Man standing alone

Three Cheers for Celibacy

Sometimes in the life of the church we need to reclaim a forgotten or dormant teaching. My sense is that now is such a time and that the teaching we need to dust off and put into practice is celibacy.

Celibacy is not a very popular idea. We Protestants see the Catholic Church overdoing it by not allowing priests to marry and we kind of recoil at the idea. Not marrying and not having children (and, let’s face it, not having sex) just seems weird to most of us. Perhaps this is why we’ve normalized marriage and ostracized celibates.

The strongest case for celibacy comes from the pages of the New Testament. Jesus did not marry. Neither did Paul. In fact, Paul encouraged the earliest believers to try and resist the urge to marry for the sake of the kingdom. He simply believed (and taught) that it was better not to marry. If we take the New Testament seriously, perhaps we should take celibacy more seriously. And by “take seriously” I mean teach that celibacy is the norm and marriage is the exception.

Man standing alone

Why should the church reverse polarity on the marriage-celibacy issue? In addition to the unchanging witness of Scripture, I see three good reasons we in the church need to treat celibacy as more normal than marriage.

  1. As a witness in the midst of a sex-saturated society.

    Sex is everywhere these days. Sex has become a way of understanding and expressing oneself at the deepest level of identity. The norm is to have sex and lots of it. From college campuses to popular books and movies, sex is everywhere. In such a society, those who choose not to have sex are odd. And Christians are called to be odd. We hold to the peculiar teachings of our faith in such a way that causes us to stand out in a crowd and to stand up for a truly alternative way of living. If society’s message is “have lots of sex with lots of partners” the Christian alternative is not (primarily) “have sex with one person who is your spouse.” That is an option, but it’s not the first option for Christians. The first option is much, much odder: don’t have sex. While most Christians will likely get married, holding celibacy to be the norm in our teaching, preaching, and expectations will create a clear contrast between the way of the world and the Way.

  2. As a way to remove family as an idol.

    Most churches have not made sex into an idol, but many have made family into a thing of adoration, if not worship. Look at church marketing and mostly you will see a happy, smiling family: a demographically attractive couple with two or three well-adjusted children, all of whom are smiling with perfectly straight white teeth. I have yet to see that family in the Bible. Supporting families in living out the gospel in whole and healthy relationships is good, but making the family into the ideal for Christians is not good. Family becomes an idol when the church exists for the sake of families. Family becomes an idol when the message of the gospel becomes a means for attaining the ideal family (or just a better family). When we come to Jesus in order to get a family, we’ve got things way out of whack. Reasserting celibacy as a normal and valuable way of living can help put things into their proper order.

  3. As a biblical means of welcoming those with same sex attraction.

    I don’t really know if those who have an attraction to persons of the same gender were born that way or not. I don’t know if they can help it or not. There is a whole lot about that which I don’t know. But I do know that Scripture teaches us not to have sex with people of our gender and not to have sex with people we are not married to. For too long we have ostracized gay and lesbian Christians because we expect them to change an orientation (or drive, or urge, or preference, or whatever you’d like to call it). But those of us who are attracted to persons of the opposite sex don’t hold ourselves to the same standard.

    Paul’s teaching on celibacy makes it clear that he expected people to want to have sex and to not do it – and that this lifestyle of celibacy was to be preferred over marrying in order to act on the desire to have sex. This kind of attitude toward sexual desire and sexual activity provides a way of relating to those with same sex attraction that is dignifying to them and faithful to Scripture. But we cannot pull out the celibacy card only when advising our gay and lesbian friends how to live a Christian life – it must be held up as a normal way for Christians to live, no matter one’s sexual orientation.

