In my 20 plus years of being single I’ve heard a lot of reasons for singleness. Some of it was attempted pastoring or self righteousness, but most times it was attempted encouragement which I learned to appreciate because I knew people loved me.
As I’ve said almost ad nauseum here we in the Christian single culture have basically settled for spiritual platitudes that don’t really deal with the issue at hand – either individually or as a whole society.
One of those is the idea that God has you single right now. This is of course often followed by other platitudes such as “God has you single right now for a reason”, or “Since God has you single right now, take advantage of that”. Or “God has you single right now so be content in that”.
One of the big problems we have in protestant culture when it comes to singleness is a complete lack of understanding of what Paul is talking about when it comes to the unmarried. It kills us because we keep bringing “the word” to the situation without even understanding what we are saying. We mix and match scriptures in an attempt to make the current singleness culture fit into our favorite theological leanings. It ends up being “help us sleep at night theology” that frankly doesn’t help many people live well single or get married.
Now before I say more and make some people really uncomfortable, let me say this clearly for the record – God may indeed want you to be single right now. No doubt He calls us to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different seasons. So I’m not negating that possibility in someone’s personal life.
But it is a terrible blanket answer to singleness. It would mean that God has suddenly in the last 40 years of history decided that people shouldn’t get married until 30 or older. Or I guess it could mean that for thousands of years people disobeyed God by getting married earlier. I’m not comfortable with either of those answers.
First off, the bible never talks about singleness as we know it. It just doesn’t. In the oft referred to passage in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked about marriage and sexual immorality. There was mass confusion and he was attempting to clear some things up.
Paul says a lot of things here but when it comes to the “gift” of being unmarried, Paul is NOT talking about a call to a season of singleness. He is instead talking about a call to (or gift of) celibacy. He is saying that some are called to serve God from an unmarried state. He is not saying you have the gift of singleness until you get married. He is saying if you have it, don’t get married. That is a HUGE distinction.
What we’ve done is taken this and turned it into a way to avoid dealing with why we are single. Or we take other things Paul says in other places and transpose it into this passage. For example in Philippians 4 Paul says he has learned to be content in all circumstances. We transpose that to mean, “God has called you to singleness right now and you should be content in that.” But that isn’t what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7. He says if you aren’t content (read called, or gifted) in celibacy – Go Get Married!
This is so critical. Paul is not saying if you are unmarried that you don’t have to worry about the things of marriage. It would be more accurate to say that one of the ways to see if you are called to celibacy is to ask if you are worried about it. Otherwise he would be saying that celibate people are better followers of Jesus than married people. If that were true then no one should get married.
My biggest problem with this is that we end up saying to people, if you are single right now that is where God has you and you should just sit there and be content in it. That is not what Paul says.
There are lots of reasons our society is where it is in terms of marriage. Most of it is not God’s plan.
God is not calling you to be insecure around women you like. He has not given you the “gift” of lack of commitment. He has not called you to live with someone you are dating instead of marrying them. He is not calling you to consumer date. He is not promising you that if you are called to marriage that it will magically happen without your effort. He has not “gifted” you with the fear of divorce. He has not given you the “gift” of extended adolescence. I could go on and on.
We as singles need to quit hiding from our crap in bad theology and the Church needs to get off it’s butt and quit enabling us to do it. The Church should be the safest place to deal with all of the reasons why we are single, not just the ones that make a nice sermon.
You are single for a reason – lots of reasons actually. Some of that may be God’s timing or calling. But a whole heck of a lot of it isn’t. The way out isn’t mixing and matching scripture to feel better.