Condemned To Celibacy?

Recently I attended a conference on healthy sexuality.  It was very well done and the spirit of the event was super encouraging to say the least.  Within the many different topics and conversations was of course the discussion of how a person who is attracted to the same sex should live out their life.

Now this wasn’t a conference where people were demanding that anyone live a certain way and it was all non-confrontational, but the general answer was that from a biblical perspective that person should not be engaged in a same sex sexual relationship. In other words they should live a celibate life.

In response to this, one person said, “So basically we are condemning them to a life of loneliness and isolation.” I’m quite sure that this person was far from the only one in the room thinking that way.

I’m not going to dive too far into the topic of homosexuality today (I have a couple of posts that I can share if I ever decide I want to go viral).  But instead, I want to respond to this person’s understanding in a very different way.

I can’t speak for him, but I can deduct that the reason this gentlemen said what he said about celibacy is at least two fold.

First, in evangelical culture, we have completely left out the call to celibacy, the gift of celibacy and those who for one reason or another end up unmarried and yet desiring holiness.  Literally we have spent about 500 years of protestantism screwing this up.  It’s a real problem.

Because we have no place for or theology of celibacy, we then only dust it off for special cases.  Because we have no place for a heterosexual to pursue the call or gift of celibacy, we look like idiots suggesting that the homosexual should be “condemned to that”.

This comes from the Church’s nuclear family idol.  Marriage and family are seen as THE path to holiness and wholeness.  You can’t go around preaching that message for decades and then dust off the other path for a few people.  But that is exactly what the evangelical leadership of our generation has attempted to do.  Obviously that’s not working out very well.  This comes partially from an adaptation of a secular belief into our evangelical culture.

That is the secular belief that sexual fulfillment is a right.  Not only do I have the right to sexual fulfillment, but in the secular culture, I have the right to fulfill that sexual desire in just about any way I want (assuming everyone is an adult and “consents”).

Now evangelical culture has not adopted that belief.  Instead they have adapted it to their own framework.  The evangelical culture says that each person, at least each man, can not possibly contain their sexual desire.  It must be fulfilled.  The message is that it is controlling you, bigger than you, bigger than your moral agency, bigger than your spiritual maturity.  Therefore the only answer available to holiness is marriage.  Marriage makes you an adult.  Marriage makes you mature.  Marriage makes you holy.

Now let me be clear in case you are new to the blog.  I’m extremely pro marriage.  I think that most people should pursue marriage.  But, we cannot assume that in our theological, and practical teaching.  In fact, by assuming that we hurt not only those not called to it, or unable to achieve it, but we hurt even those who do get married.

If the way to holiness is marriage then what we are saying is that the person called to celibacy, the person with the gift of celibacy, the person born without desire to get married, the person who can’t get married, or the person who doesn’t desire the opposite sex, cannot be holy on their own.  By doing this we are literally agreeing with secular culture that sexual desire must be fulfilled in order for a person to be whole and holy.

This is basically what Justice Kennedy said in the supreme court decision on Gay Marriage.  He writes of those wishing to marry, “Their hope is to not be condemned to live in loneliness, . . . ”  Sound familiar?

If celibacy is something that someone is “condemned to” then we are all in a lot of trouble.

Was Jesus “condemned” to celibacy?  Paul?  The early Church Fathers?  The Pope? Do we really want to see celibacy as a punishment?

This is what we have helped set up.  This is why we can’t afford to answer the culture by adapting it into a Christian Version. Its why our answer to an increased delay in marriage, and people fulfilling sexual desires in ways other than marriage can’t be simply – marriage will set it all right.

Instead we have to rescue the celibacy of the New Testament.  We have to rescue the idea of family from a focus on the nuclear family to a focus on the family of God.  We have to have a more complete theology (or picture if you will) of how celibacy and marriage are both pictures of the Kingdom and both paths to holiness and wholeness.  If we don’t, then we all lose.  It will get worse.

The Church, including and starting with each of us in it, is the only hope of something different.  We have to be counter cultural, not just sub-cultural.  Read that line again.  It might be from the Lord.

We have to lead, not follow, not just respond and react.  If the Church (read all of us) don’t step back and consider the whole picture of celibacy and marriage, no one else will.

