You Can Be A Single Saint

I’ll be honest.  When I started writing this blog four years ago, I thought I would share some thoughts about my experience as a single for over 20 years of adulthood and specifically in the Church culture.  Somehow in my mid thirties I had a sort of awakening that a whole lot of what I thought I knew about singleness, what I’d be taught and even what I had taught others was wrong.  But I had no idea how wrong we were.

This is why now and then I’m responding to some posts from prominent leaders in our church culture.  They represent what we teach and when it comes to this context, they come up almost unbelievably short.  It’s astounding really.

In a post on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Page, they share from a speech from Al Molher (whom Time called the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” – Yikes) in which he addresses the “sin” of delayed marriage.  I know you’re getting excited already. . .

There are some amazingly bad assumptions going on here.  There are three main things that need to be addressed as they are three staples of the Church’s response to increased singleness.  They are 1. The idol of the nuclear family, 2. It’s all the men’s fault, and 3. God has chosen someone for you.  You can’t make this stuff up.

First let me say that I’m for more marriage.  This situational singleness that our culture has created is not a helpful trend.  Calling it a sin is a stretch, but if you are called to marriage, then I do think you should pursue it, not just wait around for it to happen.

But if we go about that the wrong way, or with the wrong understanding, we are setting up both the unmarried and the married to fail.

For today, let’s focus on point 1.  Mohler and company have a serious idol in their culture and it’s called the nuclear family.  In addressing that people are trying to build careers first, Mohler states,

“What is the ultimate priority God has called us to? In heaven, is the crucible of our saint-making going to have been done through our jobs? I don’t think so. The Scripture makes clear that it will be done largely through our marriages.”

Oh.My.Gosh!  Where does scripture say this?  1st Families chapter 3?  Wow.  Just wow.

I’m going to be honest here.  I don’t know how else to say this.  This is wrong.  It’s completely wrong.  It’s so completely wrong that it is borderline heresy.  I’ve never used that word here, but I don’t know what else to call it. If he meant it the way he’s says it. . .

Let me be absolutely clear.  Your identity is not in your marital status!  It is not!  The Kingdom of God is not about being married with 2.5 children.  When you get to the gates God will not decide what kind of saint you are based on whether or not you were married here on earth.

Here are some results of this sort of teaching.

Unmarried people of all kinds, the divorced, the widowed, the not yet married, those who are celibate by gifting, calling or fall of man, end up excluded from the family of God on earth.  It turns what should be the most inclusive, welcoming place on the planet into a club for a few.  It helped create same sex marriage (more soon) and it stands completely counter to what the New Testament teaches.

But not only that.  It keeps married people from being missional, keeps their children from seeing a missional life style and creates the bubble that is whats left of the Christian Culture™ today.

Unless Mohler and the evangelical movement is suggesting we go back to the pre-Jesus method of Kingdom advancement and God’s pre-Jesus faithfulness, it is completely wrong.

Jesus says this, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  And again, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to his disciples he said, “here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is saying this because he is creating the new family . . . the family of God.  Jesus is constantly pointing out that God’s favor is not on the people who have the most or who have the perfect family scenario but instead upon those who respond to Him.  He is throwing open the Kingdom (and therefore the sainthood) to all who would come to Him. In fact He is saying that if you don’t have Him first none of the rest of it matters much.

We are not going to be married in heaven and being married on earth will not earn you extra points when you get there.  Our identity is to be in Him.  Our calling is to follow Him. He is the way.  Not marriage, not childbearing, not success, not earthly riches, not cultural standing.  This is the scandal of the gospel.  The marginalized have just as much access as everyone else.  You will be judged on how you responded to that, and on how you loved others, not just your spouse. That has to be our starting point every time.

Unless that is our starting point, anything else we teach about singleness, marriage, and frankly everything else, will be a counterfeit.  Putting an over emphasis on the nuclear family screws up everything . . . including the nuclear family.

15 thoughts on “You Can Be A Single Saint

  1. I agree. When an unmarried person enters a Southern Baptist Church, they must subtract at least 50 points from their IQ and put on a striped prison uniform. I say this with all seriousness – Apostle Paul would not be allowed in one of their churches today because he would not bow down to the god of sex.

