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December 10, 2018

The Danger of Over-Spiritualizing the "Gift" of Singleness -- Part One

By Anthony Wade

A look at another taboo subject in the church - single Christians. Yes, we are a thing.


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Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 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. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. -- 1Corinthians 7:6-9 (ESV)

It is a subject most in the church stay away from. It is not often discussed in mixed company and is usually hidden away even though it remains in plain sight. I used to go every year to a Men's Convention with my old church and after two years the organizer asked what I thought. I responded that it would be nice if they acknowledged that single Christians exist. Every side session was on how to be a better husband and every breakout group was about how to love your wife as Christ loves the church. Well intended? Sure but that doesn't matter if you are not actually married. You feel like the dirty secret that church doesn't want to come out. The following year, the convention had planned a side session for single Christians and I went eagerly expecting to be filled with God's wisdom on everything from courtship to avoiding sexual sin. Instead it was a two-hour session, taught by a married brother; about how we need to be patient because God has someone for everyone. Sigh.

I say this all as a backdrop to the above linked article claiming to outline the seven signs you have the gift of singleness. If you were wondering where the bible addresses this least often spoken about gift it can technically be found in the key verses today. Paul infers that the ability to stay single without lust is a "gift"; much like getting socks for Christmas when you were a kid I presume. Seriously, his point is pretty clear. When you are single you can devote your whole self to God and His kingdom but when you are married your time and attention is rightfully divided. So Paul, who was single, concludes his way is better but acknowledges that most people could not handle the accompanying lust that comes from the human condition. This lust is only magnified in celibacy -- just see the Catholic priest scandals. Notice in the key verses that Paul is very careful in couching this as a "concession" rather than a command. Let us reason together once more beloved through this article and examine what God actually has to say about being single. In the effort of full disclosure, I am single and never married although I am now finally engaged to a beautiful godly woman.

"It's that time of year when single adults begin to feel left out, rejected, lonely or unlovable. They sometimes question God (for the hundredth time) as to whether or not He has called them to remain single for their entire life. Like Jesus, Paul and others, they want to know if they were created to be a eunuch for the kingdom of God or if they should wait for His "perfect timing." The holidays are indeed a difficult time for them on so many levels. It can be a time when some relinquish their hope for marriage to a misinterpretation of what a call from God looks like. We're all called to be single for some part of our lives, whether it is before marriage, after a divorce or upon the death of our spouse. But the question remains, "Am I called to remain single for the rest of my life?" Below are a few reasons why some people believe they have such a call when they haven't and why some who have the call just don't know it yet." -- David Kyle Foster

Now, Foster is obviously right that the holiday season can often lead to loneliness or even despair. This is especially true for those who do not have anyone. It is the knee-jerk reaction to believe that means God has called us to a life of singleness that is troubling. I know for myself and other single Christians I know that it may lead us to wonder if we will ever find someone but the notion that God is calling us to never marry is simply not a reoccurring belief and my concern is in presenting it as such a possibility can often do more harm than intended good. A eunuch is one who has been castrated so as to not have the normal sexual desires God programmed us with and Genesis makes it very clear that man is not meant to be alone. In fact it is not good for him. The key verses remind us this is a matter of self-control regarding lust and the reality is few fit that bill, especially in this sex saturated culture. The other disturbing notion here is the teaching of a "call." God does not call us to be single for a portion of our lives and then married. He certainly does not call us to be divorced since the bible says He hates divorce. This is a poor understanding of the will of God reinforced through the purpose driven church system that creates spiritual puppets for God's amusement. We will get more into this as the devotional goes on.

"God Heals You First So That the Call Is Not Received in the Confusion of Brokenness. Many people who are not called to be permanently single need to ask the Lord if their perceived call to singleness is actually a manifestation of unhealed brokenness. Such areas can include: unresolved anger at parents who keep pressuring them to marry. It's a passive-aggressive form of revenge--meaning that their desire to remain single is actually a way of getting back at parents they still don't like or trust. Unrenounced vows and unforgiveness toward such parent(s) play a large part in such cases. Fear, hatred or anger toward the opposite sex (for whatever reason). Fear of marriage itself and the commitment that it demands of each partner. The kind of fear and unbelief that creates self-doubt, unhealed narcissism, unrestrained romanticism (often intertwined with narcissism) that demands perfection from their intended spouse due to romantic notions that do not reflect reality. Even though God called me to the gift of singleness, before doing so, He healed me of many broken areas, so that later in life, I would not have doubts that my "yes" to Him had been uttered from brokenness rather than out of a true call." -- David Kyle Foster

