Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Battles Singles Face (Part 1): Introduction

If you walk into the average Christian bookshop you will have no problem finding a book on marriage, parenting, family or relationships. However, you'll find it a lot harder to find a book about singleness (and if you do find one, the chances are that it will be focussed on helping the reader move from being single to being married).

It is indeed right that there should be many volumes dealing with the Bible's teaching on marriage, and helping people to have God-glorifying marriages. Marriage is a good gift of God, and it is intended to be a visual aid of Christ's relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-33), therefore displaying the glory of the gospel. Marriage is a wonderful thing, instituted by God, and it is right that we should want to guard both the instituition of marriage and individual marriages. The glory of God is at stake in this.

However, when we come to the issue of singleness (i.e. those who are not married), not everyone has such a positive view. For many singleness is a problem that is solved by getting married. It might be ok to be single for the first twenty or thirty years of  one's life, but after that it becomes a problem which needs to be solved by marriage. However, this is not the Bible's view.

Scripture sees singleness as a gift from God, just as marriage is a gift from God. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul addresses both singleness and marriage. He says: "...each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." (1 Cor 7:7). That is, some have the gift of marriage (i.e. they are married), and others have the gift of singleness (i.e. they are single). When he talks about singleness as a gift he is not talking about a special feeling that means someone has no desire for marriage. He is talking about a persons position in life. Verses 17-24 show this. Right in the middle of his section on singleness and marriage he has a section where he calls people to "...remain in the condition in which he was called." (7:20).

This means that if we are not married we have the gift of singleness. This may change, God may one day give us the gift of marriage. But until then we have the gift of singleness, and are called to be content with our position in life, to praise God for His gift of singleness and seek to glorify Him in our singleness.

When we understand this it shapes how we think about singleness. It is not a problem. Rather, it is a position in life that may have problems (because we live in a fallen world), just as those who are married may face certain problems. Married couples face unique battles as they seek to live out the married life in a fallen world; so also single people face battles as they seek to do the same.

If you are single (or ministering to a single person) it is important that we realise that the answer to the battles that we face is not marriage (as great a gift as marriage is). Marriage will not solve the problems that come with singleness, it will just give you a whole set of new ones! If we are looking to marriage to solve our problems as singles, then we are making an idol out of marriage and we need to repent of this. The gospel is the answer to the issues that come with singleness, just as it is the solution to the battles that married folk grapple with. We must be looking to Christ as we wrestle with the issues that singleness throws at us.

Over the next while, in a series of posts,  I want to take a number of the most common battles that single men and women face and apply the gospel to them, showing how the gospel is where we must look to as we seek to address these issues. First up, in the next post, we shall look at the issue of lonliness.