Tag Archives: Sexuality

A Very Celibate Valentine’s Day

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Last year, a friend of mine sent me a picture of his “hot” date on Valentine’s Day. It was a brownie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — and possibly human tears. (Cell phone camera, so it’s hard to say.) This is what Valentine’s Day can look like for single, celibate Christians.

But it doesn’t have to.

I’ve been single on Valentine’s Day for the past 32 years. (And every other day of the year, too, but that’s beside the point.) Yet somehow I’ve found things to love about it.

Remember in elementary school, when classmates passed out mandatory valentines and those horrible candy hearts? Sure, I got cards from people who’d never talk to me again after February 14, but it was fun getting “love notes” from the friends you cared about, and the kids who signed more than just their names.

When I was a teenager, sometimes my parents would leave me a gift on the kitchen counter. Maybe a stuffed animal or a coffee mug decked with hearts — just a little something to make Valentine’s Day special for the boy who never had a valentine. Meanwhile, hormonal girls at school huffed over not getting flowers from their insensitive boyfriends. Tragic…

In college, I’d often stay home on Valentine’s Day to spend time with my “Husband” (Isaiah 54:5). That’s about the time I fell in love with the Song of Solomon. I pored over Puritan commentaries, whose typological readings of the book celebrated the love between Christ and his bride, the Church. Coming to terms with faith and sexuality, learning what celibacy would look like for me, I took comfort in seeing God as the divine bridegroom — and I still do.

Today, at 32, I still love Valentine’s Day. I love reaching out to friends and family, or even someone who wouldn’t expect it, with a valentine via text. It’s also an opportunity to thank God for the gift of marriage — a chance to rejoice in marital bliss (even if it’s not my own). In the last few years, I’ve teamed up with friends to do outreach on Valentine’s Day, including helping a church host a dinner for homeless women, and rallying support for a fundraiser to aid victims of sex trafficking.

So yeah, Valentine’s Day isn’t a big cry-fest for me. It’s always been a day of love.

However, there are people in my life (and yours) for whom the holiday is unhappy. Maybe someone who is divorced or widowed. Maybe someone who really wants to be married and is wrestling with God’s timing and will. We ought to be gentle with their hearts, especially on a day when romance is shoved in our faces, as if that’s the only place to find love.

This year, Valentine’s Day is on Sunday. It’s a perfect opportunity to reach out to single folks in your church. Hug them. Kiss them. Tell them you love them. Tell them God loves them, too. Remind them love is real and available to them outside of marriage. There’s love in friendship — those people who’ve mastered the art of loving at all times (Proverbs 17:17). There’s love in the church body — a spiritual family that transcends bloodlines. There’s love in service — putting other people’s needs before your own. There’s love in the pages of Scripture, where God reveals his devotion to us. It’s all over the place, if someone would just remind us.

A very celibate Valentine’s Day can be a very happy one indeed. Come to think of it, brownies and a scoop of ice cream would make it even happier.

Hold the tears.

Review: People To Be Loved

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Book Reviews

Preston Sprinkle’s book, People To Be Loved, is proof that truth and love can coexist. Not only does it address one of the most important issues of our day, but it’s also a reminder, as the subtitle suggests, that homosexuality is more than an issue — we’re talking about people made in the image of God.

This is a quick, accessible read. By “accessible” I mean it feels like you’re ACCESSING the author’s brain as he relays his journey — how he has settled (or not settled) on issues surrounding homosexuality and gay people. His love for LGBT folks is evident, as is his passion to help the reader understand Scripture, including the original languages and cultural contexts.

Throughout the book, Sprinkle takes a gentle stance on the immorality of homosexual practice, making sure we understand it’s just one of many temptations or sins people deal with. He walks us through the “clobber passages” (the few verses where the Bible deals specifically with homosexual practice) and explains what they do and do not say about the CURRENT question facing the Church: Does God condone loving, monogamous, sexual relationships between two people of the same sex? Because no one verse can answer that question — indeed, the Bible doesn’t address it at all — Sprinkle instead provides a “big picture” view of marriage and sexuality in Scripture.

