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Celibacy and the Single Christian
Intimacy is not really talked about in the Born Again Christian Community. We just don't talk about it. Sure we have marriage seminars, sermons about marriage and the family and private couples counseling (usually before marriage) but rarely is the topic of relationships and singles ever mentioned or addressed in the pulpit or in literature. But, you know what, God talks about relationships in his word! And he has quite a lot to say on the subject. The book of Song of Solomon is all about it. How many sermons have you heard on the Song of Solomon? I've never heard one. Recently I read the book “Real Sex” by Lauren Winner. It is one of the best books on the single Christian I've ever read. It addressed issues, problems and challenges of single Christians while at the same time not coming across as condescending or judgmental. I highly recommend the book.
My own journey as a single Christian has been fraught with many pitfalls, some I've fallen into and some I've avoided. I am a single Christian and have been all my life. I'm 53, female, single and a single parent so I'm no virgin. One of my pet peeves when reading books about single Christians is that more often than not they are written by “married” Christians. Even Lauren Winner got married before finishing the book. Maybe I should write my own book, ha ha! Seriously, it always bothered me that the people writing these books or articles were no longer in the trenches sort of speak. So I wanted to write my own point of view on the single Christian as a single Christian that is still in the trenches.
Just Say "No" to premarital relations!
I almost didn't become a Christian because of the prohibition on premarital relations! I just couldn't figure out how God could put such a terrible restraint on people as to forbid them from having intimate relationships before they got married. I mean what if I never married? What if I had to remain single my whole life. Just the thought threw me into a depression. However, God, being God overwhelmed me with His presence one day and I took the plunge and became a born again Christian. Consequently, I started praying for a husband like the day after I became a Christian :).
Further down the road I took the road most traveled and fell off the wagon. I ended up getting pregnant out of wedlock and having my son (who is now over 30). I never married and I've always struggled in this area. So what is a single Christian to do when God clearly forbids intimacy outside of marriage and yet created us as intimate beings? It seems so unfair of Him, how are we to wrap our minds around this? Moreover, just telling single Christians that God says no doesn't really work. Single Christians are intimate beings as we all are and one of the reasons they fall into sin is that they don't understand the reasoning behind the prohibition or the love of God to such as extent that all other passions are dwarfed. Furthermore, many single Christians do not have the support of the church when it comes to this area. Sure they are told "NO", and that is biblical, but they are not supported by being included or addressed within the body of Christ. This needs to change.
Lauren Winner's Book
In Lauren Winner's book she discusses God's view and His purpose for our relationships. She writes that intimacy is not a private affair. That intimacy, from God's point of view (which is the correct point of view by the way) is a community affair. By this she means that the relationships affect everyone. If a couple are intimate and they get pregnant outside of marriage that affects the community. If a couple are intimate and they break up that affects the people involved, often involving broken hearts and broken lives thereby affecting the next person or persons that couple involve themselves with. If a couple are intimate and acquire a disease unless that couple remains monogamous that also affects other people and therefore the greater community. Intimacy is a community affair and I would submit a national and even world affair. We are told that intimacy is private but there is nothing private about it, it affects the community and world around us, and, it affects us in a big way. If you are over 50, just think about what things were like in your neighborhood growing up. My neighborhood was filled with intact families, children ran around and played in the streets and mothers were home to cook dinner. Today, that is a rare sight indeed. Consequently, if a couple wait to be intimate before marriage, commit themselves to God and to each other, have a healthy relationship, that too affects the community. It strengthens it.
As a single Christian do you feel like a second class citizen within the church?
Are Single Christians treated like Second Class Citizens in the Church?
I never understood this before. Previously, I always just felt sorry for myself and looked upon myself as a second class citizen as a single Christian in the Christian community. The church never helped me counter that self description and in fact seemed to encourage it. I always had to muster up my sheer willpower to act in obedience to the prohibition against intimacy outside of marriage while never understanding God's reasoning behind it. Furthermore, the loneliness that many Christians experience in the body of Christ is shameful and ought not to be. Many single Christians are ignored, secluded and thought of as incomplete within the church. That is why I wanted to write this article and start this discussion. It's hard enough to practice a celibate lifestyle but it is especially difficult when you don't understand the reasoning behind it and are shunned whether purposely or accidentally by the church.
The World's View of Intimacy
Today, our world upholds intimacy as the highest form of relationship. It is used to sell everything. Furthermore, I don't think anyone would deny that we are obsessed with it. However, as Christians we are called to a higher obsession. We are called to obsess with God. The very first commandment is to Love God with all your heart, all your strength, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Because intimacy has replaced God in our culture we have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. We live in a world where the nuclear family is a rarity. Where children as young as 5 and even babies are abused sexually, where lewd material is available to anyone and where people have become the walking wounded. That is what happens when God is overthrown and other gods are put in His place. Relationships are difficult at best, marriage an uphill climb and people have become afraid to trust others and maybe even afraid to trust themselves.
What the Bible teaches us about relationships
The Bible tells us that love is kind, that love seeks not its own way, that love is patient. We as Christians need to have a firm understanding of what it means to love God and to love others when it comes to intimacy and personal relationships. If we say we love God but we take advantage of someone by having an intimate relationship outside of the marriage commitment we are committing a sin against that person and against the greater community and against God. We are not acting out of love either for God or for others. God is not just telling us "NO" don't do it, He tells us why and how. The word of God tells us to flee carnal temptation because temptation is powerful and can easily overcome us. God, being the loving person that he is has our best in mind. He wants us to have satisfying relationships and He knows that intimacy has the power to ruin everything. He is not acting in some arbitrary, tyrannical way by forbidding it. On the contrary, God is giving us guidelines so that we can have wonderful, fulfilling relationships whether they are in a marriage or just as friends.
Understanding God's point of view
I don't know about you but for me understanding the reasoning behind the prohibition against premarital intimacy, the consequences of disobedience and the rewards of doing things God's way helps me. It makes it easier for me to push on for the better prize. To hold out for God's perfect will, rather than settle for what the world dangles before me. I hope it helps you too. And, I hope the the larger Christian community will become more aware of this problem and help to eliminate it.
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