Dating and Marriage Part 2: The Gift of Singleness

There are only two states in which a Christian can be, either single and celibate or married.  Those are the only two in which a Christian is allowed to live and be without sin.  The idea of cohabitation and casual sex is increasingly becoming a popular option in our culture and unfortunately even among Christians.  The Bible makes it clear that there are only two options, to be single or to be married.  Trying to have the benefits of married life with the lack of commitment that comes with singleness is a sinful immoral idea and not permissible for the one purchased and saved by the blood of Jesus.  So lets briefly explore in detail the first of these two lifestyles that the Bible permits, singleness.

The Gift of Singleness

So when we approach the idea of dating, the motivation for many people is to simply not be single.  In fact, in our world being single seems makes you feel as if something is wrong with you.  There is so much pressure from Hollywood and culture to be in a relationship with someone that the end goal of dating is to just not be alone.  As a result, many Christians begin to think of singleness as a reflection of their own defunctness.  Many think, "Is there something wrong with me? Why is God cursing me with singleness?".  Yes, many think of singleness as a curse, but according to the Bible singleness is a great gift.

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul actually recommends the single life to the church.  Paul, a single guys himself, saw the incredible benefits of being single.  Paul says in verse 6, "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  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."  Paul recommends and even encourages the single life style to Christians but never commands it.  Indeed for the great majority of us, marriage is the option God has allotted for us.  Many of us as Paul puts it in verse 8, "cannot exercise self-control" in our sexuality and he tells us that it is better "to marry than to burn with passion".  For those who have been given the incredible gift of abstaining from sexuality, God has given them the gift of singleness.

Singleness does have its advantages to married life.  Paul says that those who are married "will have worldly troubles" (v 28) while the single person is able to able to be "anxious about the things of the Lord" (v 32).  The great thing about being single is that you are free to live every moment for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  As a husband I have responsibilities at home to which I need to be concerned.  I have to make sure I provide for my wife, take care of her, and disciple her.  I can't just pack my bags and leave for Africa tomorrow morning to preach the Gospel, I have a family that I am responsible for.  In some ways I am slightly restricted in my married life.  Now I love being married and clearly this is the route God had in store for me, but don't disregard the gift of your own singleness.  Those who are single are not restrained and are able to "secure your undivided devotion to the Lord" (v 35)

For a few, you will be given the gift and privilege of living life as a single celibate person for the glory of God for your entire life just like the apostle Paul. For the majority of us we will enter into the gift of marriage.  No one is better than the other, just the lot God has gifted us with (6b).  For those of you who are single, please do not despise your singleness.  It is a precious gift of the Lord.  Even you teenagers and 20 somethings who plan on getting married one day, don't waste your single years mopping around waiting for God to bring you your spouse, but use your singleness to be able to have undivided devotion to your God and King!  Singleness, even temporary singleness, is a precious gift, use if for the glory of God and for your good to make much of Jesus!

Sinful Singleness

Now as I've discussed this issue with a variety of Christians, I've seen some who have no desire for marriage because of sinful motivation.  Their reasoning goes like this, "I don't want to get married because I want to do what I want to do.  If I get married I can't stay up late and play Xbox all night" or whatever other boyish thing they'd like to do.  Even girls tend to think this way as I've noticed that many girls don't want marriage simply because they distrust and do not like men, often times for good reason because of abuse or horrible divorces.  The irony is that many of these individuals are out there casually dating regularly, but have no interest in marriage.  I suggest to you that this is a sinful motivation for singleness and a misunderstanding on what the Bible teaches about singleness.

As you read 1 Corinthians 7 you see that the reason Paul recommends singleness is not for selfish purposes but for the advancement of the Gospel.  The reason God gifts people in singleness isn't so that you can avoid responsibility and live like a child for the rest of your life, but rather so that you can make much of Jesus.  If you decide to live your life unmarried and single, check your heart and make sure you are doing this for the glory of God and not for your own selfish ego.  In the free time you have as a single person, use that time to provide undivided attention to the Lord, not for your personal recreation and entertainment.  As always, check your motivation in every decision you make.

Singleness is an incredible gift of the Lord.  We need to redeem singleness from being thought of as weird, bizarre, or uncanny in the life of our Churches.  We need to think of those gifted with singleness as praise worthy, not the subject of gossip. However for the majority of us, singleness is a temporary span in our life and the majority of Christ followers will one day enter into marriage.  In the next post, we will look at and observe God's gift of marriage.