The second half explores practical and pastoral questions regarding homosexuality. One of my favorite sections is a response to Denny Burk’s push for Christians to view same-sex attraction itself as sin — a position both Sprinkle and I believe has no biblical merit. I also appreciate Sprinkle’s plea for churches to value single people — something my local church does so well, but something I know is missing in many congregations, not to mention the culture at large.

There are some “fuzzy” parts where Sprinkle could have dug deeper, such as how to view Christians who affirm same-sex sexual relationships (ex. backslidden, heretics, or wolves) and matters of church discipline for those engaging in such relationships. I’m surprised that, as a biblical scholar, he leaves these questions, for the most part, unanswered. At the same time, I’m not surprised that, as a writer, he sticks with the intent of the book: always siding with people, not with “issues” or quick, easy answers. These are questions that I, too, would have a hard time answering. But I’m a layman. I would’ve loved for him, as a scholar, to press into these questions a little more.

Overall, I’m pleased with this book. It’s free of propaganda, canned responses, and tweetable sound bites. Sprinkle does an excellent job pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of common arguments from both “affirming” and “non-affirming” people. It feels like the book is written for both crowds, which means anyone can learn from it. I hope that you do!

Say Yes!

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Christians who experience same-sex attraction have a tendency to focus on what they’re giving up — marriage, sex, and various other pleasures. I know because I’ve been there. We can start to believe the single, celibate life is a constant journey of saying “no.”

It’s true that all Christians — not just those who experience SSA — are called to deny that which God forbids, but this is never at the expense of happiness. I’ll say it again: This is NEVER at the expense of happiness. Randy Alcorn says,

We need to say no to things that cause harm…but the solution is never to say no to happiness. What we should say no to are false notions of happiness — but this is not saying no to happiness; in fact, it requires saying yes to true happiness.

Christianity is not a religion of “no.” Because when we say no to sin, we’re ALWAYS saying yes to something better. When we say no to pride, we’re saying yes to humility. When we say no to coveting, we’re saying yes to contentment. When we say no to idolatry, we’re saying yes to God’s beauty and worth and preeminence.

But what about Christians, like me, who say no to homosexual desires? Those who choose celibacy, even when loved ones tell us we’re losing out on companionship, fulfillment, and the very thing everyone is searching for — happiness? What are we saying yes to?

•   Yes to the superior pleasure of loving and obeying God
•   Yes to holiness
•   Yes to being conformed to Christ’s image
•   Yes to marriage as God designed it
•   Yes to the blessings of singleness
•   Yes to treasures in heaven
•   Yes to eternal happiness in God’s presence

That’s just the theological stuff. I’m also saying yes to everyday joys: playtime with my niece, hikes in the mountains, game nights with friends, road trips with family, late-night talks about God and love and mysteries with my fellow night owls. When we walk with God, we experience both pleasures now and “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Saying no to marrying a man seems a very small sacrifice indeed when I focus on the thousands of happy alternatives God gives me to enjoy in this life — and even greater joys in the next.

Perhaps this all sounds very “Pollyanna.” Trust me, nobody who knows me in real life would call me that. I’m a Christian realist. I’m well aware of everything I’m giving up to follow God’s will for sexuality (and if I ever forget, the world is quick to remind me). But my desire to love and obey God compels me to say yes to greater pleasures. Sometimes it’s a tenuous yes. Sometimes it’s a trembling yes. Sometimes it’s a choked-up yes, forced out only by the grace of God and the hope of future joy. I’m human. It happens.

But I know I’m saying yes to more than I can begin to understand — to this mysterious thing we call “God’s glory” and to everything he’s working together for my happiness because I belong to him and I’m part of his story. I said yes when God called me into his kingdom, and I’ll say yes until he calls me home.