In the very beginning when God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He created them with purpose. I like to say that God created us to be in relationship with Him, reflect Him and to represent Him. Instead he said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule . . .” He created us male and female in His image. We therefore reflect who he is in our very being. But we were also to go, to multiply, to fill the earth. Now this was based on our communal relationship with Him. This of course takes exactly one page in the bible before we mess it all up.
However, once we are reconciled to Jesus, he essentially gives us the same command. “Go and share the gospel and make disciples” In other words, go represent me in the world and multiply.
Here’s the truth I want to get at today. We are created, each of us, with the desire to multiply. Yes there is a biological aspect to that. Understand that God even created that desire. But there is more to it than that. There is something deeper. Something that knows that we are to multiply.
This is part of the reason why we have some of the recent phenomena in our culture including:
- More women having children out of wedlock
- Even though women are waiting longer to get married, they still have children late. Sometimes far into their 40’s.
- There is a rising number of unmarried women in their 30’s and 40’s having children out of wedlock on purpose. (I address this here)
- Married couples are choosing artificial means to have children
What’s interesting is that this is true even in the face of a huge chunk of our culture saying (for a variety of reasons) that having more children is a bad idea and a declining birthrate overall in Western society.
The Church of course is all about this. This is because many parts of the church, particularly evangelicalism (whatever that actually means at this point), see the nuclear family as the answer to every question. In fact some go so far as to include in their statement of beliefs that the nuclear family is the foundation upon which God’s kingdom advances.
This is their attempt to both answer the desire to multiply and corral the misuse of that desire.
Now I’m not anti nuclear family. But the problem is that the nuclear family is not the answer to the to the problem and frankly suggesting that the nuclear family is the foundation for kingdom advancement is at best misguided and borderline heresy.
I’m going to say more soon about the “family” and the Church as well as back up and talk more about why we need a robust theology of celibacy and marriage together. But for today I’d like to tackle the desire to reproduce.
The truth is that we are all indeed called to reproduce. The desire is good. But the Kingdom of God is not grown by having babies. It is grown by making disciples. It is true that in the Old Testament, the Kingdom was in many ways advanced by physical offspring. This starts with Abraham and continues all the way up to Jesus. But even in the Old Testament there are words that point to a different future – a future we live in right now!
Hear these words from Isaiah 56
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
Or from Isaiah 54
“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
How can Eunuchs and barren women have sons and daughters?
It starts with Jesus. Listen again to Isaiah from chapter 53 after he describes what the Messiah will go through he says:
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
The truth is that Jesus changed the whole thing. The gospel puts things right. It reorders the way things work, and re-establishes our call to reproduce and multiply. As a believer you may or may not be called to marry and have children. And because we live in a fallen world, even if you are called to that, it might not happen. But all of us, regardless of if we are called to marriage or celibacy are called to multiply – to grow the Kingdom. But not only are we called to it, we can participate it in it. The celibate man can have offspring. The barren woman can have children in the Kingdom.
At the end of Matthew 19, which is chalk full of thoughts on celibacy and marriage, Peter says to Jesus, “we have left all to follow you.” Jesus replies,
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
The Kingdom is both now and coming. Marriage, family and celibacy are all a reflection of it, not the other way around. In the Kingdom, regardless of context, we can and in fact are called to be fruitful and multiply.
Good points Justin. But I’m not sure all of us are created with a biologically-based desire to multiply. Biology, to me, means the study of life and all living organisms on earth. It means babies. It also includes the study of death because all life on this earth will die. I rather think that the celibate’s concern for the kingdom of heaven and multiplying its numbers is spiritually-based, but just as strong (if not stronger) than any other person’s desire to have children. For some of us, I also think there’s a guardian aspect to celibacy; protecting people who can’t defend themselves, guarding God’s creation from man’s destruction, etc.; and I think this may help us understand why Christ chose the metaphor of a eunuch in Matthew 19, since many of them were used as royal guards. Like you mentioned, all part of a theology that the family-worship church never got around to.
“As a believer you may or may not be called to marry and have children. And because we live in a fallen world, even if you are called to that, it might not happen.”
Why would God call us to something that might not happen despite our utmost best efforts, and, even worse, despite God’s sovereignty? If this is true, it has just become even more disheartening for me to try improve myself and navigate life in such a way as to find a wife. Why specifically take and work on any advice you or anyone else offers if it might not pay off? Why not just do whatever and see what comes our way? Isn’t it possible for God to not really care one way or the other whether or not a person marries anyway?
Micah, you are on to something here. God doesn’t give you a wife. A girlfriend. Nor dates. Nor endearment by or from women. It says in the word “he who finds a wife, is a good thing”
There are no guarantees that a man may indeed “find” one. Paul even encourages marriage by those who “burn” but he doesn’t say ‘God has called you to marry’ and to further this….in biblical times, marriages were arranged for the most part. Today’s church culture makes it out that men back then walked up, took a woman they found attractive from the temple steps, dated, and married her.