  2. I guess what he was going for was God telling man to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis. That obviously required a man and women to be together in one fashion or another in order to reach that end. But what I find strange is that he (or anyone really) wouldn’t stop to consider that the greatest person to ever live, Jesus, was never married. That He accomplished his ministry through the family of God not the nuclear family, just like you said Justin. I mean Jesus on the cross even tells John and Mary that they are now to treat the other as if they were blood related. And as Johnhugh noted, Paul was single too.

    My prayer in all of this is that 1) those who are married would remember that they were single like us once and that married or unmarried we are equally valuable in the eyes of Christ. And 2) when the day comes when I am the one married that I would remember my days as a young single Christian and be able to love and minister to those who are where I am right now.

  3. Best wishes to you in your nonexistent future in Southern Baptist churches. You’ve called BS on Al Mohler. It’s clear that Satan is your god and that you, as almost happened to Marty McFly, must be erased from existence.

    Furthermore, you obviously don’t believe the Bible. Brother Al has given you the correct interpretation, and you have willingly, sinfully, rejected the clear, consistent, obvious teaching of the Scriptures. See ya ’round, loser.

    Heck, you probably don’t even accept the clear, consistent, obvious teachings of Calvin, either. You do know that the Bible supports him 100%, right? All Baptists throughout all of history have known this, even the ones that lived before Calvin or before Jesus Himself. It’s only when you @#&! liberals took over that we started having these problems.

    • Who Saved????? It wasn’t Calvin. It wasn’t Mohler. It wasn’t Wesley, The Pope, or in my holiness tradition…..Booth. Not even Paul.

      It was Jesus Christ.

      • That’s right Rachel! They predated Moses too! That’s why a)they’re always right and b) they argue so much(continuous new revelation)and c)they get into abuse trouble(too much free time).

  4. Pingback: Marriage Isn’t What Makes You Holy | More Than Don't Have Sex

  5. Pingback: Condemned To Celibacy? | More Than Don't Have Sex

  6. Pingback: Look For A One, Not The One | More Than Don't Have Sex

  7. JND, I notice you only use euphemisms for obvious profanity you’re suppressing but think nothing of calling your brother “loser.” Matthew 5:28 has something to say about this.

    I see you are familiar enough with godless pop culture to reference that sinful movie Back to the Future that glorifies premarital sex. An all liberal cast too. Tsk tsk.

    And you call yourself a conservative. Pardon me while I clutch my pearls in horror. *Swoon.*

  8. The tragic thing is that marriage and the family were instituted by God. Marrying, loving your spouse and raising kids are good things. But turning this gift from God into an idol has destroyed it.
    Focus on the Family had this article about how married people are happier than single. A bunch of secular studies have insisted single women are much happier.
    My response? Who cares?
    If God wants you to lead an unhappy life on earth to make greater use of you for the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t it worth it?
    A lot of professing Christian wives I know who left their husbands said, “He just wasn’t making me happy.” Not adultery or abuse. Just boredom a la Madame Bovary. For some reason more of these inexcusable covenant breakings are occurring among women than men. (Maybe because pop culture says it’s cool, trendy and empowering.)
    I know Al Mohler would condemn this. But who gave them the idea that they should marry chiefly as a means to earthly happiness? Not just holiday rom coms.
    I have also had an elder’s wife encourage me to be open to marrying atheists since there were no available Christian single men where I lived.

    Maybe the Church should figure out how to help various members serve as they are called. Singleness provides opportunities marrieds don’t have, but I have had to struggle to find a path. It’s frustrating because I want my single calling to have meaning. All I see is matrons at church bragging about their offspring and The S*x in the City characters offered for single role models.
    I wish I had been able to have a family. But it didn’t work out due to bad stuff I never asked for. Not the usual stuff we single women get blamed for either.

    And if Al Mohler is so worried about socially awkward bachelors not being able to meet shy maidens maybe he could take on the dual role of pastor and yenta. The church matchmaker.
    Seriously. Offer young people real help. A lot of them want to marry.

  9. I apologize if perhaps I offended anyone, especially Rachel N. I guess I just had a helpfully of certain Baptists from a certain(non-SBC) church. I tend to use humor to lash out.

  10. I apologize if perhaps I offended anyone, especially Rachel N. I guess I just had a bellyfull of certain Baptists from a certain(non-SBC) church. I tend to use humor to lash out.

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