After Church – Single People in Church! Gasp!

As an evangelical, I’d say we get a fair bit of exposure to the idea of “Christian marriage”. If you are single…well, prepare to be assaulted with the idea that you should be married, like, right NOW. I find this interesting and maybe a little weird; it’s obvious from the early church fathers that celibacy was the ideal. Why has marriage suddenly become the “Biblical” status, now? No one’s saying that pastors/overseers aren’t supposed to be married, but I don’t understand where deontological marriage came into the picture. Additionally, the idea of marriage has diminished in recent times, meaning less and less stature for “traditional” marriage. It could be a reaction. Still, I’m not a cynic; about these things; I’m not saying  there aren’t any reasons to get married. Let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 3:

3 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Fine, I get this; a pastor would find their job difficult if they’re not married. Why? How can you talk to the general public without being married? If you can’t raise children, how can you raise the children of God? A pastor, at the very least, needs to be married in order to speak to his congregation with any authority whatsoever. Again, this makes perfect sense; you need a depth of experience and knowledge in humans affairs in order to be a pastor. It’s not like being a monk, that’s for sure. But, on the other hand, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 tell us of a different standard for the general church population:

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife doesStop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, andcome together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The rest of the chapter deals with those married to unbelievers, so I’m going to skip that part (feel free to look at it on your own).

From my perspective, it would appear that being unmarried remains the ideal. Marriage, rather than a thing to be celebrated as THE way of life, exists simply as a means to avoid sin. Seriously: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. How much more obvious can you get than that? Paul then lists a whole bit of caveats because he knows a lot of people simply can’t resist themselves. It’s as true in America as it was in Rome: self-control’s a rare commodity. Paul does this as a concession (v.6), He understand the practical implications of said situation, and he knows that not all Christians have grown enough in Christ to resist that particular temptation. It’s particularly dangerous, given that sexual sin damages the body. Perhaps it does not in perceivable ways, but at least in spiritual status; the mind affects the body more than you know as 1 Corinthians 6 tells us:

18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

As a bachelor myself, I have a vested interest in this conversation, that much I’ll admit. I am not averse to the prospect of marriage, either. Simply put, I’m saying the constant focus on one way of life in the Church denigrates the other by virtue of its overbearing presence. Paul knew that; why else would he set up guidelines and helps for both parties? If you can be single and live a fulfilling life in Christ, great! Go do that! If you need to get married for whatever reason, just don’t get divorced and treat each other with kindness regarding what you both need.

I am, in no way, trying to diminish the sanctity of marriage and all it entails; heck, if it didn’t exist in some sense, I wouldn’t exist on earth, and wouldn’t that be a huge loss for everyone (answer: yes)? However, I find the persecution of the single as an abomination. Hey, did you know we have a singles night? The fact that such a things exists surely doesn’t show certain preconceived notions about one’s station in life, does it? When single people feel pressured into marriage, THAT’S a problem. The divorce rate alone should tell you enough – don’t get married unless you plan on sticking with it. Getting married for the sake of church commendations isn’t what God wants. You should get married if it’s the right thing to do.

Didn’t we all get over peer pressure in high school? No? I guess not! Even though we speak of single persons in particular, this goes for just about anyone that lives a lifestyle that’s different from the majority of the church population. Excepting obvious cases (like open sin, for example), why denigrate the doctor or the biblical scholar or the theologian? Everyone’s got a role to play in the body. If we’re truly equal even though we’re necessarily different, we all have different roles to play and find ourselves in different stations based on God’s will. Shouldn’t this also apply to lifestyle choices?

These things irk me, is all.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • Lately, I’m feeling a bit confronted by how different Evangelicaldom is from Biblical Christianity. When I fell in love with the scriptures, I could dive in, swim in the world of the Bible and come out transformed – feeling like I was now equipped to connect with the rest of the Bible-lovers out there. Yet, it often feels more like getting out of a pool, being soaked and hearing dry people talk about what it’s like in the pool. 
    Right-on bringing up the issue of singleness. From a biblical perspective, it’s actually rare to hear about married apostles or anything about their married lives at all. Even Peter (who we know was married) gets zero marital spotlight advice. The only married couple in the NT who we even hear anything about (to my knowledge) is Priscilla and Aquilla. 
    Anyway, I realize that I’m a bit dried-off. Need to take another swim.

    • @Mjoshua That is an excellent metaphor that I will steal at some point.
      I just feel fairly annoyed at this sometimes. Not that most people seem to notice. It sometimes feels like an injection of cultural values into the text, though I could just as easily be seeing it wrong.

      • @Zachery Oliver To be completely fair, it was the Apostle’s opinion. Though Apostle’s opinions tend to be rather fascinating…

        • @Mjoshua And, more often than not, true on a number of counts.