! Can you think (or dream) of a more permanent memory than first time sex? Breaking news – Two virgins are necessary for that to happen. That is not shaming anybody else. It’s not intentionally making anybody uncomfortable. It’s not calling anybody else dirty chewing gum. It’s a fact. Scientists are aware of the chemical bonding that occurs with oxytocin, dopamine, and other endorphins in our brains. Virginity maximizes that bonding and provides the greatest chance for marriage to last a lifetime, for both guys and girls, whether officially married or not. Those chemicals bind us to a spouse in marriage and to a prostitute in fornication (1 Corinthians 6:15). Can you see how glue or tape may have come to be used as an analogy? There are some biblical concepts that have no easy comparisons.

We have denied virginity its dignity, its sacredness, its spiritual dimensions – all in the name of physical pleasure, uncontrollable hormones, and “try it before you buy it” mentality. Virginity is viewed as nothing more than a new car sitting in the dealership lot, something to be sold to the highest bidder. It’s seen as the embodiment of naitivity, when in fact it’s the foundation of wisdom. We don’t just live in a “fallen” world. We live in a world where sex has devolved into mind-numbing, self-serving primal mechanics. We are at a point now where mankind doesn’t even trust himself. Indeed, single men are being banned from theme parks because those not carrying valid state marriage licenses are assumed to be pedophiles (http://nypost.com/2014/11/10/family-theme-park-bans-all-single-people-to-prevent-pedophilia/) and chastity is denigrated as being part of a “purity culture.” Yes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to think on those things that are true, things that are honest, things that are just, things that are pure, and things that are lovely. But it doesn’t matter what labels society puts on me. I know who my creator is and acknowledge that he knows more than I do about sex – because he made it.

The Euphemism Of Marriage

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According to the Oxford Dictionary, a euphemism is “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.” We hear euphemisms everyday: Correctional facility instead of prison, collateral damage instead of accidental deaths, enhanced interrogation techniques instead of torture, pregnancy termination instead of abortion, etc. We can add one more – marriage. Turning to the Oxford Dictionary again, we see that marriage is: “The legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.” In short, it’s a legal sexual relationship recognized by the state you live in. The legality of marriage via a marriage license and wedding ceremony give it its formal social recognition. But it does not in any way reflect the relationship between God and his church. Do you think a state that recognizes a homosexual relationship can honor a same flesh union in the eyes of God? Of course not. That would be like casinos giving half their proceeds to the church. The dictionary’s definition of marriage is a far cry from the union described in the Bible. Oxford even now leaves room for the union of “two people of the same sex.”

There is an increasing attack on Christian virtue today and church leaders have no clue what to do. They have, in large part, brought it on themselves – whether through pride or just plain ignorance. Many of the inroads the homosexual activists have made can be traced back to the fact that the church has never defined marriage – other than a courthouse visit, a sprinkle of rice, and a preacher with a few talking points. When compared to the biblical description of a permanent one-flesh union, marriage today is but a euphemism – a punch line in a world that can’t even agree on what is male and what is female, a world where the norm is adultery and fornication. It is but a mere ticket to free sex and legal disposition of inheritance at the time of death. And it has come to mean no more than a marriage license, a wedding ceremony, and a tax break. Oh, and don’t forget the honeymoon. So if marriage is just a euphemism today, what is the more harsh word that it’s replacing? What is the biblical terminology that has become too uncomfortable in the 21st century? Could it be the biblically based “one flesh union.”

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31.

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:16.

This may come as a shock for many, but a biblical marriage has nothing to do with a marriage license, wedding ceremony, exchange of vows, justice of the peace, preacher, or three day cruise. But wait a second, you say. If you take away all of those things, then what is left? That’s just my point. What we know as marriage today is not even remotely akin to God’s original plan. A biblical marriage is a man and woman becoming one person in Christ; witnessing together, making decisions together, raising children together, reading the bible together, etc. They move in one accord. Their love is unconditional. They sacrifice for each other. Divorce is a foreign concept to them. A more accurate noun today may be “covenant.” This word is used to refer to marriage one time in the KJV in Malachi 2:14: “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” While the Bible supports marriage being a covenant of one flesh between a man and woman and God, it does not support it as a contract between a “committed relationship” and a state government. The marriage license today is but a means to an end, a means for men and women to objectify each other and enhance social status. It’s seen as a way to get ahead, a way to ecoonimic prosperity, the Coupe de Ville status symbol. Those marrying young without adequate education and income find out it’s a quick road to poverty with their first child. For many churches, marriage has become the means by which a person gets to heaven. This is especially true in conservative denominations such as the Southern Baptists. Men are taught to “man up,” get married, and have children as soon as possible. The SBCs Albert Mohler has made this one of his talking points. Men are taught that marriage is the only way to become a responsible citizen. The fact is that marriage and family are worshipped today just as Baal, the pagan idol of the Phoenicians, was idolized in the Old Testament. The marriage license and its ties to the state are the very means by which the Defense Of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013. So now we have a legal contract on the civil state side and a sacrificial covenant between two baptized people on the church side. Is it time for preachers and priests to quit signing marriage licenses and retire their roles as civil servants? Which side would it help, those holding to a traditional view of marriage of a man and woman for life or those in favor of redefining marriage as any “committed relationship”?