Sexual Sin Myths

Coming into adulthood in evangelical culture one of the constant messages was that sexual sin was different and more important than other sin.  Now of course the official line was that all sin was “equally” bad.  This is sort of true and sort of not true and therefore super confusing.

Let’s clear up a couple of things about sin to sort of set the table for this topic.

First, and this is the best way I can think to describe it, there is a difference between Sin as a core issue and sins that we commit.  Sin as a core issue is really about idolatry.  In other words the first sin for all of us is not being God focused.  We choose to be God of our own life, write our own story, run our own lives.  We worship other things, principally ourselves, instead of God.

It is out of this condition that we commit other sins.  Both what we do wrong, and what we don’t do right.  In a sense, these are the symptoms of the bigger issue.

The cost of this condition is death.  Regardless of the consequences of a particular sin.  We can’t fix it because it’s a heart problem not an action problem.  This is why Jesus came and went to the cross.  Amen.

However, our sins (the symptoms part) have different consequences.  This is just the truth. So sexual sin has different consequences.

But this is where we need to get a hold of some important facts and to debunk some myths.

Myth 1 – Sexual Desire Itself Is Bad.

First, sexual desire is not a bad thing.  It is part of God’s creation.  It’s pre-fall.  This is important.  We are sexual beings.  God made it powerful because it is to be used to bond two people together inside the context of marriage. There are even chemical reactions to it in the body.  It bonds us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  This is why separating sex and marriage (or even orgasm from sex) is not good.

Sin, in many respects, is really the manipulation of what God has created as good into something that is not.  Sexual sin is no different.

But desire is not a bad thing in and of itself.  If it’s seen as a bad thing then we end up trying to kill the desire.  This is the “eastern” religion answer: Don’t desire anything.  We need to submit the desire to God, but we don’t need to kill it.  We should flee sexual immorality, but we don’t need to kill sexual desire.

This is also important because if we say that sexual desire is bad we end up doing theological gymnastics when it comes to marriage.  For example I’ve heard people say that marriage redeems sexual desire.  That gets confusing real fast.  Sex is for marriage, as stated above, but that sex doesn’t need redeeming.  That’s just one example.

Myth Two – All Sexual Sexual Sin Is The Same

I’ve discussed this before, but looking at a woman lustfully does not have the same consequences as sleeping with the same woman.  It comes from the same place, but it doesn’t have the same consequences.  We need to quit teaching people, by accident or on purpose, that it’s all the same.

Now we shouldn’t use this fact as an excuse to sin less boldly so to speak.  I’ve spoken before about what I call lazy sexual immorality.  There are still costs involved.  It’s still wrong.  But its important to realize that the resulting problems are different.

Myth Three – Sexual Desire Always Leads To Sexual Temptation Always Leads To Sexual Sin 

This is the idea that sexual desire is so strong that I can’t possibly have victory over sexual sin . . . at least not outside of marriage.  Again, I need to submit the desire, along with all other desires, to the Lord.  But the thing is, I can actually do that.  We don’t have to fail.

It also creates a situation where we end up saying that celibacy for the Kingdom is not a viable vocation or calling.  This is part of the reason that in evangelical culture we have no room for those called to celibacy.  Frankly most protestant leaders don’t really think this is even possible.  We don’t have any sort of plan for it.  As I’ve written many places here, with no theology of, or plan for, celibacy, we set up everyone to fail, even married people.  The reason they don’t think it’s possible is that they don’t think that anyone can avoid sexual sin.

We are not just animals with no moral agency.  We can, with the Lord, avoid moral failure.

Myth Four – Men Are Responsible For All Sexual Sin

This is worthy of at least a post itself.  But let me see if I can briefly go at this.  We have to quit talking about the issue in this way.  The idea is that men want sex all the time.  If a man and woman have sex outside of marriage it is the man’s fault.  He is the sinner – she is the victim.

Don’t believe me?  Check out this example from Matt Schmucker on Boundless:

We do not want a brother standing at the altar on his wedding day looking at his beautiful bride only to imagine behind her the boys and men who took advantage of her and robbed her of the trust and confidence that she now needs for her husband. We do not want a sister standing at the altar on her wedding day looking at her handsome groom only to imagine behind him a string of relationships with girls and women he failed to honor, and knowing that images in his head from pornography use and past flings may stick with him for a long time.

