Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Would Adam Have Been Happier Single? (or, The Git of Singleness)

Stanley D. Williams, PhD

Adam, when he was single, was walking around the Garden of Eden feeling very lonely, so God asked him, “What’s wrong?”
Adam said he didn’t have anyone to talk to.
So God said he was going to give him a companion and it would be a woman. God said, “This woman will cook for you and wash your clothes. She will always agree with every decision you make. She will bear you children and never ask you to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them. She will not nag you, and you will always be the first to admit she was wrong when you’ve had a disagreement. She will never have a headache, and will freely give you love and compassion, whenever needed.
Adam thought about this for a moment, then asked God, “What would a woman like this cost?”
God answered, “An arm and a leg.”
Adam thought about that for a while. Then he asked God, “What can I get for just a rib?”
The rest is history. And toward the end of this, I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
So, the theological question might be, "Would Adam have been happier single?" Some of you who remember the trails that Adam went through might be quick to answer, “Yes!” I wonder how that would that have made the rest of us feel?

No, we should be glad Adam was called by God to be married. But, God calls some to be single as well. And I want to give you several reasons why being called by God to be single and celibate can be an incredible gift. And why to be called to be single and then called again to be a religious or a priest can be doubly wonderful.

None of these comments lessens the incredible, wonderfulness of marriage if we are called to that. These comments are only intended to put singleness in its proper place as also God’s gift. For the person that is single has opportunities and possibilities for a lifetime that are exciting and beyond compare to those that are married.

Now that may be an overstatement. But, it was intended to communicate that being single can hold untold riches and excitement that a married person will never be able to experience.

Yes, there are some things a single person, having never married, would not experience as well.

For instance, singles might never hear his interchange between husband and wife in the midst of a quarrel, "You know, I was a fool when I married you." "Yes, dear, but I was in love and didn't notice."

There tends to be, in our culture, the belief that some of the normal goals in life include: --to be romantically involvement with the opposite sex, --to get married, --to accumulate dual income wealth, --and to have children...lots of them. --Or at least, if you can’t do or have any of that, then at least don’t be celibate.

But our purpose in life, that which will bring us the most happiness, is ultimately not any of those things. Our purpose in this life, and that which will bring us the most happiness, is to love God and to love our neighbor.

Love in this sense includes the concept of sacrifice. That is, we are to sacrificially love God, and we are to sacrificially love our neighbor. But sacrificially loving God or our neighbor does not by necessity require --marriage, --wealth, --children, --or sex.

In fact, all of those things can get in the way of our happiness. I didn’t say they will get in the way, but they can. And that is why being single can be a great gift and a better preparation for heaven.

Now, here are 8 reasons why singleness is good, very good. You’ll find some of these reasons interesting, if not ironic because they do not come from the pen of a celibate Catholic theologian, monk, or priest cloistered in Mongolian monastery but from a Protestant-Evangelical minister, John Piper,[1] who is married to Noel and together they have four children.

John, by the way, once defined marriage as: A very expensive way to get your laundry done for free.

Here’s the first reason why singleness is not only acceptable but perhaps preferred:

1. Marriage in not the final destiny of any human being.

Christ reminds us in Mark 12 that in heaven there will be no marriage, but we will be like the angels in heaven. If our ultimate goal is heaven, as opposed to marriage, then we must see that our ultimate state is as an angel who is not married.

2. Jesus Christ, the most fully human person who ever lived was not married, and he never once had sexual intercourse.

Modeling our life so completely after Christ’ singleness of life and the words of Luci Swindoll “leads into a wide world of wonder and freedom and joy and love.”

Luci does remind us, however, that marriage does have it’s unique advantages. Just think, she says, if it weren't for marriage, men would go through life thinking they had no faults at all.

3. The Bible celebrates celibacy because it gives extraordinary opportunity for single-minded investment in Ministry for Christ.

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.

That reminds me about a guy I know who got married a few years ago. I asked if he married the right woman? “Oh,” replied, “I definitely married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was ‘Always.’”

-- An unmarried person cherishes his or her freedom for flexible scheduling and for the ability to take risks that you could not take if you were a husband, wife, mother or father. The single life-style enables one to get the most out of the time God gives for His work. One missionary said, “One of my chief delights is that I don’t have to fit my ministry around a family schedule. I don’t have to be home at a certain time each night. My time is the Filipinos’ time.”

