Singleness and Sexuality in a Sex-Centred World….

EiffelTowerImage …(Part 2 in this series)

Provocative, ‘moi’?

Anything with sex in the title is elaborately and immediately going to draw people in, and, might I begin by taunting you (just a little) that regardless of how holy or not you may think you are, you are just the same as everyone else and have succumbed to this title, and curiosity got the better of you.
Now let’s begin!

We are each sexual beings, created with a gift of sexuality, but it’s what one does with that gift – sexuality – that makes us each very different.

I for one, have been on quite a journey in this entire territory, with the late exploration of femininity for a variety of good reasons, and I want to now explore these issues, quite bravely and openly, so that others can be honest and deal with them too. Risky, perhaps, but it will be worth it. Come with me on this journey as we explore these areas a little more.

Perhaps, if honest (and since this blog is going down that route of risky honesty again and again, in more articles than simply this), I shall also explain that ‘church’ (in its general form, not any one individual body of believers) has sadly been a dire hindrance in this whole area, of sexuality and singleness.

You see, I have grown up in ‘church’ my entire life, and sadly, with the subconscious background belief hinted towards me for just about the entirety of my existence on planet earth that sex, (and that which is associated with it), is a bad thing. Perhaps even a very bad thing.

How on earth did such a ridiculously wrong stance towards these matters of God’s good gifts to us come to be exuded so strongly from the church?

(Reformed churches in the area of the world I come from bring a strong dose of religiosity to the table, as it were, and our parents’ generation were most certainly products of the Victorian ways of doing things, including parenting). Northern Ireland as a whole could be said to be a culture of this, for good or for bad, rightly or wrongly.

Now, in a world so dominated wrongly by an overly unhealthy appetite for sex and all things pertaining to it, it’s time for those of us with a greater sense of the balance required in these areas to take a stand and come out of the closet, as it were, and address such issues more maturely and freely, for the benefit of those around us struggling and the younger generation emerging, growing up in the context of completely obsessed culture, and that which says anything goes.

I believe its time to address difficult issues, and taboo subjects more and more, if we as Christians are to be respected or held in any kind of esteem within the wider world.

Its time to courageously communicate in ways so often sadly alien to the ‘church’ and start to encourage fresher ways of addressing what are enormous issues in the culture and world we are called to be in but not of.
Sex and sexuality are just one of many issues I could (and probably will) be writing about here and now. I have not much clout in this area, except to say that I am a human being myself, having an experience of life, therefore like you reading this, I have a valid opinion worthy to be communicated with anyone who wants to listen (or read) – I thank you here and now for doing so.

Sexuality is a wonderful God-given gift for the conveyance of our masculinity or femininity and in addition, our individuality, and thus, ultimately God’s glory, expressed within us as humans created in his image (as stated in Genesis 1 v 27). Why oh why do so many Christians and churches and those who claim to be followers of God shy away so much from this subject matter?

Thankfully it is not the same with all churches and individual leaders, and I am grateful for those who have modelled and inferred a different stance, but still, it is my passion increasingly to see people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ (and indeed those who don’t) be educated in these areas, and encouraged to explore the beauty of God so much more within, not in the distorted form thrown at us by the world, and everything out there, but with fearless security in our identity in Christ and ability to purely present him in and through our individual sexuality, and personalities, and be all that God has created and called us to be. In other words, become totally free and fulfilled. What a radical thought. There is a certain man named Jesus I seem to recall said he came to do exactly that for those who would follow him….

Freedom and wholeness is available to all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. Radical as this might sound, this even includes as a single person.

How do we cope with singleness in our culture here in the UK and Ireland, for example? It seems to be a ‘problem’ worthy of our toleration, rather than a gift worth unwrapping.

The very use of that word, “cope” should yield itself to confirm its negative presentation, unattractive as a status for so many. Singleness, for many is a dirty word. In a world where couples are the ‘norm’ and living life in anything other than a married or co-existing relationship seems daunting at best, and totally horrendously undesired at worst, the thought of remaining single for the rest of one’s life sends shudders up one’ spine for most people – perhaps even mine?