Do you see it.  Evil boys and men have victimized the woman.  But the man has failed morally. This is just one example.  I could link hundreds.

There are so many factors in this.  But what I can tell you is that this teaching is not helping.  I do believe that the man should lead, even in a non marriage relationship.  But telling men that they are basically animals forcing women to have sex is not productive and frankly it’s not true. Really it’s a shot at both gender’s moral agency.  It also sets up married sex in the wrong way*, but that is for another day.

The Bible clearly calls us to flee sexual immorality.  It’s important, not just in terms of our personal purity and becoming married, but also because of our witness.  However the right view of it is part of the key to doing just that.  Taking short cuts and getting it wrong, just leads us back to the same cycles we are in.

 

*Examples of this include but are not limited to: teachings that husbands have to earn sex from their wives, that men cheat and women don’t, that men evolutionally (married or not) are always looking for the next person and women are not.

Should You Pray For A Spouse?

One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse.  That took a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it was simple and relaxed.  Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One.  Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).

But over and over again for years, it never happened.  God didn’t “answer” my prayer.

This really begs two different types of questions.  First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse.  Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.

Before I give my feeble attempt to answer those two questions (the first one in this post and the latter in an upcoming post), let me remind us of a few things that we need to clear out of the way.  Platitudes that we know aren’t true and that I’ve debunked here before.  Those include but are not limited to: There is not a Christian Soulmate; God does not owe you a spouse; God is not holding out on you; God Has Not Changed His plan for marriage; It might not be God’s fault; and You don’t earn a spouse.

Ok, now let’s get to it.

First of all, I think it is absolutely a great thing to pray for a spouse.  Why would you not take your desire to God.  You don’t need to try to kill that desire (ignore the whole “it’s when you don’t want it it will happen thing” – that is sort of good advice if it means, don’t be desperate, but pretending you don’t want something is called avoidance, not dealing with it).

We need to take our heart to God.  But I think how we pray can really help us here.  Let’s get very practical.  Here are some things I’d encourage in prayer about a spouse.

  • Avoid praying for THE ONE as there isn’t the one.  This also decreases the pressure when you do meet someone and makes hearing God less pressurized as well.  Maybe pray of A One or something like that.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment.  “God show me what to do and who to pursue further.  God show me what you want me to do.  Do you like this relationship?” etc.
  • Submit to God.  This was huge for me.  I finally quit praying for a spouse.  I took a step back and said, “God, I’ll do whatever you want (You’ll probably need to at least mostly mean that), Just tell me what to do”.
  • Understand that there are different forces at work.  So pray for protection.  Both in searching for a spouse and also for protection of your heart, mind and will from spiritual attack.
  • Pray for God to show you (through others, directly, or in any way) the things that you are doing wrong in this process. “God show me my sin,”or maybe “God show me where you are working on me right now.”
  • Also ask God to show you lies you are believing.  Lies about Him, yourself, the opposite sex, marriage, singleness – you name it.  Ask Him to help you not believe them.
  • Ask Him to heal wounds that you have in this area.

This seems like a lot of prayer.  But I think too often we get wrapped up in the wrong prayers.  We pray for The One because we’ve made marriage an idol.  Or we pray for a particular One because we’ve made that person an idol.  We might pray for a spouse and not pray for anything else – therefore essentially basing our whole prayer life with God on finding another person.  I’ve done all of those things.

Finally as we pray we need to be willing to hear anything.  We need to be willing to hear yes or no.  I think a big part of what makes listening to God hard is that we are afraid of what He will say.  What if God wants me to marry a person I’m not attracted to?  What if He wants to me to remain celibate for life?  What if He calls me out on a sin?  What if He tells me not to marry this person I really want to?  It’s the old, “What if God calls me to move to Africa” fear.

But here’s the thing; If we aren’t fully submitted to Him, it will  be hard first to hear and secondly to trust what we hear as coming from Him.  This is of course true of all prayer not just prayer in this area of our lives.  But it can be especially true in areas of prayer, including this one, where we have a high emotional involvement.  It can border on anguish sometimes, and I want to acknowledge that if that’s where you are at, but we can’t stay there.

