Celibacy Is Not A Season

This last week I was able to check out a couple of sermons on singleness.  Let me say this before I challenge some stuff.  I actually do feel like the church is starting to get a clue.  One of the sermons a listened to talked about the fact that 66% of unchurched folks are single.  The pastor basically said that we need to get a grip on this if we are going to go after them.  We need to treat them as equals in Christ.  Amen!  I’m glad that people are trying to talk about it more.

In a separate deal I saw, they were teaching kids about dating and at least mentioned celibacy.  So that’s something.

But here’s where we keep setting ourselves up for problems.  We need a better theology of celibacy because if we keep getting it wrong, we end up hurting everyone.

The first thing we have to do is we have to quit using the word single as a catch all.  As I’ve said before there are those who are not married (as in never married), those who are called, gifted, or in a position to not be married (this can happen several ways), the divorced, and the widowed.  These are not the same thing.  So when we say 50% of people in America are single, what we really need to say is that they are unmarried.   This is important in the Church context because they each have different instructions from scripture.  When we lump them together we create confusion for all the groups.

Here is the greatest example.  Everyone wants to look at 1 Corinthians 7 as the go to for singleness.  And there is a lot to learn from this chapter.  Paul essentially says that there are those who should get married and those who shouldn’t.  He says some have one gift and others another gift.  But the gift he is talking about is not the gift of singleness, he is talking about the gift of celibacy.

You are not called to “season” of celibacy.  You may not be married yet, but that is not the same.  You could be called to not get married right now for some reason.  God can ask us to do and pursue all sorts of things at different times.  No doubt.  But the call to celibacy is a call to live that way in a sort of vow with God, not a period of time.  Now we are all called to Chastity, but that’s not the same thing.

Here’s why that matters.  If we say that this gift is for a season, then we end up saying things that don’t make sense.  In one of the sermons the pastor said, “Single people should live in a devoted way that married people can’t.”  This is true of a person called to be celibate for the Kingdom.  But if this is true for everyone, then no one should ever get married.  What we end up saying is “serve the Lord now because when you get married that’s over.”  That simply is not a good plan.

The ironic part about this in the Protestant church is that we don’t even honor, or lift up the people who really do have this gift.  We don’t have celibate (or even single for a “season” people), as pastors or elders.  Missionaries maybe, but not here at home.  We typically have a sort of singleness glass ceiling when it comes to church leadership.

The pastor went on to say, “singles have the opportunity to be undistracted in their focus and can be completely loyal to their King.”  Um, so when I get married then I’m not as loyal to God?

This seems to me to fly in the face of what Paul is saying.  He basically says if you are “distracted” by the desire for sex – go get married.  My point here is that part of the test for the gift of celibacy (not the only one mind you) is if you feel the pull to get married.

Now I get it, if you get married and have kids you have a different set of responsibilities. Your approach to many things change.  But your loyalty to God?  To me this sets up married people to be over focussed on themselves (family idol) and lumps the people with the actual gift of celibacy in with the people who are just not yet married.

It also creates a problem for single people not called to celibacy because at what point does actually trying to get married come into play.  Chances are I’ll have to act to get married, not just sit around and hope it happens.

Using the word distracted is especially problematic.  I was unmarried until I was 40.  While it is true, I didn’t have family responsibilities, calling me undistracted would have been a huge mistake.

Having done ministry with married and unmarried people for the last 20 plus years I can assure you that someone looking to be married can be just as distracted from ministry as someone who is married.  I can list many people who became better ministers once they got married.  They had answered that question and were actually more free from distraction.

The bottom line here is, Paul is not equating a person who is not yet married to a person who is not called to be.  Neither should we.

 

If Only Christian Men Would Ask Us Out

One of the things I’ve heard over and over in recent years in the Christian circle of singles is, “Why don’t Christian guys ask the Christian girls out?”  This can be said several ways but the message is essentially that guys should “man up” and ask out all the Christian girls regardless of who the women are.  Some even go so far as to say essentially, “This is why Christian women end up dating non-Chrisitan men.”  According to these folks, if all the Christian guys would just ask women on dates then everything would work out.

