Singleness as Identity, Context or Vocation

In our culture we are constantly talking about how we identify.  Not only that, but we know that whatever our answer is to that question, we will be judged by it.  It has of course to do with who we are, what we do, or even what we believe.  We are republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, American, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, feminist and on and on.  In the Church identify ourselves and judge others as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Baptist, Calvinist, Lutheran and on and on.  Heck in my town we identify people by their zip code, whether we live north or south of a street and what high school that someone went to.  We can also identify ourselves and others by things that have happened to us, or that we’ve participated in or even what teams we root for.

Some of these are things that we are born into and others are things we choose or believe.  But if we are in Christ none of these things are supposed to be our core identity. Meaning that they are not to be the first thing that defines us.  This includes whether or not we are single or married.

Being single or married has become a core identity for us, maybe especially (though certainly not limited to) in the Church. This is a real problem because in the Church we are supposed to be one family.  We aren’t really supposed to divide ourselves up by category and then just hang out with the other folks in that category.  The Church should be the one place where your category doesn’t matter.  We are all of equal value under the cross.  We all are sinners. Jesus thought us each valuable enough to come and die for.  Sin and the cross are the ultimate equalizer.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t offer practical teaching, guidance and wisdom for people in these different contexts.  But we have to start with the fact that at the core we are created in God’s image, all have sin, and all are loved by Jesus.

Adding to this, singleness is not really even a biblical category.  You could be unmarried, divorced, widowed, celibate by gifting, by the sin of man, or by choice for the Kingdom. This is really important because it affects how we see ourselves and how we set people up within the church.

Being unmarried is a context that you may be in.  But that is not the same as your identity or for that matter even your vocation.

This matters for those called to Celibacy because Celibacy for the Kingdom is not simply a context they find themselves in.  It is a calling and a vocation within the Church, at least historically.

Vocation is an interesting word in our culture.  It’s not really what your job is necessarily.  It could be.  But really your job could be simply your means to your vocation.  In fact, as a lay Christian, this is always true.  Let me explain.

Our first vocation as a believer is to follow Jesus and represent the Kingdom wherever we go.  This was our original created vocation going back to Genesis.  We were created to know God and advance His cause.

But we also have a secondary vocation.  That is either to be in the married vocation or the celibate vocation.  As I heard a wise priest once say, “The first vow we all have to make is to Jesus – to be committed to Him. Then we can make a second vow – either to God to be in celibate ministry or to God and to another person.”

Now here is where we screw it up in Protestantism.  We equate the vocation of celibacy with the context of being unmarried.  This is unfair to both the person who has the vocation of singleness and the person who doesn’t.  We need to honor the person who is called to that vocation by recognizing the Kingdom picture it represents, honoring their pursuit of that, and giving them the support they need as well as utilizing their gift and choice.

At the same time we need to not saddle the people who are not called to that with the responsibilities, lifestyle or teachings that those called with that vocation have.  Instead we need to support them in their context, help them navigate it, and ultimately help them pursue marriage.

In short.  Being unmarried is not an identity group and shouldn’t be treated as one.  It is a context that people are in.  For some it is a vocation they are called to.  Recognizing all of that sets us up to serve, teach, empower and support each group.  Not recognizing that hurts everyone.

We should instead identify people first by who they are in Christ, created to by God to know him and advance the Kingdom.  Secondly we should help them pursue their secondary vocation from whatever context they are currently in.

5 thoughts on “Singleness as Identity, Context or Vocation

  1. Justin – I am glad I have found this website – I can relate to your experiences growing up as a guy. I never dated in college. My intent is not to %100 blame women for that as there were a mixture of issues involved. Some of them were my own responsibility.

    You providing a place to give men advice about women is a wonderful thing. Growing up, I had to go through a similar process you did – eventually I got it; however, I do feel misled by the church because there is so much more to dating than just being a great Christian man. Learning this the hard way was part of the problem.

    If any other guy is reading this looking for advice – I will share a couple of things that have worked for me on multiple occasions.
    1: Learn what makes people laugh and develop a great sense of humor. This has opened up a lot of opportunities for me.
    2: Learn ballroom dancing – not every woman will appreciate this – but without a doubt, I have been more aggressively pursued by women on the dance floor than in any other social environment. I could write a book about it. Once you learn to lead well, you will eventually see results.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. “learn” what makes people laugh. Vulgar humor does. Put downs on others. Negging and making yourself better than others usually brings howls of laughter. Yes, I am talking about inside the church

    • I agree that crude humor tends to be a problem even in churches. Still, your viewing my advice to negatively, I think. You can tell a funny joke, have a good sense of humor, and develop your own personality without having to insult others or tell dirty jokes. You don’t have to conform to the standard of this world in order to be funny – and have women interested in you.

      • An incident of this was reported in ancient China…..scholars debate its authenticity…….

  3. Justin – How appropriate that I find your site tonight–Sat. 5/13/2017–Tomorrow being Mother’s Day. For I’ve been a ‘barren womb’ all my life–now age 71, almost 72. My own Mom had four children–a lovely lady. But I had to face total SHAME on Mother’s Day in Churches. I was once married, but abandoned after 3 yrs. I never remarried. My Mom was 90 when she died–and her last words to me were, “You’re just an OLD MAID.” She always thougtht my being SINGLE was a ‘death sentence’–believing I had KILLED myself. My own Mother never understood me. How would society or the Church ever understand? I have been ‘rejected’ and ‘despised’ for 40 yrs.
    I could never convince my Mom or any Church that I was given the greatest ‘gift’ befitting a saint of God–to live with one heart, undivided, steadfast and immovable on the Rock–to have such affections for Christ — to live holy in body and in spirit. Such a great ‘mystery’ to those who are still struggling with their fleshly heart’s desires. As one Minister said, ‘ALL WOMEN LUST.’ They don’t believe my report that when the Lord called me to Himself–He told me that I would never live for myself again–meaning that I had to learn to lean on Jesus (no Church to give me fellowship or understanding). The problem lies in that though I am ‘gifted’–(1) Speaking in Tongues/Singing in Tongues, (2) Celibacy (3) Total Devotion ONLY to Christ Jesus—I will not make a VOW to any ‘church’ (membership pledge). I have no ‘affections’ for ‘doctrines of men’. This sets me ‘apart’ right away from Christians that see nothing wrong (sin) in making ‘vows’ to ‘groups’. Religion is all about Group Vows. I have not been accepted as even being ‘saved’ because I refused to ‘vow’ to any ‘church’ or ‘group’. And I’m REJECTED, SCORNED, TOLD I AM UNSAVED, especially by the MINISTSRY–those PILLARS of Protestantism–who follow the teachings of Luther and Calvin–who abhorred ‘celibacy’. Our Lord has chosen me–I NEVER CHOSE ‘CELIBACY’…why would I want to be seen as having a ‘Disabiity’ by Protestants? My ‘gift’ is not associated with any vocation…it is a ‘position’ in Christ…to stand before Him…having submitted to His will for my life…so I will forever be shamed each Mother’s Day by Christians worldwide, for the purpose of the Kingdom of God…for the glory of Jesus have I been chosen to ‘bear the Cross of SHAME for Christ.” This is how I KNOW HIM. He truly wipes away every tear, and He upholds me in every way.

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