 

How can the church promote celibacy? Here are three ideas:

  • A good start will be when we dedicate as much teaching, resources, curriculum, and counseling toward promoting and supporting celibacy as we do marriage.
  • Another good move will be when we stop discriminating against single and celibate persons when hiring pastors and other ministry staff. A candidate’s singleness needs to be a conversation starter (in the same way we talk to candidates about their family), not a relationship ender.
  • Finally, how about intentionally including those who are single and celibate in the community? Invite them into your home for Thanksgiving (or accept their invitation). The body of Christ (that is, the church) is the primary relationship for Christ-followers, not the family. So treat all members of the body better than family, even those awesome members who’ve chosen celibacy.

What do you think? Is celibacy all that I’m making it out to be? What’s been your experience? How does your church deal with issues of marriage and celibacy? What could you do better?

 

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About Chad Hall

Chad Hall is the Director of Coaching for Western Seminary and also serves as a leadership coach for ministry and corporate clients through his role as Partner with Coach Approach Ministries and iNTERNAL iMPACT.

34 thoughts on “Three Cheers for Celibacy

  1. Thanks for this post. While we don’t want to end up like some in the early church who saw sex as basically evil, I do think you are onto something important here, both in your three reasons and your three suggested actions. Thanks again for listening to Scripture and thinking clearly about the needs of the time, and not merely repeated what is easy to say and swallow.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Dwight. You’re right that we need to steer well away from the notion that sex (or marriage) are evil in any way. Both are a part of God’s creation and are good. Also, I’ll be sure to check out the Hellerman book.

  2. Good helpful article.

    I understand Paul’s teaching, and the basis behind it – he was a little busy for sure! – and obviously he and Jesus are upstanding examples…

    …but how do you parallel the views in this article with the command to be fruitful and multiply, and also the biblical notion that sex is a beautiful gift designed by God? And also all the references to family in the new testament? (…’and his household, etc.)

    It seems to me that although Paul indeed did advise celibacy for the ‘work’, at the same time the Bible seems to have a good bit of Godly married couples and families, and also puts God-honoring sex on a high pedestal. Makes it seem more like Paul indeed WAS the exception, despite his own teaching.

    Just wondering – thanks for your work!

    Brett

    1. Hi Brett,
      Good thoughts and questions. I’d say this is a both/and thing instead of an either/or thing. Both celibacy and marriage are honored in scripture and necessary for the kingdom. Both please God. Both make poor idols or ends in themselves.
      As a side note that might add to the conversation… from my perspective we tend to take Paul very seriously on other matters that kind of seem like he was stating an exception (women in ministry), not not so seriously on this one. Taking scripture seriously means taking all of it seriously and really wrestling through what is meant, what is intended and what is expected.

  3. Totally disagree. For the average person in the first world (that’s where I think we differ from Paul and Jesus) I think there are some people who “may” be called to celibacy, but I believe that the default position for everyone should be an openness to and assumption that they are supposed to get married and have children.

    Also, just an aside, while we’re not specifically told that Paul was married, it would have been normal and expected for Saul to have been married given his position in the Jewish faith and tradition. It is far more likely that Paul wife had died at some point or that she abandoned him upon his conversion.

    The bottom line though is that, from the beginning of creation marriage is laid out clearly as the normative state for mature human existence. I don’t find anything in scripture that would seem to reverse that on the whole.

    1. Amen. Well said, Jon. Despite the fact that Christ did not physically ‘marry’ on earth, he awaits his bride in heaven. I know this is metaphorical, but marriage is a picture of the consummated kingdom. I think a danger in prolonged celibacy is a huge tendency for self-absorption and selfishness. For those who do choose a life of singleness, seeking a way to curb this tendency through responsibilities toward others may be wise.

    2. Hi Jon,
      Yeah, we do disagree, but maybe not all that much. The aim of the post is not to always and in every way elevate celibacy above marriage, but to bring it to an equal status with marriage (and equally valid way to live the Christian life). Celibate people should not be unduly pressured or ostracized in or by the church.
      I doubt that celibacy will (or should) become the most popular way to live, but regarding it as a secondary, lower way to live seems out of line with scripture and tradition.

