Celibacy and Chastity Are Not Dirty Words

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It’s been interesting to see the debates on the recent marriage decision by the US Supreme Court. I’m not going to get into the fray by saying my thoughts on that decision because it will sidetrack from one issue that is often revealed: for some reason, the idea of controlling one’s sexual appetite is seen as a bad idea.

Most of the time I am told that it is wrong to deny your feelings, that people have the right to do whatever their inclination is sexually. If it feels good to someone, they should do it (whatever “it” is) and not repress themselves.

The problem is that we see the benefit of controlling one’s appetite in other areas. People who control their appetite for unhealthy food reap the benefit of improved nutrition. Those who control their appetite for laziness don’t have soft puffy bodies. Those who control their appetite for mind-numbing media tend to be more intelligent.

The professional dancer says “no” to a lot of things in order to become proficient at dance. Those Olympic athletes have denied themselves many enjoyable moments in order to compete at the highest level. If you are going to be in top physical shape, you have to control various appetites, saying “no” to one thing so that you can say “yes” to something better.

Celibates have said “no” to sexual activity in order to say “yes” to something they deem better. People practicing chastity say “no” to sexual behavior outside marriage in order to deepen and strengthen the bond of that marriage. 

There are many people who are chaste or celibate for reasons that are not religious. Some are interested in avoiding sexually transmitted disease: a topic that should be more visible in our sexualized culture. Others have been so scarred by the past they try to avoid more trauma. Occasionally there isn’t much sexual appetite to begin with because what is happening in your body affects desire.

Controlling what you feed your sexual appetite begins with the thought process. Chastity and celibacy involve more than a physical appetite. Sexuality begins in the emotions and thoughts of a person, which is why porn can be so devastating since it creates habits rewarded by pleasure. But if the porn really satisfied, the same level of porn would be enough to satisfy again. We don’t see this in the porn industry — instead there is increasing demand for different types of porn and deeper degradation.

Every person involved in the porn industry is a person whom Jesus came to seek and to save, which is easy to forget sometimes. Every person who is focused on feeding their appetite for whatever triggers pleasure is a person who needs to see that the pleasure is fleeting.

Pleasure isn’t a problem unless it is sought at the expense of the permanent.

Saying “no” to the future in order to say “yes” to something that will only last a short time is like eating the seeds instead of planting them for a harvest of many more. Jesus used the example of a seed needing to die in order to produce many more seeds, and that principle applies to our lives in many ways.

Biblical Christianity says “yes” to Jesus, who chose to say “no” to all that He had as deity so that we could be alive in Him. He chose to leave all the privilege of being God and become a fertilized egg in the womb, be born and grow into limited manhood, and die a shameful death on the cross for the simple reason that He loves us. His disciples saw Him die, were terrified of dying themselves, and then something changed.

Those who knew Jesus was dead and were hiding from the authorities suddenly came out in public insisting that Jesus was alive. Many followers of Jesus were beaten, arrested, and killed. They died unafraid, knowing that the God who overcame death would do all He promised and that this life was not the end of life.

We see people die for what they believe to be true all the time. But these Jesus followers would be dying for what they knew was a hoax — if it was a scam put on by the disciples they would be the first group in history willing to die unanimously to perpetrate a story they made up. Why would they say “no” to life and “yes” to that?

They said “no” to the temporary and “yes” to the eternal.

Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This includes all our appetites, in every area of life, married or single. It doesn’t necessarily mean those appetites are bad, but it does mean those appetites are recognized as temporary.

When you think about it, people who are chaste or celibate are saying “no” to a temporary sexual urge so they can say “yes” to something that lasts longer and has more value.

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6 thoughts on “Celibacy and Chastity Are Not Dirty Words

  1. A temporary celibacy, chosen in the knowledge that you can always choose to marry (with the approval of friends and family and society) and end that celibate state, is a very different thing from an imposed celibacy, forced upon you by the fear of being rejected by friends, family, and society. And that’s the crux of the Supreme Court decision. Chastity and celibacy are not natural conditions for the majority of the people in the world, and you are talking about something of which you have very little real experience, touting a standard which has not applied to you for decades. You do not remember what it means to be alone.

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    1. One of the loneliest places on the planet is a marriage bed during a rough season. I have been actively disciplining my sexual thoughts and activity to practice chastity for over three decades now because the standard does indeed apply to me today.

      Married people are not exempt from self-denial to follow Christ, it just looks different. Idealizing marriage to think it will mean you are never alone is setting yourself up for disappointment because marriage is not a fairy tale. We all face difficult things, and those who choose chastity or celibacy do so because they think doing this particular difficult thing is worth the effort.

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  2. 1 cor. 7:8-9 says if one cannot control themselves it is better for them to marry. We cannot decide for thousands or hundreds of people that they if they want us to accept them then they must be celibate until the day they die. This verse is for each individual to make that call for themselves.

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    1. My point in this post is that an individual making that call for themselves does so for valid reasons, just as an athlete chooses to deny themselves leisure in order to compete at the highest levels. Both are choosing one thing as more valuable than another. Celibacy is a good thing, just as chastity is, and they do have price tags. But everything has a price tag, and pretending it does not doesn’t change the cost.

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      1. Not everyone can. The athlete that fails to take leisure time is at a greater risk of over-use injuries, which could end their athletic careers permanently. Some people are better than others at controlling themselves but marriage is allowable for the sake of the rest. So those who opt to get married have valid reasons as well.

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      2. This post is not about who can get married. This post is about the value of both celibacy and chastity, because they are words that define self-control of the sexual appetite. Just as self-control of other appetites and urges is ultimately beneficial, so is self-control in sexual behavior. Those who choose to control themselves do so because they value something else more. An athlete who abuses their body is not actually being wise in how they control their training, as you pointed out. But they are striving toward something they deem worth the cost.

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