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.