Looking at the life of Jesus and discovering what He taught His disciples on love and marriage.
What is Celibacy?
Celibate individuals are those who voluntarily abstain from marriage and sexual relations for religious reasons. This word and its definition primarily come from the words of Jesus to His disciples regarding if it is better for a man not to marry. Jesus gives a response to His disciples, giving them three types of Eunuchs.
“For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 19:12
The last part of the verse, “and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”, this is were the word celibate and its meaning come from. Others also look at the life of Paul and some of the verses he wrote to conclude that the Bible promotes celibacy and even lifelong singleness.
“But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 1 Corinthians 7:7-9
Notice how Paul never calls himself or even the other individuals single or celibate. Paul purposefully writes “unmarried” and “widows”. The Bible never promotes celibacy or lifelong singleness. Yes, we know that there will be points and times throughout life that an individual may be single and not having sex. But does the Bible teach or even exemplify that a person will stay like that? No, the Bible does not teach that. The life of Jesus doesn’t even show that. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible gives an over all picture of companionship.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
“There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23
Three Types of Eunuchs
When Jesus discussed the three different types of Eunuchs to His disciples, He was showing how these Eunuchs would not marry. That means the first class of Eunuchs which are “born that way”, Jesus was saying would not marry. Those who were “born that way” are what we now call intersex. Jesus was telling His disciples that intersex people would not marry. But Jesus was not speaking of marrying in the sense of companionship or ceremonial marriage, but rather, the becoming of “one flesh”, as He references in the previous verses when answering the question on divorce from the Pharisees. That’s why in the next class of Eunuchs, Jesus says, “there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men”. These men were castrated, less often, even having a penis removal. Again, Jesus gives another group of people that cannot marry. And again, Jesus shows that their sexual organ will not allow them to marry. Jesus never gives an impression that anything is wrong to where they can’t have intimate companionship and Love. So far, Jesus definition of a Eunuch is a person who does not have sexual intercourse, which is to become ‘one flesh’. The Bible doesn’t describe marriage as the ceremony. The Bible describes marriage as becoming ‘one’. We can see that in the beginning with Adam and Eve. God mad them ‘one flesh’, then the scripture goes on to say, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” Genesis 2:25. Marriage is being ‘one’. Jesus says, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh” Matthew 19:6. (learn more in Why Jesus WOULD Officiate a Same-sex Wedding)
The last group of Eunuchs that is taught by the church to be celibate individuals, is not what Jesus is saying at all. “And there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”. Now that we know Jesus was describing Eunuchs as people who do not engage in sexual intercourse, this last class of people Jesus also calls Eunuchs are those that made themselves that way. These individuals have the sexual organ to use it for its sexual intercourse but choose not to. These people are choosing not to marry, or rather not to become one flesh though they can. Why? Well, let’s look at the life of Jesus. Jesus belonged to this class of Eunuchs. It is not recorded that Jesus had any bodily abnormalities at birth nor that He was castrated. So, Jesus had the physical capability to marry but did not. So, why didn’t Jesus marry? Well, Jesus’ companion was not a woman.
“Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’” John 21:20-21
Jesus and His Beloved Disciple
Jesus had a companion whom He loved dearly, and His companion was a man. Jesus loved all people and all His disciples, but He only loved one person intimately. Some argue that Jesus was not in an intimate relationship with His beloved disciple because the Bible also talks about Jesus loving Lazarus in John 11:3. In the story of Lazarus, Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick”. The Greek word for love in this verse is Phileo. Whereas, the Greek word used for love each time it says, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is Agapao. Phileo is a brotherly love, friendly, platonic. Agapao is to love unconditionally, it is the highest of all loves. The Greek words Eros and Storge are not written in the Bible. Now, we also see Agapao is used when describing that Jesus “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” in John 11:5. Jesus loved all unconditionally, just as we all should. But the Bible is showing that He only loved one disciple intimately. Jesus shared the same love with His beloved disciple that a husband should share with his wife, Ephesians 5:25.
Humans are Intimate Beings
Jesus was in an intimate companionship with His beloved, which is believed to be John. But because Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh, we don’t like to put God in a relationship because He is God. Jesus is God, yes, but He was also human. Humans love intimate connection (on all levels) and actually need intimate connection. Kory Floyd Ph.D. from Psychology Today says, “Specifically, compared to people with less skin hunger, people who feel more affection-deprived: are less happy; more lonely; more likely to experience depression and stress; and, in general, in worse health. They have less social support and lower relationship satisfaction”. Companionship is needed to help us live a healthy and happy life. We were not designed to be alone; we can see that in Genesis 2.
Jesus Abstained from Sexual Intercourse
Jesus being in a relationship is not wrong or corrupt thinking, it’s a normal human need. It is not wrong to observe that Jesus had an intimate relationship with a man and conclude that they were affectionate with each other. Love is pure, it involves touch and overly long embraces. It involves emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy. There is nothing in the Bible that would prohibit Jesus from having a loving affectionate relationship with a man. Because Jesus was in the last class of Eunuchs, Jesus had to obey the law of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Which means, Jesus made Himself a Eunuch by not engaging in any type of sexual intercourse. Though He had the ability, His companion was not a woman and the law prohibited Him from having sexual intercourse with a man as with a woman. (Learn more in Same-sex Couples aren’t having Sex According to the Bible)
Eunuch For God's Kingdom
Jesus made Himself a Eunuch “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”. In previous verses when Jesus was answering questions from the Pharisees about divorce, He says to them, “what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” Matthew 19:6. Husbands and wives that are in relationship with God are brought together by God. God spiritually unites them as ‘one’ because we have a spiritual body that is either male or female (read The Spiritual Union of Marriage). God does the same thing for Eunuchs that are in relationship with Him, “for there is no partiality with God” Romans 2:11. Though the three class of Eunuchs are unable to marry, or in other words, become ‘one flesh’, they are still able to and have the full capacity to love and receive love intimately with another individual. To do life with each other in companionship like a husband and wife have one another. But how these three class of Eunuchs share their sexual intimacy is their private personal information that needs only to be known by the two individuals in that relationship.
(From what I observe, Eunuchs are here to help remind us that we are spiritual beings. Our physical body is temporary. There won't be marriage in the resurrection Matthew 22:30)
God never once gives the impression, now or in the Bible, that our sexual anatomy is disgraceful to Him or that we need to abstain from sexual pleasure. His Word never says that sexual pleasure is only for married couples. Sexual intercourse is only for marriage, that's what the Bible teaches. God gives laws on sexual intercourse for our protection and health. God designed our sexual anatomy. He knows the natural “things” that happens with our sexual organs as we develop and mature with age. The Bible doesn’t teach to ignore our intimate needs, but it does show and teach to be intimate with our given person that He will guide us to.
Celibacy and singleness for life are not what the Bible teaches or asks of anyone. But if one would like to be or remain single or celibate for the rest of their life that is their choice, but it is not a requirement of God.