      1. Hi Jonathan,
        The argument for marriage because of the “bride of Christ” imagery can be easily reversed to make a case for celibacy (as is often the case within Catholic orders). I doubt either use is the intent of the metaphor.
        As for the selfishness and self-absorption that can result from celibacy, the same can be said for marriage. This is especially true for families who put their own needs above those of others. I know celibate and single people who leverage their “extra” resources for the poor and for missionary causes at a much higher rate than those of us who invest our resources on our family.
        So while both of your points are good ones, I’d suggest they apply equally in both directions — for celibates and for married folks.
        Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation!
        -Chad

  4. Thank you for this article. It is definitely refreshing to see someone finally standing up for the single people in the church. I agree with you that marriage and children seem to be exalted, and yes in some cases idolized, in church circles today. My wife and I even struggle a lot over the fact that we are childless. We often feel like we are lacking in the Christian life because of this…….like we don’t fit in with anyone. But that’s another story altogether though. However, I have a few points of disagreement though. I may be misinterpreting what you wrote (my apologies if this is the case), but it sounds like you may be going too far in the other direction of exalting singleness, or celibacy, over marriage. I don’t believe that Scripture ever exalts one over the other. It gives equal precedent to both. Some are called to marriage, and some to singleness. Both Jesus (in the gospels) and Paul (in 1 Corinthians 7) make this clear. I believe, if we look at Scripture as a whole, it would be the case that both of these life choices are equally valid in God’s plan. Otherwise, why would Paul make this astonishing statement: 1 Corinthians 7:9: “If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Also, the entire book of Song of Solomon is celebrating the physical AND spiritual attraction of a man and woman in marriage. And also, what about Genesis? God says that “it is not good for man to be alone.” And this was in a sinless world! (emphasis is not anger, just emphasizing a point (-: ) I see the Bible favoring BOTH, but not pitting one against the other. These are just my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. Thank you again for the article!

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for providing the opportunity to clarify.
      YES, you are right that neither is exalted over the other. My communication tactic in the article was to present a strong case for celibacy in order to counterbalance the tremendous inertia marriage and family have within the church, especially in the Protestant evangelical traditions. I “shouted” in order to bring some attention to the goodness of celibacy, and now I’ll lower my voice in the conversation to invite us to celebrate the goodness of celibacy and marriage. I believe we can celebrate the goodness of one without demonizing or abnormalizing (yes, I just made up that word) the other.
      Blessings,
      Chad

  5. As a divorced woman with no plans to ever remarry there is no other godly choice. Yet I have never heard a teaching on it. Young people are taught it with the idea of saving themselves for that special one. But what if there isn’t a special one? What if the special one is obtained and then dies at war or some other unforseen tragedy? I’ve seen many back out there again who do not grasp that staying pure applies to them even if they aren’t a virgin. Even if they waited until marriage the first time.

    As for me when ever the teaching is on marriage or sex in marriage. I would prefer to be some where else. It’s like making childless couples sit in on parenting classes just in case God gives them a child. It may never happen.

    1. Melody, what a powerful and heartbreaking testimony. I think a lot of our teaching in church misses the point that the “special one” is Jesus Christ, not the idealized romantic greeting card mate. As church leaders, we’d be wise to note the wide diversity of experiences and callings within the body and to strengthen all appropriately.

  6. Some good questions here regarding the Genesis mandate to be fruitful and multiply. I think one thing we need to keep in mind when discussing celibacy and (versus?) marriage is the flow of the “ages” of biblical time.

    Some things that were normal and ideal in Eden will not be so in eternity, and may not be so now. Thus I think Paul (and Jesus, see Matt. 19) is saying that in a world that is both post-Fall and already experiencing the in-breaking of the age to come, the Genesis marriage “norms” are being modified. If we belong to the age to come, an age when marriage as we know it will be no more, then we will be zealously focused on proclaiming the gospel so that others will escape the effects of the Fall through the present reign of Christ. Our desire is for them to join us in that age to come. If we would catch that vision as fully as Paul did, then marriage probably would seem for more of us to be a distraction from the work of the Lord.

