I am not single. I am celibate. The unmarried have a gazillion reasons why they chose not to pursue matrimony. This choice may be for a season. Celibacy or singleness may be a life-time commitment. I have chosen to intentionally live as celibate. This posting will hopefully be one of many more to come. I certainly will not exhaust all my thoughts on the subject.
The decision to choose celibacy is an uphill battle. Lisa Graham McMinn writes, “Singles live in a culture that assumes they cannot be complete alone, and many experience this as a self-fulfilling prophecy: to live alone is to be incomplete, unfulfilled” (McMinn 69). Society pities those who are not romantically attached. And, as McMinn notes, many who are not married or in a romantic relationship reinforce this negative belief because they are indeed emotionally alone without a support system. Sadly, even the Church has jumped on the bandwagon with culture on the issue of relationships.
No one will deny that intentional singleness is a scriptural principle, yet it seems that we are reluctant to accept celibacy as a vocation for those we love. We have this need for everyone in our lives to be happy—but happy by our standards and definitions. The Church has bought into the American Dream. Marcy Hintz quotes Rodney Clapp on this point in her article “Choosing Celibacy.” Clapp states that the modern evangelical view of family “is not biblical, but rather bourgeois.” Clapp states that this makes the family a mere “haven and oasis, an emotional stabilizer and battery-charger for its members.” These are foundational needs for any family. But Hintz makes a statement that I think every Christian family needs to read: “when these insular values become ends in themselves, the dream of Christian family is too small. Much like the single, the family becomes a body unto itself—set up for life, but alone.” Families were not meant to function alone as a unit. Singles and celibates likewise are not meant to live life in isolation.
The Church is a community and a family. God never intended for Christians to live separately from His bride, our Mother. Most Christians work on developing a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, but not as many see the importance of getting to know their spiritual Mother (not to mention their brothers and sisters in Christ). I believe most of the problems our families face stems from our refusal to invest in the community of the saints. We wear a façade to hide our problems. We believe it’s shameful to admit our families are falling apart. The answer’s plain and simple. P-r-i-d-e. The Church in Western Civilization is dying because of our hypocrisy. The Church is the place where we can be ourselves. It’s where we admit we’re not perfect—in fact, we’re depraved, filthy sinners worthy of eternal damnation. We all sin every day. We repent, we ask forgiveness. As a community, we see each other at our best and worst. We practice agape love—we love knowing that God is working in us to will and do of His good pleasure. We continually receive the opportunity to practice patience because some of our siblings take a little longer in the process of sanctification. But we’re a family through good and bad times. Well, at least we should be.
When I grasped the reality that celibacy means I still have a family, I was able to accept it. I am blessed with a church now that values my participation and input. My church has a family atmosphere that loves diversity. I don’t have to be married, dating, or looking. I can be myself. When I move away to graduate school I hope to find a similar environment both in the psychology program and my local church. Celibacy is a different way of looking at life and people. It’s not better than marriage, but I firmly believe I’m not less because of my calling. As Lisa Graham McMinn noted, perhaps singles show a special picture of God’s love for humanity. It’s not exclusive, but inclusive. I have the time to invest in multiple people rather than just one person.
I’m asking my readers to be open-minded. God’s calling for marriage or singleness/celibacy is not rocket science. We know. If one wants to marry, then I believe God will honor that desire on His timetable. We’re all called to different tasks and different responsibilities. But we’re all called to be Kingdom workers—working to change culture and bring about Shalom. I am called to work as a celibate. That’s good and God-glorifying. Most of you are called to marry and have children. That’s also good and God-glorifying. We’re in this together. And celibates and singles like me need families in the church to complete us, just as families need their church to complete them. We’re one body, so let’s function like a healthy one, please.
McMinn, Lisa Graham. Sexuality and Holy Longing: Embracing Intimacy in a Broken World
Hintz, Marcy. “Choosing Celibacy” Christianity Today