Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Single & Can’t Mingle (Can A Christian Remain Single?)

           If you are an unmarried single Christian and if you are from the Indian subcontinent, then you are usually in a perilous situation. Your friends, relatives and the members of your church could annoy you by questioning your singleness. They may suggest weird yet ghastly proposals. You’d be treated like a second-class citizen. As if being single is a sin!

            There are unmarried single Christian men and women who desire to get married but haven’t found a suitable partner. In many cases, it’s not their fault!

            It’s not as if they haven’t searched for a suitable partner or that they have rejected every awesome proposal that came their way. They just haven’t been able to find a person to love and coexist with.

            The much-admired theologian and the Pastor of the All Souls Church in London, Rev. John Stott, remained single all through his life, but he did not desire to be single, “In spite of rumors to the contrary, I have never taken a solemn vow or heroic decision to remain single! On the contrary, during my 20s and 30s, like most people, I was expecting to marry one day. In fact, during this period I twice began to develop a relationship with a lady who I thought might be God's choice of life-partner for me. But when the time came to make a decision, I can best explain it by saying that I lacked an assurance from God that he meant me to go forward. So I drew back. And when that had happened twice, I naturally began to believe that God meant me to remain single.

            Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, I think I know why. I could never have traveled or written as extensively as I have done if I had had the responsibilities of a wife and family.”1

            What does the Bible say about being single? Gotquestions.org says, “The question of a Christian staying single and what the Bible says about believers never marrying is often misunderstood. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8: “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” Notice that he says some have the gift of singleness and some the gift of marriage. Although it seems that nearly everyone marries, it is not necessarily God's will for everyone. Paul, for example, did not have to worry about the extra problems and stresses that come with marriage and/or family. He devoted his entire life to spreading the Word of God. He would not have been such a useful messenger if he had been married.

            On the other hand, some people do better as a team, serving God as a couple and a family. Both kinds of people are equally important. It is not a sin to remain single, even for your entire life. The most important thing in life is not finding a mate and having children, but serving God…Singleness should not be viewed as a curse or an indication that there is “something wrong” with the single man or woman. While most people marry, and while the Bible seems to indicate that it is God’s will for most people to marry, a single Christian is in no sense a “second class” Christian. As 1 Corinthians 7 indicates, singleness is, if anything, a higher calling…” (Emphasis Mine).2

            Singles are on the rise, “According to recent Pew data, the number of married Americans is at its lowest point since at least 1920. In 2015, only half of Americans ages 18 and over were married, compared with 72 percent in 1960. Put another way: Singles are on the rise and beginning to outnumber marrieds. The church, however, doesn’t reflect those numbers. According to a recent Barna study, while more than half of Americans (54%) between the ages of 18 and 49 are single, only 23 percent of active churchgoers are single…”3

            The state of singleness could happen to anyone anytime. Other than unmarried people, a married person could become single by virtue of the death of the spouse, desertion, separation or divorce. The definition for singleness could be extended to those marriages where singleness is forced upon them by their occupation. Quite a few married people stay apart for a prolonged period because of their occupation.

            The Christian dictum for every Christian is to get married and have children. If you are unmarried, then a demeaning assumption that you are not fit for marriage might assault you. But this need not be true always!

            You may be fit for marriage and you may desire to get married. Yet you may be unable to recognize a person of your choice or - let me sound spiritually precise - you may be unable to find a person of God’s choice for yourself.

            Singleness, in this instance, is forced upon you. This is an unfortunate situation. You may grapple with the theological question, “Is it God’s will for me to be single?” But even a reasonable answer to that question may not offer you perpetual peace, for you may still encounter moments of sadness and even depression.

            So two questions are in order in this context:

            (1) Can a Christian remain single?

            (2) How do I live as a single person?

            Can a Christian remain single? It’s ok to be single as long as God’s called you to be single. In this instance, you would be at peace with your singleness. On the other hand, if you want to get married but if you are unable to find a suitable person, then you could be anxious, confused, worried, depressed, disappointed, and what not.

            God is love. So HE created us as social beings with a capacity to love and a longing or a deep craving to be loved. Therefore, unless you are called to be single, singleness will be a burden.

            The Catholic tradition concurs that singleness is a burden. This is what the Catholic bishop will tell those who are to voice their vow to remain committed to celibacy, “You ought anxiously to consider again and again what sort of a burden this is which you are taking upon you of your own accord. Up to this you are free. You may still, if you choose, turn to the aims and desires of the world. But if you receive this order it will no longer be lawful to turn back from your purpose. You will be required to continue in the service of God, and with His assistance to observe chastity and to be bound forever in the ministrations of the Altar, to serve who is to reign.” (Emphasis Mine).4

            I do not want to be single, I want to marry. I am unable to find a suitable person. How then do I live as a single person? Living in such a situation isn’t easy. Nevertheless, an intentional life is to be lived in order to maintain sanity. Rev. John Stott’s advice could come in handy, “…single people are wise to develop as many friendships as possible, with people of all ages and both sexes. For example, although I have no children of my own, I have hundreds of adopted nephews and nieces all over the world, who call me "Uncle John." I cherish these affectionate relationships; they greatly lessen, even if they do not altogether deaden, occasional pangs of loneliness.”5

            He goes on to say, “First, don’t be in too great a hurry to get married. We human beings do not reach maturity until we are about 25. To marry before this runs the risk of finding yourself at twenty-five married to somebody who was a very different person at the age of twenty. So be patient. Pray daily that God will guide you to your life partner or show you if he wants you to remain single. Second, lead a normal social life. Develop many friendships. Third, if God calls you to singleness, don't fight it. Remember the key text: "Each person has his or her own gift of God's grace" (1 Cor. 7:7).” (Emphasis Mine).6








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