There is so much here.  It’s a mess.

The Christian dating culture has made this so complicated and confusing.  And as a guy it’s really hard to navigate that culture.  In the secular culture its much more cut and dry when it comes to asking people out (or hooking up as the case may be).

Not so for us. On the one hand we are supposed to only ask people out that we think we can marry because marriage is the goal.  Now some women and Christian leaders say you should basically not ask anyone on a date without knowing this and of course, be sure to guard her heart.  Of course this is fairly impossible.

Then there are those that say, we can causally date at first.  How else can we get to know each other.  But here’s the thing, if you casually date more than one person in your church or community it can cause all sorts of problems.  It only takes one person to feel scorned to mess up your whole standing as a guy.

So we’ve got two constantly conflicting messages.  One side says nothing casual is ok and the other side says, just date around, it’s all good – as long as it’s “Christian”.  How do we know which girl you are?*

All of this makes men hesitant, both because they are confused about what is right** and by what is expected.  I know it did me.  When I was dating I pretty much took my chances anywhere other than my own church. I’m not saying that was right, but that’s how it felt.

The second factor at play here is that a lot of guys have never been taught how to be effective in talking with women.  The church likes to say man up and ask girls out, but they are short on help on how to do that in any sort of effective way.

So what happens is “nice” Christian guys go about it all wrong, it doesn’t work and then they get frustrated, quit trying or keep failing.  We need to teach men the truth about attraction, how to handle it, and how to approach women.  Not doing this in our current environment puts them at a disadvantage.

This leads to point three.  This is the idea that these poor Christian women just never get asked out by Christian men.  The women are of course more spiritual, out number the men and are frankly just the victims of our Christian guys not being man enough.  The general idea is that if Christian men were better men then all of these women would date them.

Look, there are some women who aren’t asked out at all. Some women need to think about how they present themselves and their own social skills.  Some really are a victim of sorts because they are choosing to modest and chaste and want to be a good Christian wife and are losing out to others.  Fair enough.

However, when a lot of Christian women (read most) say, “No one asks me out” what they mean is, “no one I’m attracted to asks me out.”  You see women don’t want to be asked out by just any guy. They can say that they want a “good Christian guy” but what they mean is that they want a guy that they are attracted to, who also is a good Christian guy. Now I’m not necessarily saying anything is wrong with that.  But the truth is that we do a terrible job of dealing with women and how attraction works for them.  We don’t teach guys the truth of how it works and we aren’t honest with what women really mean.  We rarely challenge women in this.

Finally, this idea that Christian men not asking out Christian women as the reason that Christian women date non-Christians is a complete joke. We are constantly rescuing women from responsibility. How heroic.  Here’s the bottom line.  People typically date who they are attracted to.  At that point they either use Christian as qualifier of not.  That is why it is important to manage attraction and desire, not just give into it.

I have no problem saying that a lot of Christian men need to take initiative, quit worrying about it and make a move, if you want to ask someone out, I’d do it.  I get that there are men who are hesitant, but I think it has more to do with confidence than courage, more to do with effectiveness than effort.

But we must stop blaming men alone for the problem.  We are all part of the mess and it is not a quick fix.  We keep dealing with about 1/10th of the picture and that isn’t going to cut it.

 

 

* The best plan is to ignore all of this and focus on what works.  More soon

**As a simple example of recent “Christian messages” – This guy says, just go out causally, while this one says we need to stop being casual – why would be confused?

The Protestant Celibacy Problem

A couple of years ago I was asked by a campus pastor at a local Catholic University if I would be willing to sit on a panel about vocation and represent the unmarried people who don’t feel called to celibacy.  I said yes and was excited by the opportunity.

Now this is sort of funny but I was the only protestant in the room and perhaps the least educated.  Ha!  I was for sure the least educated person on the panel which included: the president of the university and his wife (married vocation – and they had been married for decades), a nun, a Jesuit Priest and a priest whose job it was to help students who felt they might be called to celibate ministry (becoming a priest or nun) discern that.

