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Abstinence Vs. Celibacy, Is there a difference?

There was a time during my season of singleness, by the way, I’m still single, when God was calling me to be celibate.  In my mind, I wondered why He would ask me to be celibate when the truth was, I had not dated anyone in five years.  I wasn’t sure how much more celibate that I could be. Well, the Lord shared that I was abstinent and not celibate.  I asked, “What’s the difference?”  And He revealed that I abstained from entanglements because I was not involved in a relationship, but that would change the moment I found myself truly interested in someone.  Whereas, celibacy involves a vow to God to refrain from entanglements until marriage.  I wish that my response was godly, but it wasn’t.  I told the Lord, “oh no, I can’t do it.”  I did not believe that I was strong enough.  That’s when He dropped in my spirit that I was either going to be for Him or against Him, but that I could not be in the middle.  I thought of the scripture in Luke 11:23 that says, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” For me, Jesus was saying that either I was going to follow Him completely or not, but I could not be in neutral.  I could not proclaim that I was following Jesus and seeking to pursue His will for my life without completely submitting to His will for my life.

Did it mean that Jesus wouldn’t bless me if I decided not to be celibate? Of course not!  Jesus blesses whomever He pleases.  But I knew that there are more blessings on the side of obedience than disobedience.

But why was He asking this of me?  Why wasn’t my state of abstinence enough? Well, I believe that God was calling me higher and to go deeper in my Christian walk.  I believe He wanted me to be more disciplined in my thoughts, exercise self-control, trust Him more, obey faster, and avoid distractions that interfered with His planned purpose for my life.  Here’s what I’ve gained from remaining celibate:

  1. I’m more focused on what God wants for my life than what I want.
  2. I have more clarity on my purpose.
  3. My thoughts are more disciplined.
  4. My discernment is sharper.

Perhaps God is calling you to go higher, deeper in your Christian walk.  And whether you decide to travel down the path of abstinence or celibacy during your singleness, ask God what can you refrain from that will propel you towards His intended purpose for your life.