In summary, we should absolutely pray about this area of our life.  We should do it in submission to God, while at the same time avoiding false submission sounding platitudes and being open and honest with God.  Heck maybe the starting point could be, “God, right now I want what I want.  Help me to step back and be submitted to you.  That’s what I want, to do what you want.  Help me do that.” Then go from there.

You Should Do More, You Just Can’t Be In Charge

One of the things that always bothers me is when we assume single people should do more ministry.  This sort of thought process happens all the time for several reasons.

It comes from the pulpit because pastors either misunderstand or misuse what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7.  Without going into too much depth here as I’ve written extensively about this, Paul is not saying if you are not yet married that you are therefore not distracted and able to be a better, more focused Christian.  He is instead saying if you are not distracted by a desire to get married, it could be that you have the gift/calling of celibacy and that would be a good thing.

But this is where this gets really ironic is that the same people telling you to “take advantage of your singleness” in ministry don’t want you to actually lead the ministry.  Perhaps what they really mean, is that while they can, they want to take advantage of your singleness.

You see it’s fine if you want to serve in the nursery or maybe the youth, on the worship team, set up and tear down, and in the rare church you might even be able to lead a small group.

But, if you want to be a pastor or elder, better think again.

Most places won’t explicitly say it.  Which in my opinion is sort of cowardice.  But there are those who will say it.  And honestly while I completely disagree, at least they come out in the open.

What’s interesting with most of these folks is that they don’t claim it’s completely biblical, it’s instead mostly biblical.  Haha.  Seriously.  Follow along.

Al Mohler reasons that pastors should be married because of the logic of scripture and the centrality of marriage.

For the logic of Scripture he points to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9  which both essentially state that the elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife and manage his own household well etc.

But another point of logic here might say that the person who is writing these instructions is . . . wait for it. . . not married.

In Mohler’s version of the Kingdom, marriage is central.  This is true of many of our churches, not just him.  He’s just saying it out loud so to speak.  But the problem is that marriage is not central to the biblical kingdom*.  Marriage is from God.  And if you are not called to celibacy, then by all means you should pursue it.  Paul says it, if you are distracted with that drive, which almost all of us are, then go get married.  It’s natural and good.  But it’s not for everyone and even many of the folks who long for marriage won’t attain it.

Here’s another problem with the “logic” (which I still question if any seminaries actually teach logic).  What happens if you hire the pastor and two years later his spouse dies.  Can he still be your pastor?  Is there a time table on remarriage?  That’s just one of a bunch of examples I could list.

Also he drops the “logic” that all the relationships inside the church will be more natural if the leader(s) is married.  In other words, how can you be an example to all the married men or lead the single men to marriage or minster to married people if you’re not married.  That makes sense.  It seems to me by this “logic” that I’ve never been 50 so I probably can’t minister to those over 50.  I’m not rich so it would be hard to minister to rich folks.  I’m not poor so the poor are out.  Basically I should only do ministry with white middle class people younger than me.  That’s an interesting plan.

But the main reason folks don’t want single pastors is because we all know that no man can overcome or control in any way his sexual desire.

Mark Driscoll writes as much in a blog responding to an email question that literally asks, “Does God still call men with the gift of singleness into pastoral ministry?

Driscoll answer is no, well sometimes, but it won’t go well, or they all die. . . Haha.  I mean this guy is something.

First Driscoll points out that Paul and Jesus were single but they both lived hard lives and died.  Because of course married people don’t live hard lives and die?  Ummm.

Secondly he of course quotes the same verses that Mohler does.

But he goes further – he says that much of what he learned as a pastor he learned as a husband and father, which I don’t doubt (although it gives me some pause with his style). But the catch here is that he was never actually single.  He got married at 21.  Of course he learned it after he was married.

But he goes really big on this idea that a single pastor couldn’t possibly with stand today’s sexual temptations.  He states:

I have known only a few single men who were pastors, and the majority of them disqualified themselves morally.  I know thousands and thousands of pastors and only one is a single pastor who has not disqualified himself and has a church that is healthy and growing.