We went around and shared about our vocation/place in life.  A lot of questions from the audience were centered around how you can figure out what you are supposed to do. Everyone on the panel was great – I was in very solid company and would gladly share a stage with any of them, any time.

But the person who stood out the most (and not just because we kept agreeing with each other) was the priest.  This guy was unbelievably smart.  He also had ways of explaining the call to full time celibate ministry that I had never really heard articulated before.

What he and I both immediately hit on is that the first decision you have to make is to follow Jesus.  There is no close second.

The way he said it was great.  He said essentially, “The first vow we all have to make is to Jesus – to be committed to Him.  Then we can make a second vow – either to God to be in celibate ministry or to God and to another person.”

As I listened to this guy speak and essentially lead our time, I found myself over and over thinking a couple of things.

1. The students that go to see this guy are super fortunate.  I don’t believe he would lead them to do anything out of an agenda.  The man wanted to help people find their calling – whatever that was.  I truly believe he would be one of the wisest people they could ever consult.

2. If you’re a protestant or lay person who feels called to celibacy, you are screwed.  Because there is absolutely no help available.  I mean zero.  None.  Nada. Nothing.  Not even a whiff.  You get the idea.

Look I know that not every priest is like this, far from it.  Not even every priest in his sort of position is like him.  I get that.  But at least there’s a chance.  At least there is some sort of process.  There’s some sort of guidance.

The problem starts with the fact that nowhere growing up in the protestant church will you hear that there is even an option of celibacy.  You might now and then hear someone mention it as they skip over it in the passages in Matthew 19 and 1st Corinthians 7 on the way to talk about marriage.  Or worse they might misinterpret Paul and say that the singleness he’s talking about is seasonal.

So we start with almost no base knowledge at best and wrong information at worst.  But if by some miracle you actually feel sort of called to it or have a conversation with a wise believer who teaches you something about it, there is no one to help you discern it.

Now if you are dating someone, we’ve got counsel out the wazoo.  I mean we can counsel you how to date (or how to “court”).***  There is premarital counseling and about million books to choose from.  Heck now-adays you can even go to pre-engagement counseling. If you’re married there is of course marital counseling – heck it’s pretty much a badge of honor in the church to have been to that counselor.  Marriage is hard after all.

However if you are questioning your call to celibacy – good luck.  There’s no pre-celibacy counseling.  Unless of course you are struggling with same sex attraction – then we are all about it.

If somehow, on your own, you figure it out and begin to live that way, there’s no counseling or support for that either.  Name the last time you heard someone honor a person who made that choice.  Yeah I can’t think of a time either.  So figure it out on your own, then do it alone.  The thing is, the call to celibacy is not a call to being alone.  But that is the way we’ve set it up.

Not only does this keep people from entering this vocation, it also could keep someone from marriage. If you don’t have a clear vision of the call to celibacy and what it is, how can you decide if you are called to it or not?  If there are no models of it or no honoring of it – why would anyone even consider it?

Both marriage and celibacy demonstrate different things about the kingdom.  Part of the reason we are losing on the marriage front is that we have completely punted on the celibacy front.****  Hear me clearly Protestant leader friends – You can not have a true theology of marriage without a right, well thought out, robust theology of celibacy.

Most of us aren’t called to this.  But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the vocation or those who are (or might be) called to it.

The bottom line is we need to stop reacting to our culture, take a breath, and start at the beginning.

 

***We offer very little to either sex about how to get a date, what is attractive or effective for finding a spouse.  You are more likely to hear about waiting for the one and what not to do while waiting, than about how to go get a spouse.

****For an interesting read on the cost of this check out my internet friend John’s recent post.  It’s an interesting take.

Don’t Tell Her How You Feel

Back when I was in college the show ER became a sensation. One of the best parts about it was that the characters were believable. One of the intriguing relationships that developed on the show was between Doctor Mark Green (played by Anthony Edwards) and Doctor Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield).  They were both sort of the “good guys” in the ER.  They also developed a sort of friendship/relationship.