The meanings of words do change over time, regardless of whether or not they are biblical. Consider what happened to the definition of “saint.” It went from meaning someone the Roman Catholic Church deemed holy in some way to a person who is particularly good. But biblical principles do not change, regardless of prevailing terminology. Apostle Paul explained this clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:19: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” The same thing is true of marriage. Marriage is only as important in so far as it observes the commandments of God. The marriage license has no inherent value. The vows have no inherent value. Wedding rings have on inherent value. But the witness of loyalty and commitment does have value that transcends courthouses and joint tax returns. If you would need a marriage license and church service to legitimize your marriage, then it has indeed become no more than a euphemism.

The Woman At The Well – Revealed

"Samaritan Woman At The Well" by He Qi New Gallery

“Samaritan Woman At The Well” by He Qi New Gallery

The story of the woman at the well found in John 4:1-26 can be read here. I encourage you to read it: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4. It’s one of the most misunderstood and misused stories in the Bible. The first thing to notice is the significance of the first three verses. Jesus is paying a visit to the Pharisees in Galilee to dispel a rumor that he was baptizing more people than John. Contrast what was heard with the facts – Not only was it not Jesus who was baptizing, it was not John either. It was all of his disciples. Pharisees customarily dealt in rumors. After all, they were lawyers. It’s interesting that Jesus chose not to bypass Samaria on his way to Galilee. Samaritans were about as strict as Pharisees when it came to adherence of the law. Jews traveling from Jerusalem often crossed the Jordan River just to avoid Samaria. The woman that Jesus encountered was at Jacob’s well in Sychar, a well that tapped into the Jordan River. All of these details were not coincidences. They serve to underscore Jesus’ bigger mission of bridging the rift between the Jews and Samarians and offering his life saving water to all people.

Understanding that the woman at the well had a Pharisaical disposition is critical in understanding the story. She is a follower of the law and has not accepted the reality of Christ. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, she revealed her contempt for all Jews: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Don’t confuse this woman with the good Samaritan. She is far from good. Even after Jesus revealed who he was, she takes on the role of a Doubting Thomas. “Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob?” She’s got to see proof. She’s got to see the evidence. She’s a lawyer. Did Jesus give her the proof? You bet he did. He directed a beam of truth into her love life. “Go, call your husband and come back.” Marriage and family life were apparently so much the norm in those days that he could casually assume that she had a husband. At this point, Jesus is “playing dumb” in the dark so as to maximize the brightness of the light that is about to hit her.
Her response was “I have no husband.” Then he flipped on the switch – “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” My interpretation of what Jesus said is this “You are right, legally speaking, because you haven’t produced a wedding spectacle or marriage license that would identify anybody as your husband. But your definition of husband is based on legality and the court system. It’s based on the world. My definition of husband is based on a sexual relationship where a man and woman are united and become one flesh. Nice try with those legal words. But your husbands do include every man you’ve ever had sex with. In your case, you’ve had five husbands and you didn’t marry the guy you’re sleeping with now.” Note that Jesus said “and the man you now have is not your husband.” On first glance, it seems this story could have been told without the five husbands. But the word “and” links her illicit sexual affairs with those five men to the affair she is currently having. That one word dispels any notion that they were husbands in honorable marriages. It may be a simple conjunctive connector and source of noise in the English language, but it is a dividing sword in the mouth of God. Notice also that Jesus used the possessive “man you have now” when describing her present lover. She has him because she is married to him. He has been her husband since their sexual rendezvous, regardless of whether or not they had a state sanctioned marriage. I also think Jesus placed emphasis on the present tense “now,” drawing a line to her present tense “have” no husband. I hear sarcasm in his tone and I think this is intentional.

