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
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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/

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

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

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

Do You Have the Gift of Singleness?

 

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