Lust, Maturity and the Single Man
I grew up in the church, but I didn’t really begin to follow Christ seriously until the end of my first semester at the University of Iowa in 1988. By then, I’d lived through a couple of prodigal years. Suffice it to say that by the time I started meeting regularly with a Navigator staff person named Steve to read Scripture and to grow as a disciple, I had some baggage.
Not surprisingly, one area Steve and I focused on together had to do with lust and sexual temptation. In retrospect, I so appreciate the way he helped me begin to grasp several critical, big-picture theological truths related to my sexuality, such as appropriating God’s grace and forgiveness, relinquishing shame, and understanding more deeply my core identity in Christ. At the same time, he also modeled practical spiritual disciplines that reinforced my ability to resist in moments I was tempted to indulge a lustful thought. Those practices included the importance of prayer and time spent in God’s Word regularly, memorizing Scripture and confessing sin when I made wrong choices.
I couldn’t help but recall Steve’s influence in my life while reading through Daniel Weiss’ article, “Sexy Single Men.” Just as my spiritual mentor did during my college years, Weiss offers wise, theologically sound and practical counsel when it comes to an area in which many, if not most, single men struggle. Indeed, learning to submit our sexual identity — which encompasses our thoughts, our choices, the ways we see women, the ways we think about them, and the decisions we make with regard to sexual temptations of all kinds — to Christ is one of the major areas of discipleship for any man who chooses to follow Him.
Early in his article, Weiss acknowledges how trying to live a chaste life is an increasingly countercultural pursuit these days, especially for single men, and one that involves a kind of isolation. He writes,
Given that society has organized itself against a life of sexual purity and mature masculinity, a man who desires marriage and to carefully steward his sexuality may, at times, feel abnormal. For a young man battling temptation and seeing others indulge their lusts seemingly without harm and with much apparent enjoyment, the pressure to conform is tremendous. Who can stand alone in the midst of all this sexual madness?
The prophet Elijah thought he was the last of the faithful, but God revealed to him 7,000 who had never bowed to gods of the day. Those pursuing sexual purity may feel alone, but there are great numbers of godly young men earnestly seeking God’s plan for sexuality. You need to know that you are not alone, but you are a cultural anomaly. Dedication to sexual purity makes you stand out and invites the scorn and ridicule of the world.
Weiss doesn’t stop there, but he goes on to talk concretely about the role serving others can play in taming lust. I like his counsel when it comes to redirecting sexual energies toward purposeful service as we seek to submit ourselves to God:
Your goal as a single and sexual Christian man is to recognize the tremendous gifts of your sexuality — that it reveals the self-giving nature of God, creates a means of incredible intimacy with your spouse, and has the capacity and calling to bring forth new life — and to channel its extraordinary energy and creativity into productive, life-giving pursuits.
Service to others is where men come fully alive. We were made to pour ourselves out for others. Too often we confine our sexuality to our genitalia and miss its fuller expression that is integrated into our entire masculine identity. Sex is far more about who we are than what we do with our bodies. In the absence of the spousal union, young men can dedicate their excess sexual energy to godly pursuits and serving others. This isn’t just homey advice. When we become who we were made to be, our sexuality makes more sense and more easily aligns with our God-given identity. Hands-on mission work, such as disaster relief, community clean-ups and playing with orphans overseas will make the heart of a man sing.
Weiss understands how challenging it can be to pursue purity as a single man in the 21st century. But he also rightly recognizes the opportunity for growth and contribution that singleness presents — messy and difficult though it may be at times — to trust God and to serve His kingdom purposes with all our heart, soul, mind, strength … and body.
About the Author
Adam R. Holz has served as an editor and writer for Plugged In for 15 years. He also spent a decade working for The Navigators, mostly as associate editor for Discipleship Journal. Adam is the author of the NavPress Bible Study “Beating Busyness.” Adam and his wife, Jennifer, have three children and enjoy watching movies, playing board games and playing music together.