Tim and Kathy Keller buck a trend that I have heard in the last decade, and that trend is that if you are single at 27 or 28 or 29, you are out of God’s will. Their contention is that since the Ultimate Marriage is our union with Christ, then marriage and singleness are both good.
What does your church do for singles? Are singles marginalized? What do you think of the Kellers’ proposals here? What do you think of “cross gender enrichment”?
The Kellers, in their exceptional book The Meaning of Marriage, begin by quoting some texts from Paul that not only buck the trend but prove that the trendy folks are not reading the Bible well. Here is the text:
25 Now about virgins [singles]: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Paul’s eschatology, his conviction that the Lord’s return could be imminent, his conviction that we are in-between This Age and The Age to Come, his conviction that marriage reflects the union with Christ, his conviction that marriage is a school in which we learn to help one another reflect our glory-selves (their term) .. these and more mean that singleness is and can be a good.
“Single adults cannot be seen as somehow less fully formed or realized human beings than married persons because Jesus Christ, a single man, was the perfect man” (195). The early church, then, de-idolized marriage and traditional society and in its place put God. Singleness then is not Plan B. It is not a state of deprivation.
The church is the permanent society and brothers and sisters in Christ can enter into a fellowship that transcends time. The Kellers call this “cross gender enrichment,” though they are quick to point out that marriage “does and should somewhat limit the extent of friendships you have with others of the opposite sex” (201).
But marriage, too, is good. The problem today is that many have so idealized marriage they fear it. The Kellers demote marriage so that it need not be feared.
Some practical advice from the Kellers when dating and seeking a spouse.
1. Know that dating today is not what it always was. Marriage used to be more social and functional; dating was more arranged and supervised, if there was what we now call dating.
2. There are reasons for not seeking marriage.
3. Understand the gift of singleness
4. Get more serious about seeking marriage as you get older.
5. Do not allow yourself deep emotional involvement with a non-believing person.
6. Feel attraction in the most comprehensive sense.
7. Don’t let things get too passionate too quickly.
8. Don’t become a faux spouse for someone who won’t commit to you.
9. Get and submit to lots of community input.
Because of spammers and other undesirable things I won’t blog about the last chap (about s-x). I want to say this is one of the finest books on marriage I’ve ever read; it is theologically sound and pastorally sensitive. Even if I disagree with one or two elements here and there, their presentation of those topics remains pastorally useful and wise. I would give this book to anyone seeking advice on marriage and love.