I would estimate that over 90% of people who claim to be Christians today define marriage the same way as the woman at the well – a state sanctioned legal contract – instead of a one-flesh union between man and woman for life. We live in a culture that has taken the sex out of marriage, taken sex out of reproduction, and taken sex out of the sacred. These changes have not occurred overnight. They took a lot of political maneuvering and overcoming basic tenants of churchgoers in major denominations. Several denominations have key Pharisees, like the SBCs Russell Moore, who are working to change the meaning of marriage to suit a more “progressive” and left-leaning agenda – including support for divorce, adultery and a “third way” option of homosexual marriage. According to Moore: “Do they repent of this adultery by doing the same sinful action again, abandoning and divorcing one another? No. In most cases, the church recognizes that they should acknowledge their past sin and resolve to be faithful from now on to one another.” So the man in charge of ethics for the second largest denomination in North America (Baptist) would tell the Samaritan woman to go on back to her sinful relationship and keep on living with him. I’m sure he would tell the woman caught in adultery (John 8) the same thing.

For Pharisees like the Samaritan woman and Moore, appearances and legalities are what are important. He went even further and stated: “Still, we acknowledge that the category of a remarried person after divorce does not, on its face, indicate sin.” http://www.russellmoore.com/2014/09/24/is-divorce-equivalent-to-homosexuality/. My comments can be read at the end of his article. Instead of the woman at the well, Jesus would more than likely encountered the preacher at the pulpit today. Think of all the money (for the children) they would lose when people started leaving their churches. The ERLC would organize another seminar for convictional and redemptive, gospel butterbean centered tithing.

Celibate Singleness? Can I Get A Witness?

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I’ve noticed a new trend lately. Some churches are amending their mission statements to include “celibate singleness” in addition to heterosexual marriage. Here is an example from the First Baptist Church of Monroeville in Pennsylvania:

“We believe that God calls us to either of two patterns He has designed for us: celibate singleness or a faithful heterosexual marriage. We believe that marriage was instituted by God as a sacred and permanent covenant between a man and a woman for the purposes of companionship, enjoyment, completeness, fruitfulness, protection, and illustration of Christ’s relationship with the church. We believe that parents’ chief responsibility is to raise their children to love and serve the Lord.” http://www.fbcmon.org/we-believe.html

Churches, I can go through your Sunday bulletins, sit through your sermons, read your announcements in the local paper – and give you thousands upon thousands of examples of “faithful heterosexual marriages” through wedding and death announcements. However, I can’t find one example of celibate singleness. I can’t find one living witness to the lifestyle Paul encouraged in 1 Corinthians. Do you think that is . . . odd? I do. Do you think a couple of obligatory words in a mission statement is enough to reverse the idolatry of marriage and family in this country? I find it interesting that when church leaders talk about the gift of celibacy, it is always in terms of some theoretical misionary serving Jesus in some dangerous far off land. It’s never a real person, just some rare individual that may exist . . . somewhere in the world. I guess this makes some churches feel better about themselves and more inclusive. Some of them probably look at the addition of this language as a defense against homosexuality. For some of them, their theology on celibacy gets no further than same sex unions. To them, celibacy is just “something gays do to get right with the Lord.” To see celibacy as a vocation of at least as equal proportion to marriage would take a major theological upgrade. Notice that the above mission statement from Monroeville only included the word celibacy. They did not elaborate on it as they did marriage. So in essence, 99% of their statement on family is . . . marriage and family.

My challenge to churches: For every wedding anniversary that you announce in your church, in your bulletins, in your local newspapers, on your local radios, find at least one celibate single, affirm the godliness of their lifestyle, and announce the number of years they have been celibate – just as you do wedding anniversaries. Who are they? Have you ever asked? Want that make some people uncomfortable? Look at the price you’ve paid for comfort so far – abortion, contraception, fornication, adultery, pornography, prostitution, homosexuality. In a few short years, every church in this country will be required to persom same sex “marriages.” Most churches have a repuation already as “just a bunch of hypocrits.” Words are but ink on paper. Witnesses serve as living testaments to the grace of God. If you can’t affirm celibacy as you do marriage, your not qualified to include celibate singles in your mission statements.

