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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Embracing Biblical Singleness - Pt. I

What is singleness? How does one define being single?
I guess it depends on who is being single; I would appeal to Webster but in our postmodern, relativistic age, he simply does not matter. Most people would define singleness as not being in a relationship; as long as you are dating someone you are single. You could be doing all sorts of sexual acts and could even be sleeping around and still be considered single.

But what about for Christians; or at least Christians that care about purity in relationships? What is the definition for us?

Well, if you ask some it would that singleness involves not going all the way. I have known too many Christian couples (still considering themselves to be single) who were all over each other even before they declared themselves to be dating. For them, singleness is in the turning of a Facebook status rather than any sort of relational commitment. Others, would define singleness as being without a boyfriend or girlfriend; I am single so long as I do not have someone who puts lovey-dovey things about me up on Facebook (which btw, pet peeve of mine).

But I am inclined to follow the Scriptures about singleness…what better example than Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in chapter 7:

1Co 7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman."
1Co 7:2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
1Co 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.
1Co 7:7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
1Co 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.
1Co 7:9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Just from reading these verses I am struck by the following: that it is good not have sex, that if you should only do so because of sexual immorality and/or in the confines of marriage, and that each person is called to one way of life or the other and that they are BOTH good.

But here is the question: what is the default state of the Christian? Is it marriage or singleness? If you listen to a lot of the American church the answer is almost definitively marriage; if you are not married you are kind of marginalized and pitied. I cannot tell you how many times that, even though well meaning, people I go to church with have wounded me by lamenting how deprived I was because I did not have a girlfriend. It so affected me that when I got to college I began this relentless pursuit of anyone and everyone because I did not want to continue to feel the shame of not being engaged. I don’t think that the church means to do it, I just think that the way our Christian/Church culture is designed is so family-centric that we just don’t have any room for those God has called to either extended or even permanent singleness, or in the very least we are uncomfortable and not sure what to do. Now, some churches are starting to realize this and we are making big gains, but singles still are viewed with almost disdain by many local churches.

I would argue though that the default is singleness and the only reason that you should rush to marriage is if you cannot control yourself, which is not a get-out-of-lust free card but rather a frank admission that you don’t trust God enough to control those inclinations in your life. I believe that many more are called to eventual marriage than singleness, don’t get me wrong, but I believe most rushed marriages In Christendom are because men/women cannot harness their sexual desires into something useful for the kingdom and that glorifies God. It is to your shame then, that you rush into marriage unprepared and only desiring to fulfill your lusts rather than to be perfected in holiness and purity in Christ Jesus.
This is not to lambast you; this is to be real with you. Paul’s exception was not an escape hatch from controlling one’s lust; it was a last resort for quitters. Again, marriage is good and many of us (maybe even myself) will get married; but let us get married because God has moved that way not because we cannot keep our pants zipped.

Besides, lust and sexual immorality is not just a “single” issue; married couples deal with these same problems and the consequences become dire. If you are addicted to pornography, if you are addicted to the “second look”, if all you think about when you are with a brother or sister in Christ is their physical physique; then you need to put that aside before you get married. If not, it will come back to bite you and your wife and maybe ever your children. Being married is not an assurance that you will not have to deal with and fight sexual immorality; in fact, it almost assures that you will.

So what is biblical singleness? When one embraces the attitude of this passage:

1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
1Th 4:4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,
1Th 4:5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
1Th 4:6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.
1Th 4:7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
1Th 4:8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

All of this falls under the umbrella of “sanctification” which means to be given holiness or to be made holy. It is something we receive from God in Christ and we should be adamantly pursuing it. What are the things that will lead us to be sanctified and thus biblically single?

We will explore this next time.

To Be Continued…Next Time: Embracing Biblical Singleness Pt. II



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