LGBT, Marriage, and Singleness

I will start with Richard B. Hays’ take on the LGBT issue. He is a United Methodist, New Testament scholar and currently the Dean of Duke Divinity School. He wrote a masterpiece, “The Moral Vision of the New Testament” in 1996, and I really believe that it is a Must-Read for any church leader. I highly recommend it.

Basically his position is that Lesbians and Gays are called to live a celibate life (not necessarily to change their orientation although he subtly acknowledges that this may be possible). He clearly stands against the church blessing homosexual marriages and ordaining practicing homosexuals as ministers. But he has no problem ordaining non-practicing ones.

Hays may not be an evangelical but he sure is a very biblical Methodist, and one that knows the Bible more than any evangelical I’ve seen. He points out that an often cited passage against homosexuality is Rom 1:21-28, which actually says that homosexuality is the product of the disorder wrought about by sin, and not sin itself as a choice. This is exactly in line with what we know from the scientists who point out that for most people sexual orientation is not really a choice. After all, Romans says “God gave them over…” (Rom 1:24,26,28). This means that the church is in no position to judge someone merely for his/her sexual orientation.

Hays also points out that if you really think about it celibacy puts the LGBT community exactly in the same position as heterosexuals who are unable to find a partner (and there are many of them).

In my view, (I’m not speaking for Hays now), the main problem and the reason why this issue is so hotly debated today is because we live in a culture that glorifies sex, romantic relationships, and marriage. We can see this not only on the pervasiveness of pornography but also on “wholesome” TV shows in which families have a good time. How is the LGBT community supposed to feel in this culture? Obviously they want a piece of it too.

The Church has also been complicit in creating this culture. In many churches, 1 Corinthians 13 is a favorite as a sermon for marriages, even though this chapter is not really talking about marital relationships. As for UBF, of course, it is not guilty of glorifying marriage as romance, but it is guilty of glorifying it as mission. What a load of lies! The fact is that one is in a much better position to serve God and the church as single rather than married (1 Cor 7:32,34-35). This is common sense. A married person has to care for his family first (1 Cor 7:33). The New Testament is full of passages that favor celibacy over marriage. {Think of the following: the Sadducees testing Jesus about the resurrection (Mt 22:30); Jesus saying that it would be better for women not to nurse children when the end is coming (Mt 24:19), the fact that Jesus himself never got married, and Paul himself explicitly says it is better to be celibate (1 Cor 7:8)}.

Yet I remember Friday meetings in Chicago where someone would share that maybe it is better to be like Mother Barry, and then you would hear uncontrolled laughing from the Koreans. I never really understood what was so funny.

As for UBF thinking that marriage is for mission, I think that it confuses a purpose versus a prerequisite. Mission is not the main purpose of marriage, but rather it is a prerequisite. If indeed mission was the sole purpose of marriage, then perhaps I should have married Joshua Jeon. (Sorry my friend for using your name.) We would have been great partners for the gospel. But obviously we didn’t because it is unnatural and we are not attracted to one another.

I could talk about the pitfalls of marriage in UBF at another time. The point is that a church that does not honor celibacy as a feasible option and really as superior to marriage according to the Scriptures is not really in a position to reach out or judge the LGBT community. This applies to UBF and many churches in America. For us to get this issue right, before we even talk about LGBT evangelism, we must renew our minds and not be conformed to the patterns of this world (Rom 12:2). First and foremost there must be a change in our culture about marriage and singleness. Singles should never be looked upon as poor loners and losers, but rather as those with the best potential to spread the Kingdom. Marriage should not be imposed or pressured upon anyone.

As for the political issue (many states supporting or disapproving, and President Obama’s stand) and the fact that the church disapproves of homosexuality, does it then mean that she should take a stand politically on this matter? This is a very complex issue that depends on one’s views about the relationship of the church and the state. I will not deal with this issue here and I myself find it very hard to find the right answers on this one.



  1. Thanks, Yohan, for your insightful article. I for one am not at all happy whenever I hear of any Christian speaking out against gays as sinners who should repent for being gay, because it comes across as though homosexuals are “worse sinners” than heterosexuals.

    For sure, single Christians should not be made to feel inferior or inadequate compared to their married counterparts. We have numerous single men and women at West Loop who I pray for that they may find their utmost fulfillment, contentment, joy and productivity as a single Christian, as they pray and wait to see if and when God provides a suitable godly spouse.

