Abbey Presbyterian Church, Parnell Square North, Dublin 1, Co. Dublin, Ireland | t: : 00353 (1) 8378600, e: [email protected]

SINGLENESS

All this talk of weddings and marriages may annoy some people who either long to be married but have yet to find a partner, or who have no desire at all to be married. In fairness the Church has sometimes regarded these folk as ‘sad’ or ‘unfulfilled’ or ‘frustrated.’ Sometimes they feel like second class citizens in the fellowship and may feel compelled to seek marriage just to be ‘normal.’ This is a travesty! The fact that singleness and celibacy enjoy a resounding affirmation in Scripture and that Jesus Himself was single, ought to correct us.

Genesis 2:18 tells us that it is good to marry and 1 Corinthians 7:1 tells us that it is good not to marry. Neither state is inherently better or holier than the other. Jesus then goes on to tells us in Matthew 19:11-12 that there are three broad reasons why people remain single:

  1. ‘because they were born that way’ – this could include those with a physical defect or with a homosexual orientation and are thus congenitally unlikely to marry;
  2. ‘because they were made that way by men’ – they were victims of forcible castration;
  3. ‘because they have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven’ – freely and without internal or external pressure, they have voluntarily put marriage aside, either temporarily or permanently, in order to undertake some work for the kingdom which demands single-minded devotion.

So singleness can be regarded as a gift of God, a vocation to which people are called. Our sex-satiated society tells us (and the Church has sometimes implied) that we cannot and must not control our sex drives otherwise we will be less than human, but this is nonsense. In fact the opposite is the case; it is animals who instinctively and uncontrollably respond to such drives, humans can choose. Moreover, Jesus remained single and celibate and he was the most fully human person that has ever lived. Living a full, free and fulfilled human life does not necessitate marriage and/or sex. In his helpful booklet, The Single Issue, Al Hsu dreams of a future where:

  • Singles see their singleness as an opportunity instead of a curse, who are not halves looking for another half, but whole persons who are complete in their identity in Christ…
  • Parents and families celebrate the fact that their single adult children are able to serve God in ways that their married children cannot…
  • Christian communities where singles build friendships, and find support and encouragement and security…
  • Churches are sensitive to the needs of singles, purposeful in ministering to singles, accepting and affirming singles, welcoming them as full partners in community and ministry, providing opportunities for them to serve and use their gifts in the life of the church …
  • Churches where singles and married couples interact, understanding that singles and families need each other…
  • Christian singles no longer fear being alone in the world, but rather have a message of hope for the world…

Given the Reformation imbalance of emphasising marriage as a reaction against enforced celibacy, we will need to apply ourselves more consciously to this particular gift in and for the Church. Indeed we should appreciate the faithful pursuance of singleness as much a ‘sphere of influence’ as marriage, and again this is something we explore in our Cell Groups.