In conjunction with Tenth Presbyterian Church's 2010 Urban Ministry Conference, Sex in the City (3/5-7), the members of Tenth's pastoral staff and HarvestUSA will discuss issues of sex and sexuality in our culture. A list of the topics we will be discussing is available here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Singleness and Chastity", Ellen Dykas – Harvest USA

Yeah yeah…singleness and the chastity thing. Blah blah blah right?!  We know, we know…hand’s OFF and clothes ON till we get married. We know already. Wellll…maybe a few more thoughts could be added. What follows has helpful for me as a 40-something, unmarried woman, who is desiring to live a chaste lifestyle as an overflow of a pure heart. Doing the thing perfectly? No, but by God’s grace I am walking towards Christlikeness.

If chastity for the married person is a life of pure-hearted devotion to Christ woven with sexual faithfulness to one’s spouse, then we can say that chastity for the unmarried person is a life of pure-hearted devotion to Christ, woven with a life of sexual abstinence. For many, it’s the second part that seems hard to bear at times. Let’s consider some ways that singles seem to generally struggle with obedience to be chaste but then also, how through Christ, we can we walk in joyful obedience.

We struggle to be chaste perhaps because:
  1. We’ve not understood that sexual abstinence is meant to flow from and be empowered by our union with Jesus and a desire to be faithfully devoted to Him.  When our desires and cravings rule us, and the battle to smother sexual and relational desire is exalted, Jesus is being pushed aside in our thoughts. The war to ‘change our desires’ and tame our sexual urges will be paramount in our thoughts.  So the idea of chastity seems equal to a life of NO’s and DON’Ts.
  2. We’ve not honored sexual expression or marriage for what God has truly designed it to be: an experience of selflessness that comes from being poured out as an act of worship for Jesus. Most people (single or married),  are “me-ists” and easily slide into putting ourselves at the center of the universe…and we want to be at the center of yours too!
  3. We don’t want to do the hard work of starving the flesh and feeding the Spirit…especially when patterns of fleshly sexuality have been sown into for a long time. Sexual desires can feel like our master; the costly and painful pursuit of holiness sometimes feels bigger than the joy and peace that come from right living and thus doesn’t seem worth it.
Through Christ and His Word what hope, comfort and encouragement can we hold onto in view of these spheres struggle?
  1. We belong to Jesus and as “His” we are called to the God-glorifying, freedom-enhancing, life-giving commands to love Him above all, and to love others as ourselves. 2 Peter 1:3,4 promises us that this IS actually possible! We DO have everything we need to walk in sexual faithfulness as singles, through JESUS, escaping the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. We are not on sexual autopilot, controlled by our sexual desires and urges.
  2. Heb 13:4 is a helpful heart-orientor for singles too! If God says marriage is to be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure/undefiled, then this is a powerful truth for unmarried people (young and old) to absorb. It tells us that we are to honor marriage (and sexual expression) by keeping it in its proper place in our desires and dreams (it’s a good gift that God gives to many, but not to all; it’s an earthly joy that is meant to be a signpost to Jesus).  But, there’s another application here for those of us who are unmarried. I am also to keep my potential marriage bed pure and undefiled. This means living now in such a way that I bring no defilement into my marriage bed…OR the marriage bed of someone who is not my spouse! No experiences, memories, desires, expectations that would “pollute” the purity of the marriage bed that I will share with one. This has huge ramifications for our dating relationships! As we date, we are not married and do not know if God will lead us to marriage, and to share a marriage bed with our boyfriend or girlfriend. Thus, we are to relate to each other with love and care that will bear out in pure hearts, bodies, affections and memories when and if we DO share a marriage bed with someone…even if it ends up being this person we are dating! 
  3. Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16) This is a wonderful promise, and has “instant” application but also, “process oriented” sanctification. It’s a true word: when we are filled and fueled by the Holy Spirit, we will not also be walking in sin and giving way to our sinful desires. Yet, this is a “walk it out” process as well, of sowing to the Spirit more and more, thus starving out the pull of the flesh in our lives. Instant deliverance from sexual desires, memories, mental fantasy worlds and cravings doesn’t happen for most who have given way to ungodly sexual expression for years and years. Sexual fires, once ignited, will not be put out with a quick drop of water (i.e. a quick prayer every so often to not be tempted.) Walking out of sexual sin and into a lifestyle of purity as a single IS possible, but it will be a battle you will need to engage in fully! The promise of God’s Word is that as you cooperate with His purposes, submit to His ways and sow passionately to the Spirit (Gal. 6:7-9), that you will also then walk by the Spirit, bearing the fruit of Jesus in your life.
The love of Jesus for you and His grace for weak sinners is real and true for you in this very minute. He doesn’t first call you, “Come be chaste, O Single Person” but says, “Come follow Me…Come to Me in your weariness and I will give you rest.”

1 comment:

  1. Loneliness is a key reason why singles struggle with temptation. We have lost the sense of community when we are always with other couples and exclude people based on their marital status. It is very easy for some to quote Bible verses without friendship and compassion. This doesn't help the unmarried person who struggles.