Wow, just wow.  First, there are many ways to be disqualified.  Ahem.  Also we’ve seen plenty of married pastors be “disqualified”.  Third, you do not know thousands and thousands of married pastors that have a church that is healthy and growing.  I could go at this all day.

Both of these folks admit that they can’t really say that a single person biblically can’t be a pastor.  It’s just that they can’t be.

This is all so bad.

It just completely eliminates a whole lot of people, completely dishonors those called to celibate service in the Kingdom, is completely confusing to young men trying to find their calling, and honestly just continues to send us to back to the cycle where the church is for the people with a current nuclear family.

 

* Marriage is becoming less central in the secular culture as well.

A Single Christmas Blessing

So it’s the Christmas season.  I love this time of year.  But as I’ve written about before it can for sure be a weird time for the single Christian.

First, this is the time of year that the Church seems to double down on it’s Family idol. After all, this is the time where all the Easter and Christmas “Christian” families come to church.  It’s time to invite your neighbor, who we will wrongly assume is living in married bliss, to church.  It’s time to make sure that the whole nuclear family is involved and celebrated.

It’s also time to face all of the relatives that want to know why we are still single.  The best part is half of them probably are struggling in their marriage.  But I digress.  It’s still tough.

It’s the time where you as the single person are expected to do the traveling.  You leave your home to go to the home of your parent for to the siblings that have the kids house. I never minded in the sense of I knew it was right.  I wanted to be with family and kids should be at their place or the grandparents for Christmas.  No doubt.  But still. . . It would be nice to do Christmas at home.

And even though you love your nieces and nephews, they aren’t your kids.  Which is fine when you are 25 but can hurt some when you are 35.  There’s just this part of you that almost feels tired.  Maybe even sad.

I used to not really do much for Christmas with my house.  Then when I got older  I just decided to go for it even by myself.  Tree, lights outside on the house, whole nine yards. I’m glad I did.  But there is something lonely about the tree and you.

New Years is a whole other ball game.  If you’re young, dating someone or even sort of dating someone, or can get at date of any kind . . . it can be fun.  Maybe you meet up with friends and go out.  I had some great New Years single.  Watched a lot of football.  Haha. I remember one year me and my roommate didn’t leave the house for about three days. All football.

But again, as the years go by, it’s tougher.

People will tell you that it’s not better with a family.  Sometimes that might be true.  But that’s mostly B.S.  I can tell you now on the other side of it, married with a  kid, it’s better with a family.  It just is.

I’ve written some other posts on this in the past with practical thoughts.  I’ll link them at the bottom.

But really what I want to say is this.  God bless you this Christmas season.  God sees it all. He sees you leave your house locked up and dark to go to your brothers.  He sees you engage you nephews and nieces.  He sees you love them in special ways.  He sees you get on the floor and play.

He sees you calmly handle the questions of grandparents.  He sees you love your parents who really are glad you are there.  He sees you alone with your tree late at night.  And He sees you wish you had a permanent New Years Eve Date.

You may feel alone, left out or tired this Christmas season.  But you’re not.  Really Christmas isn’t about the nuclear family.  It encompasses it, but it isn’t about it.  It’s about a God who put on flesh.  Who came for you and me.  Who came and was born in a cave with animals, no extended family in attendance.

Jesus came and changed the whole world.  He opened the Kingdom to everybody.  Not yet married, married, divorced, widowed, parents, kids, rich, poor, sick and healthy.  He came so no one would be left out.  I’m sorry for when the Church doesn’t get that.  But God does. You might skip the family centric Christmas service, but God isn’t skipping over you.

You are not left out of the real Christmas.  I know that could sound cheesy, but you know I don’t mean it that way.  It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or that the hurt doesn’t matter. Really it means it does.  Jesus came for that.

Someday we’ll celebrate this day all together.  The dinner table will be filled with the best food and the seats will be filled by all the people in the Kingdom.  No one will fill tired, left out, or hurt.  May you know that you are not left out of that!

Merry Christmas!

