Part 4


Sex and Singles - a harder path

Some are born to be single

Some achieve singleness

Some have singleness thrust upon them

Singleness is not a disease - but an opportunity


Sex is not for everyone - despite the powerful tides of biology. Nor, is the partnership of marriage in God’s plan for us all - despite its importance in the preface to the Bible (Gen 1-3). Maybe there is no "other half" out there waiting to be found (despite Gen 2:23-24); though discovering such a "better half" is, for many of us, the most exciting and fulfilling experience of life.

Sex and Singles - a harder path

Knowing how incomplete we are, and knowing how basic to the creator’s intention is the marriage partnership of male and female, we may imagine that marriage is God’s plan for everyone.

Not true, far from true!

There is "a harder path". God calls some to be single. It was Paul’s own calling (1 Cor 7:7), and - despite some modern best sellers - Jesus’ calling too.

Sexual desire makes this path harder, as Paul recognises (1 Cor 7:9). The celibate must be more single-minded in their service of God and humanity - else temptation will "burn them up".

But, the harder path is also better (1 Cor 7:8).

Protestant reformers long ago rejected Rome and medieval "Roman" abuses. Strangely, in doing so, we not only ended the overwrought praise of celibacy which made singleness a condition for true Christian service, we also overlooked this Scripture. The call to celibacy is according to the Bible an even holier and higher calling than the call to lifelong partnership - look at verse 7 again!

Some are born to be single

Maybe, some are born to celibacy, or at least are predisposed to be single. Experience of confirmed bachelor friends who "suddenly" marry suggests their number may be small! Despite this, if you "are born to singleness", gladly seize the opportunity your state provides. Time and unity of focus denied to others, are yours.

Look at the heroes you admire from Christian history, the people who achieved exciting things for God. How many were single? Of the married, how many were men who, either relied on slave labour, or more recently had wives acting as full-time backup team? These solutions are neither possible (in the case of spouse as backup team economics denies it to most couples) or not acceptable today. Whatever the views some of us have of the calling of the pastor’s wife, you will see few letters appealing for the reintroduction of slavery in your Church newspaper!

If you were "born to be single" whatever the difficulties, temptations and suffering of your state - you have an opportunity open to few others - to live full-on for God!

Some achieve singleness

God calls some to singleness. Though Baptists refuse to admit it, those who are aware of God’s calling to singleness can focus on Him in a unique and powerful way. We, however, have no way of honouring or even marking the achievement which promises such wholehearted commitment to Christ. The dull deaf ear we turn to what we do not like in the Bible makes the "harder path" harder still!

Yet consider the alternative, a young adult desperately searching for someone to compensate their weakness and fulfil their desire, can be blind to the One who uniquely does both. The creator has fulfilled desire and overcome weakness since the foundation of the world. Fevered seeking or grey despair can leave such unwilling singles less free to serve the master, than their married friends are - what a waste of Kingdom resources!

Constant demands from children, tiredness of juggling work and family, sap the energy of many a middle-aged married Christian. We can’t be the crack troops in Christ’s army. Can you imagine Jesus on the road to Jerusalem for that last Passover, busy changing nappies and tending cut knees?

Some have singleness thrust upon them

Baptists idolise family. "Ours is a family church." "Let’s pray for our children." "Come as a family." But seldom, if ever, "Singles only." Celibacy among us is not easy!

Looking for help in writing this article I examined the very best Study Bible./1   I found lots of good articles on "women", "men", "family" and "marriage" as well as hundreds on different jobs and professions - but not one on singleness! Let Protestant pastors and teachers confess, we have made the "harder path" more difficult still by our silence.

Many people who would love to be married "have not found the right person". Lots of them are so attractive, that onlookers can only wonder what is wrong with all their contemporaries. Some of these are "called" to singleness but have not yet heard or accepted that call.
In many cases circumstances have conspired to produce a single. Caring for a family member, illness, and many other factors can make marriage difficult or impossible. (In this article I am not dealing with the singleness which comes after marriage - bereavement, separation and divorce raise a different set of questions.)

These kinds of "enforced" singleness can be saddening, even embittering. Yet God does, on occasion, use force to get his way. Have you never prayed "your will be done"? Perhaps it is?

Singleness is not a disease - but an opportunity

Whatever the language or attitudes of your pastor and fellow members singleness is not a disease. Whether you are a single-born, whether you achieve singleness through and despite struggle, or whether the Lord thrusts singleness upon you, singleness accepted for the kingdom’s sake is a badge of honour. It is also an opportunity - don’t waste the occasions God provides!

1 The Word in Life Study Bible Nelson, 1996 (I say "the best" because it focuses on today’s life and work while explaining the society from which the Bible came as well - practical, down-to-earth and scholarly, it helps the Word of Life to live). Return to text


This article is part of the "Electric Angels" collection

It is the fourth of a series about Men & Women, Sex & God

Next Article: Submitting to the Bible (prepares for a discussion of submission in relation to men's and women's roles).


© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2002

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