Recently, a friend directed me to a newly published article on singleness. He thought I might like it. He was right. At least he was right until I got to the part where the author started handing out the gold medal of singleness. Then all I could think was "Seriously!? This? AGAIN?"
I'm not a fan of handing out medals for Christian behaviour anyway, but if we WERE going to be handing them out, surely those who hate being single and long to be married, yet are still joyfully serving God in their present circumstances would be far more worthy of medals than those who have happily chosen celibacy?
It also feels a bit arrogant for anyone to assume they know the mind of God for their entire future. I fully believed I would be single for life, but never considered making some major public commitment to that state because a) I don't see anywhere in the Bible where we're called to do that and b) I felt it would be wrong to commit to never marrying when I didn't know what God might have planned for me. And just as well too, because He very unexpectedly called me to get married in my mid 40s, which I totally did not see coming...
Our church family is going through 1 Corinthians, and my teaching elder has been getting all your articles (and a big hint to get your book!) as we head towards chapter 7. ;)
I’d go so far as to say that in most cases declaring that “I” have decided on “my” plan for “my” life is idolatry no matter what good cause one is dedicating oneself to. It’s Self-Determination dressed up as service to God rather than “thy will be done.”
Thanks for this article. I appreciate you addressing this concern. I wonder if some of this thought comes from 1) wanting to affirm celibacy for SSA Christians, and 2) pushing back against a strawman of the self-indulgent single with impossibly high marital standards.
I think you are right with "The increasing contemporary fixation on chosen vs unchosen singleness is evidence of the way we embed far greater moral value and dignity into the exercise of individual agency than we do a willingness to accept what has been given to us by a good God and to live faithfully in that assignment."
And with this "His point is that you don’t need to choose a life situation in order for that situation to be meaningful."
Thanks for this Dani. I found it incredibly encouraging to read 1 Corinthians again in light of your commentary. Love Christ in every circumstance he has placed us!
I wonder if married Pastors are hired because a fear exists around singles being sexually immoral that does not exist as much for the married. I would love your comments on this topic as I wonder if this perception may be the root of much discrimination in churches for those who are single.
On the note of what Katy said, I've definitely been sharing some of your posts with my church family and with my pastor (who has been absolutely great about taking my concerns and ideas seriously). And your book has been crucial and formative in my own research into singleness and all things related. :-)
"which raises the question of why evangelical churches are so darn insistent on only hiring married pastors. But hey, that’s a discussion for another time" >>> Present this argument by all means yet I reckon you will alienate many Sydney Anglican congregants who value having pastors who have had similar life experiences to themselves.
Stay in your pond; single ministry to singles, and you'll be fine.
Although, and I speak as a long-term single, there is a difference in intentional singleness, where you can devote all of your time/energy to serving God and the church, vs the unintentional singleness where at least some of your time/energy is going to be dedicated to finding a suitable spouse and/or grieving the absence of one.
Peace in singleness is the gift that releases the singleton to serve wholeheartedly, but to my mind that comes through active decision to be at peace with it - ie it is intentional, whether originally chosen or not.