Wednesday, October 27

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Biola is often known as a marriage school. Jokes on this subject abound, ranging from the "Bridal Institute of Los Angeles," to comparing Biola to a cobbler's shop (they take you in, mend your soles[souls] and send you out in pairs). But perhaps this is too often taken for granted, and we forget to think about the other option.

Many of us don't know much about celibacy--and sometimes even assume that it is based on the idea that sex is evil. Before I continue, let me take a few moments to explain the basic ideas behind the practice of celibacy.First of all, celibacy is thought to allow a person to be devoted to God alone. This is not to say that celibacy is the only state in which a person can be devoted to God; most people can marry and be devoted to God. Look at people like Billy Graham, or Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Marriage itself is service to God; it has been known as the "bloodless martyrdom." But some people need--or wish--to be free of relationships that could distract them from God. I know that in my own life, celibacy is in some way a concession to a weakness, since I cannot--at least at this stage of my life--focus on human love and the love of God at the same time.Secondly, celibacy leaves one free to do whatever God may call on him to do. Wht does God call most people to do? Get married, have kids, love their family, and serve God. But perhaps God leaves a few people unattached who can drop everything at short notice, and do something drastic that needs to be done. Could Mother Theresa have given up everything to work with the poor in India if she'd had a husband and children to care for?(Yes, I realize there are exceptions to this, but they are few and far between.) But even without great dramatic things, the celibate person can devote lots of time to helping people in their communities.

This being said, why should we at Biola think about celibacy? After all, most of us don't come from churches with a monastic tradition, and we grow up thinking about "when I get married..." Also, if the majority of us neither need nor want to be celibate, why should we think about it?Firstly, Christianity has a long monastic tradition: many of the great saints were celibates. If nothing else, most Christians at most places at most times have found celibacy to be a good thing, whether they themselves were celibate or not.Secondly, celibacy might be God's will for some of us. Let's face it: not all of us will get married, for one reason or another. The only options that Christians have been given are monogamy and celibacy. If we do not marry, then we must be celibate.This leads to the third, and perhaps most relevant point. Even those of us who will get married but are not married yet must be celibate. This should not be a passive celibacy, one that is merely waiting for marriage, but an active one. Know who you are and who God wants you to be. None of us are half of a soul, looking for a missing half. We are whole people, made in the image of God. In the time of celibacy before marriage, let us learn how to be a whole soul and to serve God in the way He designed us to. Celibacy can, after all, be a preperation for marriage. A friend of mine once told me,"From what I understand of celibacy, it's a lot like fasting (chastity is more like nutrition). Celibacy shouldn't be seen as deprivation, but appreciating the gift of another and focusing on God in the meantime. Therefore, marriage shouldn't be seen as an escape from celibacy and chastity. If people do, then they do more damage to the sacrament than single celibates. " I hope I have made it clear that not all or even most people should be celibate. But we should learn the value of it, since we are all called to celibacy before marriage, and a few of us may take it as a permanent lifestyle.

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