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.

Baby’s First Steps

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“Gay, celibate and Christian.” If I read it one more time, my nausea will force me to go to the hospital. Talk about an oxymoron. Putting the words gay and celibate in the same sentence only serves to prove how deep into depravity we have stumbled. Could it be another case of Christian people not defending biblical principles? I think so. How has the church defended and affirmed celibacy over the last 500 years? With more family alters? Family life centers? Family church? Do they even know what celibacy is outside the context of homosexuality? Honestly, the church today can’t even relate to a single person, much less a person who has the gift of celibacy. Just take a look at how Supreme Court Justice Kennedy slammed single people in his affirmation of same sex marriage: “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” What’s interesting here is that he dug himself into a whole by trying to play the “either or” game. Consider the alternatives here: Heterosexual marriage, homosexual marriage, and singleness. Heterosexual marriage was off the table. But the best defense he could make for gay marriage was to present its only Christian alternative, singleness, as a crime punishable by condemnation to loneliness. So for Kennedy, celibate and gay are the ultimate contradiction. Could the mere thought of a heterosexual person living without sex even cross through his brain cells? I doubt it. We would be condemned to live in loneliness. Actually, we could be convicted and sent to prison. It has been done in the history of mankind. Being lonely is just . . . too uncomfortable. It borders on torture. We all have a right to get everything we want and be comfortable, don’t we Justice Kennedy? The reason he looked at celibacy as a state of condemnation is that he never knew what biblical celibacy was. Most churches don’t. Most Americans don’t either.

To show you just how profound an impact our language can have, I have a suggestion. All new mothers and fathers, when your baby takes his first steps, refer to them as “first steps into perversion.” Isn’t that so sweet and innocent? For example, when you call your next-door neighbors with the good news, tell them “he took his first steps into perversion.” If they ask any questions, just tell them that your baby is evil. Every time. Tell them he sleeps in the backyard with the dogs. I highly recommend this for preachers. How did that idea sit with you? Did you ask yourself what’s a baby got to do with perversion? Did you get sick to your stomach? My stomach feels the same way every time you associate my celibate lifestyle with homosexuality. What does being a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven have to do with homosexuality? I feel sick every time you bow down at the altar of family values with no other alternative for non-Christians who may be visiting the church. When you don’t recognize the lifestyle and values of single people, you leave us to be condemned by the sodomized courts in this country.

True Singles Versus True Widows

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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?