 

Former Christmas Blogs

Dealing with family on the holidays

Christmas Tips For Singles

Can You Be Disqualified From Celibacy

One day a few years ago I was meeting with a pastor, who was perhaps in his late twenties, to discuss a singleness talk that I was going to be doing at his church.  We talked about many of the things that we discuss here on this site.  As the discussion turned to celibacy it took a bit of a different turn.

He shared that part of his story was that even though he was married he thought there was a good chance that he was originally gifted/called to ministry from the context of celibacy.  Now he was not complaining in any way about his wife.  In fact he has a good wife and a good marriage.  That wasn’t his point in sharing.  He had two points really.

The first was that when he was growing up, he never understood that celibacy was an option or something to be called to.  But later on as he learned about it he began to ask God if he might be called to it.  Just knowing him a little I wasn’t surprised by that.

He said that he flat out asked God in several ways and that looking back, God answered in every way that he was indeed called to that.

But this guy had already had sex. (Not while he was a pastor, but previously in his teenage and college years).  As he met with some elder men they agreed with his original calling to celibacy but warned him that it would be much harder because of all the sexual experience he had already had.  In the end they advised that he go ahead and marry and he agreed and did so.**

There is a lot of important questions that this raises.  It raises some questions that frankly I don’t have perfect answers to.  However I think it is worth some discussion and thought.

Before we dive in all the way, let’s first say this.  We need to raise our kids in the church knowing that celibate ministry is an option.  We just have to start talking about this.  Not only do we need to talk about it with the 30 year old guy but really with the 13 year old guy.  We need this to be a normal dialogue in the church.  Parents need to talk about it. Youth leaders need to talk about it.  Pastors need to talk about it.

We need to share that there are indeed two paths to pursue.  Doing this well would completely change the game.  I’m going to come back to this soon and talk about why that is and give some thoughts on how to set that up from a practical stand point.

But today I want to raise a different question.  That is: Can you be disqualified from celibacy?

Let’s remember that celibacy is not just living a pure life until you get married.  That’s called chastity.  Really we are all called to live a chaste life.  Celibacy means that I have the calling and/or gifting to live a life and serve God from an unmarried context.  Ideally it’s a vow just like a wedding vow, but to God and not another person.  I’ve talked about the different ways we get there here.

But the question is, what if you’ve already had sex.  Or even; what if you’ve already done a bunch of sexual things or been wrapped up in porn or other activities.  Are you then disqualified from pursuing a life of celibacy for the Kingdom?  Do you have to get married instead?****

This could happen all sorts of different ways.  You could become a Christian after you have already lived a life in which you had sex.  You could be a Christian thinking you were going to get married and slip up and have sex.  There are many examples.

Here is my take.  That’s all it is.  My take.

I don’t think that your past necessarily disqualifies you from a present or future calling.  I do think it can affect it.

I’ve written before that regardless of your past you are not disqualified from marriage.  In fact I went further and fully believe that it doesn’t even disqualify you from who you marry. In other words, just because you’ve had sex doesn’t mean you have to marry someone who has also had sex and so on.  If we repent of our sin and fight to live out of God’s forgiveness then His grace is bigger than all of that.

I believe the same holds true for the call to celibacy.  Your past does not disqualify you from that call.

Now that doesn’t mean that it won’t be tough.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t face some unique challenges as we grow out of our past and into our calling.  Paul is also clear; if you are can’t go without – get married.  But if you are called and/or gifted in that way, you can lead that life – with Jesus.

I’ll say more about this in a future post about celibacy but one thing to keep in mind is that marriage and celibacy do have some things in common.  They are both a calling and a choice.  And regardless of calling the choice isn’t made just once.  This is vital.  A married person has to choose to honor his vows.  Over and over again.  The same holds true for a celibate man.  We are all faced with temptation.  We are all faced with our past.  While both are a one time vow, both require deciding over and over honoring that vow.

I’d love to hear what you think?  I’d especially love to hear from those readers who are called to celibacy.  I know there are some.

 

** I’m not suggesting that my pastor friend or his elders were wrong.  Marriage at that point may well have been the right answer for him.  But I don’t think it should be assumed for everyone in that spot.

**** One caveat needs to be said here.  If you are married, even if you were called to celibacy at some point, you are now called to honor your marriage vows.  God will still use you.  No one who is married should get divorced claiming a new found calling to celibacy.