    Finally, I do echo your point that clearly the Bible’s predominant point is NOT that marriage is for mission. I wrote about this before: Hopefully, we may readdress this going forward.

  2. Joe Schafer

    Hi Yohan,

    Thanks for writing this article. You’ve raised many points that deserve discussion. I strongly agree with the gist of what you are saying and with many of the points that you made.

    One slight disagreement: You mentioned how our culture “glorifies” romance, marriage, sex, etc. and mentioned pornography as evidence of that. I believe that pornography unglorifies and devalues sex and dehumanizes the men and women who make it and who consume it.

    I think that the marriage relationship (which is profoundly sexual) is the means by which many of us will experience God’s love most deeply until we see him face to face. Marriage is the mother of all human relationships, the building block of family and society, and sexual attraction, which goes far beyond physical chemistry, is the glue that holds it together. Marriage is very, very important.

    And yet marriage isn’t everything. When evangelicals talk about marriage in such lofty terms (which I do think are appropriate) there are many who will naturally feel left out. What about those who, by nature or by circumstance or by choice, aren’t able to experience the joys of marriage? Are they second-class members of the church? Are they deficient? No, of course not. I believe it is possible for them to remain celibate and experience God’s love in ways that I, as a happily married person, do not understand.

    We need to recover a richer theology of marriage and a richer theology of celibacy. Recovering the theology of celibacy — which evangelicals have largely forgotten, but which has been preserved in Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities — will not just help celibates; it will help marrieds to better understand the spiritual dimensions of marriage.

    I share your distaste for the teaching that “marriage is for mission,” especially when mission is defined in terms of evangelization, descipleship and ministry expansion. Sure, married couples can and should serve God together in whatever capacity God calls them to serve. But marriage is not a tool for ministry expansion. That, too, is not a glorification of marriage but a devaluation of it.

    Yohan, thanks again for this article. Please keep writing.

  3. Thanks for sharing Yohan. I hope to hear more of your thoughts.

    For me, I am simply done with anyone’s “moral vision”. These days I listen to Pink because “one Pink song a day keeps the Pharisee away.”

    I agree with most of your thoughts, Yohan, Joe and Ben. And I can accept Tim Keller’s position, even though it is different from my own. I especially agree with the idea that the body of Christ has lost the doctrines of celibacy. Such doctrines should be taught much more clearly. And I respect my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters deeply for their protecting celibacy.

    I think we ought to avoid blanket statements about sin. For example, sex outside marriage is sin. Sex in marriage is not sin.

    So then, there remain 3 options for a human being to satisfy their God-given sexual nature:

    1. Celibacy
    2. Marriage
    3. Promiscuity

    #1 is perhaps best, but only for a few. I think we should not dismiss this so much as we do though in today’s culture. I think it is a fine option.

    #3 is wrong for everyone. No case can be made for a Christian to be freely promiscuous. And I think even secular moralists would agree.

    So that leaves us with #2 as the typical, viable solution/path for everyone. If we look at 1 Corinthians chapter 7 (and not get hung up on chapter 6), we see Apostle Paul’s logic, which is God’s wisdom.

    I fully accept same-sex marriage at the state or church level. I believe no sexual orientation will send anyone to hell. I further believe Christians have no right to withhold the sacrament of marriage or the sacrament of celibacy or state rights from two GLBT people who want to get married. I will gladly welcome any GLBT person and share the gospel with them. And from what I’ve read, the GLBT community has much to teach to many churches about love, sacrifice and defending the rights of the poor and needy.

    And to say this… “He clearly stands against the church blessing homosexual marriages and ordaining practicing homosexuals as ministers. But he has no problem ordaining non-practicing ones.”

    …is like saying “Only non-practicing sinners can be ordained or married.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, how would you feel about the state and/or church blessing polygamy? One could easily argue that polygamy is far more biblically supported than same-sex marriage.

      Given today’s social climate, it’s hard to discuss GLBT issues without arousing strong passions on all sides. But polygamy isn’t as emotionally charged as homosexuality (at least in the Western world) because most of us haven’t met and won’t ever meet a polygamist. How could a Bible-believing Christian build a scriptural case for or against polygamy? That’s a interesting question that reveals a great deal about how we approach and apply scripture. NT Wright has an excellent chapter about this in his book Scripture and the Authority of God. Reading that book helped me to understand how to get beyond proof-texting and start to frame moral issues through the broad themes of the Bible.