In the third season Susan decided to move away.  In her final episode, Mark had to decide if he should (or could) tell her how he feels.  They were great friends and had chemistry and it’s been obvious for years.  Dr Ross (George Clooney) tells him, “Tell her what you’ve wanted to for years.  Tell her how you feel. . . ”

Then comes the scene I’ll always remember.  Mark leaves work and goes to her house but he’s too late.  Then he goes to the train station.  I mean it’s an epic deal.  He goes to the wrong place as the train’s leaving point changes.  But he makes it just in time.  He calls out to her.  The train is about to leave.

He tells her that he loves her and should have told her long ago, and he wants her to stay.  I’ll never forget her response to that.  She says that she knew, he is her best friend, and that she is leaving.  Then she gets on the train, waves good by and says, “I do love you.”

I remember watching that scene and just being smacked upside the head.  For years I thought about that scene because it pretty much defined me.  Always the friend of the girl who I liked. Always carrying some sort of hope that at the right time, if I just shared it in the right way, everything would change.  That scene was a picture of how I felt.

The mistake I made though is that I saw my identity in that and thought that it was just the way it was – I was just “that” guy. Whoa is me. I failed to realize that I didn’t have to be that guy.

There are some very important things here that single men need to get a hold of.  And we in the Church need to quit essentially lying to guys about how to go about this.

First we need to establish two simple truths.

1. Being the nice guy is not attractive.  I’ve written an entire post on this and I plan to write more later.  But, bottom line, for the most part, being the nice guy as an approach doesn’t work.

2. Being friends to get the girl is not a good plan.  Once you are in the friendzone you are done.

You can ignore these truths, complain about how they aren’t fair, talk about how it shouldn’t be that way, tell me that the only other option is to be a “player” and so on.  No amount of denial or over spiritualization will make them not true.  They are true period.  They will lead you to the Dr. Green moment over and over again.

But what I want to tackle today is this idea that you should “tell her how you feel”.  Should you express how you feel about her and if so when?  Or in “Christian Courtship” language when should you “tell her your intentions”?  Ugh I hate Christianese.

Do not tell her how you feel if you are not dating.  Ask her out.  Asking her out is telling her how you feel, or at least all she needs to know about it.  If she says no, do not tell her more.  This will not help you.  It would be better to ask her again later than to tell her how you feel.

What a lot of nice guys think (remember this was me so I’m not attacking anyone) is that somehow if the girl really knew how much they liked her, that would change her mind.  Um no.

“Will you go out with me?”

“No” (usually some form of “I like you as a friend” “I’m busy” or “I’m dating Jesus right now”).

“But wait, I really, really like you.  I think your are so awesome.  I see us together . . .” Barf

“Oh Ok then I’ll go out with you” – yeah that never happens.

Look gentlemen. This is for real, brother to brother. Stop doing this to yourself!  Don’t lead with telling her how you feel.  Just ask her out. Don’t friend her.  Ask her out.  If she likes you she will say yes.  If she says no, walk away.  You can maybe ask her again later.  But don’t try to talk her into it – ever.

From the “Christian” side of things, one of the things I’ve heard a lot lately is how you need to tell her your “intentions” right away.  I think this is sort of counterproductive on several levels not the least of which is it throws pressure on the situation right away.

You don’t need to say some version of, “I want you to know that my intention is to only go on first dates with people who I can marry.  That’s what this is all about.  To find out if I can marry you.”  Nothing says fun like a first date to find out marriage-ability.

Now look, you can take this too far the other way.  I don’t think you should get into long term relationships without purpose and without being intentional. In fact I’m not suggesting you don’t be intentional.  I’m saying be intentional in a way that might actually be effective.

The time to tell her how much you like her is after you are dating her . . . for a while. . . not when you ask her out.

 

Here’s the video – the epic chase starts at 4:03.  If you just want the final scene it’s at 7:30.

