The Pillars of Community XVII: Single in Community
1 Corinthians 7
May 3, 2009
· Notes, Lewis on chastity
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
· Ted suggested preaching on singleness in our community series.
About 45% of adults are single, but fewer in churches. Sometimes the church seems to be unfriendly towards singles:
· Pastors and most of the congregation tend to be married, so everything from sermon topics to events are family geared.
· Seeing couples (seemingly) happy can make loneliness worse.
· judgment of the divorced or single parents.
So I’ll fix that with one sermon – obviously, that’s impossible. My goal is to encourage singles to be God-honoring, content, and productive members of the community, and encourage families to intentionally integrate singles into their community.
· I will be talking frankly about sex, so be warned!
I’ll devote a lot of time to sex, for the sake of the singles (we like to pretend Christian singles aren’t having sex, but they are), and to help us as parents when talking to our kids.
Let us be a community without walls, part of each other’s lives.
Marriage and celibacy both honored
As near as I can tell, Christianity is the only major religion that honors both marriage and singleness.
1) Marriage is part of God’s plan for humanity: “It is not good to be alone,” we were created to complete each other.
2) Celibacy for the sake of the Gospel is honorable. Both Jesus and Paul were single in order to serving God:
1 Corinthians 7:7 7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Paul is thinking, “Imagine how many we could reach if...” but he knows it’s unrealistic. Celibacy is a gift – not expected.
Ä One point is both clear and unpopular: You have to choose between marriage and celibacy.
marriage or CELIBACY: Choose one
Whether you are waiting for marriage or plan on staying single, God’s rule is the same: No sex outside of marriage.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God...
· “Sexual immorality” (Gk: porneia) means “sex outside of marriage.” It’s pretty straight forward.
In 1 Corinthians 7:36, Paul basically tells an engaged couple to get married if they are having a hard time not having sex. How much more so should dating couples wait?
As you read through 1 Corinthians 6 & 7, Paul pretty much removes all the wiggle room, whether you are divorced, widowed, or never married: If you are not married you are to be celibate.
What’s the big deal?
For the majority of human history, this view has been both unpopular and uncommon. The ancients were of the “consenting adults” perspective.
We think that the “Sexual Revolution” was a massive shift, but it was actual a return to the past. It’s not that Christians need to get with the times, but that we have always been counter-cultural on this.
Q Why is this such a big deal?
First an important framework: Sin is that which damages us, our relationship with him, and our relationship with others. We may not always understand the reasons, but there are good reasons.
· If you are a Christian, you should start from obedience to your Lord, then obey from trust, then look for reasons.
Christian sexual ethics
Simply put, Judeo-Christian sexual ethics are based not out of prudery or fear of sex (though some Christians are, which is sad for them), but out of a higher view of sex – we think that sex is a bigger deal than the world believes.
· We believe that it is not recreation, but that it means something: Moulin Rouge.
Sex binds us together in ways that nothing else does, it creates physical, emotional, and spiritual bonds.
The Bloodhound Gang said, “You and me ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel.” This stands in stark contrast to the Christian view: We are way more than mammals, we were made in God’s image:
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
The picture is God made Adam reflecting God in both masculinity and femininity, but he ripped it apart to create man and women, and accordingly we need each other (in every area of life).
Men and women are different, and those differences are clearest in sex. This makes sex both harder and more rewarding. At its highest, sex is a husband and wife serving each other.
· It’s the greatest act and expression of intimacy possible.
· The more people we have sex with, the less it means.
It is so close that it should ideally only occur with one person, whom you have committed yourself to for a lifetime.
Q Sounds like marriage, doesn’t it?
More than a piece of paper
Marriage is not just a piece of paper – it’s not a piece of paper at all. It is solemn and formal public declaration of commitment. The paper is nothing but a bookkeeping means of ensuring that the legal benefits and obligations are fulfilled.
· I have heard in some jungle tribes, a wedding is going into the jungle together, but it is publically recognized.
