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A few years ago, I spoke at a seminar in India, on teaching English to the disadvantaged. I challenged the people at the seminar to question their motives for what they were doing. I said that if they were teaching English to the disadvantaged, primarily because of the salary that it provided, then all it would take to draw them away from helping the disadvantaged, would be for the more advantaged members of our society to offer them better pay. I said that if we were ever to truly help the disadvantaged, we would need to have a greater commitment to the poor than we had to getting rich ourselves. There was little point in thinking of ourselves as genuinely concerned for the poor if it was only circumstances (or our inferior abilities) that had landed us in the positions we presently held.

Now I want to address this same question to members of our community who are endeavouring to become part of the Virgin Army, by remaining single. You need to ask yourselves (and to be brutally honest in responding) exactly why it is that you are single. Is it because you want to be totally free to serve God better, and to be a more effective leader in the years ahead? Or is it because you either cannot find a marriage partner, or because you are too selfish to put up with the inconvenience of being responsible for another person for the rest of your life?

If God thinks that he can create a superior team of workers by choosing only those who are single-minded enough to forsake a normal marriage relationship, in order to be freer to work for him, then we should expect to see qualities in this army which are superior to those which we see in married couples who are also trying to serve God.

For myself, as a married person, it has been good to consider the possibility that I could serve God better as a single person. Cherry and I have talked and prayed about ways that we could possibly become more "single" in our lifestyle and attitudes. It has helped us to appreciate the problems that singles must live with from day to day. But we have also seen that just being single in itself does not amount to automatic membership in the Virgin Army.

The qualities that God is looking for in this select team of disciples are the same qualities that would make each one of us a much sought after "catch" as a marriage partner. We must be loving, caring, serving individuals, with the ability to see the bigger picture, and the ability to be patient with those following us. Everything that would make us successful husbands and wives must be poured into our relationship with God's bigger family.

But as we develop this kind of spiritual maturity, the opportunities will suddenly present themselves for us to get married. Other singles will naturally be attracted to us.

The Children of God found in their early days (as we have) that people usually left the community soon after they married. The community, for such people, was a crutch, which could easily be replaced with a tender, loving spouse. The "cause" was not their primary concern. It came second to the pleasures, comforts, attention, and power that they could find in the marriage relationship.

In these dark days, there are very few who would truly forsake their husbands or wives for God.

So, in order to build an empire of their own, the Children of God decided to compromise spiritually, and to capitalise on the inherent selfishness that this dilemma represented. They decided to glorify and praise those who were willing to leave their husbands or wives for the sake of having sex with other partners instead... especially with other members of the community. (See also The Law of Love.)

This created a broader base for group loyalty and selfish indulgence; but it did very little for the kingdom of heaven. I say "very little" because obviously a few learned to take on greater responsibility when they tried to accept full marital responsibility for more than one spouse. But on the whole, the scheme was built on a lie to begin with, and it was doomed spiritually. Many thousands of lives have been wrecked because of the Children of God teachings on free sex. We will not be party to such a perversion.

But the command to forsake your spouse (including any future spouse) for Christ is right there along with commands to forsake your parents, your possessions, and to lay down your own life for him. (Luke 14:26, Luke 14:33) Those are his terms.

We are unique in that we teach people to actually obey them.

The Family (Children of God) is famous for teaching sexual promiscuity (i.e. "sharing" marriage partners) for God. We are unique in teaching celibacy as the general rule for God. But we are just as wrong as The Family if we use scriptures about forsaking the marriage relationship as an excuse to justify the selfishness that typifies the Jerry Seinfeld lifestyle. With or without sex, singles can get away with being much more selfish than married couples. There is no spouse threatening to leave you if you don't improve. And if you find another disciple difficult to get along with, you can just dump them and turn to someone else in an effort to find an "easier" relationship. So unless you are single for the purpose of taking on greater responsibility for Christ, being single can become little more than a cloak for selfishness.

It may be that the Protestant churches found this same dilemma, and it is why they chose to ignore scriptural teachings about celibacy altogether. They probably found that, on the whole, married people had greater skills in the area of social responsibilities.

Referring to married leaders, Paul warned that their ability to lead in the church should be assessed on their ability to lead in their families. Too often that injunction has also been overlooked in Protestant circles, because of the desperate shortage of people who are truly, unselfishly, and responsibly committed to the cause of Christ. Nevertheless, the Bible standard is for us to examine the evidence in both singles and married couples, to determine whether people have shown the qualities which Jesus is looking for in his followers. Married couples must develop a single-mindedness, and singles must develop the caring skills that marriage partners show toward one another.

The thought I have been trying to express in this article is a very simple one, i.e. Ask yourself what your true motives are in staying single. God is looking for people who are "single-minded", but he is also looking for people who will use that single-mindedness unselfishly and lovingly. Please, let us work together on developing both characteristics (i.e. single-mindedness and unselfishness) in our individual lives and in our community as a whole.

(See also The Cult of Selfishness.)

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