Did you know that June is National Celibacy Awareness Month? Actually, it’s right up there with Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month and National Iced Tea Month. I kid you not. I’m not sure who puts these titles on the calendar, but you can look them up for yourself. I say this just to point out that celibacy is an element of discipline where society takes what God values as a sacred treasure for the unmarried/single person and turns it into a laughable and unnecessary concept. Now, as for “celebrate,” everyone views that as meaning a good time.
The Online Etymology Dictionary says of “celibacy:” formed from Latin caelibatus “state of being unmarried, from caelebs “unmarried” probably from [an ancient linguistic] root kaewelo – “alone” + lib “living.” It eventually also came to mean, “not engaging in sexual relations.”
The words “celibate” and “celibacy” actually do not appear in scripture. Biblical words are ones such as “unmarried” and “virgin.” The meaning is clear no matter what translation you read, however. Those who find themselves in these circumstances are to refrain from expressing their sexuality in sexual acts. The reasons why have been debated through the ages. Just as “Because I say so,” is a frustrating response to a child’s “Why?” so “Because God and the Bible say so” is not an easy reason to respond to with joy and celebration for the single person who is struggling with intense physical and emotional longings. And yet, ultimately,.the latter is the foundation of our discipline. It is the “Why!”
The “how” is a bit more difficult to apply. We may think that “sexual freedom” is a fairly new concept. But when Moses spoke God’s word through the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20 which included “You shall not commit adultery,” the desert wanderers did not have to ask, “What is that?” They already knew, because adultery was an expression of their bodies and souls when restraint and self-control were ignored, and they knew it caused great pain and suffering. These were people who had seen God’s rescue from slavery and life-saving provision in the desert. They also saw vivid consequences of God’s displeasure when they lived outside his instructions.
Over and over, though, they were given clear words on living a life pleasing to God. Verses such as Numbers 15:37-41 gives some possible clues to the “how.”
- * Use something to remind yourself of your resolve to be faithful to God.
- * Look at it – think about it – focus on what it symbolizes – and obey.
- * Do not chase after your emotional, physical, and visual inclination to immorality.
OK. This seems to be a basis for the “just say no” phrase which popped up in the 1980s as a tool to discourage drugs, violence, and premarital sex. Purity rings sprang up on many fingers as a reminder of promises made. Do these things work? For some. For others, the requirement of their promise proves to be too stringent. Too many of us continue to follow what promises to bring good feeling rather than miss out on pleasurable things. “Why in the world,” we ask, “would God create us with bodies and souls which scream out for sexual expression at times, and then tell us not to go there if we are single?” But, even though we do not get as clearly defined instruction as we would like, these verses in Numbers still give some good basic steps into “how” land.
So, how do we follow the above concepts without going crazy? As Christian singles, it is imperative that we look beyond the moment. All through Scripture, desire and fidelity in marriage and singleness are used as tools to point us to God who is the ultimate answer to our intimacy needs – now and in the future. One of the fruit of the Spirit which comes at the end of the list in Galatians 5;22-23 is self-control, letting us know that the self can indeed be controlled when we partner with the Holy Spirit to influence, govern, and restrain in important areas of everyday living. The self can take an active and responsible role in developing holy habits as a result of the sprouting of that hardy spiritual fruit nourished by God!
He can help us turn around and walk away at the first hint of temptation to immorality. He can give us the boldness to control where that computer mouse so quickly can navigate us. He can bring Scripture to mind when we are about to step into a lust-producing situation. He can help us train our eyes and ears to see and hear what leads to God-pleasing living.
We can take delight in the Lord, and He will give us the desires of our heart!” (Psalm 37:4, NIV)
Well, as usual, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this subject. I’m sure there will be a sequel. 🙂
In the meantime, a book for your consideration is Your Single Treasure by Rick Stedman, Moody Press.