The question is not do we have to have a piece of paper or ceremony to have sex, but are going to wait until you have publically given your heart before you give your body.
In the OT, marriage was a vital protection for women, who lacked the means for supporting themselves. By requiring marriage for sex, men had a driving reason to commit to support the women.
Q Sound familiar? “Why buy the cow when you get milk for free?”
· America’s sex ethic works great for the guys, not women.
While in our culture women can be more independent, you have to ask yourself, is that how you want to spend your life, unmarried, no commitment, no kids, or raising them alone?
· Dr. Drew: Girl whose boyfriend showed up every 3 month to get money and have sex.
Ä Inseparable from the physical bonds are the emotional bonds.
Sex draws two people together, whether they want it to our not. Once you start sleeping with someone, it changes so much about how you relate, married or not.
· There’s a reason I can have a detached argument with a friend and not with my wife, everything is more personal.
There is a physiological component to this: When we have sex, oxytocin is released (not the same thing as OxyContin). Oxytocin is sometimes called the “bonding hormone” because it emotional creates a sense of bonding and wanting to be closer.
· It is released during breastfeeding.
This is why guys can be more inclined to cuddle after sex than before! Now this feeling of closeness is a great for a husband and a wife, but not so great for a guy you met in the bar.
Sex outside of marriage severely clouds our judgment and ability to discern the character and flaws of the person you are with.
· Once you have sex, everything changes.
And with sex is a huge emotional and physical investment, which can make it harder to leave a person you don’t belong with.
This effect can be lessened by having lot of sex with lots of people, to where you train yourself to feel sex is meaningless, but what happens when you want it to mean something again?
Finally, there is a spiritual and metaphysical (beyond what is scientifically traceable) dimension to sex:
1 Corinthians 6:15-20 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
· Sex spiritual unites two people, which is great if they are husband and wife, but not so great otherwise.
Unlike the other points, this one is for Christians. If Christ is your Lord, then your body is God’s temple, and it must be used in ways honoring to him. Does your sex life honor God?
· This is not as simple as married/unmarried; married couples need to honor God through serving each other.
As a result, a huge consequence of pre-marital sex is guilt, which in turn separates us from God.
4. Et al
There are just some of the reasons God tells us to save sex for marriage. And I haven’t even touched on a myriad of other issues: procreation, families are the best place to raise children, STD’s, and the dangers of cohabitating.
To close off the “sex section,” I’ll address some practical issues, starting with three common questions:
1. What exactly is sex?
While insertion certainly is sex, there aren’t exact Biblical rules in terms of oral sex, etc. These were not questions they had to ask because of the courtship process.
· My opinion: direct stimulation of genitals is sexual activity, but I can’t tell you when “spiritual connection” occurs.
But “how far” is not a great question to ask. A better question is how much heartache and memories do you want if it doesn’t pan out? Or, what would you want to tell your kids to do?
2. How can I be sure we are compatible?
This is one of the lies of our culture. Sexually compatibility is more about psychology, not physiology. Barring rare physical issues, good sex about communication and serving each other.
· The ability to share hopes and dreams and deal with conflict, and heart to serve the best indicators.
· My observation is that pre-marriage sex is no indicator of post-marriage sex.
3. Won’t I explode if I don’t have sex?
No, you will survive. First commit yourself to obey God, then work towards celibacy.
Speaking broadly: Guys need to commit to keeping a pure mind, because sexual temptation grows with indulgence. Women need to find their wholeness in God, not a man.
· Find accountability with like-minded friends.
· If you are serious and need help, talk to the pastors.
Establish your boundaries before you start to date. Agree on boundaries and limits when you date.
Finally: There is grace for mistakes – sex is not the unforgivable sin. Premarital sex, children out of wedlock, adultery, divorce, God offers forgiveness and healing, and he uses his church to do so.
· This is a church that’s about grace that is more interested in where God wants to take you than where you have been.
enjoy where you are
Last Sunday I meet with a few singles to talk about the sermon, and one of the main points of discussion was how to be content and fulfilled while single.