Is Getting Married In God’s Hands?

I recently received an email from a reader asking some questions about a particular situation.  I won’t go into the details but one of the things she said was that she was trying to leave the situation in God’s hands.  This is similar to some things I’ve talked about before but I want to revisit this idea.

This message of waiting for God to bring me the one or that God will bring the right one at the right time is super problematic if not wrong entirely.  And yet it comes from everywhere.  I remember once sitting in church and hearing the pastor in a marriage sermon say that he knew there were frustrated singles because God had not brought them the person yet.

It’s used often as a spiritual platitude spoken to singles as well as by singles themselves.  Especially women.

It’s extremely shaky.

How do people get there?  Well there are some good and bad internal motivations.

A few good motivations

  • Some people are trying to honor God as sovereign over everything.  They don’t want to take false credit or assume they know the answers.  Fair enough.
  • Some are trying to have a submissive attitude towards God.  “God I want this or that, but Your will first, not mine”.  A great starting point for any endeavor.
  • Some have been so over focussed and have had marriage as an idol that they are trying to avoid that by giving it up.
  • A lot of pastors and married folks are trying to be encouraging.  Truly.  They don’t see how they really got married other than a gift and they just know that God wants to gift their friends in the right time.
  • An effort to defeat the myth that you earn a spouse from God – which is important because you don’t.

Here are a few bad motivations

  • We don’t like dealing with rejection so if it’s all on God then it’s not on me
  • We don’t like dealing with our insecurities so again it’s not on me
  • We don’t like dealing with our sin and shortcomings.  It’s not me God it’s You
  • We are scared crapless and this way I don’t have to face the fear of acting
  • We have completely over spiritualized the whole thing to the point that any action seems like it would be to take matters into our own hands and not allow for God to move..

These are just a few examples of how we arrive at the “When God wills it then I’ll get married” sayings.

None of this is actually helpful if you are over 25 and single.

We don’t do this with anything else we do.  Not anything that we really care about anyway.

We shouldn’t do it with ministry.   God will bring the people He wants to our church.  We don’t have to ask anybody or market ourselves or serve the community.  We’ll just build a building and hope some people show up.  We don’t have to talk to them when they do.  If they are meant to be here, then they’ll come back.  No church planter I’ve ever known goes at it that way. (I’m sure some do – and the planting is short lived).

We don’t do this when we seek employment.  I see a job opening at this great company I want to work for.  I think I’m qualified.  But I won’t apply or send them a resume.  I won’t work to get an interview.  I’ll just pray and if I’m supposed to have that job, I’m sure they’ll offer it to me.

We know this won’t work in any other area of our personal life.  I need to lose 10 pounds.  No need to work out or eat better.  Just pray about it.  After all if God wants me to be 10 pounds lighter He will make it happen.

I could do this all day.  Literally.  All. Day.

But for some reason, including the ones above, we’ve turned singleness and marriage into something that is basically akin to who gets in to heaven in terms of spiritual consequence.

Look, God has given us some guidelines.  We should have qualifiers for sure.  I’m not saying just go get married to whomever.  But we have to act.  Just like any other part of life.

In fact, and catch this (let those that have ears. . . ); It is in the acting that our faith is proven.  Whatever you believe theologically about God’s sovereignty, that sovereignty should be a launching pad not a hiding place.  It’s exactly because He is over everything that we can act in faith.  So by all means – act.

In fact, God’s will is mostly done by God’s people. So we need to do it with God.  But we need to do it.  That’s the whole point!  He wants us to do it all with Him.  But He wants us to do it.

Over and over we need to submit our desires, heck our whole being, to God.  We place ourselves in His hands and then we act out of that.  He grows us along the way.  Again that is His whole plan.

Now the question becomes what does that action look like?  That’s a great question.  I’ve written a lot about that for the guys here but in the coming weeks I’ll have a post for guys and one for the gals on what I think it means to act.

The bottom line for today: We should put ourselves in God’s hands. While there we should face our fears, insecurities, weaknesses and sins, as we act boldly to help advance the Kingdom that we know bringing – singleness, dating and marriage included.