Thursday, May 28, 2015

Being a Single Christian in a Sexualized Culture: The Modern Ethic vs. the Christian Ethic

Sometimes it feels like this being a single Christian right?  Stuck in the ring, lions circling, and lots of people watching.  Don't make a misstep now!
Single Christians... can we get some love?



As if being a follower of Christ wasn't hard enough, imagine being a single Christian!  That is the predicament for many in the world, and in the United States today.  Including myself.  I'm 30 years old, single and I have no children.  I follow Christ.  And as a Christ follower I'm unique in that I must impose certain limitations on myself when it comes to romance and sexuality.

Being a single Christian is perhaps one of the most difficult situations to face. An individual of either sex is fully sexually active by age 13-14 (Penner & Penner, 2003). The sexual desires are extremely intense beginning in puberty. However in the culture of the United States it's becoming increasingly common for couples to wait until their middle to late twenties to marry (Penner & Penner, 2003). In addition, masturbation and lust are sins according to the Bible (Matthew 5:28). Pre-marital sex is also quite obviously a very serious sin (1 Corinthians 7:2, Ephesians 5:5). The Bible makes references to sexual immorality many many times.  So it's clearly a very important area of conduct for followers of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Matthew 5:28, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 7:2, Colossians 3:5).  But how serious is it?

Ephesians 5:5 (English Standard Version) goes far enough to say it like this: "For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."


This is the point during youth group when the kids will probably start rolling their eyes and tuning you out.  But are we followers of Christ?  If "no" then there's the door.  If "yes" then we necessarily must take every word of the Bible, especially the New Testament very seriously.  In addition, I believe many Christians today have been lulled into a false sense of security.  They believe they may accept Christ and then live however they please.  But that isn't the case.  We need to be obedient workers of righteousness.  

Anyone hanging around youth group long enough may notice a attitude regarding sex virtually synonymous with non-Christians (Morris, 2015).  I attended a Cru (CCFC) event at a local college about six weeks in a row.  By the end I had heard a lot of good teaching. But in between sessions I heard a lot of drinking, sex, and joking about lesbians (by one of the leaders).  I know I'm not alone in that frustration.  Many of us have felt that way in large groups, and many of us have been that person making a crude comment when maybe we should've just shut up.  I know, I know, I've been that person too.  We're not perfect, but we're called to obedience.

Again and again in scripture we notice how faith and trust in the work of Christ is undeniably married to Christian obedience, or in other words, repentance and the keeping of his commands (1 John 3:24, Luke 6:46, John 8:51, James 1:22-25, John 15:10, Philippians 2:12, 2 John 1:6-9, Romans 6:16).

Given the importance of moral sex conduct, what is the single Christian to do? The mainstream media would have sex before, during, and after marriage.  Sex is quite often portrayed as occurring on the first date.  Young and old alike see that portrayed in enough movies and eventually it becomes a normal attitude.  It's basically expected.  Christians and non-Christians alike are bombarded by sexually enticing imagery daily. How is the single Christian to stand against temptation?

Churches can help single Christians by beginning to generate a dialogue regarding important issues like sexual intimacy (Morris, 2015). Churches can also help by creating better support systems for the single Christians they serve (Morris, 2015). It's very important that single Christians have a place they can come to frankly discuss sexual frustrations and past sexual hurts (Morris, 2015). If single Christians don't have a place within the Christian community to discuss straight forward sexual issues, then they will most likely go outside the church with their questions and concerns (Morris, 2015).

For single Christians, there are certainly options for dealing with these issues. In many cases single Christians have unknowingly believed lies they've been fed by the media and culture (Morris, 2015). Men and women are programmed to believe that sexual intimacy is synonymous with emotional intimacy. Of course it's not.  Women assume they can "get" emotional intimacy if they offer sex.  Men assume if they can "get" sex their deep internal desires will be fulfilled.  Of course both of those assumptions are entirely false.  Singles assume that the best way to "keep" a prospective mate is to "put out." Yet studies have shown that the sooner sexual intercourse occurs in a relationship the more likely it is to end in break up (Penner & Penner, 2003). Studies have shown that those who wait longer to engage in sexual intercourse actually tend to stay together longer (Penner & Penner, 2003).

