Flee Means Get Out Now

If you’ve grown up in the evangelical world at all, then you’ve heard the following advice: “flee from sexual immorality”.  I remember reading this in 1st Corinthians 6 back when I was a teenager and always referring back to it.  It was of course easiest to agree with when I wasn’t dating anyone.  Haha.

This is actually an important idea, even if we can sometimes become legalistic about it or use it to beat up on people.  But at it’s core it is right.  Paul himself writes that sexual immorality is to be fled from because all other sins are outside the body while this has to do with not just the physical and doesn’t just hurt someone else, but against your own body, which should be a temple for God.

But if we are going to understand this idea we need to realize what this really looks like. And to do that we need to define some ideas.

To begin with, we need to define what sexual immorality actually is.  I mean if we are going to flee from something it might be a good idea to know what it is we are fleeing from. There are of course a lot of ways to look at this question.  Some people will point out that in the bible the term usually refers to sex, prostitution, and the like.  In other words, they would say, the bible is silent about oral sex, masturbation etc.

Other people leave the physical all together and jump to what Jesus said about lust in Matthew 5.  They would argue that having feelings of lust in any way or context is sexual immorality.  I’ve already discussed this verse here.

In reality we have to look at the bible as a whole in the contexts of the writers and then ask what would count in our society now as sexually immoral.  But for a simple definition for today let’s say this:  Sexual immorality is the fulfillment of sexual desire outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship.  

Assuming that definition the question becomes how do we flee from that.  This is where I think we mess up.

We need to actually be committed to it.  This is why our definition of sexual immorality is so important.  Am I just committed to not having sex (which is easy if I’m not dating someone) or am I committed to avoiding all sexual immorality?  This is why this is not only a single person question but for everyone.

Secondly we need to get into our heads that flee means just that.  Paul doesn’t say to endure sexual immorality, or work through your sexual immorality, or even to overcome sexual immorality.  He says basically, get the hell away from it.  So what does that look like?

Flee means avoid the situation to begin with.  Now I get how this can be taken to the extreme.  Never be alone with the opposite sex or don’t go dancing are examples.  I’m not suggesting that.  I mean I guess almost anything can lead to immorality if we let it.  But I think there are some common sense things here that we can do.

Fleeing is not, let’s get naked and then not have sex.  It’s not having a secret life online that no one knows about.  It’s not traveling alone and having a girl over to your hotel room.  It’s not drinking a lot and then hoping nothing bad happens.  We could go on and on, and create a nice comfortable list.

These are indeed important to flee from.  We can set ourselves up by having people who know what we are doing when dating someone, setting up online accountability, and generally not having a secret life.  We should live in the light, not in the dark.

But the number one way to flee sexual immorality?  Don’t date the wrong people. Now again that always sounds easy when we aren’t dating anyone.  And yet so many of date the wrong people over and over.

Here’s the kicker you need to flee from it early on.  I think that guys fall into sexual immorality most of the time through their eyes.  Women fall into it through their emotions.  I understand that these are general truths, but I think it’s pretty fair.

Here’s what I mean, guys chase the hot girl, and women give in to the guy that gives them the butterflies so to speak.  This puts us in the position to give in.  Once we are in we start tossing all of our qualifiers out the window.

You need to flee early.  I’ve seen it again and again over the years (and I’ve done it).  It starts out with “She’s hot but not really that deep spiritually.  She’s exploring it though”. “We’re not dating, he’s not a Christian.  We’re just friends” (followed by smile). This soon turns into, “I know I shouldn’t be with him, but I can’t help what I feel.” This is followed by sexual immorality.

The longer you go down the road with someone you “shouldn’t be with”, the harder it is to turn around.  Once you are emotionally invested it gets harder to leave.  Instead we rationalize and justify more.  If we “feel attraction” to someone we know isn’t right, then fleeing sexual immorality means not dating them – not just hoping we don’t sleep with them.

Fleeing is a choice and while we always have the chance to flee, the earlier we make it the better chance we have of following through.  Fleeing means getting out early, not running up to the line and then trying to stop last second.

What does it mean to you to flee from sexual immorality?  Do you flee early or late?




Money and Singleness

One of the lies out there about singleness  is the idea that singles are better off financially than marrieds.  Being in full time ministry over the last 20 years and surrounded by married people (about 90% of the people in my position are married) I’ve often been told to enjoy the freedom I have and how it is tougher with a family etc.  And I bought that.