    Paul recognized, however, that not all are given this gift; some of us are better suited to model the passion, submission, and self-giving love experienced between Christ and his Bride. There is work for all of us. But the course of salvation history is moving mysteriously but certainly toward a time when marriage as we know it will be no more. Blessed are those who are already gifted to live out this reality. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it!

    –Married and at peace

  7. This article goes too far. I completely agree that the family should not be exalted to the point that single people are passed over or, worse, viewed with suspicion. However, the argument about taking Paul`s statements seriously in I Corinthians 7 falls short, because the whole body of Paul`s writings have far more to say to married men and women than to singles. Clearly, Paul regarded marriage as the norm. Furthermore, Christ regarded marriage as the norm. In that passage which everyone quotes to show that marriage is only between one man and woman, Christ was addressing a question about divorce from the Pharisees. When the disciples heard His oft-quoted answer, they responded by considering celibacy as a better option. Christ made it clear that only some people would be able to receive such a calling: All men cannot receive this saying, save those to whom it is given…. there are eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.` (Matthew 19:10-12)

    Being celibate is not easy (I say this as a single living in celibacy). It requires a daily dying to perfectly natural and healthy desires – not just sexual, but also those for companionship, children, in essence, all that we think of as a home. It is a long, lonely road, even with friends and relatives. I, for one, do not think that it is my life long calling, but I must live it faithfully until God changes my circumstance. It does make other things easier for me. In a recent conversation on a proper response to current events, a married friend conceded that mine might be the better perspective, but her home and family made it hard for her to see things that way. I could only be silent after that – if I had a husband and children, I would probably feel the same way. The strength of Christ is essential to hold either state in godliness.

    1. I think we might be using “norm” in two different ways. You seem to be using the word in reference to what is popularly practiced, while I am using it to indicate what is an okay (and commended) practice. Both are legit uses of “norm” — just different. I agree that Jesus and Paul had plenty of teaching about marriage because it was commonly practiced. Jesus taught by example that marriage need not be preferred and that marriage/children were not necessary in order to be fully human. Paul was more explicit in his teaching.
      So when I write that celibacy is a/the norm for NT Christians, I am not saying that celibacy was more popularly or commonly practiced, I’m saying that in the kingdom it is a legitimate and perhaps even preferred way of living.
      Your statements about celibacy not being easy need to be heard loud and clear. While one other commenter discussed the danger of selfishness and self-absorption for celibate persons, I think your comments remind us that celibacy is an equally challenging road to walk when compared to marriage and children.

  8. I am glad you are trying to raise the awareness and importance of celibacy for Christians.
    If we are to follow the Bible’s main teachings in regard to our sexuality, then we would spend more time emphasizing family. It is found in scripture far more than celibacy. In the beginning we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply and God calls the church the household of faith.

    If you want to bring up the topic and write about it at least give a balanced approach to the text and issue.

    Pendulum swinging is not helpful on difficult topics.

    Maybe you can write a follow up article. Also, if you don’t know much about same sex attraction then don’t write about it or do the research. Simply questioning and giving no answers opens the door for young believers to be led astray. Rob Bell and his writings are a good example of this.

    1. Hi Randy. I try to respond to all comments, so let me have a go at this one without (hopefully) getting too long winded.
      My intent in the article is not to swing the pendulum but to balance the teeter-totter by placing appropriate weight to the normalcy of celibacy, and both Jesus and Paul do give it a lot of weight.
      As for same sex attraction, I think you mistook what I intended as humility and brevity for ignorance or laziness. I can assure you that I have engaged in a lot of research on this very challenging topic.
      And I’m not sure what you mean by “questioning and giving no answers.” I read again those parts of my post and I don’t see any questions, while I do see clear statements of belief. I think I spoke where scripture speaks and I remained humbly open where it does not. To be perhaps more clear, my own research and study on this topic leads to me to conclude that the nature/nurture/choice issues of sexual orientation hold no sway on the scriptural teachings, which clearly indicate that sexual activity with someone of the same gender (as well as someone to whom you are not married) is sinful and to be avoided. In other words, we don’t have to settle the nature/nurture/choice questions in order to speak clearly on this issue. Hopefully that’s clear. If there seemed to be a question I was asking and not answering, please point it out and I’ll do my best to answer it. Thanks.

