Celibacy and the Revolutionary Life in Jesus
As our country is being torn apart by sexual abuse and harassment scandals, it has caused me to reflect upon my own spiritual journey. Although I first came to know Jesus as a young seven year old child from my “PoPo” (grandmother on my Chinese side), I remained a “baby” Christian for the next 17 years. My relationship with God was real, especially in rocky times with my family, but, for reasons having much to do with my own choices, I did not grow into spiritual maturity. That all changed at the end of my first year in law school at Berkeley.
One month before my last set of final exams for that year, I went through a difficult relationship break up which landed me flat on my back. As I lay there—literally and figuratively—Jesus took my hand, cared for me, and transformed my life. I was “born again” and became, and am still becoming, a radically different person.
As a young 24 year old, I developed a voracious appetite for the Bible. I spent many days cloistered in my apartment in Albany reading the Scriptures, with Jesus as my closest friend. I came across Romans 12: 1-2 for the first time:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I was also particularly struck, and convicted by, Luke 9: 23-25:
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
I realized that I wanted to follow Jesus DAILY, and that to do so meant that I needed to offer my body as a living sacrifice to God and to allow myself to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I could no longer live for the things I used to live for—a desire to be rich and powerful, to drive a Ferrari and live in a big house on the hill. I wanted to live for Jesus.
It wasn’t too long before I came to understand that living for Jesus meant that I needed to offer Him my sexuality. In college I had indulged in some of the party scene and the other things that come along with that. I had not valued the sacredness of women and their bodies, nor had I treated my own with the sacredness with which God intended. I remember having a deep time of prayer with God about all of my past behavior. I asked for His forgiveness and His cleansing. As I prayed to God, I felt the powerful, loving touch of the Holy Spirit surge up my spine in a way that I had never felt before. At that moment, for the first time, I truly surrendered my sexuality to God. I offered him my body as a living sacrifice.
And I committed myself to celibacy until God would grace me with a loving spouse.
The next year was extremely difficult. God had to renew my mind, transform me from the inside out, and heal my body from the fallenness of my sexuality outside of Christ. Through fellowship, Scriptural internalization and memorization, healthy relationships with members of the opposite sex, and quite simply—a life of healthy discipleship with Jesus—I could feel the healing of my body, my sexuality, and my relationship with women. Though in some ways it was an external process of developing self control, in many more important ways it was an internal process of Christ transforming me from the inside out so that my sexuality was healed and restored. It wasn’t an instantaneous “fix” but a process of restoration that took many years, and is still in process.
By the grace of God, I was celibate for 10 years until marriage to my incredible wife, Erica in 2006.
In hindsight, I needed those 10 years to become transformed more and more into the image of Christ so that I would be ready for Erica. Although the biggest regret of my life was that I did not meet and marry my wife sooner, I wouldn’t have wanted her to meet me 10 years earlier. I needed those 10 years to be healed and transformed by Christ both in my sexuality and in every other area of my life. My fallen sexuality was just one key part of my holistic transformation. And, to be sure, my sexuality, and every other area of my life are still being healed and have a long way to go. It is a life long process of discipleship and transformation by Jesus.
To clarify, I believe that, from a biblical standpoint, ALL OF OUR SEXUALITIES are broken outside of Christ—heterosexual or otherwise. We all need Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration. Just look at all the sexual scandals which dominate our media and national headlines. I don’t think I need to say much more than that.
As I further reflect, I strongly believe that the celibacy of my bachelor days is still paying dividends. Celibacy transformed me at a core spiritual, emotional, and physical level which went far beyond my sexuality, and which is hard to put into words.
I pray that this reflection might offer hope to someone who is struggling with celibacy. I know the road is hard, but it is worth it. May the love of Jesus overflow upon you and fill you with deep peace and an overwhelming sense of His healing presence.
Much love in Christ,