We Are All Called To Chastity

A few posts ago I wrote about that the fact that holiness is not THE point of marriage.  Without rehashing all of that here, the main points were:

  • We often act as if there is not joy in marriage and that happiness isn’t even part of it, which is super counter productive to our culture at this time.
  • We’ve sort of created a context in which marriage is the answer to our supposed uncontrollable desire for sex.  In other words we all desire sex, can’t control that desire, and therefore the only “holy” answer to that is marriage.  This is theologically bad and practically creates all kinds of conundrums in our current culture.

But this raises many other questions not least of which is: what then makes you holy?  Or maybe in this context a more exact question would be, when it comes to sexual desire, what is the path to holiness?

Let’s start with this truth:  There are a lot of different contexts that people trying to follow Jesus find themselves in right now.  There are those who are married, divorced, widowed, not yet married, celibate by birth, made celibate by men (or the fall of man) and those who choose celibacy for the Kingdom. (I have a whole series of posts coming on these last three).

Each and everyone of these have different biblical instructions.  Each have sub contexts within them.  But there is one path that every one of these is called to follow towards holiness.  That is each and every one of these is called to chastity.  Indeed, all of us, regardless of context, is called to chastity.

Marriage as THE way to holiness is a non starter because:

  1. Not all of these people are called, or for that matter biblically instructed to, get married.
  2. It assumes that no one can have holiness in their sexuality outside of marriage – which basically means that you can’t actually be called to chastity to begin with since none of us are born married.

So what is Chastity.  Chastity includes, although it is not limited to, the proper ordering of sexual pleasure.  It is an understanding that sexual pleasure itself does not bring lasting joy.  It it not the goal.  All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life.  In other words, regardless of marital status we are called to chastity.

What this means is that chastity is not the same as celibacy or even abstinence.  The chaste unmarried person refrains from sexual pleasure while the chaste married person seeks sexual pleasure only within the marriage covenant.

Now within these different contexts, the Lord can use our chastity to help us become more holy – more devoted and set apart for God.  This is because in order to be chaste, we have to submit and often surrender our personal sexual desires to God.  Doing this consistently changes our focus from fulfilling our own desires selfishly to conforming to God’s.  Living a chaste life impacts how we view God, ourselves and others.

As a bonus it also protects us and others.  It protects us from the sin and consequences of fornication and adultery.  It protects us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It also sets us apart in a fallen world and therefore strengthens our witness to others.  In fact I would suggest, and have suggested, that living a chaste life is one of the four ways that we can set ourselves apart so that others will listen to what we have to say about Jesus.**

Now it is important to note something here.  Chastity is not the so much the goal as the means to the goal.  In other words chastity is more than just avoiding sexual sin, it is avoiding sexual sin in order to walk more closely in obedience to God – which is the goal.

This by the way is true of many things and important to our understanding of how this life works.  Chastity, orthodoxy, the sacraments, the bible, etc, are all tools not the end goals. They are things instituted by God to help us on our path of to Him, not the other way around.

So what we can know is that regardless of marital status, we are called to live chaste in that context.  It is not impossible with the help of God to live that way.  That doesn’t make it easy, but we are not doomed to unholiness without marriage.  In fact we are called to holiness regardless.  Not only that but God can give us the grace to live that out in each of these contexts if we seek Him and do it with Him.  And that seeking of Him and obedience to His calling is what sends us towards holiness.


** – I believe that in our current culture if we do four things in accordance to the teaching of the scriptures we will have a platform to share Jesus.  That is, what we do with our money, our time, our sexual desire and how we handle reconciliation.  If we do those four things the way the world does them, then we look no different from the world and very few if any will take our witness seriously.

The Bible Won’t Tell You Who To Marry

I sometimes wonder if I could see the whole picture of my walk with God in the area of dating if He would say, “Well Justin I tried to send you Mary but you were too focussed on Sally to hear it.”  Or maybe another time He would say, “Well I tried to send you Jill but she just didn’t listen to me.  That one wasn’t your bad.”

WIthout a doubt one of the most frustrating things about singleness is trying to listen to God in it.

I know that God speaks to us. There are so many times where He has directed me.  Of course we hear first through the Bible.  At the end of the day it’s the baseline.  Everything can be tested against it. And the great news is that the Bible can tell me a lot about marriage, and even some about singleness. But the Bible won’t tell me who to marry.  It’s not in there.  There’s no Book of Justin.  In fact it won’t even tell me if I should get married at all.  Therefore I’m going to have to actually walk with God.

It is dang hard to hear God clearly in this area of our life.

It’s hard for a variety of reasons.  For one thing, we have a lot of different emotions in all sorts of different situations.  If I’m not dating anyone I can feel desperate, discouraged or angry.  That can cause me to shut down or just choose to date whoever.  I could be dating someone and really like them even though I know in my heart it’s not right – but the more attached I am the harder it is to hear it’s not right.  I can make marriage an idol which can cause me to rush into something or to put so much pressure on everything that nothing has a chance to go anywhere.  With all those emotions floating around it’s hard to hear clearly.

We can also fall into sexual sin.  Unrepentant sin always gets in the way of hearing God clearly.  I can also want to hear Him so bad in this area that I lose focus on God altogether. It can become all that I pray about.  There have been times in my life that almost my whole prayer life centered around this stuff.

Or we can go the complete opposite direction.  To be honest I went through a time where I just flat got tired of talking to God about it.  I literally didn’t talk to Him about it at all. Basically it was like, “what’s really the point?  I’ve prayed it already.  Screw it.”

But we can’t afford to do that.  We have to engage God, we have to keep going there.  But we need to learn how to do it as a grown up.  Here are some things I think can help, or at least have helped me or others around me.

Learn to listen to God in other things that are less emotional.  If I’m not praying and listening to God to begin with hearing Him here will be even more difficult.  It’s pretty hard to hear the big stuff if I’m not listening in general

Start by being willing to hear anything.  

You have to be willing to hear the actual answer no matter what it is.  Half the reason we don’t ask God is we are afraid of the answer.  We don’t trust Him.  It’s akin to the person who says, “I don’t say God send me anywhere because I know He will send me to Africa.” The truth is if you aren’t willing to hear any answer it will be tough to hear the answer He does give.

In that way, I think it is good to start with praying about whether God is calling you to be single or married.  Again hard to hear but be willing to hear either.

Next, obey what you do know.

It’s hard to say, “God should I marry this person” and hear the answer clearly if you are sleeping with said person.  It’s like saying, “God I’m going to ignore what you FOR SURE are telling me but then try to discern what I’m not so sure you are telling me.  It will be hard to hear that I’m called to be single if I’m serial dating or looking at porn etc.  Obviously none of us live perfectly but we have to fight to obey what we do know.

Finally we need to invite others to listen with us.  I talked about this last week, but we need people who can see us and others that we date, and affirm or challenge us as need be.

God wants to lead us in this area of our life.  We have to fight to listen.