GUEST BLOG BY BRANDEN AELING
Im 27 and single. When I hit 21 I never thought I would be single at 27. To be fair I never thought about much when I was 21. Many of the older men in church try to be kind, “So when you gonna get a girl Branden?” or how about my favorite, “you’ll meet the right woman one day.” Something I’ve rarely, if ever, heard from the church is the reality that singles seem to somewhat grasp, but married people seem to have forgotten…marriage is not promised. Another concept that few churches teach and if they do its brief and not refreshing or poured into a soul that is ill content and needing truth…singleness is a gift. Did you know that less than 55% of the 2009 adult population were married? That means more than 1/3 of the people living in today’s society, if numbers have kept declining in marriage, are single.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over [g]all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them,
“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NKJV) – Genesis 1:26-28.
It all has to start somewhere and I’ve found the best place to start in the Bible is the beginning. First we see the famous words “In the beginning God.” God, three in one, is making a place for His own. God is three persons because if you look at John 1:1 you see “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Father, The Son, and the Spirit are perfectly in love and holiness. Now to think about this concept is already beyond the human imagination. But think about the concept of God for a moment. He is a community perfectly in harmony. This is why man was made so that the glory (the beauty, awesomeness, greatness) of God could be shown and worshipped2. So in the beginning we see a picture of God building his relationship. We see a man, named Adam, created. We then see that Adam is alone, God says this is not good so He creates Eve. Then God in His infinite wisdom says, “go have lots of sex and create loads of little babies to form a community.” Ok, so maybe God says be fruitful and multiply which is worded way better and way more beautiful. In fact, throughout the Old Testament, God says “be fruitful and multiply” at least twelve total times and promises blessings from that command nearly seven times. We see throughout the entire Old Testament a high calling for children and the importance of building community through family. See psalm 127:3 for example, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord” (CEV). Now if you are single and reading the Old Testament at this point this would be highly scary and non-encouraging. I hear some of you already saying “Oh no, I better find a wife and have some kids quick.” Keep reading. There is hope.
Names are important. I was talking with a family member of mine a few years ago and they so lovingly reminded me that I was the last “Aeling” that was a male in our side of the family that could carry on the name through a son. If you read the Old Testament you’ll find that it was very important that names be carried on, not only to carry on the blessing but also to continue to spread your legacy. Now im not going to spend hours writing on names, although I truly could, but if you read enough of the Bible you’ll find genealogies are important and as you read through the Old Testament laws you’ll find strange laws regarding marrying your brothers dead wife etc because the name must be carried on.
“The word of the Lord came to me: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth.” – Jeremiah 16:1-4 (ESV)
If you read the passage of scripture above as a single you’ll either fully relate or be confused. God is imposing judgement to a nation. If you read God’s judgement is seen in Jeremiah’s remaining single. “Say what?” Yes, you read that right, God is keeping Jeremiah single to show His people judgment. “but singleness is a gift right? You said so yourself!” Understand in the Old Testament context to not be able to have kids is a judgment towards people. To have your name blotted out is a great and scary threat.
“There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” – Matthew 19:12
Stop for a moment and ponder the implications of the Old Testament for a minute for someone who is single. Now have hope. As a single man I have come to love the term eunuch more than a lot of other words in the Bible. Anyone who knows what the term means has already glared and wondered whether I’m crazy. Keep reading. Eunuchs were men who have had their genitals removed. Well you can’t really have children or be fruitful and multiply right? The hope becomes clear in this
Thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs [those who cannot procreate but turn their lives into a unique service instead of marriage] who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” – Isaiah 56:4-7
Jesus comes into the World and fulfills the law. This completely changes the Jewish mindset. Think of “who is my mother, my brother?” The text says, “eunuchs who are that way for Christ”. People who are single! Let’s keep looking at the beauty of the New Testament
Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 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. 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.
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 7:25-28, 32-35.
If a Jewish man were to read Paul’s words here, from an Old Testament mindset, it would be the hardest pill to swallow. Paul is saying be single! Im single. Just for the fun of it, let’s remember Jesus was single. Now whether Paul was married before this is not important, what is important is that he is now single and saying you should remain as I am. One of the key texts that absolutely will refresh the heart of any God centered person is 1 Corinthains 7:8, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” Now if you are like me when you first read this passage you said, “but I want to have sex so im not gifted with celibacy.” I truly don’t think that is what this text is saying. The greek verb for “I wish” is a desire to for this gift “charisma” to be realized. This same word for gift “charisma” is used in 1 Corinthians 12:7. Understand gifts come by the Spirits enablement. If you are a Christian and not under the law, but under Christ we understand that God gives seasons of life. Singleness is a season of life that we can worship Him, love Him, and devote time to serving others with undivided attention if we will let the fruit of self-control enable us to be filled with grace for the gift that we’ve been given. Now marriage is also a gift, but a not promised gift.
This is the good news if your single today. God loves you if you are His. God will uphold you. God will go before you. God will counsel you. God will fight for you. His Spirit enables self-control. He brings His peace if you’ll stop and rest in Him. He has redefined your name because you now go out in an everlasting name of Jesus Christ. Your fruit is the people that you affect for the Kingdom by the Spirit of God. You have a purpose that can be fully and purposefully devoted to Him. Sex is a pleasure of this Earth that is passing away and your greatest pleasure…fullness and deepness of everlasting joy (Psalm 16:11) awaits you. You’re king is beautiful. You are not defined by a gift that the Lord has given you for this period of time. You are defined by His great love that sent His one and only son to enable those who are His to believe and see the beauty of His goodness so that we might delight and fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ because of His wounds and bearing the eternal damnation on a Cross we now can come before the Father in fellowship like what we were made for so that we can rely on Him, trust Him, enjoy Him, and above all else know Him.
Now I understand singleness is a deep complex theology most don’t study. It involves a high view of God’s sovereignty, a clear view of Old Testament commands, an enabling view of the spiritual gifts, a grace enabled New Covenant understanding, and requires a big time work of the Holy Spirit to bring about peace and contentedness, but below are a list of study references that truly expanded my heart towards this gift that I’ve received. Understand I view this gift often like receiving a good pair of socks from God. We might not appreciate it as much as we should, it might even seem frustrating, but we need it. Socks keep our feet warm, singleness gives us a time in life to be devoted to Him. Keep reading the scriptures. Keep fighting for joy. Im 27 and single. I thank God for my gift.
Redeeming Singleness – Barry Danylak
Passion and Purity – Elisabeth Elliot
Not Yet Married – Marshall Segal
Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye – Carolyn Mcculley