When returning to Christ 5 years ago after an extended period of wandering in the wilderness, I found it hard to believe that modern Christians were embracing a standard of celibacy. For the young adults taking the purity pledge, this seemed like a good idea — but for people my age? At the time I was 45 and divorced. Celibacy seemed like an antiquated idea. Maybe during biblical times this made sense, but today’s a whole other ballpark. Surprisingly, this is the very reason why celibacy is still relevant today.
Trust me, I’ve heard and rationalized myself, for an updated version of what God expects of us single people and sexual purity. Here are some common arguments against celibacy outside of marriage and God’s response to each:
What if I’m not sexually compatible with the person I’m thinking of marrying?
God only created one female for Adam, not a variety of women for Adam to try on and pick the one with whom he is most sexually compatible. (Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 2:18, 21-22, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2) Personally, I believe God knows which person is the best mate for us in all respects, but if it helps us to have peace in this matter, make your prayer requests to include a partner who is compatible with you. Then trust God to reveal that person to you. Be faithful in return and wait till you are married to consummate the union.
If two people are consensual, what harm does it do?
On a spiritual and physical level there are consequences to having sex before marriage. In Genesis 2:22-25 God has fashioned Eve out of Adam. She originated from a part of his body and together became one flesh when they consummated the union. There was no shame in their nakedness because they were husband and wife, a sacred union. Sex outside the marriage, whether as a single or as an adulterer, bears shame, ungodliness and repercussions. We become a part of each person’s flesh and spirit with whom we have sex.
Our bodies are members of Christ and are not to be defiled. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20) Sexual sin is unlike any other sin because it is not outside the body but is a sin against one’s own body. When we honor our bodies, we honor God. Our sanctification is through abstinence from sexual immorality. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) In 1 Corinthians 7:8,9 the apostle Paul says if we lack self control in remaining pure then it is better to marry than to burn with passion. And again in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 Paul explicitly says for a man not to touch a woman but because of immoralities he is to have one wife and she one husband. Sex is only sanctified in marriage. There is no gray area…not even in engagements. So forget that loophole.
There are repercussions in having sex outside of marriage. King David is a prime example. He not only murdered the husband of the woman, Bathsheba, with whom he was having sex but suffered the loss of the son born from that union. Jealousy is also a byproduct of multiple partners. Abraham did not trust God’s timing in bringing him a son through his aging wife Sarah. He took matters into his own hands and slept with Sarah’s maid Hagar and impregnated her. From this disobedience came jealousy, abandonment and warring nations as a result.
You may argue and say these stories are from thousands of years ago. True, but one only needs to look at the sexual revolution of the 20th century to see compounded ill effects that sexual promiscuity brings. Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant. Unwanted pregnancies, often ending in abortions or abandoned children, wreak havoc on all involved. Crimes of passion many times are due to a lover’s infidelity. Divorces, and all the detrimental effects, are often a result of extramarital affairs. Pornography and sexual addiction are becoming widespread even among our youth. Both women and men who give themselves to others before marriage carry with them lasting impressions from each sexual partner. Some of these can be insecurity, shame, jealousy, embarrassment or even lusting tied to a previous partner. All of these will follow you to the next relationship. With all of these detrimental and demoralizing effects how can we not see that sexual purity is actually good for us?
Why doesn’t God want me to enjoy myself?
God designed sex. For humans it is not only for procreation but for enjoyment (within the confines of marriage). The Bible says “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery” (Hebrews 13:4 NLT). In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 we are told not to deprive our spouses sexually. Obviously God wants us to enjoy sex but to “drink from your own cistern.” (Proverbs 5:15-21) If you’ve ever read Song of Solomon, you will see just how erotic is this gift from God. But just as Solomon penned those very words, sex had lost its fervor when he devalued the gift through a stream of sexual partners.
So is celibacy relevant today? I believe even more so. In this world of increasing sexual promiscuity, we are in need of God’s commandment to remain pure. It is out of love for us — for our bodies and our souls — that He gives us these standards. There is beauty behind celibacy and the sacredness of this exquisite pleasure. Keeping ourselves pure for our future spouses should give us the stamina to take on the quest of celibacy knowing that God will reward us with a lifetime of passion with the one He has chosen for us.