Years ago I was involved in the debate over what some call “the gift of singleness.” Some tend to think of the gift of singleness as the state of singleness: to be single, is to have the gift. I wholeheartedly disagree. I think it is better to differentiate between a gift for celibacy and the state of singleness. Not all who are in the state of singleness are gifted to remain there–though, of course, celibacy is the biblical requirement of all singles. Which is one of the reasons most of them should marry (I Cor. 7:9). As I wrote in a 2006 essay:
[The gift of celibacy] is a rare gift that is accompanied by a Spirit-endowed ability to cheerfully and without bitterness or rancor abstain from sexual intimacy and the deep emotional companionship that only comes with marriage and having children. In many cases, I believe this is accompanied with a particular life calling that greatly profits from the status of singleness (e.g., missions, a life-threatening vocation, excessive traveling, etc.).
On the other hand, a comprehensive view of singleness has to answer questions like: What about the person who wants to marry, tries to marry, and is repeatedly unsuccessful? Should we ever exhort others to pursue marriage, or is that a nosey intrusion on a purely personal decision? And if it is possible have too little motivation to marry, can one want marriage too much?
These are the sorts of questions I try to address in an article published today called A Balanced View of Singleness. My conclusions:
An essential aspect of loving singles is being open to helping them in the process toward marriage, while recognizing:
* our relationship with Christ is more important than our marital state
* some singles are uniquely gifted to remain single for greater kingdom effectiveness
* many singles struggle profoundly with loneliness, lust, fornication, and the like, and welcome (or should welcome) loving, gracious, and balanced input on the process toward marriage from Christians who care about their souls and their bodies
* for most, marriage will be a means of profound sanctification, and they ought to responsibly (and diligently) move in this direction even as they embrace other adult responsibilities
* just as God ordains the ends, He ordains the means. The means may include overcoming your fear and telling a girl how you feel. They may include giving a guy a chance, even though you grew up seeing your parents go through a divorce, and you’ve closed your heart like a shell.