But here’s the problem.  In general it’s not true.  Single people are not better off financially. Not even close.

Here are some numbers.  The median income for a married man is 109% greater than that of a single man.  Before you go and say that is just an age thing (for sure a factor) the median income for a married man is 33% greater than that of a divorced man.  The median family income even with only one person working outside the home is still higher than that of the single man.

We’re not done.  Married men get promoted more, receive better appraisals and oddly enough miss work less.  But it’s not just jobs and income.  It’s also taxes, laws and health benefits at companies.  A recent study  found that a single woman making $40,000 a year until she is 60 years old ends up missing out on over $484,000 over that period compared to a married woman.  That’s crazy.  Even if their estimates are off, it’s still crazy.

Now statistics are just that and for sure you can manipulate them in different ways.  But make no mistake, no matter how you do the numbers, married people end up with more than singles.

Now there’s all sorts of practical reasons that marrieds do better.  For one you share expenses.  You have one mortgage, get group insurance rates, have one electric, water, and sewer bill etc.  When something goes wrong in a job, sometimes the other person can keep you afloat for a while. You get a more tax help for being married.  The list goes on.

I’m not sharing this today to complain.  I’m not looking to start an equality in single pay movement.  I share it mainly for two reasons.  First to bust the myth that if you are single you have it easier financially.  That is completely false – especially over the long haul.  The second is because there are some things singles need to think about that can help them navigate finances in light of the this truth.

First off it is important to not fall into the trap of believing that because you are single, you should be “freer” with you money.  Here’s what I mean.  There were a lot of times over the last 20 years of singleness that I kind of had the attitude of “why not” because no one else was really counting on it.  Why not go ahead and take out the car loan. Why not go ahead and go on the trip I can’t really afford – I’ll pay it back.  Why not buy dinner for everyone, no one else will need my money right now.  The list goes on.

Why have a good health plan?  Why have good insurance?  No one but me is counting on it.  Here’s the truth – we tend to make different decisions when others are counting on us than when we are just dealing with ourselves.

Now to some extent that is reality.  But we have to be really, really careful.  What if something goes wrong?  What if I can’t pay it back?  What if I get hurt?  If you are disabled tomorrow – who pays for that?  Know what I’m saying?

Adding to the complexity is that others around us (especially married friends) have also bought this lie.  So they think you’re fine.  If a married friend of mine blew a few thousands bucks they’d probably get called out. “What are you doing?  You have a family.”  A single friend blows it – not so much.

Which leads to what I believe is the biggest trap for singles when it comes to finances.  No one knows what you are doing with your money.

Ask yourself right now – who knows how much you make, what you spend, what your expenses are, how in debt you are.  Is there any person in your life who knows any of it, let alone actually holds you accountable in any way in this area of your life?  My guess is no.  Do you even have financial goals?  Does anyone know what they are?  Are any of them more than 5 years long?  If you spent a few thousand dollars tomorrow who would know?

Everyone wants singles held accountable in dating, sex, porn etc. but we almost never talk about this.  And it is costing us.  Literally!  The funny thing is that scripture talks more about this than any of the stuff we are worried about.  If there is one thing I’d do different in my 20 years of singleness this might be it.  I’d try to be able to answer all the above questions with a yes.  I’d have some people who knew all the above and held me to it.

The biblical principles for money are the same for married and single people. But the context is different and we are foolish not to recognize that.  We can’t control tax codes and company benefits.  But we can control what we do with what we have.

What are you doing with what you have?  It’s a huge question.  Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Where’s your treasure?

40 Year Old Virgin

This weekend I turn 40.  I have never had sex.  That’s right.  I will be the 40 year old virgin.  Now that stirs something in you. Some might think I’m some sort of hero.  Some might think I’m a wuss or haven’t really lived, or that I can’t get a date.  Some will wonder how the heck I haven’t exploded.  Still others might feel guilty of their own sin.

The truth is, I’m neither proud or ashamed of it.

On the one hand I’m glad that I haven’t had sex outside of marriage.  I know that’s not what God would want.  On the other hand I’ve given into sexual immorality in other ways. At some point in the last 25 years I’ve struggled with having lustful thoughts,  viewing porn,  fantasizing about women, and masturbation.  I’ve gone “too far” with women here and there.