True Singles Versus True Widows

Shadowmanbyriver

I’ve asked the question before – What is a single? Fifty years ago they were people who had not married. They were those who made up singles groups in churches. The word “single” had a biblical basis. They were expected to be chaste and to have had no visitors in their temples. They were honored and respected by church families. Single men and women were given responsibilities in church, like mentoring young people. Not anymore. Singles groups have given way to the divorced group, divorced again group, newly widowed group, I left my spouse because of abuse group, single parents group, “I think I might be gay group,” etc. Today, to remind someone of their past is synonymous with making them feel uncomfortable. And sadly churches reinforce the notion that histories don’t matter and that when Jesus forgives sins he erases everything from your memory – sin with no consequences. Yes, for the politically correct church, that’s the goal – to make you feel comfortable and good about yourself – like a glorified support group. “Single? Step this way. Are you widowed or divorced? Door number two.” But is it really possible to separate one’s marital status from their sexual history? Socially yes. Biblically no. Because the Bible makes it very clear that if your vessel has been inhabited, you have been married (1 Corinthians 3:16). That becomes your history, regardless of church attendance or good works.

The Bible also talks about the issue of past histories. In 1 Timothy 5:3-9, Apostle Paul addressed the role of widows this way:

3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.
4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.

Widows indeed? In some versions (NKJV, NAB), they are referred to as “true widows.” Why did Paul qualify them with “indeed”? Because the word widow cannot be defined without a past history. According to the Oxford Dictionary a widow is: “A woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.” Notice that Paul listed four qualifications for a true widow: 1) She did not have children or other family that could take care of her. 2) She did not live in pleasure. 3) She was at least 60 years of age. 4) She had lived without sex since her husband’s death, the wife of one man. The word single cannot be defined without a past history either. With the exception of the minimum 60 years of age (which is irrelevant), what’s the difference between a true widow and a true single? There is none, exceed that a widow has had sex and a single has not. In our family idolatry culture today, the widow is a “known quantity.” The single is not. The widow will leave a legacy of a husband and/or children. The single will not. That’s a good enough reason to punish true singles, isn’t it?

“Liveth in pleasure” can only be interpreted one way. A true widow has lived without a sexual relationship after her husband died. She had enough dignity and class to honor him even after his death by remaining chaste (wife of one man). How did a community determine that? There’s only one way – Sexual histories and reputations were discussed in homes and synagogues. Reputations are not made with gossip, but with facts. Verse 10 even states that a true widow is “well reported of for good works.” Her history mattered that much. What does the history of singles matter? Not too much in churches today. “Taken into a number” in verse 9 suggests that true widows were part of a special social order. If there was a special order, and I think there was, their reputations were the only way of determining who could put their name on the roll. Imagine what would happen today if churches followed the recommendations of Paul and identified the true widows that were qualified to receive assistance from the church. Imagine what would happen if a church set out to determine who had lived a life of chastity after their husband’s death and who were false widows. I don’t think many churches would have to worry about their financial status. I tend to think that the true widows of the New Testament were not only honored – but also had authority in the Christian community, had designated functions, and had leadership roles before the churches came under city/state control. What kind of leadership roles do true singles have today? Outside the Catholic church, single men are not even allowed to be pastors in most denominations. That’s a lot of honor, isn’t it?

Following Paul’s line of thinking, I think we can just as well say there are true singles today and false singles or, biblically speaking, true unmarrieds and false unmarrieds. True singles are authentic solitary people who have had no visitors in their temple. They have had no relationships and have waited on marriage to have sex. False singles live in pleasure and have not waited. Yes, I’m a true single. But the sexual component is not a fraction of who I am as a whole. There are more profound things that separate me from social singles today. Probably the greatest thing is my solitary life. I like peace and quiet. I fix my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wash my own clothes. I shop for my own groceries. I pay my own bills. I clean my own house. I schedule my own activities. I go to bed by myself and wake up by myself. Nobody knows when I leave or come back home. I go to church by myself. And I still live in the dark ages because I don’t have a portable device. Don’t worry. I feel fine. Having an empty vessel has allowed me to do things I would not be able to do if married. My interests are not divided. I’m able to get to know people on a level deeper than most spouses know each other.

Most people today couldn’t comprehend such a solitary life. If true widows were desolate, how much more are true singles who don’t even have children? I think true singles today are even more desolate, trust God just as much, and continue to pray night and day. I have known churches to help widows by establishing dependant funds, providing them with food and clothes, adopting their children, visiting them during the holidays, providing volunteers to help them with ADLs, teaching them new skills, getting them jobs, sending them cards and letters, helping them pay bills, building them new homes, helping them clean their homes, visiting them in the hospital, helping them clean their yards, visiting them, helping them connect with Godly men, taking their children to and from school, giving them a listening ear, assigning deacons and wives to care for their emotional needs, helping them connect to the rest of the church family, creating support networks for them, and helping them with transportation to doctors offices and grocery stores. What has your church done lately to honor true singles?