The Foolishness of the Gospel

The Gospel, the good news of what Christ has accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, is the hope of the world.  Just like Paul, I can confidently say that I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.  Although the Gospel is the power of God and the hope for the world, the world doesn't understand it.  According to the wisdom of the world, the Gospel is utter foolishness. In 1 Corinthians 1:26ff, Paul tells us that God brought about salvation to the world in a way that seemed foolish to the world in order to shame those who claim to be wise. If we think according to the wisdom of the world, the Gospel really does seem so foolish. The Jewish people in Jesus' day were eagerly awaiting the coming of the promised Messiah.  They expected the Messiah to be a powerful King and a mighty warrior with military skill greater than David and riches greater than Solomon.  This Messiah was supposed to be the great warrior to lead a rebellion against the pagan and oppressive Roman Government. The Messiah was to be born in a palace, not a stable.  He was to be rich and wealthy, not homeless and poor.  He was to hang out with successful people, not with the sinners and tax collectors.  He was to ride into Jerusalem victoriously on a horse, not in peace on a donkey.  He was to wear a gold crown fit for a king, not a crown of thistles and thorns.  He was to rule and reign in power on his throne, not hang in defeat on a tree.

The ministry of Jesus was foolishness in the eyes of the world. Why wouldn't anyone want a suffering servant for a Messiah? God chose to do what was foolish in the eyes of the world to reveal the wisdom of God.  God brought victory over sin and death by letting Jesus be defeated and killed on the cross.  Life has come through death.  Success has come through failure. Victory has come through defeat. The cross was utter foolishness in every way in the eyes of the world.  Yet on the third day, he rose from the grave affirming the wisdom of God!

God brought salvation in this way to humble the proud, so that no one would be able to boast and say "I've figured it all out!".  Jesus was the Messiah no one expected. For those of us who are believers in Jesus and born of the Spirit, we see the wisdom of the Gospel. Those who are not in Christ think the Gospel is foolish. Now before you Christians start getting cocky and claiming that you are wiser than everyone else, you are missing Paul's point. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that the only reason anyone is able to see the wisdom of God in the Gospel is because of a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  The wisdom of the Gospel can only be discerned through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is by God's grace alone that he has revealed to you the beauty of Jesus. You didn't figure it out; God revealed it to you. Therefore, you have no room for boasting, but only drastic humility.

In the eyes of the world, the Gospel of Jesus is foolishness, but to those of us who have been born of the Spirit we see and know the wisdom of God in the foolishness of the Gospel. Therefore, in response let us seek to proclaim this good news to everyone and pray that God would reveal to our lost friends, neighbors, and co-workers the wisdom of the Gospel. As we tell them the good news, let us remember that it is a work of the Spirit, not our own wisdom or cunning who will bring our friends to Christ. Pray diligently and preach fervently.

Light and Momentary.... What are You Thinking Paul?!?

This past Sunday night I did a lecture at church concerning the issue of evil, pain, and suffering in the world. The fact that these things exist in our world, is one of the main arguments against the existence of God, especially a good loving God that we as Christians claim to follow. During my study on this topic, primarily on what the Christian is supposed to do when suffering occurs in the life of the individual, 2 Corinthians 4 came to my attention. Particularly the last few verses of the chapter.

"Therefore we do not lost heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but on what is unseen is eternal."

-2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This passage of scripture blew me away. In order to understand how bizarre and unbelievable what the apostle Paul is saying here, you have to understand the situation and culture in which he was writing too. In the early church, persecution was a normal thing. To pronounce you were a Christian meant physical abuse, and potentially death. Paul knew the church of Corinth was going under persecution, because he was under it himself, but Paul who saw things from such a Kingdom perspective, realizes that whatever troubles he faces in his ministry, or suffering he incurs, they are "light and momentary". Paul states that even if your life is at risk, even if you lose it, it is insignificant compared to eternity.

So many times we limit ourselves to our own momentary perspective. We fail to see the big picture. Everyone has their cross to bear, everyone will encounter suffering. In fact Jesus promises this in John 16:33 when he said "In this world you will have trouble." Suffering is an inevitable part of being a follower of Christ. In fact if you have never suffered, then there might be a problem. However when we look at things from God's perspective, then we realize how trivial these present pains are, because we are gaining an "eternal glory that far outweighs them all." So if you are suffering for the cause of Christ, please do not lose heart. Fix your eyes on the unseen, the eternal, and as Jesus said even though we face trouble in this world we should be encouraged for He has "overcome the world."(John 16:33)