    • If any man is insane enough to have more than one wife so be it…. :)

      Seriously though this is a good question. And I agree that our theology should be consistent. I am building my theology without moralism and without legalism.

      It is clear that Scripture teaches overseers, deacons and elders in the Christian community are to be the “husband of but one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12, Titus 1:6), among other qualifications. So no case can be made for Christian leaders to be polygamists.

      Other than that, I see polygamy as the norm for thousands of years and the norm for prophets and Israelites.

      Polygamy is allowed under the written code (613 commands), so someone might try to build a case for polygamy based on the written code. However, as I have said consistently, I believe Scripture plainly teaches that the written code has been canceled. Just as you cannot condemn gays because of the law, I believe you cannot approve polygamy because of the law. Just because polygamy is allowed under the law (which has been canceled) does not mean it is something the state or church should promote.

      I certainly see no reason to condemn a polygamist in Scripture or to prohibit any sacrament, apart from becoming an overseer, deacon or elder.

    • Joe Schafer

      In my understanding, Jesus has not abolished/canceled the law; he has fulfilled the law (Mt 5:17). I’ve been spending quite a lot of time trying to figure out and articulate what that means. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying. I think it is possible to build a biblically sound, gospel-informed case against polygamy and homosexuality that is neither legalistic nor moralistic. But how the church should act toward those who are practicing those lifestyles raises many more questions which do not have easy answers. Should we deny them baptism? (I think not.) Deny them communion? (I think not.) Sanction their unions with church ceremonies? (I think not.) Actively campaign to oppose state-sanctioned same-sex marriages or civil unions? (I dunno.)

      It’s interesting that you referenced Titus 1:6. According to that verse, an elder must be faithful to his wife. But it also says that his children must be believers. Shall we perform an examination of faith of the children of all UBF elders and remove them from office if any of their children don’t believe? (Say amen!) How can we justify a rigorous obedience to one part of that verse while ignoring another part? Yet all Christians do that all the time, usually without realizing or thinking about it. That’s what I find problematic about proof texting.

    • There are indeed many layers of issues to gay marriage:

      1. The question of whether same-sex activity is a sin.
      2. The question of whether a GLBT person can be saved from hell.
      3. The question of what defines a marriage.
      4. The question of the rights of GLBT people in society.
      5. The question of how the church is to treat GLBT people.

      And most issues are not comprehensively covered in the Bible. This is why, in my experience, it is important to be Spirit-led and Biblically-grounded instead of trying to be Bible-led.

      In regard to the law, I am 100% convinced the written code has been canceled because abolishing the law in his flesh is a cornerstone of Apostle Paul’s teachings (Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians and Romans, and also Hebrews).

      I am preparing a more thorough article about Jesus’ fulfilling Law. Jesus is correct when he said he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. Indeed, God’s perfect Law will not disappear. However, the written code was a only a foreshadow and only one expression of God’s perfect Law, meant only to remain until Jesus “filled it up”.

      Apostle Paul is also correct when he said that the law was abolished in Jesus’s flesh, that Jesus is the end/goal of the law and that the written code was nailed to the cross with Jesus.

      The abolishment of the written code is the only thing that explains the furious anger and bitterness of the Jews toward Jesus, Paul and Stephen. And it is the only teaching that explains why the grace of God is so abundantly joyful, peaceful and powerful.

      If we think the written code is still in force, we end up rebuilding what Jesus dismantled.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I agree that the written code is no longer in force. The covenant of law was a failed covenant. This was known even in OT times. Many Jews understood this. The Torah seems to be written from the perspective of someone who already understands that the Mosaic covenant has failed (Dt 31). Which is why I don’t think that Christians ought to read the NT as a new set of rules that supersedes the old rules of the OT. The Bible should be read primarily as narratives, not as a rule book. We follow a living person, not a set of rules. How to do this faithfully requires wisdom and discernment. We need to talk about this more.

    • “I’ve been spending quite a lot of time trying to figure out and articulate what that means.”

      My point in delving into various issues and the like is not to teach anyone, but to test out what I’m learning from the Spirit. These discussions help me immensely to confirm and/or correct my thinking.

      Lately, my thoughts have been about finding what can be consistently applied across the basic doctrines of the Christian faith: Scripture (Bibliology), God (Theology), Jesus (Christology), Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Creation (Cosmology), Sin (Hamartiology), Salvation (Soteriology), Church (Ecclesiology), End Times (Eschatology).

