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Three Questions About Celibacy

Ann outside Coventry Jesus Centre where she works


Recently a young woman emailed the Undividedblog with questions about Christian celibacy.

Ann Hawker (living in Coventry and a committed Christian celibate for 32 years), Steve Moseley (living in Warwickshire and a committed Christian celibate for 27 years) and Iain Gorrie (married with three children and living in Coventry) give their answers.

 


How do you keep an undivided heart?

Ann: Find ways that work for you to help you be aware of the love of God both personally and for people generally so that you don’t grow cold inside. Worship is one way of doing this.

Have an attitude of service so that you seek out ways to help others and don’t get too absorbed with yourself.

Steve, living for Jesus

Steve: I throw myself into Kingdom life! Celibacy is all about a relationship with God and devotion to the church – a “marriage” with the Kingdom of Jesus. If that sense of being “married” is lost, then you’ve become divided. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul talks about being free from “cares” – the power of natural demands that can sap your spiritual energy, dim your clarity of heart and vision, and compromise your devotion to the Kingdom of God.

Leaders and pastors can have many cares without having a spouse or kids! Protecting my celibate gift, sharing my heart with other celibates, worship and feeding my spirit are all important if I am to stay free from cares.

Also, in order to keep your celibate heart fresh you must embrace the cost now, today. The cost changes as you go along. For example in my late twenties being unable to have children was not for me a cost. Later, in my mid-thirties, the cost suddenly hit me! I had to bring the natural desire to have children painfully to the Cross. Over several years of surrendering, the Spirit took hold of the natural desire and transformed it so that I could become a spiritual father.

Does celibacy work outside of Christian community?

Ann: A call to celibacy can be received and maintained in whatever lifestyle setting you find yourself in.  However, in order to carry the wholeness and fruitfulness of celibacy it is important to have many different opportunities for wholesome relationships and human interaction and a sense of purpose and fulfilment.  This is probably easier within a fairly close community structure but can be achieved within a broader sense of community.  Celibacy is not at its best if it is simply a denial of something rather than an opportunity for something greater which in most cases would mean service and connection with others around.

Steve: I used to think that celibacy would only truly work within a Christian community like our own in the Jesus Fellowship/Jesus Army. However, in recent years I have seen many examples of celibates living on their own who are finding real fulfilment in their celibacy. Of course everyone is different but the crucial thing is relationships – whatever their living situation a celibate must be well related, knitted in to the Body of Christ and able to express their gifts and ministry.

Is celibacy really a ‘higher or harder’ calling than marriage?

Ann: It is a “harder” call in the sense that marriage is a more normal condition and standing against the natural tendency of romance, sexual gratification and close intimacy is a very real challenge.  There is also a great deal of fear of loneliness and of being without support in times of need that leads to a drive to find some kind of “special” relationship.

Steve: Higher: We need to differentiate between the gift and the person. Jesus is of course the model celibate and to be like Him must be the highest. He made it clear that not everyone could receive the gift (Matthew 19:10-12) but there is no suggestion of superiority for those who do. In 1 Corinthians 7 the words “do better” are referring to those who are “betrothed” or engaged to be married and are able to wait patiently for their wedding day. This is not referring to celibates. So, clearly the gift is the highest but in no way does it make celibates superior. The history of the Church is full of highly fruitful married brethren – it’s what you do with your gifts that matters.

Harder: For the majority of people marriage is the “natural” choice. Are we prepared to live differently and oppose peer pressure and all the natural expectations of parents, friends and the world around us? Celibacy in this sense is certainly a harder choice. Being able to trust your emotional life to God is a very big thing. However, no one would claim that natural life is easy!

Iain and his wife, Ruth

Iain: As a married person I find celibacy very inspiring, and would say that marriage and celibacy are very different callings. 1 Corinthians 7:38 says, “He who does not marry does better”. I would think that some aspects of celibacy are harder, like not having a special/exclusive companion, needing to deny your sexual desires, overcoming the expectations of others for a marriage partner etc. It’s hard to give a definitive answer as everyone’s different!