Marriage And Celibate Singleness – The Ultimate Paradox

HeadSpace by Kevin Chupik

HeadSpace by Kevin Chupik

A paradox, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “a person, thing or situation that has two opposite features and therefore seems strange.” The “thing” I’m going to explore is the two sides of the Christian lifestyle coin – marriage and celibacy. A worldly marriage and socially sanctioned sex represents the pinnacle of Christian values in 21st century American culture. Indeed, the word “family” has become synonymous with the word “Christian. Misplaced priorities in marriage have become the basis of cliques along socioeconomic lines and the downfall of America’s education system. In contrast to the Greatest Generation, Americans now believe everybody has the right to have it all; that a man’s good faith goes no deeper than the number of hungry children in his house, and that sex is just as important as food and water. There are many benefits bestowed on those who marry and often these are more important than any perceived love or commitment. First, there are tax breaks. The “marriage penalty” is mostly history. More than half of couples today benefit economically when they marry. For single taxpayers in 2013, the standard deduction was $6,100. But for married couples filing jointly, the deduction was twice as much at $12,200. Another big bonus is children. They are like tax gold. A newborn infant was worth $3,900 in 2013. Then there’s the child tax credit, another $1,000 per child, unless you earn over $100,000 a year. For the lowest income earners, the amount of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) increases significantly with each child they add. In 2013, $6,044 was awarded to families with three or more children earning around $13,450 a year. So for the people who are uneducated and poverty stricken, it pays to have kids. What do you call that? A welfare state. Then there are estate transfer benefits. If a person dies with a hefty nest egg (over 5.25 million), they can transfer all of those assets to their spouse without paying one dime of federal estate tax (called the marital deduction). Add to this the tax exempt status for gifts from spouses. Of course we can’t forget the IRAs. Under certain conditions, a person can pay money into their spouse’s IRA and deduct up to $11,000 on their joint tax return. Married people also benefit when they sell a home. If you’re a single person and pass both the time and residency tests for a long term investment, you’re allowed to earn up to $250,000 in profit from the sale of your home tax-free. If you’re married, you can make up to $500,000 in profit from the sale of a home without paying a cent in capital gains. This all makes it a little easier see why many marriages are not motivated out of love and commitment, but out of financial gain and convenience.

Paradoxically, a biblical marriage is a witness that we are not promised all of our dreams, that we must often wait to have more than we’ve got, that the kingdom of God is not yet come, and that the love between a husband and wife is but a hazy reflection of the love between Christ and his church. Marriage witnesses to the familiar rhythms of life, to the natural order of God’s creation, to the seasons, and to the expected. It symbolizes commitment and sacrifice in a world that can’t see beyond tomorrow. It requires planning, timing, schedules, multiple priorities, and compromise. It also requires the kitchen be ready 24/7 (i.e., Martha) and transportation ready to go anywhere anytime. A Godly marriage also testifies to the self-sustaining nature of human existence. It produces babies. And unlike other babies in the animal world, human babies require consistent care for the first few months of their lives. The paradox: The world says married people have it all; two kids, two car garage, a dog, and a white picket fence. The American dream. In contrast, the Bible says husbands and wives have to wait for the wedding feast in heaven to see all of their dreams fulfilled and what real love is all about.

Likewise, worldly singleness is regarded as a life of unfulfillment, a sacrifice of sexual relationships and heirs, barrenness, bitterness, and loneliness. Our society laughs at the idea of sexual restraint. Movies and TV portray sex as being available on every street corner, with girls being prudes if they say no and guys being desparate and always on the prowl. Distrust reigns supreme because your an unknown quantity until you reveal your heterosexuality within marriage. It’s a world where bodies are a mere means to an end, as a means to arrive at sexual ecstasy. With the help of the pharmaceutical industry, sex has become a recreational sport; something that you have “to be ready” for anytime. Everybody is just one pill away from the crowning golden calf of orgasm, to having all of their dreams fulfilled. And no need to worry about passing along STDs. Men can be safe with latex and women can abort if they don’t want. After all, there’s a “pregnancy crisis center” on every street corner ready with the diapers, bottles, and formula – and a scripture on the way out the door. No price to pay, right? Our society has become so porn saturated that even the word “date” now implies a sexual rendezvous. What used to be a meet in the park and a two hour conversation over coffee has now become a click on a singles meetup page and a 30 minute workout in the backseat of a car. Just shop to your heart’s desire. Don’t like blondes? Here’s a brunette. The church encourages this mindset because it regards singleness as a problem to be solved, a holding station for people who haven’t reached adulthood. Many churches assume that we have a mate waiting out there somewhere. It’s just our job to find them. Even worse, some churches teach that you will not find that someone special until you are walking closer with the Lord. And if you reach some arbitary age around 35-40 and are not married, woe be unto you. After that point, the church sees only two long term possibilities – either you’re fornicating or your gay. Worldly singles today are like the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25) who went to meet the bridegroom with no oil in their lamps. Once they saw the other five virgins with lamps that were burning, they became jealous. As Matthew 25:8-9 tells us: “And the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.’ But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.'” In today’s society, a virgin has become an obstacle to self pleasure; a source of jealousy for those who couldn’t wait until marriage and did not bring oil with their lamps to meet their bridegrooms. And if you’re not sexually satisfied, the world will do anything to please you. Not happy being a man? Not to worry. Become a woman. Believe God created another garden with Adam and Steve? Not to worry. Become a homosexual. Hit a road block when she says no? Find a girl who will say yes. The spiritual nature of sex has been separated from the physical. So what seems like a free choice today will end up costing untold amounts in the long run.