 

We All Need Touch

About 15 years ago my brother and I went to a Rick Springfield concert.  I can’t believe I just typed that.  You have to understand that I was a child of the 80’s and Rick, was well, sort of awesome.  He had 17 top 20 hits.  He was smooth with the lines and the ladies.  So anyway in 2000 or so, long after he was cool, he was in concert to promote a new album that of course no one actually bought.

At any rate there we were at Station Casino and it’s packed (meaning there were like a thousand people there. . . maybe).  Rick steps up on stage, and forgets the words to his opening song.  Haha. Then he says, “I sort of forgot the words there, but it’s ok.  I feel I’m among friends tonight.”  The “crowd” roared.  From then he was on fire.  Flawless as he belted out the tunes as we sang along.

At one point, he starts to sing one of those top 20 hits called The Human Touch.  “We all need the human touch.  We all need it. . . I need it too”.  Then he went out into the crowd and began hugging people and giving high fives.  My brother and I died laughing as we watched a 40 year old woman run screaming to a friend, “He touched me! He touched me!.”

I know at this point you are wondering why I’m sharing this story, but I share it because I think we actually do need human touch and as a single person it can be hard to come by.

Touch is a powerful thing.  It starts when we are young.  As infants we need to be held, rocked, and physically moved.  If we don’t get those things our development goes bad in a hurry.

Growing up we test out our strength against our parents, siblings and eventually our friends.  Did you know that your family is supposed to be the safe place to test all of that? The family is where you first learn about being touched and touching, what is ok and what isn’t, and about the warmth of embrace that makes you feel safe.

And that is just the first place.  We next take it to our peers be it at school or in the athletic contest.  We test our strength and begin to find out what our bodies can do.  This is all before (or hopefully before) we even get to any sort of “romantic” touch.

It’s of course a whole new ball game when it comes to the opposite sex and our first touch experiences with them.  The first embrace, the first kiss, the first. . .

You can see how many ways this can, and often does, get messed up along the way. There are all sorts of good touch and all sorts of bad touch.

As a single person, the older you get, the less places there are for the right kind of touch.

We live in a culture that is more and more individualized and isolated.  50% of America is unmarried.  50% of those people live alone.  That’s not a recipe for good touch.

But it gets even tricker as a follower of Jesus because you are of course trying to avoid sexual immorality.  So we are told don’t look, and of course don’t touch.  In truth, there are a lot of people living in so much fear of bad touch that they don’t have good touch.

But we need it.  There’s a new study out for example that says people that sleep in a bed with someone else sleep better and actually live longer.  Touch has all sorts of therapeutic benefits, not to mention that it’s one of the five love languages.

Somehow we need to fight for this in the church.  Jesus is constantly touching people. Almost always when he heals someone he touches them.  How do we do this right?

For starters we need to own it.  We need to re-establish good, kingdom touch.  We can’t live in fear of bad touch to the point of not offering this kingdom touch.  What does it look like?  Should we run around touching people?  Should we hug every stranger?  Should we drop all of our boundaries when dating someone?  Should we cuddle with random people? Um, no.

Here are a few thoughts on what we should do (I’m talking here non-romantically – I’ll come back to romantic touch in a different post).

We need to recognize our touch history.  Where there has been bad touch in our lives we need to recognize it and seek healing.  Where we have been the one initiate wrong touch we need to repent.

We also need to think about our present touch situation. What physical touch is in my life? How do I react to touch?  Why?

Finally, we need to learn to both receive and initiate the right touch.  I’m talking about the quick hand on the shoulder of the friend you know is hurting. It might be the arm around the crying friend. It’s the hug of a good buddy.  The high five with the opposite sex friend. Heck even the fist bump would be a step for some of us.

Our culture offers a lot of the two extremes – inappropriate touch and isolation.  Neither of those represent the Kingdom.  But we have the chance with how we handle touch to be different, to stand out, to offer the ministry of the right kind of touch.

So, what do you do with the lack of touch?  When is a time when the right kind of touch has ministered to you?

 

Singleness And Christmas

During my 20 years of singleness the holidays were some of the hardest.