Do not become discouraged! Sometimes, we place this ‘concept’ of dating, marriage, sex all on God. We as men should have a deep TRUST in God and being faithful to what he expect of us as men…….but He doesn’t plan every nuance in our lives. Remember the free will thing? If God wanted robots………..he would have made as mindless as the masses satan controls in the world today.
I have heard frequently in the American church that one just has to Believe, have Faith because the Bible says “I can have all things through Him” and this is taken WAAAYYY out of context, especially by too many Christian women I may add……..and it makes God into santa claus.
Look, when my mother was diagnosed with cancer at a young-ish age (55) and died a year later….nobody said “Well Lesley……..you just have to have faith, and pray because the Bible says “you can have all things through Him” and if God doesn’t heal????? Is it because she didn’t have enough faith? Wasn’t a “real” Christian???? Nonsense. If we place God in some sort of control over every choice, situation of our human experience we wouldn’t be human. We would part of the great ‘cosmic joke’ many speak of…….that we are pawns in some cruel chess game of the “gods” and we have no free will.
When Isaac was of the age for a wife. Abraham didn’t say “Our God could get us off a stranded desert island dear son……..and if He wants to give you a wife, He’ll bring one!” We know the outcome. Abraham want back to the land of Ur and brought a woman back with him. There was no waiting on God to bring the woman of Issac’s dreams. There was no sermons about Issac being a real man, or taking a class, or joining a “mens group”
Our lives are about Him. In marriage. In singleness. In trial. In turmoil. In happiness and in love. When it comes to our dating lives or desiring marriage……..Justin purports what we have to do to help move that along…….if we desire that……and there are no guarantees in life. My mother never smoked, was a healthy weight, never drank…..yet was diagnosed and succumbed to cancer. Even the best people don’t get what they want or perhaps need.
I do believe that men and women in Christ can and should throw out what the world has taught us about dating. Will we? Probably not. I know that when we make ourselves open to what Christ expects with women and dating………some amazing things do happen
When I said “do whatever and see what comes our way,” I didn’t mean sit back and do nothing. All I meant was why go to the extremes that some people expect men to go to when it comes to dating. I don’t expect that I can be a slob and still be able to pull it off somehow. And I’m certainly not trying to cast off any basic biblical principles – namely, principles of sexual purity – in the context of dating. I meant just live life, obeying the Lord as best as we can, and perhaps we will “find” a wife someday.
Certainly, I need to ask a woman out at some point if I want to get married. And if I get a date, I need to do my best to be polite and mannerly. But some people expect so much of men that one almost must study it to live up to it. And with there being no guarantee of a payoff for striving for perfection, I don’t see any point in doing so. Especially since women are not held to as strict of a standard. No. Women are special and should be accepted just the way they are without having to change. Men, on the other hand, have to become “worthy” of woman and marriage.
Aside from some basic things – such as overall politeness and good manners that everyone ought to have – I am not going to become something that I’m not when it comes to dating. I will only obey the Lord in dating or any relationships as best as I know how, and not try to live up to such a high standard, seeing as though there is a possibility of it not paying off even if it’s God’s will for it to pay off. Many (or perhaps even most) of the things people expect of men in pursuing women are not even commanded by the Bible anyway; they are strictly cultural things.
Okay……I see more clearly of what you are stating.
I agree with you on the aspects of women and dating. For the most part in our Christian culture, we men have to “man up” slay dragons, pass all kinds of ‘tests’ and she may very well still refuse us a date….because she doesn’t feel a spark….and yes I have noticed in too many situations in my Christian walk that women who come to church are somehow deemed “ready” to be a wife, mother, helpmate, and they are assumed to be a “Proverbs 31” woman. It’s the no good, immature, single men who are messing it up.
Seen plenty a woman in church who needs to look in the proverbial “mirror” and frankly come to terms with who she is in walking with Christ.
Cut through that.
if I was a man at 25 right now. I would be married. Period. With the wisdom I have now, the attitude I have, style and commitment. Principles and just Him in my life……..would not be a problem to find a wife. Sadly……and regretfully, I have youth no longer on my side…consequences of my sin to live with (past drug addiction that no Christian woman seems to forgive or forego) and a spiritual attitude and humility that most women my age just don’t want……and I suppose I could get all mad, hold grudges and all (did for awhile) but what of it at this point?
I don’t have a “gift of singleness”. It was a forced hand. A reluctant choice, and if I am going to follow Christ as a single…..at my age…….celibacy is the only choice. if you are single, and Christian you are supposed to be celibate. Even if you are dating someone.
I get what you mean from your OP and I wish I could convey my reply better. Just know I “get” what you mean.
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