So we come to it. David Kyle Foster believes he was called to singleness so he must create a doctrine to support this notion. Using popular psychology and relationship dynamics he does outline several issues that are found in the human condition that can often sabotage relationships. A negative view of marriage due to parental pressure can be one. Unforgiveness, fear, anger, and even narcissism are all fair points. The romanticism point is excellent as young churched women are often fed the baloney that because they are the daughter of a King you must be a prince to date them. It sets up a romantic disreality and when the Jesus-looking pseudo-savior does not come riding in on their white horse to marry them they can be devastated to the point of disavowing God altogether. While healing for any of these conditions is important, understanding the falseness of the original teaching is the only way to not get trapped again.

"God Does Not Impose a Call to Singleness. He works within the heart and mind so that the person gracefully embraces the honor that is being offered. The option to decline the offer is always on the table. This was how God approached me when He called me to stay single. He offered it as a grace, an honor and a blessing, while making it clear that there would be no remonstration or disappointment on His part should I say no. The unexpected result was that it actually freed me to say yes. Do not let the eunuch say, "I am only a dry tree." For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Isa. 56:3b-5)." -- David Kyle Foster

This is why we do not make doctrine out of our personal experience. It is dangerous. David Kyle Foster is not a eunuch. If he feels that he has no issues with lust then he is in complete obedience to the key verses regarding the gift of singleness. There was simply no need to create all of this side drama and window dressing. In doing so he actually suggests that it would ok to say no to God! That God would have to cajole someone into accepting this gift. Beloved, you know if there is any lust in your life. This is not rocket science but unfortunately the church has mystified it to the point that we have to create doctrine out of the whole cloth of our imagination.

"God Works a Physical Miracle in a Person's Body so He or She can Physically and Emotionally Endure the Peculiar Nature of a Call to Singleness. For those who will eventually marry, this miracle is of course, temporary. Most refuse to ask for such a miracle because they fear that this quenching of sexual desire will be permanent. However, God is God and can bring those passions back in the same manner He took them away, and at the right time. For the person called to be permanently single, however, this is a great grace that most definitely should be sought. For them, God brings about a mystical completion of their sexuality whereby they are espoused to God and completed (or integrated) by Him in the way that healthy married couples complete one another. One caveat, however, is that such a miracle must be sought persistently and with faith. It doesn't happen automatically." -- David Kyle Foster

Ok beloved this is how you know someone is simply making up their own doctrine. Where in the key verses or any of the surrounding context is there a "temporary" call to singleness? The state of a eunuch is quite permanent. The further romanticizing of Jesus is equally disturbing and we often see this dynamic also played out among young churched women. Jesus is my only lover and no one can do me like Jesus are just spiritual expressions of carnal lust. Nowhere in the bible does God speak about the "mystical completion" of one's sexuality. We need to stop mystifying what God has made plain. If you find yourself devoid completely of lust, you might consider what Paul says about singleness. If not it is better to marry to avoid the burning passion of human desire. Yes, it is that simple.

"God Gives the 'Called' Person a Supernatural Revelation Wherein They Become Wed to Him and Thereby Receive Into Themselves the Completion of His Image Normally Achieved in Holy Matrimony with a Spouse. To further the last point and begin this one, God gave me a two-part revelation that brought with it a knowing or certainty of its special meaning. The initial revelation was not sufficient for such a major life decision, however, so I asked for additional confirmation. Here's how it all came down: One night, as I lay sleeping, God gave me a dream wherein I was in attendance at a wedding in heaven. Suddenly, I realized that I was the one getting married. A beat later, I realized I was marrying God. It floored me. because I had never considered that such a thing would happen until the summing up of all things in heaven when we, the body of Christ, are wed to our Lord and Savior. Later, I was to learn that such a dream or vision is quite common among Catholic priests and nuns who sense a call to permanent chastity and celibacy. Upon asking the late Leanne Payne about my dream, she replied that everyone should have such a vision, even before marrying an earthly spouse, because understanding their marriage with God is what makes for a healthy marriage on earth. Still needing further confirmation that this was a call to marry God alone, I sought Him further. I was grateful that He had first healed me of the many broken places that would have created havoc in any marriage. But now I needed more. Several weeks later, I was flipping through a Judaica catalog and came across a ring. Thinking nothing of it, I kept flipping through the catalog, when the voice of the Lord spoke to my spirit saying, "Go back. It's our wedding ring!" I returned to the picture of the ring and noticed that it said in Hebrew letters, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." (Song 6:3). Then I remembered that the word "beloved" in Hebrew is "David" --my name! God's confirmations are always so unexpectedly perfect. And so, the confirmation of my permanent call carried with it a knowing and certainty because of the manner in which it came." -- David Kyle Foster

