Sunday, September 8, 2013

Marriage is Optional for Christians

There is tremendous pressure on Christian males to marry. Some suggest Christian men have an obligation to marry, and that those who don't are falling short of God's plan. Widespread in Christian culture is a feeling that there is something wrong with a man that doesn't marry, as is evidenced by this quote from a book endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention leadership:

Christian tradition has never validated wholesale singleness. To the contrary, virtually all of our Christian forefathers regarded protracted singleness as unbiblical and believed that young adults were under a divine duty to marry without undue delay. (Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbie Maken)

The Jews of Biblical times had the same attitude, and it was influencing the early church to the point that Paul had to address the issue head on.

7 Yet I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. 9 But if they don’t have self-control, let them marry. For it’s better to marry than to burn. (1Co 7:7-9 WEB)
25 Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who has obtained mercy from the Lord to be trustworthy. 26 I think that it is good therefore, because of the distress that is on us, that it is good for a man to be as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Don’t seek to be freed. Are you free from a wife? Don’t seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned. If a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have oppression in the flesh, and I want to spare you. 29 But I say this, brothers: the time is short, that from now on, both those who have wives may be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they didn’t weep; and those who rejoice, as though they didn’t rejoice; and those who buy, as though they didn’t possess; 31 and those who use the world, as not using it to the fullest. For the mode of this world passes away. 32 But I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is also a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own profit; not that I may ensnare you, but for that which is appropriate, and that you may attend to the Lord without distraction.
36 But if any man thinks that he is behaving inappropriately toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of her age, and if need so requires, let him do what he desires. He doesn’t sin. Let them marry. 37 But he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own heart, to keep his own virgin, does well. 38 So then both he who gives his own virgin in marriage does well, and he who doesn’t give her in marriage does better.
39 A wife is bound by law for as long as her husband lives; but if the husband is dead, she is free to be married to whomever she desires, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she stays as she is, in my judgment, and I think that I also have God’s Spirit. (1Co 7:25-40 WEB)

Paul's advice is predicated on the idea that sex outside of marriage is a sin (something that is still true today, despite the normalization of fornication in modern society). His advice can be broken down to:

  • It is better to remain single than to marry
  • If you can't resist sexual temptation, then it is better to marry than to commit fornication

The reasons Paul gives for remaining unmarried are (1) each man has his own spiritual gifts, and (2) these gifts can be best utilized to serve God when the man is unmarried. Paul's reasoning is summed up by the following verses from the above text:

However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind...He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife...This I say for your own profit; not that I may ensnare you, but for that which is appropriate, and that you may attend to the Lord without distraction. (1Co 7:7, 32-33, 35 WEB)

Compare that to the advice of modern Christianity:

In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father...the role of husband and father is central to manhood. Boys must be raised to see themselves as future husbands and fathers. (From Boy to Man—the Marks of Manhood by Albert Mohler, president Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

The above quote is so at odds with the apostle Paul that it's shocking. Nowhere in the Bible are men universally called to be husbands and fathers. The closest you can come is the statement in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful, and multiply.” The next time someone tries to twist your arm with Genesis, ask about their stand on birth control; the pill, condoms, and even the rhythm method are at odds with Genesis 1:28. The truth is, those that say marriage is mandatory for Christian men are displaying a cultural bias, not a Biblical one; they are bending to the will of the world.

Paul's message is clear. Marriage is an option for Christians—not a requirement, not a duty, and not an obligation. For some it's the right option; for others it's the wrong one. Don't let anyone pressure you into marriage by suggesting you are being disobedient to God by remaining single. Both marriage and singleness are supported by scripture. The choice is yours to make. Make that choice for the right reasons.

2 comments:

  1. Love this post! I will never allow anyone, especially if their married, to shame me on this issue. Thank you so much.

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  2. I'm a single 34-year-old Christian man who's been blessed by God with a lot of money and what I suspect is an unusually strong grip on his desires. Those things, along with my looking into the effect that Feminism has had on our courts and culture, make eternal bachelorhood seem kinda nice.

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