The Gift of Singleness: Part III
- Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Is it sin to simply remain single by choice?
In regard to the issue of singleness, author Debbie Maken (in an article titled "Rethinking the Gift of Singleness: Is Singleness Really a Gift?") appeals to historical precedence. "The laws and practices of [early Christian] cultures likewise conveyed to all what was normative and what behavior was expected. Throughout the ages, for example, women enjoyed an infrastructure (their family or clan) to see them into the safe harbor of marriage. From arranged marriages to courtship/calling, all conspired to protect and guide women from squandering their best, most fertile years in futility."
She continues. "In these earlier systems, those who were beholden to the bride through either blood or other ties were given the responsibility to guide her into marriage. This was primarily done by conditioning access of any prospective suitor on demonstrable showings of worthiness. Men were kept on a tight leash in these earlier systems. Today, we are stuck in a system that is the exact opposite – the balance of power has shifted to some random young man who, though he has virtually unfettered access to the woman, has no binding to her to initiate and bring about a marriage.
"Also in these former cultures, there were consequences when behavior fell below the expected societal standard. The Puritans, for example, actually maintained laws that executed fines and imprisonment for single living. In one case where a single man John Littleale was found living by himself, where he was 'subject to many sins, which are ordinarily the companions of a solitary life,' he was ordered to move in with a family, or be placed in the house of corrections in the Hamptons."
Maken opines, 'I suspect that there was nothing as off-putting to a grown man as being treated like a child in the home of another. However, the shame alone in such measures would have caused John and others like him to grow up and meet the demands of true biblical masculinity as defined by those around him."
A few points are in order here. We affirm that today's practice of serial dating is problematic and have no problem with some forms of courtship, especially among teenagers. But, that particular issue is different than the issue under consideration. We also agree that that the role of families and especially that of fathers has been largely usurped or neglected. Of course, there are always situations in which familial or paternal involvement would not be possible or desired. And, those who live alone certainly face unique temptations. At the same time, there are some young men who simply need to grow up and unless admonished to do so will remain in a state of irresponsibility. But, those issues do not make the case that marriage is required of those who do not posses the gift of celibacy as Maken defines it.
Moreover, while we regard the Puritans as lofty and wonderful examples in many things, and while their theological precision and biblical application is unsurpassed, we must admit that a hint of legalism often ruled their practice and judgment. We affirm and appeal to the Puritans in so many ways and on so many fronts. Yet, Christian liberty must have its rightful application as it, too, is a biblical teaching. Liberty must be brought to bear upon the issue of singleness. With these things in mind, let us move back to the Corinthian text.
The fourth major issue to consider is singleness. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-35, Paul helps us a great deal. A number of applications can be gleaned that relate to the advantages of being single.
Paul commences a new thought that is related to his previous thought beginning in v. 25. He begins to discuss virgins, that is, those who have never been married, and he does so in a pastoral way that expresses his concern for their well-being. Four contextual points must be made from the outset.
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