The holidays are tough as a single person.  Especially if you are over 25.  Christmas is magical as a child, it’s a great time to do nothing as a college student, but the older you get, unless you just love Christmas, the tougher it is.

It’s during this time of year that most people have some time off to reflect, and whether we like it or not, it can be a time where singles are constantly reminded of what they don’t have – for yet another year.

We are often the ones that travel for Christmas.  After all, Santa doesn’t come to our house – just to our nieces’ and nephews’.  And most likely we will go to our parents not the other way around.

There are also the Christmas cards from our married friends – pictures of couples and kids arriving every day in the mail.  It’s not that we don’t love all of those people, we do.  It’s just that it is another reminder.

If we head to a party at the office, with the organization we work with, or at church etc, we go alone even when spouses are welcome.

If we have a gathering with our parents and/or extended family we will inevitably face all of the singles questions and platitudes we hear in that setting.  And we have to determine how to deal with them.

Then Christmas is over and we get to head to New Years Eve.  Yeah!  Celebrating another year passing – alone.

Bottom line, the holidays can be lonely, frustrating and emotionally tiring for singles.

Before I give us some thoughts about some things I think can help, let me say this for any married people who might want to tell me what I’m saying isn’t true.  Just don’t!  I’m married now and it’s not close.  Yes you can still have family dysfunction.  No doubt there can be some pressure and managing of kids etc.  I get it.  But it just is not personally as hard.  It’s not close.  I did it single for a long time.  I’ve done it married for the last two years.  Waaaaaayyyyyyyyy better married.  Not close.  At all.

So what can we do as single folks?  Here are a few things that helped me over the years. These aren’t formula as we are all different with different backgrounds.  But these ideas helped me.

First things first, as platitude like as it sounds, I’d pray for it.  I just learned to try to submit the time to God.  The whole couple of weeks.  Time with the family, other stuff I have planned, parties and other gatherings – all of it.  I know it sounds basic, but starting here will help with the rest.  Ok, on to the suggestions – some with links to more on the subject.

  • If you have nephews and nieces nearby – go see them and join in the spoiling of those kids.  Yes it’s a reminder that you don’t have a kid, but man you still get to see them enjoy Christmas kid magic.
  • Think about how you to respond to the platitudes that family will offer.  Just be ready for it.  I offered some general thoughts here on responding
  • If you still have grandparents, don’t blow off their thoughts.  My grandmother always brought it up – but she also prayed for it all the time.  If I had it to do over, I’d talk to her more about it.
  • Fight to be who you are now at home.  A couple of years ago I wrote this blog for a different site.  Often when we go our parents home it seems we are still treated like kids.  One way to avoid that is to not act like one.  For years I didn’t take my best home to my parents.  Once I realized it, it changed the game.
  • Do stuff to celebrate Christmas your way.  For most of my single years I didn’t put up a tree or anything.  But in my early thirties I made a decision to fully engage.  I always got a tree and decorated it.  I put lights on my house – something I’d always wanted that my family never did when I was growing up.  I hosted a Christmas party for all of my random friends.  Celebrate your way.
  • Don’t run from community.  Go hang out with people.  There were years where I just sat around and felt sorry for myself and turned down invites.  I think most times it’s better to engage.
  • If you have significant time off, have a plan.  For me, this is the deadest time of the year for my job.  I usually have the week after Christmas completely off.  So I would use that to go see friends in places I lived previously.  It was a great time to catch up.  I would go to one place for two or three days and then another.  I’m not saying that particular plan will work for you.  But have A plan.
  • If you’re feeling opportunistic this is a great time to sign up for online dating sites.  Dead serious.  I don’t know the stats, but I would bet that more people sign up for online dating during December and January than any other two month period.  A lot of quality people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t will take out a trial run or sign up for a three month stretch.  To see a great ranking of online dating sites go here.  For some thoughts I have on online dating go here.

These are just some of things that helped me. What are some things that have helped you? What is the hardest thing for you on the holidays?  Leave some thoughts below – maybe it will help others.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Does The Bible Tell Me So?

