Single people are often neglected or overlooked in American churches. This is an odd fact, since Jesus himself was single and the Apostle Paul (also single) argues singleness is a gift to both individual Christians and the Church as a whole. Unfortunately, when singles are addressed in our churches it is often simply a message to "stay pure" sexually. While this is good biblical counsel, the Bible has much more to say to singles on many more topics unrelated to sex. Yet even if we limit ourselves to the issue of singleness and sex, the Bible has more to say to singles than simply "stay pure." Thankfully, it also tells singles why and how to stay pure.
SEXUAL PURITY - WHY?
One of several reasons sexual purity is important to God is because sex is intended to picture God’s covenant with his people. God’s covenant relationship with his people is total. He does not withhold any part of himself, but gives all of himself to us. What’s ours is his, what’s his is ours. As such, God’s covenant relationship with his people is also monogamous. When we fail to satisfy him he does not move on to a new love, he is and will always be faithful to his people and his people alone. Lastly, God’s relationship with his people is inseparable. Once you are united to God through Christ you are united to God forever. That unity is an eternally unbreakable one.
When Christians engage in sexual activity outside of marriage we paint a false picture of who God is. Instead of reflecting God’s total commitment to his people, we show a love that gives only a part of itself. Instead of reflecting God’s monogamous commitment to his people, we show a love that gives itself to one person only until it becomes bored, dissatisfied, or hurt by the beloved. Instead of reflecting God’s inseparable love for his people, we show a love that is willing and able to divide just as quickly as it unites.
This is not who God is.
Yet this is who we show God to be when we misuse the gift of sex he has given us.
Imagine I were to take a picture of you. After taking your photo I upload it into Photoshop and begin to make some rather severe edits. I give you a different hair color, bright red eyes, a Rollie Fingers mustache, a unibrow so dark it looks like it was drawn with Al B. Sure’s Sharpie, and a gap between your two front teeth six-times wider than Bobby Brown’s. Then I begin to present your picture to everyone I know saying, “This is my friend. What do you think of them? Would you like me to introduce you?” You would not be happy to have such an inaccurate picture of yourself presented to the world. Likewise, God is not pleased when we - through our misuse of the gift of sex - show the world a God who is nothing like the God who loves us and gave himself for us.
SEXUAL PURITY - HOW?
Just as knowing sex is a picture of God’s love for us gives us reason to live sexually pure, it also gives us power to live sexually pure. When we remember that sex is a wonderful picture of an even more wonderful reality, we are freed to find our fulfillment in the reality and not in the picture. We may want to experience the joy of the picture, but we don’t need to have the picture when we have the far greater joy of the real thing.
My favorite way to illustrate this is with Disneyworld. My children are obsessed with Disneyworld. So much so that they spend dozens upon dozens of hours watching the parks’ promotional DVD. They love to watch it because it’s filled with pictures of the rides they want to go on, the characters they want to meet, the streets they want to walk. They enjoy watching these pictures. They have fun watching these pictures. But what they really want is not the pictures. What they really want is the reality the pictures point to. This is why, at the times we are privileged to visit the real deal Disneyworld, my children are no longer interested in the promotional videos. And why would they be? The pictures, as fun as they are, never satisfied them. The only thing that satisfies them is truly and personally experiencing what the pictures point to. It’s not that the pictures are bad, the pictures are great. But when they are experiencing the reality the pictures point to, the pictures are no longer necessary.
My kids are just as fulfilled without the video as they are with it, because their fulfillment is in the reality and not in the picture. If you are a single Christian, you too can be just as fulfilled without sex and marriage as you are with it. Your fulfillment is in the reality sex points to: the reality of being united to Jesus and his total, monogamous, and inseparable love.
The Bible has much more to say to singles than simply what to do with their sexuality. But what singles do with their sexuality is of great importance because it says so much about the God they worship. Knowing this can provide both reason and power for sexual purity, and motivation to dig into the Scriptures for yet more of both.
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.