One third of my readers (ha ha) has taken to commenting in more depth with more points than I feel comfortable replying to without the ability to take them point by point.
Follow along if you so desire!
From my post Breaking Single Silence:
I can appreciate your defense of singleness, but your reaction to that segment seems awfully harsh. Especially the claim of family-worship. I have no doubt that it exists in America, but from my meager 21 years of life I’ve seen more people shitting on marriage and family than putting too much stock in them.
From outside the church, yeah, family is under constant attack. Inside the church… not so much. Context, context, context. This article is in response to a Christian podcast to Christians about singleness in the Christian church. Therefore, unless explicitly stated otherwise, I was talking about marriage’s view in the church.
And yeah, I’m going to start off harsh when the starting position is someone who fled singleness talking about singleness like they’re an advocate. I would place as much stock in a prison escapee talking about imprisonment as a perk. That is to say: None. Someone who found the single life too painful to endure wasn’t called to it, was just pre-married, and should kindly shut the hell up and stop talking for those of us who are actually and deliberately celibate.
Regarding age: There’s no response that will work quickly apart from time and discernment. But are you really going to spend ten years tracking in your head how the family is spoken of in church compared to singleness?
Specifically, one of the great spiritual influences of my adult life looked me right in the eyes and said, “The family IS Christianity.”
Um… Hell no. At that point the Family IS Idolatry.
Further, just because a person decides to get married doesn’t mean they actually value it. If a healthy couple marries solely for the sex and social/legal/whatever benefits, but intentionally thwarts the creation of their children, that ain’t a sign of a family-worshipping America.
Ain’t [sic] that the truth. But to say that someone doing X is not robbing a bank does not mean that a different person does not rob banks.
And by your own descriptions, singleness, as related to eunuchs, is something suited only for persons fit for the task, a dedicated servanthood entrusted to precious tasks to serve in critical ways. As a “better” station, you’d expect far more people to be married than single, like how we don’t deem everyone fit for military service or the pastoral office.
We agree on that point. I expect far more people to marry than to be single. And statistically two-thirds of people marry, and one-third remains single.
“Also, if Marriage and The Family are the core of civilization and the beating heart of Christianity… why do neither of them continue in heaven?”
I get your point, but earthly civilization is just a little different from the new civilization being prepared… notably, death. “Marriage and Family” are the “core” of mathematics and biology implicit in the statement “be fruitful and multiply.” I’m all for guarding against family-worship, but somehow I don’t find a high value of family to fit that definition.
Earthly civilization is quite different from the heavenly one. According to the Lord’s Prayer and Paul’s epistles, which one are we to set as our standard, goal, and guide?
Be fruitful and multiply is in the same passage as it is not good for man to be alone. That context: People are still perfect, the world is not fallen, men and women are not yet sinful towards themselves or one another. In that context, I fully expect that was exactly and perfectly the best plan.
You may have noticed a little leftward hiccup involving a serpent and some fruit between now and then… to the point that the disciples exclaim that it’s better not to marry and Jesus agrees with them. As my pet Logic Monkey is fond of pointing out, suddenly we need only go to Proverbs to find a whole host of conditions that are better than a sinful marriage, a nagging wife, an adulterous woman… something has been lost in the fall and Plans Have Changed.
And maybe your whole article was exclusively about Christians and I completely took you out of context.
It was. You did. But you made a good point or two, and even the incorrect ones were worth examining. Thank you for engaging!
Now in my post Grief and Loss:
There is a shotgun blast of questions that come like a flurry of punches, and like such are best either avoided altogether or parried in sequence.
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
Surely the word of the LORD coming to us like the above is not how one determines his marital status, no?
Right… I am a mystic but not in the modern sense of the word, but in the sense of a much older pagan culture washed clean in Christ. That means I don’t seek special effects so much as I seek to acknowledge the supernatural as more real than the manifest world. So… Walkie-Talkie-Jesus appears to have changed communications styles around the same time the canon was codified. Quelle surprise!
You say that desire is not a sign of God’s plan. Well obviously. Yet how exactly would God call someone into marriage if he was unwilling?
Just to hazard a guess, he might devote a chapter and a half of the New Testament to explaining the mechanism to choose? Like… the start of Matthew 19 and a certain chapter I’ve already included from 1 Corinthians?
It’s pretty much the same way that he calls homosexuals to purity, calls thieves to useful work, calls gossips and slanderers to praise and edification, etc. Explicit commands in context, in the canon.