Paradoxically, celibate singleness for Christians is actually a witness to eternity in heaven, to being able to live without sex or having it all, and of living and loving within the boundaries of biblical principles. Celibate singles put a higher priority on mastering self control. They have no expectations and make no assumptions. Even though our Declaration of Independence lists the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the celibate single testifies that not all dreams come true and that there is dignity and meaning in suffering and sacrifice, even for a stranger. In his book Yearnings, Craig Barnes noted that: “Some married people will yearn for a better marriage or for a different marriage, or no marriage; and some singles will yearn for any marriage.” Desire is built in to the sexual process. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. The determining factor is self-control. Celibate singles do not depend on sexual pleasure for contentment or meaning in their lives. And they don’t depend on sex or children to define their manhood or womanhood. To be a child of God in the New Testament is to born of the spirit, not of a woman – which explains why all the Old Testament genealogies are not listed in the New Testament.

Christian marriage and celibate singleness should point to one thing – eternity in heaven with Christ. Unfortunately, it looks like the world’s view has superseded basic Christian beliefs. The church has swallowed the Freudian view that sex motivates everything a man does and that something is always lurking in his subconscious mind, something of a sexual nature that controls his every thought and action. The church needs to repent of this world view of singleness and come to the realization that platonic friendships cannot be overlooked in the Christian community, that some people do think about other things than sex, and that celibate singles have something priceless to offer – love that goes beyond blood lines and a point of view that is not dependent upon financial status or the size of a house.

The Middle Of Which Fence?

easternmeadowlark1

Can people straddle the fence on social/moral issues of the day and still claim to be Christians? According to the Bible, we cannot. As Matthew 6:24 tells us: 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.” In other words, you have to choose God’s side of the fence or Satan’s side of the fence. You can’t sit in the middle and claim “I don’t have an opinion.” And in the case of homosexual unions, you can’t say “What does anybody else’s sexuality matter to me? It’s not my business.” This may come as a shock, but it is your business if you’re a Christian. Taking the neutral road appeals to our popularity-driven culture. You may think it prevents you from making enemies. You may think it shows you’re a “sensitive” person. Did Jesus make enemies? Did he try to hide his identity? How can anybody hide under a cloak of neutral comfort knowing what Christ did on the cross? If we are going to affirm he is our savior, then we must be willing to defend him and sit on his side of the fence.

Which fence are we talking about though? When it comes to sexuality, the lifestyle choice for a Christian is not homosexuality or heterosexuality. But’s that the choice the news media play up to and churches have bought it. However, the fence is not between a committed relationship in marriage or a committed relationship in a homosexual union. It’s between choosing marriage or choosing celibacy. For some, that will seem too divisive, too black and white. But it is biblical. Those are the only two lifestyle choices offered in the Bible. No gray area. Unfortunately, many churches today do not see those two choices. They only see one – marriage and family – because that’s the vote of the majority. They’ve drawn the wrong line in the sand. The only other choice they comprehend is homosexuality, because so many church leaders and pastors have had their noses buried in newspapers and 7-Eleven tabloids and haven’t spent enough time reading God’s word. Some churches even take current culture into account when teaching their younger generation sexual standards. For example, this is how the Southern Baptist’s Ethics Commission described Jimmy Scroggins’ recent remarks at their 2014 leadership conference:

“He pointed out that today’s culture is marked by morally ambiguity, access, radical autonomy and that porn is a given, sex is expected, Gay is Ok (he lamented that even when he gave a very sensitive talk on homosexuality in his church that teenagers saw him as a bigot), and marriage is a capstone not a cornerstone). Scroggins challenged that these cultural trends have to inform how we teach and train teens in our churches and homes.” http://www.dennyburk.com/a-point-of-agreement-with-matthew-vines-and-the-future-of-evangelical-reflection-on-same-sex-orientation/