      I am finding that the Spirit is leading me to a far richer and consistent understanding of the basic problems we all face: curse, sin, death, law and brokenness.

      And I’m finding intense peace, joy, hope and power as I think through God’s solutions: redemption, forgiveness, promise, faith and adoption.

    • Yohan Hwang

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your response. When you mention that there are three options, and that the first (celibacy) is only for a few, you take the assumption that most people make, that celibacy was meant by God for only a few, as if it was predestined in some way. This is understandable given that Paul uses the language of “gift” to refer to celibacy. But if this “gift” is really given to only a few people in a “predestined” way, then your argument is valid; the church is in no position to withhold the sacrament of marriage to the LGBT community. Like I said, they were not LGBT by choice. Most were born that way and it would be unfair to exclude them from marriage.

      However, just because something is a “gift” it does not mean that it was given from birth. One can receive a gift at any point in their life. Besides if it really were a gift given to only a few, what would that really mean? Does it mean that such people have no sexual desires? In my 29 years of life, I have not met anyone like that. As far as I know, everyone has sexual desires. So does it mean that some people are born with better self-control than others? Maybe to some extent, but on the most part self-control is an acquired discipline. And this is a crucial virtue that everyone must strive to attain.

      The fact is taht as much as we may speak of the virtues of marriage, it is still embedded in selfishness. (And I speak as a happily married man). Think about the world and the way people develop intimate relationships. People try to give the best impression of themselves when they go out in a date instead of being honest. In UBF, a lot of ugly men depend on their mentors to set them up to a beautiful woman. Is that love?? True love would be to wish and consider what is best for the one you love, and many times, you yourself may not be the best person for him/her. But that’s not how people operate. The fact is that even the godliest of marriages is mired in selfishness. (and love too). This is part of the reason why I emphasize that celibacy is superior. If people really wanted to serve God with their whole lives they would realize that marriage is most likely not the way. After all, you can never give up your possessions and live like Mother Teresa if you have to support a family. (I admit I am selfish man). But that’s why we have to get our culture right so that we don’t purposely encourage marriage and that celibacy is looked upon highly as it should be. If our culture were to change like this, I don’t see how the LGBT community would be left out or discrimanated against. Left out of what? would be the question.

    • Joe, you mentioned “I think it is possible to build a biblically sound, gospel-informed case against polygamy and homosexuality that is neither legalistic nor moralistic.”

      I would like to learn what that would be. I would say that such a case would be possible against homosexuality in regard to promiscuity, but not against a same-sex marriage relationship.

      By the way, my reference to Titus was merely a quick attempt to see how someone might build a case against polygamy, as you asked. It is not my case, since I have not thought that one through. I believe, though, that I would be strongly opposed to polygamy based on the same reasons I am strongly in favor of same-sex marriage in the church and equal rights for same-sex couples in the state.

    • Yohan, I agree with your thoughts on celibacy, thanks for sharing.

  4. HebC11V13

    I wrote on a related topic and I think the same ideas apply here. I am not sure about my conclusions and deep down I really want someone to convince me that they’re wrong. At any rate, here it is:

    There are many different denominations, each with their own views on various spiritual matters. But there is one topic on which almost every denomination agrees: sex. More specifically, almost every sect agrees that sex should exist only within the context of monogamous marriage. While I definitely agree with this view, I realize that this isn’t something that you can just take for granted. After all, we can’t say something is “right” or “wrong” just because “the Bible says so.” Perhaps there were cultural or contextual reasons as to why the scriptures speak against extramarital sex and polygamy – Modern marriage is nothing like marriage in Biblical times, and sex is no longer necessarily associated with pregnancy and childbearing. The world has changed, so why can’t this particular rule?

    A couple years ago, I was discussing a related issue with a few people. We were talking about sexual promiscuity and the social stigmas, particularly the double standards, that come with it. My take was that while I have no problems with it, I probably would have a difficult time trusting and establishing close relationships with people who treat sex casually. To me, sex and intimacy are deeply intertwined and to be casual about it is to be casual about exposing your soul. It should be carefully guarded and then shared with the one person you trust the most.