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Posted by on Fri 30th Nov 2012 in FAQ

 

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Different sexualities, marriage history and celibacy – and thoughts of an asexual

This poem was sent into Undividedblog by someone who is asexual, describing his experience.

Everything is Ace

Not for me, the table for two
Drowning in each other’s eyes
No lingering French kisses
Or intimate caresses
Or sweating and panting
In fevered embraces

I’ve never known lust
I’m a stranger to passion
And jealousy
And the pain of love spurned
My nights are free of fantasy
My heart has never burned

Some say I’m a freak
Or that I’m sick
Or even mentally ill
They show me their pity
“Maybe,” they say, “there’s a pill”
Others say “You’ve not met the right one”
No, and I never will

I used to date, to dine and chat
I was very fond of that
But, after some weeks, my partners tire
For they don’t see in me
That sexual fire
They wanted to be more than friends
So that is where our friendship ends

I don’t want your pity
I’m free, you see
For the time and the money
You spend on amore
I have fun with my friends
They all know the score-ay

Just one final word
To that fine poet Les
Is poetry better than sex?
Yes, for some, it is

I really like this poem and  I reckon the key verse is in verse 5 when it says, ‘I don’t want your pity, I’m free, you see …’

People sometimes ask: can I be a committed Christian celibate if I’ve been married or have had a partner? Can I be a celibate if I’m gay or asexual?

Celibacy brings freedom from family responsibilities and it gives us time and space to give ourselves, our heart, our devotion, to a wide, wide range of people. It frees us to love the many.

My response to the questions is a resounding, ‘yes. Of course.’ Our past sexual history (or the lack of it) is no bar to receiving the gift … and I’m not theorising. I know committed celibates who are widowed or have formerly been married, practising gays or have lived loosely who are now committed, fruitful celibates. Brilliant.

God does not stand to judge our pasts; rather He is intimately involved in and concerned about the present and the future, a God of fresh starts.

I’m not saying there won’t be issues to work out. There will be. But who hasn’t got issues to wrestle with?

The church needs committed celibates. God has a very broad heart. His gifts are ours for the taking.

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19: 11,12

 
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Posted by on Tue 16th Oct 2012 in FAQ, Poetry

 

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Is celibacy for anyone or just a select few?

Gift of CelibacyAnyone, certainly, but not necessarily everyone.

The New Testament says that spiritual gifts are determined and given by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11).

And yet we are also told to ‘eagerly desire the greater gifts’ (1 Cor. 12:31).

So gifts are given by God, but they are also to be desired and received by us. It’s a two-way operation.

So in that case, all spiritual gifts – healing, prophecy, tongues, intercession … and other gifts too – must surely be for anyone. They’re available to us all, if we so desire them.

I have found myself desiring particular spiritual gifts at different times throughout my Christian life; and then, some when down the line, I’ve been surprised to find that I’m using them! I’m sure God awakes in us the desire for certain gifts and that process is all part of him giving them to us.

It’s similar with the gift of celibacy.

Perhaps we find ourselves longing to give everything for the kingdom of God, longing for a close walk with God, longing to be like some of the celibates that we see around us, longing to be more fruitful. God awakes a longing in our heart for the things which celibacy embodies and – for those that dare – this is all part of receiving the gift. So in that sense, celibacy is for anyone. Although many will not choose it or receive it, it is available, even offered, to all.

Jesus said that only those to whom it had been given could accept that it’s better not to marry; but then he also said in the same breath that some would make themselves eunuchs (choose to stay single) for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:10-12). So there’s a receiving of a gift in celibacy, but there’s also a very definite making of oneself celibate.

It would be wrong to say that celibacy is supposed to be for everyone – the Apostle Paul himself says that it is wrong to forbid people to marry (1 Tim. 4:1-4). However, I think it is right to say that it can be for anyone, whatever their age, race, sexual orientation, abilities or background.

The gift of celibacy is not for some kind of gifted, higher-class elite, but it’s open to be received, and enjoyed, by all.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 
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Posted by on Wed 29th Aug 2012 in FAQ

 

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