Thursday, February 23, 2006

We're Not 'Special' But We Deserve a Voice.

I am speaking of single people. And when I say we are not 'special', I mean that we are not 'special' because of our marital status. We are indeed special because we are children of the King of Kings! It has been my concern for a couple of years now that single people have been and are being neglected by the church and above all are being seen as 'odd'. My concerns were amplified by comments coming from the group of churches I used to be associated with making sincere but unfortunate comments about marriage and how young men should just "get on with it". Get on with it? When there were no suitable single women in the church? Great care is needed and great sensativity. I do realise and appreciate that some young men indeed do need a proverbial boot up the backside, but my concern is linked to the fact that the Word of God has MUCH to say about single people and none of it is to do with "getting on with it".

I was greatly encouraged therefore to re-read the foreword to John Piper and Wayne Grudem's monumental "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" (available to read online). Piper's foreword is called; "For Single Men and Women" and he has eight vital theses on singleness that must be heard. By the way - he wrote; "We know you are there ... and we are listening". I wonder if that is true - many subscribe to RBMW but are you really listening to the single men and women in your church? Here are his eight theses:

1. Marriage, as we know it, is not the final destiny of any human.

"There is some warrant for thinking that the kinds of self-denial involved in singleness could make one a candidate for greater capacities for love in the age to come".

2. Jesus Christ, the most fully human Person who ever lived, was not married.

(In answer to the common argument; 'A life of slavery to virginity would mean being only half human') - "The most fully human person who has ever lived, or ever will live is Jesus Christ and He never once had sexual intercourse ... We will always have mountains of truly human Christ-likeness yet to climb, but sexual intercourse is not one of them. For He never knew it. And He is infinately whole".

3. The Bible celebrates celibacy because it gives extraordinary opportunity for single minded investment in ministry for Christ.

To quote the single yet hugely used of God David Brainerd; "I cared not where or how I lived or what hardships I went through so that I could but gain souls for Christ ... All my desire was for the conversion of the heathen and my hope was in God".

4. The Apostle Paul and a lot of great missionaries after him have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:12; "For some ... have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of haven".

By the way! I haven't heard THIS verse preached on ... ever!

5. The Apostle Paul calls singleness a gift from God.

"Single people are not generally treated as the bearers of a superb and special gift from God. They are sometimes treated as abnormal in the Church".

6. Jesus promised that forsaking family for the sake of the Kingdom will be repaid with a new family, the church.

7. God is sovereign over who gets married and who doesn't. And He can be trusted to do what is good for those who hope in Him.

8. Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married.

"We are persuaded by Scripture that masculinity and femininity are rooted in who we are by nature. They are not simply reflexes of a marriage relationship. Man does not become a man by getting married. Woman does not become woman by getting married".

So what ... ?

This is more than just a rant on my behalf to try and influence church life generally for the better, for myself and my fellow single Christian brothers and sisters in this country. I actually passionately believe that John Piper has touched on something absolutely key - although he didn't specifically allude to it. I have been writing much about Restoration and the glorious end-time church. I do believe strongly that part of that glorious end-time church will be martydoms. I don't say that lightly - but simply from a view of Scripture that is unavoidable. It is going to happen! For too long now, the West has avoided the persecutions that our brothers and sisters across the world are going through - whether that is the mercy or judgement of God - it is not for us to decide. But I am certain that it is coming. And I believe that single men and women are ideally placed to become those who just might step forward as martyrs for the glorious Kingdom of God. I could be wrong - but I suspect that it was for a good reason that Paul said it is actually BETTER that some do not marry! We are placed strategically to have absolutely NOTHING to lose for Christ and His Kingdom! But we do have EVERYTHING to gain! So even if the church isn't actually listening to single people as Dr Piper said (but secretly pitying) I strongly advise that we begin to change our attitudes.

Marriage isn't the be-all and end-all of human destiny. Jesus Christ lived the fullest human life possible and He never married. There is a un-tapped huge resource in remaining single for the Kingdom and glory of God. Singleness is a GIFT! Meant for our GOOD! The biggest fear of singleness is defunct because we do indeed have a family - the glorious church. And at the end of the day all our destinies lie in the hands of an awesome God who knows exactly what and where He is going. And He promised that as SURELY as He lives - all the earth, ALL the earth WILL be filled with the glory of the Lord!


SJ said...

I felt my hair stand on end as I read this. I feel that we are standing on holy ground and that this isn't something to be considered lightly. Wow ... do you realise what you are talking about - the accomplishment of the eternal purposes of Almighty God through His Risen Son ... to be brought about by His glorious Bride the Church? This is weighty stuff.

jul said...

I thouroughly agree with you. I too have also been aware that martyrdom is making a comeback in some ways. It has always been going on somewhere in the world, but I believe it will return to our great "civilized and free" countries. As for singleness, it can certainly be a gift. To be fair to those men who are being led to do the "booting" to certain young men, I think it is fair to remember that the kind of single men you are talking about is rare (unfortunately). In our culture, it is common and tempting to remain single for purely selfish reasons, indulging in lust or other forms of sexual sin or just being self centered in general. But although marriage is a great killer of selfishness (or should be!), foregoing marriage for the express purpose of dedicated oneself totally to God is a powerful and wonderful thing for the building of the kingdom. Some of the great people in church history may have done better not to have married rather than neglect their families as they did.
So all this begs the question, do you feel this call to singleness? Or are you more concerned that while you are single, you view it this way. You certainly might not be able to blog at your current rate if you were married with children! Either way, I pray God will pour out even more grace on you and fill you with his Spirit in such a powerful way that He will be more to you than any other person in the world, and more than food or drink or money or comfort.
May he do that for us all!