    The problem with this is that it’s my personal view. Not everyone agrees, nor do they have any reason to. It says nothing about the “right” attitude toward sex, and the best you can do is to agree to disagree on the matter. Furthermore, it can be applied to the many other ways in which intimacy is expressed, particularly in socializing and the sharing of one’s personal life. I came up with the terms “socially/emotionally promiscuous/monogamous” to parallel sexual openness to social openness. To me, the sharing of thoughts and feelings is even more intimate than sex, and I imagined a relationship in which I and one other person are completely intimate with each other and not at all with anyone else. But such a relationship is not only impractical and unrealistic but unbiblical as well. That’s when I realized that my views on sex and marriage are both unhealthy and ungodly.

    Sex (and marriage) is not personal. It is not about intimacy. Sex is [i]holy[/i]. It is for glorifying God, not ourselves or each other. It should be an act of worship.

    And this really rubs me the wrong way.

    I want my marriage to be about us – about me and my wife. Having God in the middle of it not just as a counselor or third party but as an integral and intimate part of this covenant seems extremely intrusive. It means denying myself, sacrificing my privacy and intimacy, and putting God first …which just so happens to be the basis of our faith.

    [Not sure where to insert this:] Marriage is not defined by the two people in it. It is defined by our place in the community of believers, our relationship with God, and our roles in the body of Christ.

    The issue is not whether you’re following the rules or whether they make sense, because you can follow them absolutely and come up with a million reasons as to why you should and still fail to grasp the point, which is glorifying God and putting him first.

    May we not put pleasure or ourselves or our relationships before God but love him with all our hearts. May we deny who we are and let God define us and sanctify us through his divine plan. And may we not replace godly intimacy with human relationships.

    • HebC11V13

      To sum it up and bring it back to the topic at hand, my conclusion was that marriage isn’t about attraction, orientation, romance, or even friendship, it’s about co-working.

  5. joshuajeon

    yohan, i don’t know about you, but I am attracted to you.

    good article. :)

  6. Hi HebC11V13,

    To be honest, you express many things, which make it quite difficult to respond to.

    Do you wish to express one thing and discuss one thing at a time?

    • HebC11V13

      Sorry, I kinda hijacked this post with my own… But anyway, the main point I wanted to bring up was the role and foundation of marriage. I think the best argument against Christian gay marriage (I don’t think there is any argument against secular gay marriage) is that marriage should not be based on sexuality (not that that can’t be an element of marriage) but on whether it glorifies God. Ironically, as Yohan mentioned, it can be used as an argument for gay marriage as well.

  7. Heb, two of your statements jump out at me:

    “It should be an act of worship.” This is very close to, if not the same as, what God condemns in Romans 1. In fact I would say one key redemptive act God intended was to remove sex from worship. Why do you think God would be worshipped this way?

    “my conclusion was that marriage isn’t about attraction, orientation, romance, or even friendship, it’s about co-working.” This statement makes me cringe. My wife and I are dealing with how to handle living for 18 years as single people in order to “co-work”… We have 4 children but have had zero instruction on what a Christian marriage is all about. So perhaps I shouldn’t take offense at your statement, but still I find that Scripture and Spirit teach something very different about marriage. I’m not in favor of making marriage into an idol, but I also don’t think marriage can be belittled to just co-working.

    • HebC11V13

      I don’t like what I wrote, and I would really like it if someone could convince me that I’m wrong. But my conclusions are from both personal meditation/prayer and looking at examples of marriage from Scripture. To expand on the latter, it seems like marriages based on calling are “godly” while marriages based on attraction are “immoral.”

      Another example I saw were UBF marriages. I know this isn’t going to convince you, but to expand on it, I noticed that while the husbands and wives didn’t love each other the way I imagined, they were still accomplishing many things through their marriages. While I disliked the lack of intimacy and romance and friendship in these marriages, I could not deny that God was working through them. Then I looked at my own idea of marriage and realized how selfish it was.

      But I do agree with what you said. I believe that intimacy has its place in marriage, it’s just not central to it. To add to that, much of what I wrote was a response to my own issues with marriage, and I realize that it does not apply to everyone. Personally, I think God is asking me to sacrifice my ideas of romance and be “Married by Faith(TM)!” and as much as I dislike the idea of it, it’s something I need to put on the altar.

    • Heb,

      You just nailed the key misunderstanding in UBF:

      “…they were still accomplishing many things through their marriages.”

      UBF ideology replaces the grace and truth of God with a sense of accomplishment.

