‘... to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 7:35)
JESUS FELLOWSHIP/ MODERN JESUS ARMY
FROM THE EDITOR …
FEB 2010 NO.30
At times it seems that there is something totally unreasonable and unexpected about God’s call. He knows the needs of His body, the church, and the adjustment that is some times required to fulfil its ministry. He balances His gifts and ministries so there is no discord and seeks to create a harmonious people. But He does need people to respond to this call. In many churches there is an absence of those who have decided to receive the celibate gift and live undivided for Jesus and the church. God is challenging a new generation to take up the gift of celibacy for the sake of the church as it seeks to push ahead. This radical gift, that Jesus modelled and Paul highly valued, is needed more than ever. In every revolutionary Jesus movement there will be a group of undivided men and women who choose to live the way of celibacy in response to the yearnings of God’s heart. May a new group of young radicals grasp this precious gift again and form a new cutting edge in the church of Jesus!
P A T H F I N D E R S
PAST AND PRESENT HEROES AND HEROINES OF CELIBACY
THE BEGUINES 13th CENTURY THE BEGUINE movement was a remarkable as they felt fit. Whilst the Beguines lived in their grassroots movement emerging in 13th century communities they were committed to celibacy northern Europe amongst single or widowed although, if they left, they were able to marry women (particularly in Holland, Belgium and unless they had made permanent vows of Germany) with celibacy at its core. celibacy (which some did). Widows too, could In the 13th century the established religious join the communities. orders of northern Europe had very limited Beguines worked out their love for Jesus both openings for women who longed to work out out of the world and in the world as they worked their love for Jesus in a life of prayer, simplicity, among the poor and sick, often in hospitals and community living, celibacy and service to the schools. Some Beguines thought of themselves as poor. The 13th century was also a time of 'mothers of the poor.' Fortunately, some of their increasing urbanization and accompanying devotional writings have survived and, unusually materialism. The Beguine movement presented for the time, are written in the vernacular. These itself as a door of opportunity for many single are no works of systematic theology but rather an women as well as being a expression of devotion to Jesus Women who longed born out of the daily experience reaction to the increasing materialism of the age. to work out their love of service to others - and often Unlike most religious for Jesus in a life of pain. Central to their thought is movements there was no one God is not just to be known about prayer, simplicity, founder of the Beguine but to be experienced firsthand community living, movement. Beguines did not - and above all, to be loved. follow an established rule and celibacy and service The male counterparts of were not a recognised religious the Beguines, originating a little to the poor order (and so Beguine practice later, were called varied from place to place.) The first Beguines the Beghards. Fewer in number than the were mainly from wealthy families. Some stayed Beguines, they too lived and worked amongst living with their families, others lived in small or the poor, sharing a community lifestyle and a large groups and, as the movement progressed, common purse. there was a tendency to live in large communities In the mid 13th century the Church began called Beguinages â€“ particularly in Belgium where to view the Beguines with misgivings. In 1310, there would be as many as 300 living in one Beguine Marguerite Porete was burned at the Beguinage! At the movement's peak, there were stake. Sadly, in 1312 the Beguine movement was many hundreds of Beguines in Europe. banned as heretical. Some Beguines were forced When Beguines chose to live together, to marry whilst others joined traditional orders. they often settled near an existing church or In countries where there was a sympathetic monastery for support. However, they had government, they continued to survive. The greater freedom than their counterparts, the condemnation led to rapid decline, although the enclosed nuns, to both serve the poor in the movement has continued in Belgium in a small district and move out of their communal lifestyle way to the present day. Information for this article was gained from 'Brides in the Desert': Saskia Murk-Jansen
The gift of suffering love
