Marriage, Singleness, and Sin part 4

Okay, I know. Way, way too academicy recently. So, here’s where I take all that preparatory stuff and finally–finally–get to the point.

Singleness is not a higher calling than marriage. That’s not really a dramatic thing to say anymore. There’s very few people who celebrate that supposed “gift of singleness” after all.

At the same time, and what needs to be said a whole lot more, is that marriage is not a higher calling than singleness.

Neither is better. However, both can be worse. They’re equal callings but they’re different callings. Callings is a terribly religious/Christianese sort of word, isn’t it? I’m not going to use that anymore.

Marriage and singleness each offer their own expression of identity. They are about who we are as individuals and who we are among others and who we are before and with God.

Both suffer if we make either way all about us. If I make marriage all about satisfying my own interests and needs, I’m in trouble with God first of all. If I make singleness all about satisfying my own needs and interests, I’m in trouble with God first of all. We’re not allowed to be selfish either in marriage or in singleness.

This is where these states of calling are the same.

Here’s where they are different:

If you’re married, your identity with God is bound up in your contribution to the life of your spouse, and your family.

If you’re single, your identity with God is bound up in your contribution to others.

This is a tricky bit. Because I’m not saying your identity comes from your spouse, or that your identity comes from others. Rather, our identity can only be grounded in God. But, our identity with God includes contributing to the lives of others. Love God, love your neighbor, thems the rules.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that married people shouldn’t pay attention to others. I am saying, however, that if they pay attention to others more than or in exclusion to their spouse and family, they’re sinning. They’re not right with God.

That’s what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 7.

If you feel your calling is to serve others more broadly, don’t get married. If you can’t focus on others, and spend all your life trying to get married, just get married. Because if you’re single and you’re spending your energy and efforts to find a spouse, and pouring yourself wholly or most fully into the life of a single other person, then you’re not right with God.

So, if you want to be married, great! There’s a way of life God has for us in this path. Your primary contribution is to the emotional and spiritual well-being of this other person. This doesn’t mean you’re to be co-dependent, finding your identity in this other. It means that you’re to help this other person most fully find their identity in and with God, and that person is to help you most fully find your identity in and with God.

If you are single, great! That means you can devote yourself to contributing to the lives of others, free from having to pay attention to the needs of one particular other. Your time is your own, and you are free to go and do all sorts of tasks in all sorts of places. Like Paul did. And because that was his calling (to evangelize and serve others) he saw his state of singleness as a gift. The gift, after all, isn’t being alone, it’s being able to contribute in all kinds of ways to all sorts of people. A single person hsa the gift of time and space, able to use their time for others, and able to spend their time in other places.

Unfortunately for so much of the Protestant churches, and especially in Evangelicalism, these two paths got mixed up. And all sorts of hell, literally, breaks loose.

More on that in the next post, including examples of people who have done each right and examples of people who have done it wrong.

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