  8. Joe Schafer

    Dear HebC11V13,

    Thank you for your honesty. Like Brian, I find many of your statements about marriage troubling. I don’t know anything about your situation except what you have written here. But it seems to me — and this is based purely on what you have written — that you are sacrificing things that God never intended for you to sacrifice.

  9. Wait a minute… It seems that HebC11V13 is acting like an ideal UBF member and is going to “sacrifice my ideas of romance and be “Married by Faith(TM)!” and as much as I dislike the idea of it, it’s something I need to put on the altar”. Aren’t these the things required from every UBF member? Didn’t it work well with Dr. Ben and Joe? Didn’t it helped to meet such wives you’d never meet oherwise? I mean, why don’t you advice HebC11V13 to “marry by faith” and let “God” ask him(?/her) to sacrifice and act according to UBF standards? Or “marriage by faith” is not a TM of UBF and not always so good and Bible-based?…

  10. Hi Vitaly,

    I’m glad you brought up this exact issue, because every sound and healthy biblical teaching including “marriage by faith” can so easily become twisted and adulterated which is sadly what HebC11V13 seems to be expressing.

    Last year I wrote an article “Marrige By Faith. Should “no dating” be a church policy?” for this blog, but did not publish it. Maybe I will look at it again and reconsider.

    Christian life has both resolute self-denial (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:24; Lk 9:23) and inexpressible joy (Ps 1:2, 37:4, Jn 15:11; 1 Th 5:16). Everything we do as Christians, including marriage, has elements of both fully expressed. When we “screw up” this tension and mystery of self-denial and joy as a Chistian, we pervert every biblical teaching, including marriage. That, I believe, is perhaps why Joe expressed that HebC11V13 has written some disturbing things. That’s why I requested that HebC addresses and discusses one thing at a time.

  11. Joe Schafer

    Vitaly, I’m with you on this one. There are many implicit attitudes and explicit teachings and practices associated with “marriage by faith” that need to be examined very closely. It would take a long time to discuss these things well. I hope that current and former UBF members and leaders and elders can somehow create an environment for that discussion to happen. I wish it could happen on this website. Ben’s article on “no dating” which he wrote last year is important, and perhaps he could publish it. But the issue of dating or no dating is one only one small piece of the issue. The thing that I find most troubling in HebC11V13’s comments is that he pits intimacy and romance and happiness within marriage against glorifying and serving God, as if they were opposites. He writes as though loving your spouse is in competition with loving God. I used to think that way, but now I believe it’s flat-out wrong. That thinking is rooted in dualism and gnosticism, not in orthodox Christianity.

  12. Dear Joe,

    I am so thankful to God that I could just celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary with the most wonderful woman in the world to me, Dr. Helen. I cannot believe God’s grace that I could marry her “by faith.” There appear to be a lot of discussion about the “pitfalls of marriage in UBF.” But I thank God for his grace that I could marry Dr. Helen–I cannot imagine marrying anyone more perfect for me. Before coming to UBF I dated many times, and it always ended in disaster. So I prayed that God would provide the right person for me, introduced by Dr. Lee. That was my faith before the Almighty Creator God. So I did not have to worry about searching out for myself. It was my faith and I wholeheartedly believe God blessed my faith more than I could have imagined. Also, Helen’s mother really likes me as well. It is God’s overwhelming grace.

    One issue I have with discussing these things on this website is the I feel the general tone is to find UBF “guilty” of many atrocities. Yohann (whom I also hope regards me as a friend) writes “As for UBF, of course, it is not guilty of glorifying marriage as romance, but it is guilty of glorifying it as mission.” Are we really here to convict all UBF, especially leaders guilty? It seems that many here feel that they were wrongly accused of being guilty by UBF members, but are saying the same things about UBF.

    One good thing I have learned from all this discussion is that I (and we) are not here to condemn the guilty, but to lead to forgiveness and healing. I guess if that has grown in me through all this discussion, then God be praised, because it has born fruit.

    I believe that we learn love through marriage. We learn to care for someone else very practically. Some like St. Paul and Mother Barry somehow knew Christ so well, they could practice his love to strangers and even enemies. I am not like that and I honestly don’t believe many are. If Yohann is, God bless him and may he use him to reveal Christ’s love greatly.

    May the love of our Lord Jesus Christ be revealed through us.

