Sunday, May 06, 2007

To Be Single is Better?

I usually tried to avoid as much as possible discussions about marriage/singleness, but in a theological world where biblical manhood and womanhood is a hot topic, it's nigh-on impossible. I guess I always feel as though my hands are slightly tied. After all - I am not married so what business do I have contributing to discussions on marriage? My home church held quite a good position on it I think. My pastor used to tell the men of the church to resist ministry and marriage as long as was humanly possible and if you ended up in it - it was probably of God! Then moving to Bristol and into SGM I found the topic of marriage much higher on the agenda and much more present in the church. I heard some stuff said about getting married which was at best insensative and at worst rude. So I am far from objective in the whole discussion!

Thus I am always thrilled when a hero of calibre like Dr John Piper has something to say. He preached a sermon; "Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters" at Bethlehem and it was vintage. He said;

"My main point is that God promises those of you who remain single in Christ blessings that are better than the blessings of marriage and children, and he calls you to display, by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage and childrearing".

More succinctly;

"To say the main point more briefly: God promises spectacular blessings to those of you who remain single in Christ, and he gives you an extraordinary calling for your life. To be single in Christ is, therefore, not a falling short of God’s best, but a path of Christ-exalting, covenant-keeping obedience that many are called to walk".

So I guess it was quite understandable that someone (probably like me) wrote to him asking; "If what you say about the blessing of singleness is true, then why would one even want to be married?". In true biblical wisdom, Piper responded with the following letter: "Married or Single: For Better or Worse". I really appreciated much of what he had to say about marriage because it backed up a lot of what I have felt deeply. Namely that marriage is intended to: "To display his covenant keeping love between Christ and the church". This has particular bearing on the discussion about the meaning of the Song of Solomon. But Piper's wise conclusion to the question is excellent.

"Marriage may prove to be gloriously happy, or painfully disappointing. Singleness may prove to be gloriously satisfying or painfully disappointing. Only God knows which it will be for you".

Basically it all comes back to faith again. We shouldn't be panicking rushing around looking for the "right" partner, nor should we be rudely rebuffing the clear signs of attraction when it's plainly obvious. If we really do indeed call Jesus Christ our Lord then our marital status rests in His divine hands along with every other aspect of our lives. And what a comfort that is!


Anonymous said...

Uh-oh. Yes singleness is always a bit of a sensitive subject and a tricky one!! I join in your gratitude to John Piper for addressing it and I think you can see his influence at the "Passion" conference over here in the States as being a big influence on single people to make use of their freedom to go and die for the glorious Gospel!

Thanks for drawing attention to these articles. You come across really well and I join your abhorrence of ridiculous statements about "going out and just getting married". Marriage is a sacred gift from God and as the vows say - not something to be entered into lightly.

DR S A J Burgess

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it wasn't meant to be insensitive or rude - I am sure it was meant with the best intentions.

James B said...

Just because something wasn't meant to be rude or insensitive doesn't mean it isn't. And as for best intentions ... well a lot of bad men in history had very good intentions I am sure. Surely the only judge of our actions, character and speech must be the Word of God??

Dr RC said...

I'd be interested to know where the SGM-obsession with marriage came from. Is it (like the Cross fixation) from C J Mahaney's life-changing marriage and family? I dont mean that offensively. I'm just interested as to where all this has evolved from. Maybe (trying to be fair here) they saw an over-emphasis of single men and women actually selfishly enjoying their freedom and so sought to correct that with teaching on the joys of marriage.

Clearly - like the stupid-o'clock-in-the-morning club, it has gone to far. Oh, as Ern Baxter used to cry, "Balance - balance in all things!". I think I have learnt most in my church from sitting with the single people and asking them what offends them or upsets them in my preaching. Do I use too many examples about married life? Can they give me examples about single life? Even better - how about giving my pulpit over to a single person to learn from what they have heard from God!

After all - marriage isn't a pre-requisite for ministry. Unless you are in NFI maybe ... I jest. ;)

I really appreciate these Piper articles. We must be fair, I see on your parents church website blog that whoever writes it is advertising a book for singles. So maybe they are trying to change.


James B said...

His parents church have a blog? Yikes!