Sorry Single Folks, No Holiness for You

I came across the following in my twitter feed

no holiness

And I chuckled, thinking of the Seinfield show and “No Soup for You”

But in all seriousness, there are real issues that come about from the above tweets.

Marriage is designed to make us Holy, not happy? If we roll back to Genesis, I think its pretty clear that wasn’t the game plan. Granted, we have the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:25-28 and again in 1 Cor 7:9,14… but to take those verses out of the entirety of 1 Cor 7 which advocates remaining single seems quite a dis-service to scriptures.

Beyond this, the dangers of rushing to marriage in #marryorburn theology, or dishonoring marriage by encouraging an errant witness to the world really misses the mark. Granted, in some cases, marriage can be a holy witness, and it can also work to bring sanctification, but this is not a guaranteed thing. I think all of us have seen far too many Christian marriages turn into a toxic mess which does anything but the above… toss in the holiness bit above, and folks stay in toxic marriages in some cases up until abuse gets so bad, they end up hospitalized or dead.

There is the issue of idolizing marriage… I think of the many articles written by married young women that try to promote the “advantages” of being single. Ie, I’m married now, but when I was single, I was able to do abcdefg and focus on the Lord’s work. I don’t know, but those sort of writings come across weird. Ie, being totally dedicated to doing God’s work, advocating singleness as this great thing you seem to highly value, followed by how great being married is sort of rings sideways. it almost makes singleness as a path to marriage, rather than the unique destination in and of itself that it truly is.

That being said, I do want to dig into the marriage and sanctification bit, but first I want to ponder about my experiences in the boy scouts. I’d done a lot of fishing and hiking on my own over the years. I could navigate through the woods without any fear of getting lost, I could tie a few knots, I knew how to use a compass, how to cut firewood, build a fire etc… but these were all situations where in I chose the environment. Ie, I’d go around a swamp on its periphery, rather than going straight across it, knowing that even if the distance was shorter, the amount of energy and time to go straight across would be much greater. As my experiences in the woods grew, I exercised more and more discretion as to the level of environmental conditions I was comfortable with.

On boy scout excursions, those choices are made for you, and they can and do change… like the time a buddy broke a tree crossing a creek, which meant the rest of us had to figure out another way to get over it. Thus what scouting did for me, was brought me into situations that on my own I would have avoided. It taught me how valuable being able to tie 20 different knots were, how to navigate through woods, when your compass was useless due to hematite deposits, how to pitch a tent with missing parts that your buddy forgot to pack etc.

Marriage has parallels to this. Its all too easy to think you have your ducks in a row, when said ducks have never been under significant fire… and in marriage, you will find out very quickly how lacking one truly is when it comes to the fruits of the spirit. Life is easy when it can be compartmentalized, ie in the workplace, at church, hanging out with buddies, as its situational and time limited. Marriage otoh is like a search light that runs 24/7/365, and when you add in the massively increased workload of marriage as contrasted with the single life, ones fruits are tested / exercised by fire. Granted, some marriages do bring about a lower workload than one might have being single… but this cannot be predicted, and irrespective of workload, the search light is still there.

Related to this, is marriage will bring you to places and times which as a single, one would simply avoid. We have a saying in aviation, which says use a superior pilot uses superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of superior skill. The saying has kept many a pilot and aircraft safe over the years. Being single is a lot like that, but the temptation is to take this too far and never get out of ones comfort zone also occurs. Marriage otoh, often dispenses with this and while it is a much riskier situation, it also brings about much more growth than would have ever been possible going it alone.

And while one can develop a willingness to go beyond ones comfort zone as a single, and thus reap the potential of growth… there doesn’t seem to be any practical way to engage in the fruits of the spirit exercise / testing thing. This there are aspects of marriage which can lead to holiness which a single person doesn’t have access to. But then again, the ability to be totally focused on the work of God is something married folks no longer have access too.

There are just too many variables to make a blanket call one way or another on much of this… and its far from universal. That being said, there is much wisdom in the entirely of 1 Cor 7. Marriage is best honored when the entirely of the scriptures are considered, not just a few.

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