    Jim Rarick

  13. Greetings, Jim! Thank you for your sincere testimony. I could testify the same and I testified the same many times while I was in UBF for 16 years. I am married for more than 15 years. After I left UBF last year I started learning to call my wife by her name. Her name is so beautiful! But for 15 years I called her only “shepherdess” or “shepherdess Sarah”, even at home. She is learning to call me by my name – Vitaly (not just “shepherd”, “shepherd Abraham” or “shepherd Timothy” etc). I see that our relationship became much deeper and less formal after leaving UBF. And the kingdom of God opened for us newly (we became free from the kingdom of a man). I know your wife and talked to her several times. I want to ask you a question: why do you call her “Dr. Helen”? Doesn’t it sound a little bit formal and weaken your testimony? And I wanted to add a bit about “Mother Barry’s love to strangers and even enemies”. I didn’t see a drop of her love toward anyone who left UBF anywhen. Thank you.

    • Dear Vitaly,

      Actually, I wrote “Dr. Helen” and then thought about it, that it may be misconstrued. In the first place, it removes any ambiguity of who it is. In the second place, I can call her “Honey” or “darling” (which I do) but really, isn’t that my business? I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but my relationship to my wife is really my business. My affection to her, my love for her is really between her and me. Finally, I do really, really respect her for getting her PhD. I do not belittle it, envy it or begrudge it. I cherish it and honor it. She is my loving sweet godly wife. But she is also a brilliant scholar whom I respect.

  14. Dear Vitaly,

    Sorry, I missed your last comment about Mother Barry. I am so sorry you feel that way. I honestly marvel at Sarah Barry’s love for so many people, including those who left UBF. Sooner than later she will go to meet with the Lord. Then the Lord will be her judge. He will expose all. I am truly sorry that some don’t feel loved by her. I honestly can’t imagine it, but she is not perfect either–not even close.

    I guess we all have to work on expressing the love of Christ. I know I do. Please pray for me. My key verse for this year is Isaiah 54:2. I ask God to please expand my love because it is so narrow. I need God’s mercy and the power of his Holy Spirit.

    God bless you,

    Jim Rarick

  15. @Vitaly: My wife and I feel the same as you: “our relationship became much deeper and less formal after leaving UBF. And the kingdom of God opened for us newly (we became free from the kingdom of a man).”

    @JimR: My wife will soon be “Dr.”, so I understand the value of calling your wife “Dr.”. I have no problem being “Dr. and Mr. Karcher”.

  16. Yohan, thanks for writing this article. Because of today’s culture celibacy is rarely endorsed whether in Christian or non-Christian circles. Just look at movies like, “40-year old virgin” or talk with any college students. Not only that but 30+ year-old maids are more often than not deemed “strange.” It’s a cultural thing and I see it in my own thinking, too.

    But celibacy is a valid option and it should be considered. I once heard some advice Tim Keller gave to singles; he encouraged them to mingle together without pressure but to become platonic friends. This unfortunately is becoming harder and harder nowadays. But I took his advice to heart and I’m so glad to be surrounded by Christian friends.

  17. Thanks, MJ. As Yohan mentioned, church leaders have communicated that it is better to be married than it is to be a single Christian, as though singles are “missing out” on marriage. I felt the same way for some time, but not any more.

    I have a tremendously happy marriage, which is nothing but the grace of God, and not the work/wisdom/plan of any man, including ourselves. But as I’ve studied Scripture, I conclude that my present happiness in marriage is nothing compared with the happiness I will experience in glory.

    Likewise, for all single Christians, they will never ever feel “cheated” in eternity if they never married, because of their matchless everlasting joy that they will experience with their eternal Bridegroom.

    Thus, if a single Christian does not feel “fulfilled” because they are single, it is unlikely that marriage will fulfill them, even if they marry the best possible Christian spouse. Only Christ can truly fulfill us, regardless of whether we are single or married.

  18. :) preach it Dr. B. As you always say, “if you aren’t happy single you won’t be happy married either.”
    I like how you say that your present marital bliss is nothing compared with the happiness to come. After reading Keller’s, “The Meaning of Marriage.” (Thanks for the book by the way, great read!)I became aware of our culture’s worship of “true love” and sex. Our media is drenched in this counterfeit god. It’s really a convincing lie because love is a wonderful thing, but not worldly love. There is no love in this world or goodness, for that matter, apart from God. Moreover the pressure put on a husband or boyfriend to be the “all in all”/ hero is crushing and suffocating. Marriage or any kind of relationship should not be put on a pedastal.

