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Scriptures to consider

  • Genesis 2 -- marriage is the norm
  • Matthew 19:10-12
  • 1 Corinthians 7:6

Biblical celibacy has two components

  • Companionship
  • The sexual element
  • It is assumed that church leaders will be married (1 Timothy 3), as correctly understood by Orthodox clergy.

Celibacy over-emphasized in the 2nd century

  • An overreaction to Gnosticism, which deprecated sexuality
  • See Ignatius, the Shepherd of Hermas, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Athenagoras
  • Although the early church took celibacy too far, we (in our culture) are guilty of the opposite error.

Who should stay single?

  • Those with the gift
  • Those with certain sexual struggles
  • Quite possibly those who, like Jesus, are destined to die young
  • Those who, like Paul, lead a lifestyle inimical to marriage
  • Some older brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, are not likely to find a spouse.

Final challenges

  • Don't tease the single. This can be embarrassing; it has the power to shame people into marriage; it entails a certain thoughtlessness, a failure to think theologically about celibacy. (If you are a single and are being teased, consider telling others how you feel. And do your best not to be touchy -- such attempts at humor are rarely made spitefully.)
  • Social pressure is strong enough (to marry; to have children; to favor male children. Various stigmas are all too familiar to our single brothers and sisters.
  • Yet Christians must not capitulate to culture, for we follow a countercultural Messiah.