      1. Hi Chad,

        Here are the comments (I don’t really know if those who have an attraction to persons of the same gender were born that way or not. I don’t know if they can help it or not.) that I believe give a wrong idea about same sex attraction.

        I guess my concern for the article is that in trying to raise the issue you have given the impression if not stated outright that celibacy should have equal weight as marriage and family. Here are two main reasons I think that is flawed. First, God gave mandates in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply and it is not good for a man to be alone and that is the reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to a wife. This theme is found and extolled throughout scripture in much larger proportion than celibacy. Second, it is dangerous to use an occasional document like 1 Corinthians where Paul is dealing with major problems of sexuality to develop a theology and then give it the weight of what is taught throughout scripture.

        I appreciate the concern and desire to highlight the exaltation of marriage or family as if it is a life-giving institution. To quote Paul, for to me to live is Christ, not the family or marriage. I think the way to correct those who are overemphasizing family is not to overemphasize celibacy, but to correct their exaltation and to put marriage and family in its proper scriptural place.

        Thanks for the response, even though my first post might have come across as combative.

  9. Hi Chad,

    thanks. It is time we talked about these things and how to support singleness/ celibacy, whether it be because of same-sex attraction or not,or whether singleness is chosen or not chosen. I found your points on promoting singleness/ celibacy in the church the strength of your article. As someone single/ celibate, the first point on having teaching, resources, counseling available for those single/ celibate would be amazing!…I’ve ventured into Catholic writing to find support on the single/ celibate path, and that, quite blindly. But just has been helpful to have it written about at all/ addressed.

    Thanks Still Waters and others for sharing about the hard/ lonely road of singleness/ celibacy. This is definitely a part of this conversation. Just to have this acknowledged by others would be validating. As was said, no matter how many Thanksgiving dinners we’re invited too, this will remain for many of us a hard/ lonely road.

    An interesting addition to this conversation would be Wes Hill’s recent book entitled “Spiritual Friendship”. I haven’t yet read it, but have heard the author talk about it. His premise seems to be that we’ve devalued ‘friendship’ as a church (perhaps rather holding up marriage as the ultimate relationship), and that these special relationships need to be given renewed value/ priority and place in our church family and in our lives. Perhaps this valuing/ elevating the importance friendship could be another point on your list of supporting those single/ celibate.

    Thanks again.

    1. Hi Anke, thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.
      I think you’re getting what I am saying. When we take the church seriously, we have options for deep and meaningful relationships — options that include and go beyond family.

  10. Thanks for the article post! Good stuff and refreshing!
    My experience as lifelong celibate single has been positive in terms
    of deep friendships, accountability and community.
    I’ve come to see 3 areas or groups that should be addressed in this area:
    1. Singles themselves – including the SSA subset – more adult singles than ever in Amer. society.
    2. Church Leadership – almost everyone got married and started families in their 20s – at least among
    Amer. Evan.
    3. Church General – the marital majority exp. in most Amer. Evan.
    To go a step beyond the strategic diagnosis, I would suggest:
    1. eliminate Singles Groups as a concept or ministry – for lots of key reasons.
    2. rather, as an interim step, have 2 programs – say 6 weeks each in Spring and Fall – to provide
    orientation, teaching and tools to help singles and community integrate better – Integration over Segregation.
    3. by all means, have people continue to organize social events for mixing, but without the ongoing
    burden of having to carve out a separate ministry…
    Just some thoughts….!

  11. Celibacy is fine; Paul does state that he wishes people could be as he is. BUT if you burn, it is better that you marry. Being celibate is a gift, OR it is a challenge. Paul knew the challenges of being married, even Peter was married. I am divorced, and am currently single, but not by choice.

