About 20 years ago on a random cold night I was hanging out with my brother and sister. We had planned to go to a movie but got snowed out. So we settled for a snack at a nearby McDonald’s and as so often happens when you actually stop and share a meal, a real conversation broke out.
My sister was dating a guy and it was heading to marriage. As we were talking somehow my sister brought up that they were not going to kiss until they got married. My brother and I both must have had some sort of astounded look on our faces as she quickly said, “It was his call actually.” My brother and I both looked at her and one of us jokingly said, “Is he gay?”
Now it’s not my intention today to get into homosexuality per se. Not because I’m afraid of that conversation (in fact I have a lot of thoughts about that), but because that isn’t the point of this post. Neither is my point really about the decision my brother-in-law made. I’ve talked about kissing before, but almost oddly I’ve never really done a post on “how far is too far” in the two years I’ve been writing here. I have a post on fleeing sexual immorality coming soon.
What I want to talk about today though is how we think of single men who are living virtuously.
Our current culture obviously thinks everyone should sleep with anyone. But our evangelical culture is different, they think everyone is sleeping with anyone and even they find it weird when they aren’t. The funny thing is, the Church’s answer to singleness is “Don’t Have Sex” but when someone doesn’t, it shocks even them.
We have a totally warped view of Christian men. It starts with the assumption that we are all (all men including Christians) driven primarily by lust. In a sense the message is that the truest thing about us is that we, if not held in check, will have sex.
But when a man, actually lives a virtuous life then he’s sort of weird. And if he does it into his 30’s then he is really different. Between what our culture says, and how we handle it as evangelicals, it’s no wonder that eventually men become what we tell them they are.
The older you get as a man, if you stay a virgin, the more you are viewed as, well, different.
This plays out in a lot of different ways.
Take for example a man who may be called to celibacy. Since we have no teaching on celibacy and what it is, (and I mean absolutely none as in nada, as in I’ve never in 23 years of church heard one sermon, attended one seminar, men’s retreat, heard a podcast, or read one book), we view those called to it as “different”. We think for example that a man called to celibacy is someone who, because he has “the gift”, doesn’t struggle with wanting to be with women. And wait. . . you know who else doesn’t struggle with that . . . men who are attracted to men. . . hmmmm.
The reality is that men, especially early on in their call to celibacy, might very well be very attracted to women. It’s just not their call to get married. But we have no reference point for that. Because we don’t, we don’t know how to encourage them, and we certainly don’t know how to help a man determine if he is called to it.
Now a lot of this can be in our own heads, but it’s not only there. I’ve led a ministry that reaches out to high school kids for almost 20 years. When I was younger and single I never thought about it. But as I reached my early thirties, it creeped into my head, “I wonder what people think when I as a single 33 year old talk to a group of high school girls, or for that matter guys?” In our environment I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought it.
The problem is that when we see a thirty plus year old single guy, we want to put them into a neat little category. Here are a few
First we assume sin
- He is a player who won’t settle down.
- He is struggling with secret sin – porn, habitual masturbation and the like
If he is virtuous in actions then
- He is really nice guy who doesn’t have what it takes with women
- He is too focussed on work/ministry.
- He lives with his parents and or plays video games all night
- He is attracted to men
Now any of those could of course be true. But should we really assume any of them? Should our only answers to singles be based on that assumption?
I want to say a lot more about this in the coming days. But we need to change two major assumptions.
- Just because a person is celibate does not mean they are not “attracted” to women and
- Men are not inherently controlled by lust
If we don’t change these two, at the end of the day we are actually pushing single men towards them.
So church let me ask you this. When you see a 35 year old single, never married man, what first comes into your head?