Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Step Toward Respect

             I want you to think of a question: "Am I interested in dating anyone?" Chances are, you are interested in someone of the opposite sex. Now think also about this question, "Do I have the gift of celibacy?" This gift is talked about in the Bible, in first Corinthians chapter seven:

            Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (NIV 7:1-7; emphasis mine).

            In this context, it is clear that Paul’s concern is that it is good for a married man and woman to give themselves sexually to each other because of their lack of self control. This reveals Paul’s respect for marriage. He is telling the Corinthians to listen to and obey their desires and the desires of their spouses. What might not be so clear is that Paul alludes to his own personal conviction, which is celibacy. Paul is self-controlled, and in verse seven, concludes that it is a gift to be celibate. In other words, we can’t have the gift of celibacy unless we were given it. So, let me ask again: Do you have the gift of celibacy? Do you feel that you were given the gift of being alone forever? In my personal experiences, I would be willing to bet (if I were a betting man) that everyone reading this does not have the gift of celibacy. For one thing, how would the world become populated if everyone did have this gift?

            Secondly, Paul had a high view on marriage as we can see from the above passage. If that isn’t clear, then look at First Timothy Chapter four:

                “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Paul condemns those who teach that marriage is not worthy of being considered spiritually high in rank. God called marriage good on the Sixth Day, and anything opposing this is taught by liars. In any event, it is clear that the Bible portrays a high view of marriage, indicating that most people do not have the gift of celibacy.

            The information above allows us to understand that marriage is a good thing, and that celibacy was never intended to be the norm. It is clear why celibacy is a gift, and it is also clear why “it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman...” 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 explains that an unmarried man is concerned with the Lord’s affairs, and a married man is concerned with his wife’s affairs. In other words, the married man has divided interests. What all this means is that if you are single, you have more availability to serve the Lord (for example, ability to serve in a moment’s notice).

            Let’s now shift the focus back to celibacy. It is definitely a gift, and most people clearly do not have it. I have read articles and books that suggest the way to figure out if one has this gift is to ask himself or herself the question, “Can I control, or do I feel like I have control over my sexuality?” The implication of this question seems to begin to condone a lack of self-control, when the Bible makes it clear that such leads to—or simply is—sin (see 1 Peter 1:5-8; Proverbs 25:28; Galatians 5:22-23; et. al.). In other words, just because you might have no self-control, it doesn’t mean that you should get married in order to fix this problem. Also, having no self-control does not give the excuse to sin.
            Having thoroughly believed that I have made my point, and because you are still reading this, since you do not have the gift of celibacy, how should you treat the opposite sex as a single person? This might not come as such a shocking piece of information, but R-E-S-P-E-C-T is definitely a desired treatment of the opposite sex echoed from the Bible: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (NIV 1 Timothy 5:1-2). The word “purity” used here connotes a purity of virginity or chastity, which is viewed in several cultures throughout history as being the highest rank in innocence. Another light to see this passage of scripture under would be that we are to treat young men and young women the same way we should treat our brothers and sisters, which is obviously with purity.

                Sure, we sometimes take our little brothers and sisters and give them noogies and wedgies (or sometimes our younger siblings are stronger than us, unfortunately for some), and we might get into fights, but for the most part we love them, and for a bigger part, we respect them in a manner that they are recognized as family. This is the same sort of respect we are to show our brothers and sister in Christ: with absolute purity. I’m positive you have heard this concept before, but what does treating our brothers and sisters with respect look like? This may come as a shock, and you may disagree with this at first, but simple things like hugging or massaging the shoulders of the opposite sex might send them a message that doesn’t want to be received, or that you simply do not want to give. It seems that when the Bible speaks of treating the opposite sex with absolute purity, it is not talking about not giving wedgies, but it is talking about a deep respect for him or her.

                Let’s talk about the messages that are sent with hugging, for example. If a guy hugs one of his female friends, there is a message being sent, whether we like it or not. The message from the guy can be either, “I am a single guy, and I want to show you that I care about you and will give you the support you need” OR “I am a single guy and I want you to see that I am someone you can trust and love.” Unfortunately, the message that is often being received by the young lady being hugged, especially, it seems, in Christian circles, is something of exasperation or something that relates to friendship.

                In other words, guys, if you are looking to be in a relationship with a girl, hugging her is the wrong way to do so, especially at first. Just to let you in on a little secret, gentlemen; ladies are looking for men... not friends (although they may be looking for friends as well, but that’s a different story). In other words, if you are constantly hugging on your female friends, that might be how they will view you. I’m not saying that you should completely stop hanging out with female friends, but I am saying that you need to stop allowing yourself to appear certain ways to these women that you are possibly interested in.
                On the other hand, the message being received by the female might be a message that shows a need for pity, so the girl feels obligated to hug you. In any case, make certain that you know it is ok to hug her. If you ask her, “can I hug you?” being a Christian, she will most likely tell you that it is ok. That doesn’t mean that she wants or needs a hug. What I am getting at is, make certain that you know that she will still view you as a man if you do hug her. A man is defined in this context as someone who is not only available, but desirable; someone in control of himself and content with himself; a man of integrity, who honors God in the small things as well as the big things (see Luke 16:10). I’m certain that some of the young ladies reading this know of a guy to whom they give the obligatory “friend” hug. This is the occasion for writing. I don’t want to send the wrong message to not hug close friends of the opposite sex; I am just saying that women are looking for men, if they are looking at all. When they do decide that they are ready to be in a relationship, how will they remember you?

                Ladies, it seems like it would be wrong to think that this doesn’t happen to some degree for females. I have seen where a girl will stand waiting for a hug from a guy, which puts out a similar message to the guys (though I believe not as strongly as a message, based on the obvious psychological norms of pursuit). It seems to be caused from an interest in the guy which ultimately causes insecurity, especially if the guy does not respond in the manner that she wishes. Guys desire the same thing, if they have a healthy Christian worldview: a woman. What is a woman in this context? A woman is someone who is desired not only because (let’s be real) he is physically attracted to her, but because she is also self-controlled and a person of integrity with sound judgment. Anything that doesn’t feel right probably isn’t right.

                Ladies and gentlemen, if there is a person that you are attracted to physically, but you can sense some strange behaviors in this person, chances are, you should let the investigating characteristics of time help you to better understand the direction you should take (see Psalm 46:10). It seems that time is something often misused by people. God gave time to us as a tool, but most people are chronically impatient, which causes us to step in front of Him. Stepping in front of Him might look like an “innocent” hug or a shoulder massage, or even watching a movie together. James tells us to “draw near to God and He will draw near to us” (James 4:7-8). In any event, take your time, have fun, but most importantly respect the opposite sex. You owe this to yourself, to them, and most importantly to God.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus 

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