It may be news for the Baptists, but cultural trends do not change the word of God or alter how it’s presented to teenagers. It is twisted thinking like this that has put a Christian principle like celibacy in the same camp with pornography, fornication, and pedophilia. Idolizing sex while ignoring celibate singles is just as bad, if not worse, than straddling the fence between Christianity and Satanism. It’s the primary reason women are viewed as objects, why we have a staggering number of abortions every year, why teenagers have turned to premarital sex, and why pornography is the biggest business in this country. Young people only see their options as heterosexual sex or homosexual sex, instead of marriage or celibacy. The wrong fence. The wrong issues.

Marriage and celibacy both fall on the Christian side of the fence. It is a beautiful design and choice that fits in nicely with the other sacred dichotomies. However, recognizing both lifestyles does require a little more thinking than the secular marriage/homosexual stereotype. It requires more openness about sexuality than the taboo approach it receives in churches today, where silence is the norm. It requires us to face the reality that marriage and family is not the only valid Christian lifestyle. It requires churches to loosen their grip on the golden calves of sex and children and to reexamine their definition of marriage. Recognizing celibate values does not validate homosexuality or reinforce the middle of the Christian/non-Christian fence. Instead, it strengthens families in the long run because it balances the celibate’s concerns for Christ with the married person’s concerns for the world. It’s not a fence. It’s a personal choice. And a Godly one. The word “celabacy” may smack of catholicism and homosexual scandal. But that’s the best word we’ve got at the moment in the English language. The word Apostle Paul chose was “unmarried.” How would that be defined today? How wide is your fence?

The Inconsistencies Of Southern Baptists

Published by The Alabama Baptist Newspaper March 2014.
By John Morgan

As President of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC), Russell Moore has been trying to straddle the fence on same sex marriage since he took office in May of 2013; reassuring his flock that the church opposes it, while telling the homosexual community that they will be loved with “convictional kindness.”  Moore, who had been the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, took over the helm of their ethics commission after Richard Land’s tenure of 25 years.

Moore has complained about the disappearance of biblical language from our vocabulary:  “In the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine, I argue that the loss of the words “fornicate” and “fornication” implicitly cedes the moral imagination to the sexual revolutionaries because the words “fornication” and “premarital sex” aren’t interchangeable.”  However, in response to the issue of same sex marriage, he said:  “The increased attention to the question of marriage also gives us the opportunity to love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus does.”  Merely using the unbiblical terms gay and lesbian made him the poster child for their internet blogs that week.  Not to mention the fact that in the Bible they are homosexuals and sodomites.  Not gays.  So the ERLC is uncomfortable using the unbiblical phrase “premarital sex.”  But on the other hand, perfectly comfortable using the unbiblical word “gay.”  The inconsistencies add up.

When a Christian photographer expressed his misgivings about photographing a same sex wedding, Moore agreed with him.  And he reassured the photographer that his “situation takes place at a moment of concerted cultural revisionism on the question of marriage as conjugal union.”  I didn’t know Baptist ethics changed with the culture and each passing moment.  However, he passed his blessings on to other unbiblical marriages (unequally yoked, divorced, etc)  because they they are not “obvious deviations.”  Even though Moore supported the photographer’s boycott of the same sex marriage, he did not support the boycott of Starbuck’s Coffee that ensued after their affirmation of same sex marriage. 

With so much freedom and acceptance, the ERLC is hosting a “sex summit” in April in which “breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin.”  I’m not sure which version of the Bible they’re using now, but the gospel has nothing to do with redeeming sexual desire.   They probably need to worry a little less about the redemption of sexual desire and more about the redemption of mankind from his sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  There is no easy way to the stars from the orbit of the world and moral relativism and acceptance.

breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf

http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/03/26/breaking-news-russell-moore-elected-next-erlc-president/

http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/01/03/premarital-sex/

http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/06/26/how-should-same-sex-marriage-change-the-churchs-witness/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/23/conservative-christians-selectively-apply-biblical-teachings-in-the-same-sex-marriage-debate.html

http://www.russellmoore.com/2014/02/23/are-christians-hypocritical-on-weddings-and-conscience-protection/#more-15222

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/10/is-it-wrong-that-i-dont-care-if-im-an-evangelical

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/02/20/should-a-christian-photographer-work-at-a-same-sex-wedding-ceremony/