I’ve also messed up dating.  Part of the reason I’m a virgin is I’m not married. Ha!  What I mean is if I’d dated better or learned what the heck I was doing maybe I would have gotten married sooner.  I could have been less selfish or arrogant at times.  Other times I shouldn’t have been passive or afraid.  I’ve helped make myself single many times.

So I’m not here to say “yeah me”.  I’m not here to beat myself up either.  I’m here to say that just because you are single doesn’t mean you have to give in to sexual immorality.

The last couple of blogs I’ve talked a lot about principles we need to hold.  We need to have the right view of sex, we need to have the right view of desire, and we need to desire Jesus most of all. These are all essential.

But today I want to talk about some things that have helped me over the last 20 plus years practically speaking.  These are not THE answers necessarily, but as I look back and think about how I ended up not having sex or being completely dominated by the drive to, these are some keys.

I‘ve read the Bible.  Being in the scriptures makes us love God more – which fills us up. It also shaped my view of sex.  As a new believer at 17 we read in a small group about fleeing from immorality and why.  I had never heard it before and it shaped my view at an early age.  What we take into our minds and hearts helps to shape our desires.  We need to take in scripture and worship etc.

I’ve never seriously dated anyone who didn’t know Jesus.  Its not that I never wanted to.  I just knew I couldn’t.  This is so huge. It means both people might at least try to abstain.  I can’t count the people I know who have had their walk shaken by dating someone who isn’t following Jesus.  If you are the only one who is going to say no, you’re in trouble.

Along those lines, I’ve always predetermined that I would say no.  Sometimes this has meant literally avoiding certain situations.  But this is what Paul means when he says flee. Stay the heck out of the scenario to begin with.

To further that thought, for almost as long as I’ve had a computer, I’ve had Covenant Eyes.  This service sends everything I look at online to a friend.  I think this is by far the best approach.  I would say every guy should have this. Why not?

I’ve chosen to have people in my life who know everything I’m doing.  They have permission to ask me anything.  Here is a trustworthy saying.  If it’s secret it’s wrong. Even if it’s not technically wrong.

All of the above have helped me but as I’ve thought about this the number one helpful thing is that long ago I realized that it’s not just about me.

From early on I’ve been doing ministry.  I don’t mean that I’ve been in full time ministry although for much of it I have been.  What I mean is that when you are trying to show others Jesus and leading people, what you do matters more.  Others are looking at me.  I can’t count the times that this has stopped me.

Times when I would have gone to the strip club, or met someone at a bar and had a one night stand.  There were other’s hearts at stake.  I remember early in my career someone said that is not very good accountability.  I would submit that it’s actually damn good accountability.  If it’s just about me or “saving myself for marriage” then I might be willing to compromise. If it’s about God and His kingdom, that’s a whole other thing.

Jesus said the most important thing is to love God and love others. Sexual immorality gets in the way of that.  I truly believe if our focus is ourselves, or even our own little life with Jesus, we are screwed.  But if we are focused on loving Jesus and loving others, we have a chance.

Don’t Date Alone

So the other day I was talking with a friend of mine, just catching up on life.  We ended up talking about when he was dating the woman who he is now married to.  Now my friend got married in his early 30s and he brought up a hilarious conversation he had at the time with one of our mentors.

This mentor pulled my friend aside at a gathering that he had brought this lady to.  He essentially said, “She is a beautiful girl.  You need to marry her.  If you think that someone better than her is going to come along, and be interested in you – you’re wrong – marry her.”  We both laughed.  Our mentor is nothing if not direct – he was also right, and my friend is still happily married years later.

This points to a very important thing that we need to do as singles.  We need to date in community.  

Now I don’t mean that we need to “community date” as it were.  We don’t have to “group date” like we are 16 or something.  But it is so easy to date in a vacuum.  Especially in today’s world of internet dating, long distance dating and frankly living so independently it is easy to date someone without involving others.

Throughout most of history this was not the way it worked.  As I’ve mentioned before most of the time in the past almost all marriages happened through arranged marriages.  Even if not officially, they happened in the context of community and families.  There were always other people involved.  You grew up in a community and then married someone from that community.  It’s just the way it was.

But in today’s world that usually doesn’t happen.  We grow up, leave our community for college, and then go “out on our own”.  Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but it means that most often we have to intentionally create community – it isn’t just naturally provided.