Here’s a quick bible quiz.  Tell me where it asks someone to become a Christian.  How about this one – where does Jesus say that I should accept Him into my life/heart?  Find for me the “sinner’s prayer.”  Where does it say to go to church?  When did Peter become a Christian?

Should I go on?  You get the point.

As protestants we love to say that the Bible is ultimate authority.  Whether protestant or not, we all agree that it is authoritative.  The problem is that it is not authoritative in the way that we often want it to be to make our point.

What we want are simple clear rules, answers and one liners. No where is this more clear than in the realm of singleness, dating, and marriage.

I remember when I was in my twenties the big push in much of evangelical dating (just typing that phrase is sort of disturbing) was the idea of courting.  Now I don’t really have a problem with courting per se.  But what these folks tried to do is to say that their version of courting was the biblical way to find a spouse.  What I failed to realize at the time is that they had absolutely no biblical backing for this.  As I’ve written before there is not a biblical dating model.

But we want so bad for it to be simple.  We want a tweet sized answer to sexual ethics. #whatcanIgetawaywith #justifymyactions

What’s funny about this is that many on the evangelical right keep arguing bible verses that aren’t clear and others that don’t even exist while many of our more liberal churches are arguing contextual loopholes against those very same “verses”.

For example, one night I was having dinner with some friends and the topic of homosexuality came up.  One gentlemen said, “Jesus said that it was an abomination.”  Uh which verse was that again?  In a different conversation a friend said, “Jesus never addresses homosexual marriage.”  Sort of, except that He does address marriage.

The problem is that when we try to make verses mean something they don’t or insert our Christianese into the bible we set ourselves up to be discredited or worse set someone else up to fall when they later realize it.

But the problem with the other way of looking at the bible – using the context of a particular verse that we don’t like to say it doesn’t mean that or “the bible doesn’t really say. . . ” – is that we end up all over the map

Here’s what I mean.  Sticking with the “hot” homosexual issue, I’ve heard some pastors and leaders say that the bible really doesn’t say explicitly (as in an exact sentence) that a monogamous homosexual relationship is wrong.  They say that whole point is the one on one relationship for a lifetime.  They point to the couple of verses that deal with the homosexual act and say that it wasn’t talking about one of these types of relationships.

The problem with that – and it’s a big one – is that the same could be said of a lot of other things. So I ask the people who believe this are you then ok with:

  • The bible doesn’t say explicitly say that two unmarried people can’t have sex
  • It doesn’t say that two unmarried people can’t live together, have sex together or even have children together – so why even worry about marriage
  • The bible says nothing about viewing pornography, masturbation or reading shady literature.
  • It says nothing about oral sex.
  • It doesn’t say anything about appropriate dating behavior.

So basically by this argument, until I’m married, short of sex with an animal, I’m good to go. You can say that’s a slippery slope argument, except for the fact that we are already there in our culture.

(Whats ironic of course is that neither side seems to follow the very explicit instructions on divorce and remarriage.  Did anyone picket state capitols as almost every state instituted no fault divorce? Do they stand outside divorce courts?  Do they avoid making wedding cakes for two divorced people getting remarried?)

The key to all of this is obvious of course.  No straight reading of the bible by anyone without an agenda could lead you to believe any of the above was acceptable.  And there in lies the key – the bible as a whole is authoritative and it shows us what is right and wrong.  It’s not rocket science most of the time.

The bible does indeed speak to sex and marriage.  From front to back actually.  It always speaks of them together as a good thing or apart as a bad thing.  There is zero exception to this.  Sex has a purpose higher than orgasm.  It’s apparent that it is from God for marriage and all other uses are out of bounds.

What does this have to do with singleness and the church?  Everything.

We are confronted with a culture that has been and is still in a sexual revolution.  Our answer to that can not be picking one liners from scripture and trying to make them say things they don’t.  When we do that, we end up arguing over stuff that we don’t have to. It also can’t be ignoring the whole of scripture so that we can do what we want.  When we do that we take away any authority whatsoever.

The bible does lay out the answers – it’s just not tweet-able.