One of the recent trends in that I see in much of Christian culture is the idea that marriage makes you holy or that the point of marriage is holiness. In fact, as you look back over the last few decades (if not centuries in Protestantism), you see some groups state that it is the path to holiness.
Some of this was a reaction to celibacy for the kingdom previously being seen as more holy than the domestic life. But I see this idea of marriage as the path to holiness all of the time and frankly it’s not helpful as it views the whole frame in the wrong way.
Here are a couple of ways that this plays out in our culture:
It’s funny the things that you remember from college classes. I remember one of my favorite classes was an introduction to philosophy. I loved this class because the professor was very unbiased and we got to write some really cool papers. (One of my papers was: Is the judaeo-Christian ethic sufficient for handling environmental issues. The answer was of course yes – which I proved rather convincingly I might add).
One of the great moments of the class that has always stayed with me was a video in which a female pastor of some kind said, “The thing that separates humans from everyone else is our ability to sin. Nothing else on earth can sin.” That, friends will preach.
I bring that idea up today because I want to look at a couple of important things that we have sort of accidentally gotten backwards in the western church when we talk about singleness, marriage and sex. That is, that you are just an animal instead of a person.
One of the things that I’ve read on occasion and heard in conversations as well as from the pulpit, is the way to know if you have the gift of singleness is if you are single right now, then you’ve got it.
Now, in some evangelical circles, there is of course debate on whether singleness is a gift or even a calling at all. But I’m going to go ahead and side with 2000 years of Church history along with a straight reading of the scriptures and say that it is.
Here is the general idea of what these folks are selling. The basic idea is of course that God is sovereign and therefore whatever context you find yourself in is the one that God is “gifting” you with right now. If you are unmarried then right now you have the gift of singleness. Married? Then right now you have the gift of marriage. Both are gifts. All contexts we find ourselves in are gifts.
But in our current culture this idea is fraught with problems.
In the very beginning when God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He created them with purpose. I like to say that God created us to be in relationship with Him, reflect Him and to represent Him. Instead he said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule . . .” He created us male and female in His image. We therefore reflect who he is in our very being. But we were also to go, to multiply, to fill the earth. Now this was based on our communal relationship with Him. This of course takes exactly one page in the bible before we mess it all up.
However, once we are reconciled to Jesus, he essentially gives us the same command. “Go and share the gospel and make disciples” In other words, go represent me in the world and multiply.
Here’s the truth I want to get at today. We are created, each of us, with the desire to multiply. Yes there is a biological aspect to that. Understand that God even created that desire. But there is more to it than that. There is something deeper. Something that knows that we are to multiply.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to hang out with a group of men that included a Catholic priest. I could tell right away that this guy was just on fire for Jesus and we had a wide ranging conversation. This man was significantly older than me, had a great spirit about him and was in a role that really fit his sweet spot – ministering to college students.
But of course, as I write a blog about singleness, at one point I had to corner him at the end of the table and talk about celibacy and ask a lot of questions about how he viewed that. How could I not right?
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.
Recently I attended a conference on healthy sexuality. It was very well done and the spirit of the event was super encouraging to say the least. Within the many different topics and conversations was of course the discussion of how a person who is attracted to the same sex should live out their life.
Now this wasn’t a conference where people were demanding that anyone live a certain way and it was all non-confrontational, but the general answer was that from a biblical perspective that person should not be engaged in a same sex sexual relationship. In other words they should live a celibate life.
In response to this, one person said, “So basically we are condemning them to a life of loneliness and isolation.” I’m quite sure that this person was far from the only one in the room thinking that way.