Because you don’t have to…
Being single is a freedom given you in Jesus Christ, but many of my single friends often misunderstand just how to live in this freedom. Many singles can’t understand why they continue to feel such tension in their singleness after reading books, articles, and receiving much counsel in defense of singleness. Singles need to understand why they feel so much tension even though they are living well within the bounds of obedience.
Three components causing the deep tension you often feel
1- Scriptural misunderstandings
As Christians, our obedience is rooted in the truth of God’s word. There’s no shortage of scriptural defenses for singleness, most often ending up paper thin and leading to conclusions that haven’t been entirely thought through. This leaves us with unresolved tension. The two primary explanations given to singles leading to this tension have to do with Jesus and Paul.
The Idea that Jesus was Single
Jesus was God in the flesh, and this God had a wife, Israel (Ez. 16:32). This God wrapped Himself in flesh and came to His wife Israel. They not only rejected their husband, they killed Him. Being that there is only one way out of a marriage covenant, His wife Israel put Him on a cross. This gives way to the New Covenant in which He is “wed”, not exclusively to Israel, but to all the nations including Israel. He gives His people His spirit to ensure they spread His glory all over His world in faithfulness unlike Israel (see Hosea). Playing out the “Jesus was single” justification for singleness reveals missing links in our Biblical understandings about His love for us, intimate work in us, to ensure His work all around us. To say Jesus was single is either to say God was single, which He clearly wasn’t, or Jesus was not the married God of the Old Testament, which we know He was.
The idea that Paul supported the narrative of singleness
One of the most misused scriptures to justify an elongated narrative for singleness is 1 Corinthians 7. We see Paul wishing everyone were like him, having the “gift” of singleness. We see singleness spoken of as a gift without seeing the setting around the culture or certain identifying markers within the text. Things like; 1-Because of the present (or impending) distress (1 Cor. 7:26), 2- This is what I meant brothers, the appointed time has grown short (1 Cor. 7:29), 3- For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31). Paul caps all he has been saying on marital issues in chapter 7 within the context of “This present distress.” Singleness was a “gift” so the 1st century Christian could function more nimbly in the midst of coming persecution and the mission of God within this predetermined time table. Thinking that Paul means to refer to singleness as a ‘gifted’ better way than marriage is completely outside the bounds of his culture, the context of 1 Corinthians 7 and what Jesus has already said about children regarding the coming distress. On His way to the cross Jesus looks at the weeping women and tells them not to cry for Him (Luke 23:28). He goes on to say that they should cry for themselves because the day is coming when they will wish and will be better off not having children. Why? Because Rome, like Babylon, is coming to destroy Jerusalem and eventually will set out to destroy Christianity. Is Jesus saying the better way is childlessness? Of course not, and there is rarely a theologian on Earth that would support such an unnatural reading of the text. Paul and Jesus are both culturally and contextually making observations of life within the context of coming destructive atrocities. When your 1st century captors come it will be best if you are single and without children. What’s worse with this scriptural argument for the “gift” of contemporary singleness is that it can play right into the hands of the “Asexual” argument in that it creates a change, addition or “better way” to the original idea for humanity and the creation of the family. Jesus himself, when asked about marriage, refers back to its creation and institution for humanity. A time when, by God’s own admission and confirmation, everything was perfect in form and function (Gen. 1:31).
Access a more in-depth argument for 1 Corinthian 7 (Here)
Access a more in-depth argument for Children and Marriage (Here)
2- Society at large
Most of the world is married and moving toward marriage (global stats). Most of the world is not a courtship culture like the West either. Most cultures of the world highly value marriage to the point of their being shamed if you’re not married. In Hmong cultures you aren’t really seen as an adult until you are married. In some African cultures it is seen as a curse if you are older and unmarried. Singleness as a descriptor is only understood as being different than the overarching human narrative of being married. Single people have single friends and a few married friends. Married people have married friends and a few single friends. This is just one aspect of how humans gather. Society is pressuring you to marry or justify your singleness, and as Christians, we run right toward the two misunderstandings above to make sense of our singleness to those around us. If most of the world wore shoes on their hands, in a world primarily accommodating for people with shoes on their hands, people with shoes on their feet would spend a lot of time adjusting to this world and justifying their non-conformity.
3- Desire to please people rather than God
For very good reasons, we’re all desperately trying to do what’s right in a situation that seems to cause the deepest of tensions. Pastors, theologians, and thinkers are even trying to do the same for the singles among us. We have this idea that it should be okay to be single as we seem to scramble to piece together paper thin arguments, but we also know that God’s narrative of all creation was a husband and wife that had children and were told to go work. This is where we confront very deep tension. We are inclined to please the people around us, which isn’t a bad thing so much as we understand God is to be pleased first and foremost. Everything we do is for God’s pleasure and glory (Prov. 29:25, Col. 3:23, Acts 5:29).
A few more verses on pleasing God rather than people (Here).
Singleness must be a derivative of Christian liberty, and we must learn to live and support our brothers and sisters within this liberty…
BY JOSHUA WHETSTINE – NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD CITY MISSIONARY FOR MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL.