Day 239 – Don’t Get Married!

Back in the day (that was in the 80s and 90s), single people in most of the evangelical churches I attended often felt like second class citizens, waiting until they could join the real world via marriage.

Most of my single women friends LONGED to be married, to find their prince, to discover ultimate happiness in marriage. I was NO exception!

That’s why Paul’s discussion of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7: 25-40 always puzzled me and gave me hope.

It puzzled me because Paul says no less than 5 times (at my count) that it’s better to stay single than to marry. 

If that’s the case, then why weren’t the evangelical protestant pastors I knew not preaching and pushing Paul’s teaching? Why did it “feel” like the church regarded marriage and children as the “better” option? Why did we get the sense that those who married were more mature?

Did the evangelical seminaries somehow skip over Paul’s teaching here?

On the other hand, the passage gave me hope. I turned there often to remind myself that staying single was a noble estate. I especially liked verse 34: “…the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.” ESV

Although I longed for marriage and family, I often reminded myself that if I stayed single the rest of my life, it would allow me to focus more on Jesus and ministry. And, in fact, I had a much more robust ministry when I was single than for most of my married life [although that is about to change with my new job…].

Dear readers, what do you think? Why the big emphasis on marriage in the evangelical church?

 

Today’s Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26, Psalm 102:1-11, Proverbs 24:1-2, 1 Corinthians 7:17-40. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).

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2 thoughts on “Day 239 – Don’t Get Married!

  1. Lots of great points, Chaotic (and thanks for your encouraging email to which I have not responded – been a bit busy!). I told my husband when we dated that one reason I WANTED to be married is that I thought it would be the best place for me to grow spiritually because of the “iron sharpening iron” aspect. 16 years later there’s NO DOUBT that it’s helped me grow spiritually!! Lots of iron sharpening in our house…

  2. Good question. To be honest, I think at least part of the answer to your question is contained within the larger context of the verses in 1 Cor 7. We live in a very hyper-sensualized and hyper-sexualized age and culture, obsessed with relationships and romance. It’s everywhere. It’s in our faces almost constantly, and we can’t seem to escape it, no matter how we try. So as Paul is recommending, where the lusts (and a culturally-imposed default sense of loneliness or incompleteness for single people) are often overwhelming, it’s better to find a partner than to live in craving, lust, sinful temptation all the time and be continually distracted.

    It truly is a noble calling and noble gifting to be single, and be able to devote oneself entirely to ministry and serving the Lord, but it’s not one that most people have. The more that the culture around us appeals to and attacks our sinful nature, the more “protective” I think it becomes to our Christian walk to find a partner and to settle a tension that will always seem to exist until it’s dealt with, for most people.

    I know some might say “But we’re supposed to be separate and not be like the world!”, but the truth is that the Lord saves ordinary people, living ordinary lives, that are typical of the culture that He calls us from. He changes hearts and transforms our natures not to be like the old sinful ones, but for the most part, one’s cultural norms and way of life do not normally mean a radical departure from the state we were in when He called us. (Verses 17 thru 24 even say this directly). This is also why oftentimes bikers have ministries to other bikers, prisoners have ministries to other prisoners, ex-drug addicts have ministries to drug addicts, and so forth. We bring light and hope to those who are in the same place that we are or were, when oftentimes nobody else could reach them. So the predominant state of our culture revolves around relationships, marriage, and children, so those are who much of the ministry from churches are directed toward.

    Finally, I think it’s important to define how and why Paul is calling it “better” to stay single. The text says it’s better because there are no additional responsibilities in your life when you are single — you can be fully devoted to serving the Lord with all your energies. But that doesn’t mean it’s “better” in every way. Many people enjoy having a spouse, children, and all the responsibilities that come along with it. So in essence the chapter says (to paraphrase), “If getting married is your thing, then that’s wonderful! You have God’s full blessing in the choice you have made. Just be aware of the hardships that you will face by making this choice”.

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