I mean, at least a couple people have to get married every once in a while, no?
Because the goal is for this world to last forever, full of people, yes? And technically, no. See Jesus’ statement re God, stones, and some kids for Abraham.
Is all human desire always sinful all the time? In one sense yes, but can a Christian’s new nature not have ANY godly desire?
So… a tautology then. To find your answer, I refer you to do a little research on Romans 7.
It’s a bit ironic because it sounds like you’re implying that since the man is in his thirties and still single, that is a *sign* from God that he’s been called to singleness. I’m failing to see the difference.
Let him who is able to receive singleness, let him receive it. Amen. Now can we move on and let those unable to receive it marry?
Yes, since he is single, he is called to singleness. For now. Perhaps for life. Refusal to contemplate this or refusal to accept this will just bring more grief. It’s sort of like how my church decides whether or not you’re called to be a pastor. Has a church asked you to be its pastor? No? Then you’re not called. As soon as a church extends the call, then you’re called. Just like marriage, there are a bunch of other steps in between, like applying for seminary, considering if a call is for you, etc.
Maybe he has to be single until Tuesday. Perhaps it will be the Tuesday after he turns fifty. His desire is not a promisary note from On High. The frustration of his desire is not a sign of God’s disfavor or failure.
There are other reasons why I think the man is called to singleness, but that is mostly because I do not want to see him treat a spouse the way I see him treat others, and I don’t believe in the mythological power of Holy Wedding Bed to suddenly make someone better, though it certainly gets treated that way. Get married and you will learn to forgive, learn to apologize, and learn to build lifelong bonds because you won’t give upon somoene.
In other words, marriage is the only thing that will change how you’re a selfish ass to others, because then your private parts will motivate you to change. Well, that’s still being a selfish ass, just selfishly changing your behavior to dip your wick.
My point is that simply pursuing marriage ain’t the same as feeling entitled to it. Paul says do not seek a wife? Ok fair enough, except… 100% of humans are born single, so some sort of “seeking” necessarily occurs for any marriage. It might be helpful to take Paul’s context to be those of a decent age. Perhaps that man in his thirties you know. And all this brings us to another problem in America: intentionally delaying marriage without being able to receive singleness. Now that’s an issue worth fighting against.
I would say, pursue Christ, and marry if it comes your way. Sure, a married person suddenly has an immediate relational and biological reward mechanism to teach him to apologize, forgive, reconcile, and persevere. But we are COMMANDED IN CHRIST to apologize, forgive, reconcile, and persevere because of what Christ has already done for us, completely apart from marriage. The current double-standard of what those words even mean inside and outside of marriage is my chief beef with the idolatry of the institution.
So: For a married person, forgiveness = reconciliation. For an unmarried person, you can forgive someone and have nothing to do with them ever again… ?!?! That circumstance exists nowhere in the New Testament. The only place it occurs in the Old Testament (David and Absolom) it creates rape, murder, attempted fratricide, treason, and civil war.
For a married person, the bonds of love are for life. But brothers (not biological) can be swapped in and out like trading cards, in complete contradiction of the ongoing memory and affection Paul calls God as his witness in his heart for his fellow Christians we haven’t seen in years. So instead of learning to love like Christ does (eternally, faithfully, mercifully, and graciously) and then transferring that learned skill to the glory and benefit of a future marriage we can wait because marriage is Christianity, and when we get married we’ll be better people. (Implicitly: the married are better people than the unmarried because of the lessons they learn in marriage. Perhaps, if my humble 40 years on earth hadn’t shown me that those lessons tend to stop at the welcome mat of the family home. Love your enemies doesn’t last very long when some drunk driver runs over your dog, much less hurts your wife or children. Stop them driving, by all means, but then… what? Where is the Gospel?)
But do not forget context. If one cannot remain pure unmarried, the command is to seek marriage.
I’m afraid you’re buying into the idea that marriage has only recently been a delayed issue. This has always been true for males, because gathering the sociological wherewithal to support a family takes long periods of adult work. Only recently (in the last 180 years) has the marriage age for women approached the marriage age for men, which has pretty much been 24-35 for as long as I can find research about it. Sometimes in more primitive warrior societies like Sparta the marriages were 18-21, but that was state sponsored and supported (and assigned). When you had to get your own bride, 30 was not uncommon from Mary and Joseph’s time to the modern era.