Akke Walsma lives in a Jesus Fellowship community house called Narrow Way in Leicester. She speaks of the pain and joy she has found in her celibate calling. The choice of living as a celibate was unexpected for Akke, after a powerful conversion and an encounter with a radical Christian community. But the gift has brought her great opportunities to reach others with the love of Jesus. Akke, 56, was brought up on a farm in rural Holland, the eighth of a family of ten children. She describes her family upbringing as, “poor and wholesome with god-fearing parents.” Akke could not imagine life without God. As a teenager, this conviction led to a deeper search and Akke went to university to study Psychology with one overwhelming quest: ‘I want to find the truth and reach out to help people with that truth.’ It did not take Akke long to realise Psychology did not provide the answers to her question and, after attending a Christian meeting, Akke, now 19, was powerfully converted. She explained, “I had an awareness, spiritually, that Jesus was
standing in the room and it was as if He said to me, ‘I’ll be your friend.’ I asked God’s forgiveness for my pride and prayed that Jesus would come into my life. I changed completely when I opened my heart to Jesus. I had a vision of the new society in Jesus where God’s rule could be seen amongst a people and this would be the foundation of the rest of my life.” Akke, desiring to find God’s plan for her life, came to England to study at the Wycliffe Centre and visited the Jesus Fellowship. Here she observed Christians living in community and felt that she could work out this vision and felt God’s call to stay. When she was 29, Akke found out that someone in the community wanted to marry her. She relates that, “After praying and fasting, I heard God say, ‘I can use you more if you stay single.’” Akke’s choice was clear: “I wanted to lay up treasure in heaven, I wanted to glorify God, I wanted to honour Him.” Life as a celibate was often challenging for Akke. Living at New Creation Farm, a community house whose main ministry lay with young men, meant there was much work to do. Akke’s devotion to Jesus and His kingdom was worked out in practical serving. She also had a longing to tell people about Jesus and often went out on the streets at night as one of a team of evangelists. Akke said, “For me, the gospel is, ’Jesus loves humanity and He so wants a
relationship with us!’” Today Akke lives in Leicester where she works as an adult education teacher. Two days a week she works with Muslim women. “Outwardly we have many similarities in terms of morality and modesty. Yet, they can’t understand why I’m single without children! They like me very much and, when I say I am a celibate, it is an instant inroad into a conversation about Jesus! It points to eternal things.” Speaking again of her desire to draw alongside those who have not found Jesus, she said, “As a celibate you have to work through natural loss and because of this you can comfort others. You can stand with people in their grief and offer a special kind of friendship as you too have been through grief. In the loneliness you sometimes find as a celibate you begin to know yourself, find an identity in God and are able to associate with others in their pain. Celibacy is so relevant today because of the broken relationships that are seen all around us. “With celibacy, as with godly marriage, you have to take the gift of suffering in order to know Jesus. I have learned and am still learning to push through difficult times with love. I have had to decide to love, to love, to love and have found that what brings freedom is the desire to love, to forgive and to be forgiven and this leads to a freshness and creativity in the spirit. God is amazing!"
F EEDBA CK
WORDS of inspiration Like any bridegroom, a true celibate has a giving heart. When he senses a need in himself to be loved, he must reach out in love to his people. He cannot passively sit back and wait for them to come to him. He must take responsibility for meeting his needs and he does so by giving himself... Celibacy is a valid, beautiful and important charism in the church for the sake of the church (people not institution). It can be understood only in terms of a love commitment to the body of Christ and not in terms of what has to be sacrificed in order to live it.
We are always pleased to hear from any who read ‘Undivided’ and will always try to answer any questions directed to the Editor. Address correspondence to: The Editor, Undivided, Jesus Fellowship Central Offices, Nether Heyford, Northants NN7 3LB or email: huw. email@example.com
'The Celibacy Myth': C.Gallagher and T.Vandenberg
The video, ‘Why? Why Not?’ Six men and women speak about what it means for them to have chosen to be celibate for God and the path that led them to make that decision.
AVAILABLE NOW! From Jesus People Shop, Nether Heyford, Northampton NN7 3LB, UK PUBLICATIONS Tel: 0845 166 8172 www.jesus.org.uk
Seven Silver Rings An updated and enlarged Seven Silver Rings has been published. This includes new chapters on the history and biblical background to Celibacy as well as answering some of those frequently asked questions about living single for Jesus. Comprehensive and challenging, it sets out to show how a radical lifestyle of undivided love for Jesus and His church is possible in the 21st century. This voluntary choice is far removed from the institutional forms of celibacy.
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