Too often, it is communicated, both by the culture and the church that if you are single, you are incomplete, which is not true, rather, it is no more true of singles than marrieds, though in different ways.
How ironic that what Paul honored is now dishonored:
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
Whether God has called you to a life devoted to him in singleness, or it is not yet time for you to get married, there are advantages to being single.
I remember bemoaning singleness, wishing I was married, and a married friend asked, “Why? I loved being single! Enjoy it!” I love being married, but there are things you give up when you get married, freedom, friendship, money.
If you are single, God has given you this time to do certain things and what a shame (and trap) it would be if you were to waste it because you are pining away for a mate.
· God has plans for you right now, this may not be your plan, but it is his.
· You are not a victim, you are not in limbo.
Q How will you use and enjoy this time?
You can use it for selfish goals, or to serve God. Paul’s idea of Christianity is that either you are devoted to God and spouse or devoted to God. Devoted to self isn’t an option.
· I encourage you to carefully and prayerfully determine how God would have you use your singleness to his glory.
· What is God’s purpose for you NOW?
Furthermore, if you want get married, prepare yourself.
Content in all circumstances
My encouragement to all of us is to be content in our circumstance, married or single.
Philippians 4:11-13 11 ...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, [single or married – not sure which is the “bad” one] whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
· If you look to your circumstances to make you happy, you will always be disappointed.
We all have longings that can only be filled by God – marriage will not solve everything, in fact you only trade one set of problems for another.
Teresa Creelman: My personal take on singleness is: It doesn’t matter. My goal is to strive to give God all of who I am, recognizing that this side of heaven, no one has “it all.”
This point was driven home to me... [when I] was talking to a fellow teacher whose adult son struggles with schizophrenia. She lamented that everyone else had “normal” lives but that she felt like she was always on the outside looking in.
I thought... I was the one on the outside looking in – do more people feel this way? Those who have cancer, who are taking care of dying parents, or have rebellious children.
My Lesson – no one has it all this side of heaven, we should take Paul’s example of being content in every situation.
Heaven is the only place we will know fulfillment, we were designed with an eternal longing. No matter if you are married or single, if you are not content in the imperfect here and now, you will never enjoy what God has for you.
The enemy would love to immobilize us through discontentment, but God would have us enjoy life to the fullest, through him, right where we are.
Ä The last part of this sermon looks at how to be an integrated community of both singles and marrieds.
There is no doubt that loneliness can be a major challenge of singleness, I am not trying to minimize that, but rather encourage you to use it to send you closer to God.
· You can do all things through Christ, and in this time, the thing you have to do is find fulfillment in him, not others.
At the same time, isolation is a major hazard of singleness. It can become easy to build up busy routines to keep the loneliness at bay, but isolate you from community.
· And on the other side, a lack of paying attention can allow the families to inadvertently keep you isolated.
Singles in community
In this community “there is neither Jew nor Greek, married nor single.” Yet differing schedules and life situations can cause a drift to occur that detrimental to us all.
I think we will be a richer community as we intentionally bring each other into each other’s lives. I think that God call us to serve each other.
Families serve singles by including them and perhaps mentoring them, and the singles using their time to serve the community according to their gifts.
This takes an intentional effort on both sides:
· Break out of their ruts, cross the room and talk to the families as well as other singles.
· Be patient with our packed schedules.
· Actively look for ways to serve and connect, come to the elders or deacons with ideas (e.g. “Wilderness Ministries” May 17th, Bowman’s Bay).
· Create friendship to wear down rough edges.
· Also break out of the ruts and pull in singles. It seems to be that we are great at ruts.
· Remember that singles are often reluctant to intrude (one worried that she was being too needy).
· Invite over for dinner – many singles don’t get good home cooked meals.
· Provide a family for “orphaned” singles – helping with needs that a family would help with, perhaps holiday meals.
Q & A
If you are single, ask God what his plan for this time is. Reaffirm your trust in him. If you are married, discuss with your spouse how to include singles.