Don said...

This is an excellent post, Dan. Thank you very much.

I've always wondered what Jesus meant, when He was talking to the Sadducees -- He told them they didn't understand Scripture when they asked Him, to which of the 7 husbands would the woman be married in Heaven? I've never found the scripture to which He was referring, when He told them that people in Heaven are like the angels, i.e., not married.

*Where's* that verse, Jesus??

I think it would help both singles and marrieds to have some clear understanding of His statement that there will be no marriage/marrieds in Heaven.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks so much for both those comments, I value them so much especially from you guys that I have come to love and respect, because they help to bring clarity to my thoughts and understanding.

An excellent question Jul - and one that was begging to be asked. Do I feel this call to singleness? I suppose the answer to that is - yes. I did indeed go through quite a prolonged period of resenting singleness, of suffering ... especially every wedding (hated events!) and Christmas. But as you pointed out, the Lord is beginning to give me jobs and tasks to do that I am finding incredibly fulfilling and they are things that I just simply couldn't do if I had a wife or children. And it is my prayer that those things grow as my relationship with church grows and grows!! The thrilling thing about being in Newfrontiers is that I know that one can never claim to be bored or jobless - there is ALWAYS something to do! Particularly if we are to see 1000 churches!

Now if you are asking whether I by default am thinking along the martyr-lines, that is something that I simply dread to even approach. Remember Polycarp said that he was blessed to be counted "worthy". And I simply do not think I AM worthy! And I am also so concious of Peter who radically claimed he would follow Jesus wherever and then faltered at the gaze of a woman over a fire. Unfortunately I know myself and my weaknesses and I fear I too would falter. But I trust and believe that as Corrie Ten Boom once said - that God would give the grace for a martyrs death, if He so required me to die a martyrs death. We don't get that grace unless we need it!

But do you know, the thing that is just burdening my heart so much is that I want in my life to affect history. I know that sounds arrogant, but I just feel such a sense of urgency that I dont want my life to fritter away and die a resentful regretful old man. I want my life to count! See ... you can tell I've been reading John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life"!!!!

jul said...

Have you read his article "Don't Waste Your Cancer"? I put a link to it on my blog, but you can find it pretty easy on the Desiring God site. It's good to see he has a sense of humor.

Don said...

Dan, I've spent 30 years wanting my life to "count for something," as you do. I used to think that that meant I had to become someone like the people up on the church platform: visible people whose stories and experiences you had to listen to, since they were the leaders and got to tell *their* stories. The temptation was to belittle my own story as God was developing it in me, and think that their stories were more legitimate to God than my own -- unless *I* could become one of them!

The Lord delivered me from (at least some) of that pride, by not allowing me to have *any* position that I could point to and say, "Hey, look at me!" During the same period, He made me realize just how radical it is today to be and stay married, and raise my kids in a godly way.

Even if you're single all your life, and you never become "famous" or do "great things," you may have up to 60 years ahead of you to live each day for the Lord. As you walk with Him every day, before long you will begin to have not only the testimony of the Bible and your heroes, but *your own* testimony of God's working through -- YOU! Even if you disciple one person at a time, or lead one person to Christ at a time -- even just one of these every couple of years, for instance -- you will have made significant contributions to the Kingdom of God. By the end of your life on Earth, you will have become a spiritual father to many people.

Then there's simply the accumulated impact of your day-to-day decisions for God and goodness, and not making decisions promoting evil. The growing impact of millions and millions of believers around the world in the next 60 years, making godly decisions, taking godly actions, will have a dramatic impact on the world.

An example: here in the USA, there's beginning to be recognized the "Roe Effect," named after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion. It's been noticed that young people today are, in many cases, far more conservative politically than the generation immediately preceding them.

The theory had been advanced that this may be because there have been x-number of legal abortions since 1973 (30 million?). The women who had those abortions were, generally, more politically liberal than those who carried their pregnancies to term. As a result, babies born since 1973 have been more likely to be born/raised in more conservative families -- the liberal mothers having been more likely to have aborted their babies. Hence, the post-1973 generation ends up being more conservative, as they were raised in politically conservative families. This ends up influencing political elections at every level, for decades.

See how a multitude of simple decisions can, over time, have enormous consequences? And you don't even have to do "great things."

I love Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame (satan) by the blood of the Lamb [salvation], and by the word of their testimony [not just preaching the Word, but persevering in Christ so as to have one's *own* story of His righteousness, goodness and mercy], and they loved not their lives unto the death [growing into maturity that causes one to do anything Jesus tells you to do, to the loss of your selfish desires or even your life on Earth]."

To me, that's a verse for *every* Christian to grow into, with the promise that we will overcome the enemy through the "simple" process of cooperating with the Spirit to mature us into the fullness of Christ in us.

ollie said...

Yes that's a very important point ... it is quite possible that the world changers, and the history makers that God uses will never sit on a conference platform. One of my favourite biographies is of "Praying Hyde" and he never once sat on a conference platform. But his intercession, so it is said, still affects India today! Thats the inheritance I want to pursue!

Anonymous said...

This is a great challenge to those who would seek to "push" marriage to the point of unhealthiness. By seeing it as the norm for all we are robbing ourselves of a great area of ministry and service to the church. I remember that Spurgeon used to say you must, absolutely must resist two things until you are pushed into them and then you know it is of the Lord - marriage and ministry.