Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A life of Christ-exalting singleness

If you are anything like me you haven’t previously come across a great deal of material on the theology of singleness and the role it plays within the church and in displaying the glory of Christ. So, I thought I would include some additional material here, as it contributes to our understanding of the purpose of singleness. What follows is a merging of material by John Piper taken from his talk at the True Womanhood conference, his new book This Momentary Marriage and from the foreword to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (both books you can read in entirety online). While it might “sound good in theory” the coming chapters of Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye will help us think through what this might look like for us personally and within our local congregations:

The apostle Paul clearly loved his singleness because of the radical freedom for ministry that it gave him (1 Corinthians 7:32-38). One of the reasons he was free to celebrate his singleness and call others to join him in it, is that, even though marriage is meant to display the glory of Christ, there are truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage. I'll give you some examples:

1) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that the family of God grows not by propagation through sexual intercourse, but by regeneration through faith in Christ. If you never marry, and if you embrace a lifetime of chastity and biological childlessness, and if you receive this from the Lord's hand as a gift with contentment, and if you gather to yourself the needy and the lonely, and spend yourself for the gospel without self-pity, because Christ has met your need, then he will be mightily glorified in your life.

2) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families. The single woman who turns away from regretting the absence of her own family, and gives herself to creating God's family in the church, will find the flowering of her womanhood in ways she never dreamed, and Christ will be uniquely honored because of it. Jesus promises that forsaking family for the sake of the kingdom will be repaid with a new family, the church.

3) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that marriage is temporary, and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along: Christ and the church—the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face to face. Marriage is a beautiful thing. But it is not the main thing. If it were, Jesus would not have said, "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Matthew 22:30). Marriage, as we know it in this age, is not the final destiny of any human. Single womanhood, content to walk with Christ, is a great witness that he is a better husband than any man, and in the end, will be the only husband in the universe.

4) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness to the truth that faithfulness to Christ defines the value of life; all other relationships get their final significance from this. No family relationship is ultimate; relationship to Christ is. Jesus Christ, the most fully human person who ever lived, was not married. Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married.

Marriage has its unique potential for magnifying Christ that singleness does not have. Singleness has its unique potential for magnifying Christ that marriage does not have. To God be glory in the Christ-exalting drama of marriage and in the Christ-exalting drama of the single life.


A Linguistic Life said...

Thank you for this very helpful post. It is attitude-changing theology that will undoutedly take some time to really sink in, so I'll probably have to keep reminding myself of these ways in which the single life can point to Jesus and bring glory to God.
On a side note, I confess that much of what I've been reading in the book and some of the posts has brought on tears - I hope and pray it is not an outward manifestation of self-pity but of a recognition in myself of the sinful, distrusting attitude that I have had in relation to my own singleness.

Ali said...

Dear Saved Linguist,
Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, I thoroughly agree with you - that I will need to keep reminding myself of these truths also (and that there is something so internally readjusting in getting a right view on singleness). And thank you greatly for sharing the rest as well. I first read this book at the end of 2007 and it found out all my dark spots and I had a similar response then. I hope and pray that the tears lead you on to Christ and you continue to be encouraged by the rest of the book and beyond.