Christians of today are more impacted by the media and culture than I think we'd like to admit. We watch secular shows, listen to secular music, read secular books, go to church on Sunday, and assume we're acting on Christian values.  Then why is sexual immorality such a problem for Christian youth and young adults?  Maybe we're getting messages we don't realize we're receiving.  Maybe we're believing falsehoods without even consciously noticing. 


Stolen waters are portrayed as so much sweeter than those forged in relationship and time (Proverb 9:17). Yet those who have taken stolen waters often testify to the emptiness and guilt found there in. Though a one night stand, or sex with someone already married to someone else may be exciting and intoxicating at the time, later guilt, shame, remorse, and trouble come as a result. In addition, in those occasions when sex occurs rapidly and out of marriage, there is no spiritual aspect. Only the flesh is temporarily titillated. But the flesh will the next day simply cry for more, more, more (Proverb 27:20). And that desire fed is never ending, and never satisfied. 

In stark contrast is the sacred spiritual sex between husband and wife within the bond of marriage. In that sacred union of bodies there is not only fleshly enjoyment, but also a spiritual communion, and an intense love and connection between the two.  Such a sexual experience is not simply emotional or intellectual, or joyous, but also a spiritual act of closeness that draws the couple even closer together.  Such an experience is the reward for patience and vigilance when seeking the person God has fore-ordained us to be with. It is most certainly worth it to wait. True love is worth the wait. And the beautiful thing about sex within marriage is that it's meant to be enjoyed frequently, passionately, and constantly (Proverb 5:19).

Many young Christians unknowingly trust in the sexual ethic of the world, thinking they will find fulfillment within that game of chase, manipulation, control, and indulgence. But instead many find longings cracked open that can never be closed again, like sexual addiction, sexual illness, and broken patterns of relationship. At face value the sexual ethic of the world may seem appealing, yet God's word is proven right despite our best ideas again and again, as we see divorce on the rise, broken families, children born out of one night stands, and young people hurting, confused, and lost. Thankfully it doesn't have to be that way, if we would just trust that God is in fact right about sex. He provides the strength. But we need to do the footwork. We need to examine our own root convictions and adjust them into alignment with the biblical truths found in the word (Morris, 2015). 


Proverb 4:23 (ESV) says "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."  And in the Song of Solomon three different times the woman in the poetic saga urges the young women of Israel: "Do not awaken love until the time is right" (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4).  Our hearts have a tendency to bounce around in a hundred different directions.  The culture often tells us "trust your heart."  But instead I urge you to trust the Spirit.  Access the Holy Spirit within, and request His guidance.  Seek his wisdom.  Do not look to our hearts, which are often so fickle, selfish, and flighty.   We must guard our hearts.  With threats like pornography which may seem "harmless" at the time.  We need to remember that these things we see in life cannot be unseen.  And so often these displays trigger in us desires that can never be truly fulfilled.  They are dead ends.  

As it says in the Song of Solomon, men and women be gentle with hearts.  We have incredible power over those who may have romantic feelings for us.  Don't trigger love.  Don't play on emotions, play games, and endless hollow flirtations.  Be cautious how you dress.  Do not awaken the love in another's heart until it is time.  We have many blessings in our physical appearance, the clothing we wear, and the beauty we carry.  Let us be humble, and wise with it's application in daily life. 

In conclusion, the battle is difficult.  But we can indeed stand, if we truly address the lies we may be believing and replace them with the truth of God's word.  Many would probably still say: "Well you're probably right, but I'm still going to do it my way." In that case, just as in any other, when we decide to play god about what is right and wrong, we have that choice, but we do not have the choice of determining the consequences of those actions we take. We can let God teach us through the Bible or we can learn it the hard way.  I was one of the people who had to learn the hard way.  I acted out and lived foolishly.  Ultimately it was hollow, empty, and emotionally troubling.  Today I choose God's way.  It is the best way, and truly the way of real fulfillment.  God will provide.  Trust him.

But ultimately it's your choice! Make it a good one.


References

Morris, S. H. (Director) (2015, May 27). CCOU 303: Single Sexuality. Issues in Human Sexuality. Lecture conducted from Liberty University, .

Penner, C., & Penner, J. (2003). The gift of sex: A guide to sexual fulfillment. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group. 



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