Single?

Are single Christians forever destined to be second-class citizens in the kingdom of God?  A single woman in our church asked this question.  She knows what it means to feel excluded and receive this subtle message from Christian friends.  We live in a time when single adults abound.  The latest census reveals that nearly 50% of adults in America are single.  Of those, the largest number have never been married.  Here in Miami, well over 50% of adutls are single.  What place do Christians have in the plan of God?

First, looking at the Old Testament we see a picture of the covenant blessings of God.  It seems that the gifts of the covenant are conferred through marriage and family.  Abraham was told his offspring would be numerous, like the sand on the seashore.  Israelite men knew that they would not have a lasting name unless they had children.  As a result, there was no place in Israel for single adults.  Indeed, God commanded the prophet Jeremiah not to marry to show the people their spiritual condition.  Without children they would be cut off from the land.  Having a spouse and children was often the image God chose to explain the blessings his people would receive. Add to this the fact that your family’s land and inheritance could only be kept in the family if there was an heir.  In short, there was no conception of God’s covenant benefits outside of marriage and family.

Jesus’ coming changed everything.  He not only remained single, which was itself scandalous, but he taught about being single.  Here was the inheritor of all the promises of God, yet he never married.  Indeed, Jesus took the teaching of the Old Testament and applied it to those married and single.  No doubt marriage is a powerful covenant sign.  But in Jesus we learn that singleness is a covenant sign as well.

First, in Jesus people are joined to the covenant not by physical birth and bloodlines but by spiritual birth and the work of the Spirit.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13

It is not natural descent that matters but God’s will and God’s grace.  This means that singleness becomes a covenant sign pointing to the fact that the blessings of the covenant come by grace as a gift of God, not through natural descent.  Furthermore, Jesus also redefined the family.  In Israel nothing was more important than your family.  But, Jesus revealed a new family, not a blood-family, but a new spiritual family.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35

Jesus’ words would be astonishing for his Jewish listeners.  Indeed, Jesus is redefining family for the people of God.  What we see Jesus doing is deconstructing the “natural” view of the kingdom of God and erecting a spiritual view.  His followers are not born.  They are born from above or born again.

The result of this is a new conception of the place of the family and singleness.  Indeed, Jesus redeemed singleness.  As a result we should not be shocked by an emergence of singleness as a calling from God and as blessed condition for God’s people.  The history of the early church makes it clear that Jesus’ followers got the message. Whereas in Israel singleness was considered freakish, among Christians singleness was much more common and also often praised.

Of course today the church continues to struggle with singleness because there is always a collision of the natural, characterized by family and children, and the spiritual, characterized by spiritual children and a living inheritance unrelated to blood family.  We need the presence of single Christians to remind us of the revolutionary way of Jesus, and what the kingdom of God is all about.

 

Note: Barry Danylak’s work Redeeming Singleness provides an excellent treatment of this topic.

 

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on August 12, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Grateful for all members of the family of God <3.

    Reply

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