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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.