August 16, 2009

...And Not for Everyone

If you have read my last post (or even if you haven't), let me make a couple of things clear:
  • I don't think every unmarried person on the planet is called to sexual abstinence, but I do believe that those of us who are followers of Christ are called to that standard. It's not my job as a Christian to tell non-Christians how they should behave. It is my job to live my life as God calls a follower of Christ to live.
  • One of the issues singles in the church have whenever this issue is raised is a perception of smugness among our married peers. Whether that perception is real or imagined, I don't know. I do know that there's not much room for smugness in this area. Even if you waited until you were married to have sex, keep this in mind: if you were to find yourself single tomorrow, this would likely be an area you would find challenging, too.
  • While more and more single Christians are rejecting the idea of sexual abstinence, there are still many who believe that the Bible teaches celibacy for singles of all ages, and are faithful to that teaching.
  • This isn't about a specific denomination. It's about followers of Christ.
  • Becoming a poster child for middle-aged abstinence is not exactly among my lifetime goals. ;-)
People who only know me superficially assume I fit the Southern Baptist stereotype, but those who know me well would tell you that's not really the case. For instance, I can't read the quarterly (for you non-Baptists, that's the literature many Sunday school classes use) because it just makes me mad. Really mad. Generally I think Southern Baptist literature is written by pastors who would serve us all better if they'd just stick to their hillbilly congregations.

The last time I made the mistake of reading a quarterly lesson was a couple of years ago. The writer went on at length on a passage from Titus 2 about "older" women and drinking, suggesting that older women should not drink. Period. What my NIV Bible says specifically on the topic is "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good." The writer of that lesson was guilty of slanting the material to fit Baptist tradition, despite what the Bible actually says on the topic.

What the Bible says on the issue is important, because medical science is coming to the same conclusion, that while older women should limit alcohol consumption, they are not being told they need to eliminate alcohol altogether. As is often the case with the teachings of the Bible, it turns out there are legitimate reasons behind the words. As we age, alcohol begins to affect us differently, and while there is a negative impact on both genders, older women are affected even more so than older men.

My point - and I do have one - is when we change the teaching to fit our own traditions or rationalizations, we water down the lessons of the Bible. I'm convinced that pragmatism is one of God's most underrated qualities. He doesn't give a list of rules to make everyone's life hard. He does call us to standards of behavior that elevate a society. Standards that show the world there is a difference when you put your faith in Him.

And so it is with sexual abstinence for Christian singles. While the world says that we are defined by our relationships, God says that the only relationship that should define us is our relationship with Him, through Jesus Christ. If we allow Him to guide us, the world should see something different in us, something transformational.

Here's what Paul said about that kind of transformed life in Romans 12:1-2 (The Message):
  • So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.


  1. Margaret, a voice in the wilderness preparing our hearts for the way of the Lord. We live in a multidimensional world where rules, at best, address one dimension of that world... behavior. The older I get the more I realize that sex is at least three dimensional as is love, relationships, morality, etc. Rules flatten everthing and make a rich, complex, and beautiful existense into something dull and lifeless...can't wait for more of your thoughts.

  2. great blog!!

    i completely agree that God's practicality is underrated. He gave the
    israelites a very specific diet, because the restricted foods (pork, lobster) are really bad for us...unfortunately they really taste good! :(