In honor of Valentine's Day I will post several entries on singleness and the church. Improper Christian thought on singleness is one of the greatest disservices Christians have perpetuated. Even now, with the single adult demographic at 50 percent or more in this country very little is said on the topic. We throw around comments about how Paul was single and Jesus was single. We mention that Paul said a few things on singleness in the New Testament and we sometimes talk that some may have that 'gift'. Beyond that, not only do we not talk or think about singleness in a theological way, the church adamantly promotes marriage as 'the way' for individuals and society to function properly at all. Many Christians don't realize the Bible has any comments on singleness whatsoever.
I'm 32 and unmarried. I've spent most of my life single in every sense of singleness. I've participated for about ten years now in healthy young adult singles ministries in two different churches. I just finished a year co-leading one of those ministries.
My thinking seriously on this topic started about four years ago. My friends and I were talking about how once someone has a boyfriend (or girlfriend) they automatically are moved into a different category. Singles treat the individuals in the newly formed couple differently and couples do also. They are out of one 'club' and into another. What necessitates this change? It seemed more fundamental than just that these two people may now have built-in plans for a Friday night. The change, we realized, has something to do with the beginning of the hope being realized of having a spouse.
At the same time as this conversation my discussion group at church was studying N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope. Wright addresses the idea of the Christian hope -- what we hope for and what we tend as a church to be missing in the discussion. It struck me as a similar story to what I was experiencing as a single person. Could it be that God gave us singleness to teach us about the present in the same way theologians say God gave us marriage to teach us about the future?
I'll unpack that concept in my future posts. Until then, let me direct you to two very different views on singleness:
Albert Mohler has several entries on his blog regarding singleness.
John Piper takes a very different view. Read or view one of his sermons on the topic or you can download his book, This Momentary Marriage, which has a chapter on singleness.