This can leave us on own when it comes to dating – which is not where we need to be.

We need to involve others in our dating life.  One obvious reason is accountability.  We need people who know what the heck we are doing with the people we are dating or even that I went on a date.  For me there is something helpful about knowing that after a date, someone is going to ask me how it went, and what we did.  If I go on a long distance date, it is great to have someone who will say, “What did you do?” or “Where did you stay?” For example, if you spent the night, who would know?  We need people to know what we are doing.

But secondly, once we move from going on a date or two to “dating” someone seriously, we need people who know us well, to know this other person well. We need people who can tell us what they think and ask us hard questions, not just about how we are behaving so to speak, but about the relationship and where it is going.

People who know us can see not only who this person is but more importantly they can see the effect of this relationship on us as a person.

I always say that I can tell pretty quickly whether I feel good about a friend’s relationship just by how it affects them.  Does it seem to excite them?  Do they seem drawn closer to God or further away?  In other words does it make them better than they were without that person.  Is the relationship good for them?

The truth is that decisions made in a vacuum are dangerous.  But decisions made in community are much more affirming.  If I’m dating someone and my community is behind it – how much more am I sure.  If they aren’t behind it then something is off and one way or another it needs to be addressed – even if my community is wrong.

This can be hard.  Sometimes it might mean having some hard conversations.  We can get lost in it by ourselves.  It’s so easy to date someone longer than we should or for that matter break it off because of something going on inside of us when we should be sticking it out.

We need to involve others.  The best case scenario is I have people that are single and married speaking into my life that I invite to speak into my love life.  For some of us that involves our family but it has to involve our community.

So who knows your dating life?  Who is in that with you?  Would anyone tell you if something was not right?

Assume You Don’t Know

So a couple of years ago I was hanging out with a group of men that I respect a lot including one man who has mentored me for the last 15 years, which is how I got the invite. One guy, who actually mentors my mentor (following still?), cornered me and started a conversation.  He wanted to know how I was handling my sex drive as a single person.

Now here’s the thing, this is a big deal and something that we need people to hold us accountable for.  If we are dating someone we need someone who knows what we are doing.  No matter what, we need someone who can ask what we are doing in that area of our lives because guess what – you probably have a sex drive. But here’s the thing – it’s kind of a tricky question and sometimes it’s frustrating because half the time when a married person asks it you want to say – hey you just don’t get it.

But the beauty was how he asked it.  Here’s how it went.  He said basically, “I’m curious about something.  First let me say that I respect you a lot.  I mean I really do.  It can’t be easy being single and dealing with that.  I don’t understand it because I’ve kind of always been married.  But I respect you, and you are a complete person without marriage.  I believe that.  But tell me, what do you do with your sexual energy.  I’m seriously asking because I have no idea what you do with it?  Do you look at porn?  Do you masturbate? Are you able to use that energy in a way that honors the Lord?  Do you just work out? What do you do? When you are dating someone, how far do you go?”

Now there is so much right about the way that he asked me.  First of all he treated me as someone going through something that he wasn’t.  He didn’t pretend to have the answer and in fact assumed that he didn’t.  Second he honored me as a person. Finally he asked specific questions but in the context of the first two points and without judgement.  This of course is just a good way to ask questions but it can be especially helpful for married and single people holding each other accountable and walking together.

If we are going to walk together as marrieds and singles (which again as the church we’d better start figuring out how to do) then we need to start with humility.  Here’s the thing.  As a 39 year old single guy I’ve had several mentors in my life.  All of them – every single one – has been married. In fact none of them got married any later than 25.  But they have had huge impact on my walk with Christ as a single, and one of the reasons is that they don’t pretend to completely know what I’m going through.  Many times they’ve said, “Justin, I just have never been where you are but here’s what I think.”  At the same time I have had the privilege to pour into and mentor many married people – but I start with the premise of I don’t exactly get it.  I would say I have had impact on some of those marriages.

What if as marrieds and singles we started out with more humility?  What if instead of assuming that we get it all we assumed we didn’t?  What if as a married person you didn’t give your single friends all the easy answers but instead were genuinely interested in how they lived?  What if as single people we were genuinely interested in our friends’ marriages? What if we didn’t blow off each other’s thoughts just because we aren’t in the same demographic?