Can You Be Single, Christian, and Sexing?
Spiritually speaking, I wore off-white (okay, cream . . . fine, beige) to my wedding. Before marriage I was Sex and the City and Girlfriends level single. Granted, on a 100-point scale I wasn’t Samantha or Lynn, but there were nights when, graded without a curve, I hovered in the high 70s. Although I was a believer (I had accepted Christ as my personal savior at 10-years-old), I was what’s commonly referred to as a backslider. Simply put, I had turned away from God to live in sin. Something that started when I left for college and savored freedom (which tasted suspiciously like Jello Shots).
Thankfully, God wanted me back and brought me back. Through the support of a God-fearing, Bible-preaching-and-living pastor, I was eventually able to accept the forgiveness God offered when I repented (without continuing to carry the guilt and shame).
While Jesus is the only One through whom forgiveness is possible (Ephesians 1:7), God does provide us with leaders in ministry to “preach the word” and to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).” Those spiritual leaders are here to keep watch over our souls and will have to give God an account (Hebrews 13:17) for this responsibility and privilege.
So if ministers are meant to preach God’s Word, why is a pastor teaching a doctrine that does the complete opposite? Why is Reverend Bromleigh McCleneghan of Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois encouraging embracing sexual immorality when God speaks so plainly against it in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
We’ll come to answer the why later, but first let’s review the three main points I find most disturbing in pastor McCleneghan’s Washington Post article entitled “Sex and the Single Christian: Why Celibacy isn’t the only option.”
1. Part of figuring out how to live into the creative life of God is figuring out how to live into being yourself, and choosing the spiritual practices and disciplines that support your own discipleship.
Firstly, what? What exactly is the “creative life of God?” Serious question. Secondly, it takes Ryan-Lochte-audacity to tell THE Creator that His edicts are unacceptable and therefore we’re going to modify accordingly. This is basically saying to God that we know better. Is that it? Are we saying that the creation knows better than the Creator? What kind of arbitrary God do we serve to believe that the Bible is filled with “suggestions” that we can pick and choose from based on how we feel? Of course if you don’t believe in God (which means believing in His revealed Word) then whatever is in the Bible is false to you anyway, but what’s the excuse for believers? How can we believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” and then turn around and minimize or dismiss what He’s said?
2. I’d argue that we can be chaste — faithful — in unmarried sexual relationships if we exercise restraint: if we refrain from having sex that isn’t mutually pleasurable and affirming, that doesn’t respect the autonomy and sacred worth of ourselves and our partners.
Again going back to our desire to accept from the Word what we want and to discard the rest. Multiple passages in the Bible reference “become one flesh” (a euphemism for sex) within the bounds of matrimony. Verses that reject the idea that God recognizes sex outside of marriage. What is there to argue?
3. One of the most unfair things the Christian tradition has foisted on singles is the expectation that they would remain celibate — that is, refraining from sexual relationships.
I’ve observed over the years that the most common argument for denying God’s Word is to call it tradition that belongs to one religious group or another. Yes, there are church traditions (hello not going to the movies!) that people mistakenly believe derive from the Bible. But it is your responsibility to pray and read the Word to seek God’s truth. However, when the truth is noted there, don’t turn your back on it simply because it contradicts what you wanted to hear. The truth will always be the truth irrespective of our denial or acceptance.
Speaking of truth, I write these words as I’m called to do in Ephesians 4:15: speak the truth in love. It’s with that same truth that I challenge Reverend McCleneghan to consider why she is altering God’s Word for her own purpose. The why that I see is given in verses such as 2 Peter 2:1-3 that speak of false prophets who in their greed will exploit believers with false words.
I pray for all who will read her article or her book and then choose to accept her lies as truth to validate their desire to live as they see fit. (As written in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”). May you heed these words and seek God’s forgiveness.
And for those who are genuinely confused but want to do God’s will, I pray you will heed 1 John 4:1-3 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world . . .”
I am not a preacher (it’s not what I was called to do and a responsibility I’m thankful not to have), but all believers are called to “bear one another’s burden” and to restore in a spirit of gentleness any other believer who is caught in transgression. Not only that, we are warned against causing other believers to sin. Such a danger that the Bible cautions “it would be better for him [the person who causes someone else to sin] to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
I personally have zero interest in facing God’s wrath for leading others down the wrong path and encouraging them to live against His Word. If what I say offends, I am sorry. However, I share 1 Thessalonians 2:4 in my defense: But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
Michelle writes because she loves to read. And she’s building Pivot, a crowdfunding incubator that provides practical and financial support in the form of full-time training, education, mentoring, and networking to “stupidly-employed” women and minorities seeking a career change. Chat with her on Twitter: @mmderosier