However, do we really believe the bible? Do we really believe the words of St Paul, the apostle, when he wrote to the believers in Corinth that actually remaining single was, if anything, preferable to the pursuit of marriage, in order that we, as Christ’s passionate followers, might focus solely on Him and him alone? It’s a radical thought for a world of 21st century believers who know little of passionate sacrifice for their faith, or deep devotion to their Saviour that truely costs. (Unlike our brothers and sisters in China, or North Korea, for example).

What would it take for us – for me – to truly believe these words of St. Paul, when he says, ” Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife,” and goes on to explain, “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if it were not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (In 1 Corinthians 7 v 27-31).

Radial and challenging words, perhaps. However, how many pastors, teachers, bishops or priests out there actually believe this stuff and live it? Well, perhaps I am being very unfair – perhaps Catholics have most definitely something more to teach Protestants in this whole area? Sssh…did I just say that? Here in Northern Ireland, do we even believe that Catholics can even be Christians? Hmmm…I will save that for another article!

Singleness is not only a gift from God, but a freeing, liberating status or stage in life to be in, but I wonder how many of us spend the time in this season or period mourning and yearning for a partner, rather than exploring its very real benefits? Even, and perhaps especially, if you’re reading this and you are single but have no apparent faith or leaning towards it, this is worth exploring a bit further.

Why is marriage so dominant? Of course it is extremely important (and I am a huge advocate of great marriages, as the fantastic design God intended them to be), but I simply ask the question, why, for example, in churches do we focus so much on marriage and family in the churches out there (here in the ‘Emerald Isle’, for example), to the detriment of single people, so often relegated to a feeling of being second-class citizens with little to offer or present to our couple counterparts? Why don’t we celebrate and appreciate more readily what single people have to offer. (Also, note to pastors… please don’t patronize us with your pleb-like attempts to create social events for singles, cringe-worthy at best, and horrific quite often). Organic is preferable!

(In a subsequent article I may deal more specifically with the issue of divorced people, an even more stigmatized section of people sadly especially within churches, but for now I will focus on the broader category of single people).

Of course, being alone isn’t good (even God himself said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, whilst initially alone to begin with in the Garden of Eden). Loneliness is one of the big things often lamented by those who are single, however I would charge you if this is the case, go pray. God has a place he wants to take you, and take me, if we will only seek him more fully and devotedly through prayer and even fasting. However, many single Christians simply do not want to hear this, and think that true joy and wholeness can only come with the onset of a partner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wholeness will never come by the addition of a partner, only through finding one’s wholeness in Jesus Christ, who alone completes us. Perhaps we would do well to spend a little of the extra time we have on our hands (as single people) working on the areas of our own hearts which need a little more ‘fine-tuning’ to even be ready for any potentially mature and healthy relationship to be entered into…just a thought! )

Being single can be both exciting and very difficult.
However, Jesus himself was single, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. Who knows what may lie just around the corner? We should never rule out what surprises Father God may have in store for us, as his children, and I for one haven’t ruled out marriage, but I just fully intend to continue to make the most of the gift of singleness and time this allows to be devoted to Jesus, and furthering his kingdom here on earth. After all, maybe marriage isn’t everything?!

Becoming part of God’s family most certainly is, and when all is said and done and this earth passes away, it is the thing which will remain.

Therefore if you haven’t thought of it already, or begun this journey of faith, I encourage you as you’re reading this, now is the time to become a member of the family of God called the church. Like any family, it has its hang ups, but it’s worth it. Marriage is a temporary state here on earth, but what will last forever is being a member of God’s eternal family. Its time to join. Get in touch or speak to another Christian you know if you want to find out more about becoming a follower of Jesus and member of his world-wide family. Singleness is a great gift in this context, and maybe, just maybe, single people have more to teach their couple counterparts than those who are married care to realise.

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