The Supreme Court’s Flawed Reasoning On Same Sex Marriages

Julia had been studying hard for the upcoming final exams during her freshman year at Florida State.  She even sacrificed sleep and often didn’t have to eat.  It all paid off though when she received a 98 on the precalculus test.  However, there was one small plank in the cogwheel that Julia had not planned on – and that was Rhonda.  Instead of studying for the test, Rhonda took off to Panama City with a group of girlfriends.  She figured she could cram it all in the night before.  Besides, she didn’t have to miss sleep – and she certainly didn’t miss any meals.  Rhonda made a teary-eyed 56.  She was furious and complained bitterly to the math professor, saying that it was just not fair for her to feel uncomfortable and of less worth than Julia, saying that her dignity and status in the class were in jeopardy.  She also complained that it gave Julia an advantage over her when the GPA scores were tallied at the end of the semester and would give her an advantage when looking for jobs.  Such immature extremism is not uncommon in universities.  He agreed and decided to “scale” everybody’s grades.  So instead of Julia receiving a 98 on the test she now received a 76.  And instead of a 56, Rhonda received a 76. Oh how happy she was.  The professor reasoned that all of his students should feel they have equal intellectual abilities and not be made to feel uncomfortable because someone else is smarter.  He assured Rhonda that her dignity and status would not be compromised because of a low grade.

Does this socialist approach to test scores sound familiar?  It should if you’ve been following the recent decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.  In the words of Justice Kennedy:  “The State’s decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import. But the Federal Government uses the state-defined class for the opposite purpose—to impose restrictions and disabilities.”  The right for gay people to marry automatically gives them dignity and status? Mr. Kennedy, what on earth are you thinking? Marriage automatically confers dignity and status? Has our marriage and family worship society gone that far? What if I found my German shepherd having sex with the chocolate lab down the street? Would that confer on them dignity and status of immense import? Would we need to pass a law to protect their personal freedoms? What restrictions and disabilities does DOMA place on the gay community?  Did the justices let money trump principle? I’m afraid so. The case involved the same sex marriage of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer and their estate tax:  

“When Spyer died in 2009, she left her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, but was barred from doing so by §3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which amended the Dictionary Act—a law providing rules of construction for over 1,000 federal laws and the whole realm of federal regulations—to define “marriage” and “spouse” as excluding same-sex partners. Windsor paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund, which the Internal Revenue Service denied.”  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_g2bh.pdf

You can substitute the characters in the above story with Windsor (Rhonda) complaining that if she was a man (Julia) she wouldn’t have to pay the $363,053.  Instead of grades being leveled out, it was money.  A married couple might have a dollar more than a gay couple.  So it boiled down to greed and envy. The least common denominator approach to social and ethical matters is incompatible with Christian principles.  Does America want to be a one size fits all cardboard box, a country that is indistinguishable from any other non-Christian country in the world? 

The rulings should be a wake up call for all Christians in the country, a time to reflect on the only two authentic Christian lifestyles – marriage and celibacy.  Protestant churches have traditionally been slow to respond to ethical dilemmas of the day.  The definition of marriage needs to be continually discussed – giving affirmation and encouragement to those who have faithful marriages.  And churches need to throw away the golden calves of marriage and family and give affirmation and encouragement to virtuous singles and those with the celibate gift. Instead of marriage and homosexuality, the choices need to be presented clearly as marriage and chaste celibacy.

We need not sugarcoat our words with comfort measures.  The Bible is very plain spoken on matters of homosexuality.  The Christian community doesn’t need to feel compelled to bring their standards down to the level of the court, down to the level of the least common denominator.  Those men will have their judgement.  Instead of responding to the recent court decisions with righteous indignation based on God’s word, the country’s religious leaders seem to have thrown up their hands in defeat and climbed aboard the rainbow train of gay pride. Russell Moore, the SBC’s ethics leader, called on all Southern Baptists to view this as an “opportunity to love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus does” http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/06/26/how-should-same-sex-marriage-change-the-churchs-witness/). This is an opportunity to speak the truth. Instead of sugar-coating, Christians need to respond with the definitive double-edged sword of the spirit which states “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9).” 

At the heart of the matter is misplaced priorities. Yes, as Justice Scalia said, the worship of marriage and family really has gone that far – “The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.” America’s churches are largely responsible for this exalted conception of marriage. To keep their numbers and tithes up, they have bowed to the golden calf of marriage for so long that their eyes are blurred and they can’t see it. Just as the church took their eyes off the Bible and looked to the popular opinion of the masses, the Supreme Court took their eyes off the constitution and looked to their own flawed wisdom in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.