It’s the week after Thanksgiving, and if you are like the lion’s share of the country, you ended your Thursday with a full tummy and the thought that you wouldn’t need to eat for 3 days. By the way, “lion’s share” is a term meaning “the most of.” Watch any wild life documentary, and you’ve probably seen lions growling and biting and groveling for every bit of food they can get without concern for their furry family members. Of course, most of us didn’t wait 3 days, but were happy to see breakfast the next day. Hopefully, most of us also stopped to ponder things to be thankful for in 2014.
Celibacy is often put into the same category as appetite and hunger. Our body signals when it’s time to eat. Our body also signals when it wants physical intimacy. Just as hunger pangs increase the longer we do not eat, physical desire also increases when it does not receive release. There’s just one gigantic difference. One hunger leads to physical death if we do not eat again. The other can lead to a variety of different places – frustration, anger, despair, or even contentment and self-control. No matter how strong the urge,no one dies if they never express their sexuality in physical intimacy.
Not expressing sexuality in physical intimacy, however, has become a laughable, irrational, unreasonable concept to the lion’s share of the country. And, too many of the lions are those who say they consider the Bible to be the faithful transcript of God’s mind in rules of conduct, yet they also agree that it is not reasonable – or even possible – to save physical sexual expression for marriage. I have to admit that I have never seen a really good answer to “how does a single deal with intense sexual feelings without giving in to them?” The church in general has opted to keep repeating, “Just don’t,” “Wait,” and “Take cold showers.” None of these responses even begins to touch the core of the depth of desire many onesomes experience.
I admit that at times I am baffled by the lack of specific instruction in Scripture for the single person, especially the onesome in unwanted protracted singleness. I have often read I Corinthians 7:9 with puzzlement.
- * KJV – If a man cannot contain, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.
- * NIV – But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
- * NLT – But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
- * AMP – But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire].
- * MSG – But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married. The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.
A cursory reading of this verse makes it sound as if marriage was sort of like a peach on a tree available for the picking. It speaks to the “unmarried and the widows,” so men and women were addressed alike.
But, what happens to those who “burn” with nary a future spouse in sight?
I admit to a few flames at times. How ’bout you?
Well, this is where the whole area of self-control, restraint, and management of desires and emotions comes into the picture.
Thought and physical desire become partners.
- * Jesus speaks of lust and immorality beginning in the mind. (Matthew 15:19)
- * Taking part in things not glorifying to our Holy God leads to sin. (Acts 15:20)
- * Alcohol can lead us to drop our normal boundaries. (Romans 13:13)
- * The body is meant for sexual morality. (I Corinthians 6:13-18)
- * Sexual immorality is idolatry. (Colossians 3;5)
- * Flee immorality! (I Corinthians 6:18)
Are restraint and self-control feasible in terms of celibacy even in a sex-crazed society? Absolutely! We have to make difficult choices every day. Why not in this area?
NIV – Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age . . .