    About LGBT, all I can say is that in the US the church and state are separate and that’s the way it should stay. (Actually its quite a unique characteristic in the global sense.) The US legislative branch has been passing many different kinds of laws and I don’t know what their basis is on, but I know it wasn’t the word of God when prayer was taken out of school.

  19. Joseph R

    The heat in this conversations made me feel like I was walking in and out of the kitchen.

    I don’t understand many things. One of which is allowing gay marriages in churches. I have heard that homosexuals are against marriage because it is a display of conforming to Christian culture. It is already hard for me to see how sex glorifies God in heterosexual relationship, except for child-bearing. But how is homosexual sex glorifying God. How is practicing homosexual sex be an honor to God? Even heterosexual sex strictly within marriage can be a way of dishonoring God i.e. fixing your eyes on pleasure rather than fixing your eyes on Christ. Everything that is to be done must be done with the glory given to Christ(1 Cor 10:31). But we do fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). And as long as we are still living in this flesh, we will continue to fall short. If two homosexual do get married and practice celibacy then what is the point of marriage?

    Would Jesus have allowed same-sex marriage? Would he allow people to crucify him? Would he allow people to spit on his face? Surely he allows homosexuals to be married. But he has a redemption plan to rescue us because “we dont know what we do” (Luke 23:34).

    If someone is sincere and honest about marrying a person of the same sex and they asked me of what my thoughts. Then I will say there is nothing I can do to ‘turn off’ the desire. Go ahead, but I will tell him/her that in my heart I wish they were heterosexual and/or celibate.

    I do not stand with Obama’s agreement of same-sex marriage. Nor do I stand with the Catholic’s universal view that “marriage is between one man and woman.” Rather, I stand with Christ words “forgive them for they do not know what they do.”

    • I don’t mean to sound mad, sorry if it seems that way. I think one can have a logical discussion on this issue. To me it’s black and white; in the US church and state are separate, it’s been that way for decades. But I don’t live in the US, so I’m not familiar with the context.
      The issue I wrestle with currently is what is a Christian’s stand on social policy and law making? Not everyone is a Christian so we cannot apply Christian standards to everyone. And then again even Christians have squabbles amongst each other about those standards. But the laws of state are supposed to protect. Society needs them. That is why murder is forbidden. We observe some parts of the 10 commandments: no lying, theft etc. But what about adultery and the sabbath day? If we were to go all the way then pornography and prostitution would be inconceivable and just as serious as murder. But we choose our sins a la carte. It’s a tricky thing and we have to choose are battles wisely. There are so many issues, abortion, human trafficking, the education system, racism, etc. It’s hard to form laws when everyone has different value systems, views on right and wrong and even views of truth. How does it work out on this earth, in this life?…

  20. 4 bad ways Christians explain singleness and marriage (Sorry to you singles if you’re heard them before from well intentioned older Christians):

  21. Joseph R

    Thanks, Dr. Ben. I got this quote from the website you posted above.

    “Are you seeing anyone special?” a young matron in my home church asked patronizingly. “Sure,” I smiled. “I see you and you’re special.”

    OK, my sentiment was a little less than kind, but the message is true.
    To be single is not to be alone. If someone asks if you are in a relationship right now, your immediate response should be that you are in dozens. Our range of relational options is not limited to getting married or to living in the sound-proof, isolated booth of Miss America pageants. Christian growth mandates relational richness.

    It makes me wonder… there are so many prayers (in UBF) for people to get married and serve God, yet I have not heard of a single prayer for people to be single and serve God. Nor have I heard a prayer for single people to focus in serving God while they are single. It is usually “pray not to worry… God has a spouse for you (where is this in the Bible?)” rather than “pray not to worry… God has a plan for you” (Jer 29:11).

    As a single Christian, I look in the future and think that marriage is a great idea. Moreover, I think the being single in the future is also a great idea. But the focus here is not really the future, rather it is in the present. How are you, being single or married, serving God now?

    I hear that being single is hard, that is why it is not prayed upon. Yet, I have never heard of one married couple describe marriage being ‘easy’. And if being single is hard and we pray to be married, then are we not choosing the ‘easy way out’? Weren’t Christians made for trials (James 1:2). Singleness is a gift (all of us have been given this gift for a certain amount of time). Count it pure joy when you are single! If, not when, you get married, then count it also as pure joy!

  22. Some good points JosephR, thanks for sharing.