--Another missionary writes: “I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for Christ. While I was asleep I dreamed of these things, and when I awoke the first thing I thought of was this great work. All my desire was for the conversion of the heathen, and all my hope was in God.”

4. The Apostle Paul and a lot of great missionaries after him have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God. (Jesus said that, actually, in Matt. 19:12)

--Ada Lum, a single woman working with an Evangelical mission in S.E. Asia tells of sitting next to a nun while flying from Rome to Munich. The nun had been in the mission fields of the Philippians for 30 years and was returning home for the first time. Ada tells of the youthful enthusiasm this nun had for life and for Christ even though she had spent time in jail as a political prisoner. And it was on that flight that Ada, the single Evangelical missionary (who had secretly desired to be married), was shown for the first time the plain gold ring that most nuns wear, inside of which was inscribed, “Wed to Christ.” To the Evangelical the concept was new and exciting. Imagine being married to the creator of the universe.

5. The Apostle Paul calls singleness a gift from God.

--“I wish that all men were [single] as I am. But each man has his own gift from God.” Paul said.

-- It depends on your mindset about God’s calling to be either married or single. The married person at times will crave isolation, and the single person will at times crave companionship. But, although God created all of us for relationships we can have many healthy and fruitful relationships without marriage.

Speaking of relationships, we were having dinner with a couple the other evening, and the wife made a comment to Pam that her husband hated her side of the family. At that point the husband broke off his conversation with me, turned to his wife and said, “Now honey, that’s just not true. I don't hate your relatives. In fact, I like your mother-in-law better than I like mine."

6. Jesus promises that forsaking family for the sake of the kingdom will be repaid with a new family, the Church.

--Singles have discovered the hundreds of family members in the body of Christ.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that the single person (and Bonhoeffer was single) only “needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. That is what the church is for.

--Our daughter April, now 28, who is single, always wanted to have children, lots of them. For a while she thought that the only way to do that was through marriage. But April is not married and has no prospects, and the desire of a husband continues to fade. But her desire to have children has never faded and neither has her exposure to them. Today April teaches in Catholic Montessori school in Milan, MI. She has a rich and full relationship with about 20 chilodren that she nurtures and calls her own. We are regularly inundated with pictures and stories about “her kids” which have in turn, to us, become like grandchildren.

 7. God is sovereign over who gets married and who doesn’t. And He can be trusted to do what is good for those who hope in Him.

--Psalm 84:11 says, “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

--Ann Kiemel Anderson wrote: Jesus, if this is Your will, then YES to being single. In my deepest heart, I want to marry, to belong to a great man; to know that I am linked to his life... and he to mine... following Christ and our dreams together... But you know what I need. If I never marry, it is YES to you.

8. Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married.

--We are either man or woman by nature. God gives us sexuality and a temperament to match. Who we are is based on his creation, not on our vocational decision. We are not made more fully man or woman by being married, or having sex, or having children. Your role as a single, is different than as a married person. But, don’t confuse your role with your sexual identify. Regardless of marriage, you are a full creation, with unique and particular passions, gifts, skills and talents. God, through Christ and the Church, has promised you a full life. All you have to do is respond to his call and say YES.

So, here’s the rest of the story?

After Adam and Eve have lived together for a while, God comes down and takes Adam aside and asks, “So, Adam, how do you like Eve? Nice, huh?”

Adam said, Oh, She’s so gorgeous, you know? And she’s wonderful to have around. By the way, the rib was a good idea, she’s taught me how to make up the bed by myself. And she’s a great companion. Wow! I just love watching her...standing there telling me what to do. Which reminds me, I need to ask you something? “Sure,” says God. “Eve is stunning, attractive, and dazzling to look at. But why did you make her ever so beautiful?” God said, “So you would like her.” “Okay,” said Adam. I understand that, I guess. But why did you make her so dumb? And God said, “Why Adam, so she would like you.”

Singles, let that be a reminder that being married can be a great and wonderful gift from a loving and understanding God. But God can also demonstrate his love and understanding to us by calling us not to be married...but to be single,...and possibly to serve in his church as a religious sister, brother, or priest.

Thank you.  

[1] Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991.

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