    I read a book once, Man on Fire, a pseudo fictional book on Paul’s life. Don’t know if there’s any credibility to it but the author had Paul as a widower. His wife and child had died and were buried in Tarsus. Now he was committing his life to serving his God by studying with the Pharisees. So singleness was his choice but serving God, surrendering to Christ, can be done within a marriage as well. If both keep their eyes on Christ first, their spouse second, it goes better, but the world always enters into relationships. It enters into a singles life as well.

    The Church needs to accept ALL, the married, the celibate, the single and looking to marry. Every person has their gifts, every person has their weakness, and a Body, we need to support each other.

    Same sex attraction is dealt with by Paul as well..separately, but at the same time he similarly denounces promiscuousness and adultery. They have their own burden but we all have a cross of some kind to bear.

  12. Chad thank you for a wonderful, insightful, refreshing & challenging read. I understand what you are saying here on all levels and it truly makes perfect sense. Keep up the good writing & research. Can’t wait for more liberating articles in the future!

    1. Hi Julia,
      That’s true that not all of Jesus’ life is documented in the NT, however the vast majority of scholars and ministry leaders through the ages have concurred that for such a major issue the absence of evidence is evidence. In other words, if he were married, it would be mentioned somewhere.
      This is a good question to remind us that while scripture is our ultimate authority, church tradition is also an authority — it keeps our speculation in check just a bit.
      Thanks for reading and contributing. -Chad

      1. If Jesus were married his wife would have been there with his mother at the cross. You’d hope anyway o_O

  13. I’m still fascinated by this thread, and have another random observation to add. I’m doing research right now on conservative Mennonites and how they ended up with a defined list of seven ordinances (i.e. sacraments, minus sacramental theology). One of these ordinances is “marriage.” Which makes me ask, why is marriage an ordinance, but singleness not?

    Of course, in Catholic history holy orders is one sacrament, and it involved celibates. Thus they have a sacrament for singles (holy orders) and a sacrament for the married (matrimony).

    From a conservative Mennonite perspective, a marriage is an ordinance because it is an earthly practice with a heavenly meaning–a symbolic activity depicting Christ and the church. Singleness does not have such an obvious symbolic meaning (am I right?), thus it does not fit the relatively recent Mennonite criteria for being an ordinance. Thus the married have an ordinance while singles do not.

    However, if we think in biblical terms, while Paul does describe marriage as a “mystery,” he also considers marriage and singleness to both equally be “gifts.” And he even seems to suggest that singles can be “married” (devoted) to Christ in a way the married cannot, as if they participate more fully *now* in the reality to which marriage points than what married people can in this age. I’m not convinced the conservative Mennonite identification of marriage as an ordinance is entirely helpful, and I suspect it does not help us in our task of honoring singles in the church.

    1. good thoughts Dwight G! Of course, both RC and Mennonite views are self-defined and culturally instituted with no direct connection to Biblical guidelines – indeed, there is a lot of leeway in the NT for church expression – no single (lol) model. However, Jesus is very clear about marriage not being necessary or present in the afterlife – no need… of course, the picture of the “marriage of the lamb” appealed, as it still does, to the majority exp. – ie most believers are married.

      I believe these two “gifts” are that, but also conditions or situations – sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance, sometimes both – again as Jesus noted. However, it is a fundamental mistake to make either “normative” – something both RC and Protestant Evan. are guilty of. Hence, the lack of single-friendly churches in the Evan. community – the top of the social pyramid is Married w/Children – the bottom – Adult Singles… This James 2 situation is a big one the Evan. church must resolve if the Gospel must flow to the new Amer. majority in culture – Single Adults…

      just some thoughts…

  14. Singleness and celibacy needs to be supported and validated, particularly when they are not chosen. Singles need to know they aren’t freaks because they didn’t marry even when they wanted to, and they aren’t second class citizens in the church — we often feel we are. Like we missed the marriage boat, like we’re defective and everyone knows it because no one saw fit to marry us. I am 40, never married, and like myself, I have known probably 100+ amazing, faithful single women over the last 20 years who have wanted to marry, but no Christian man has ever asked.

    We are severely lacking mature, single Christian men in the church who have their act together and are actively trying to marry by the age of 30. I think we’re actually at a point of crisis in this regard. In my east coast city, I see it in large numbers across all the evangelical churches. No men, not enough men, and many of the ones that are in church have significant emotional, spiritual, or life issues, e.g., can’t keep a job, porn problems, inability to be emotionally available, so terrified they can’t even ask a woman out, wanting to have sex before marriage, emotionally wounded from childhood or past issues but won’t face it and deal with it, a focus on their career which has crossed over into pride and greed, a “player” mentality where they want to date for decades but never settle with one woman and marry, etc.

    I am not saying women are perfect by any means, and some have the same issues, but I see these issues much less frequently among women. I have seen several women in their 20s who need a good reality check to not put so much focus on career/grad school that they reject all dates, or they are way too picky and don’t give guys enough of a chance. But being female, I have more insight into the women, and the vast majority want to marry, and are mature enough to marry, but there are no guys that match them.

    I wish the older men in our churches would take these single men under their wing and disciple them into maturity and help them walk the path toward marriage. These guys need help. And we need to evangelize more young men because the numbers just aren’t there.

    So I have many friends who are single, not by choice, grieving the loss of a husband and kids they never had (and very possibly never will), and wondering if they will be alone in old age. I know one or two that were impacted so deeply they gave up and married a non-believer, several more who dated a non-believer and gave up their virginity, and some who left the church and gave up their faith. The pain of rejection was just too much.

    If they haven’t done any of those things, then they have given up hope that marriage will ever happen. I have, because continuing to hope is just too painful. And they continue on in the church, but it’s hard and awkward, because church is “familyland.” Sometimes even going to church and seeing all the families can be too much — Mother’s Day can be really tough.

    So when you look at long term singles who want to marry, know that underneath, there’s a deep, deep place of pain, even if they are currently in a place of contentment.

    1. Interesting. I’ve found the same thing about the women.
      I know the singles in my church, on both sides. None of us are perfect, some have more challenges than others.
      I’ve talked to a lot of “Christian” women online. It’s more the 90-10 rule than the 80-20 rule where I met about 1 in 10 that actually knew what being a Christian was about, that actually believed in the bible. When the authenticity of the Bible becomes a debate you know you’re not talking to someone on the same page in Faith! And when there is no grace, and you have to constantly walk on eggshells with what you say, you know you’re not on the same page.

      Paul says if you burn it is better that you marry. Ok, Great Paul, easy for you to say. Back then you just went to that matchmaker in your villiage and she hooked you up. Not exactly the same world today.
      For many singles today, the burn is their thorn in their side, and grace needs to be sufficient.

  15. Wonderful article. Thank you. I have recently come to the same conclusions that the church must promote that none of us were meant to be alone, but that was not fulfilled simply by creating your own family through marriage and bearing children. We have so much to offer one another. We were meant to be in families, in fellowship, in community, as a part of the body.

    If you have not read Barry Danylak’s book “Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life”, it is a wonderfully deep & accurate biblical theology of singleness. It provides for an answer to the question of “being fruitful & multiply.” The both/and stance is accurate. Jesus did not devalue marriage, but with his coming & redemption, he brought us all to a level place where marriage, blood family, and sex were not necessarily elements to becoming a part of the the family of God. We need one another. Thank you for promoting this message, and may the ears of the church hear the message of the whole of scripture.

    1. Good comment! I would also add Christine Colon’s book, “Singled Out” as the other of the 2 best books on Singles issues, apart from all those personal exp. books out there.

      Jesus did not devalue marriage, but he also did not make it the epitome of human existence or a mandate for believers. In a real sense, Jesus “spiritualized” everything – new birth, new family, new community – that contrasted with the previously limited view of Israel, where people shot everything through the prism of physical marriage, family and nation…

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