Ugh. Where do we begin? First is the continuing error of making doctrine out of your experience. Just because Foster thinks this happened to him does not mean it has to happen to everyone else that is single. The call for confirmation is fine but the solution is entirely pagan in nature. So Foster has marriage to the Lord on his mind and lo and behold -- he dreams about it! What are the chances of that happening? Pretty good actually. We often tend to dream about what is on our mind. So he has a wildly unbiblical dream about marrying God. Why unbiblical? Does the bible say Paul married God? Did it say that Peter had a wedding ceremony with Jesus? Of course not. Then he actually confirms how unbiblical this is by offering the comparable dream of compromised Catholic priests as proof! His final offer of "confirmation" is that while flipping through a catalogue the Lord "spoke to his spirit" that a wedding ring for sale was actually their wedding ring and because the word for beloved is David, as in King David, he makes the final commitment. Did you get all of that? He already believes that he is supposed to be single so he dreams that he marries God and finds confirmation in comparable visions with Catholic priests and a catalogue wedding ring. This is not how we do doctrine beloved. This is superstitious paganism, pure and simple.

"God Provides Multiple Confirmations of the Call. Sometimes God will use a prophetic word from one or more Christian leaders, independent of each other. He also orchestrates divine appointments in Scripture, speaking to you through various related and seemingly unrelated portions. Additionally, God might engineer comments from strangers, friends or in sermons that gently bear a consistent message on the matter. He may arrange for unexpected meetings with those already called to permanent celibacy in order to alleviate the fears and concerns about how it works and what it will mean for your life. God will also speak to you in your prayers, during your worship and as you meditate on His Word. Remember, God wants you to know when He has given you this gift. The only delay in communicating that to you will involve your readiness and His perfect timing. And as stated previously, it is always an invitation, not an imposition." -- David Kyle Poster

Beloved, confirmation should always come through His Word. The example of a sermon confirming is fine but I would be wary of the other references, especially God "speaking to you" during prayer, praise and meditation. It sounds pious but it is not. It opens us up to our wickedly deceitful hearts to confirm what we think we want. Again, the key scriptures are not vague. In our attempts to over spiritualize things we make them more complicated than they need be.

"God Provides the Grace Necessary to Withstand Opposition from Well-Intentioned Parents, Friends and Church Leaders Who Do Not Understand This Call on Your Life. Singles of every kind are often treated as though something must be wrong with them--especially as they advance into their 30s and 40s. It's the stares, the looks and sometimes the well-intentioned church lady who repeatedly inquires whether or not you have a girl or guy yet. Many, such as this church lady, exert pressure to date and to marry before you are ready, or before God's timing. Perhaps you still need healing in vital areas. Perhaps your future spouse also needs healing (or salvation for that matter) before they can be a healthy mate. Then there are the parents, whose hopes of your getting married and having children have become an obsessive desire. First, they want assurance that you are normal (in other words, not gay). Then, they want grandchildren. Such desires can also get tangled up in a need to be seen by their peers as good, competent and successful parents. On occasion, it may seem as though those mentioned above would rather see you being promiscuous than remaining single--the fruit of a church that knows nothing about, nor values, a call from God to remain single. Through all of this, however, God will give you the grace to endure and to wait for the fruits of your marital union with Him." -- David Kyle Foster

There is no marital union with Him beloved. Only the church collectively is the bride. Foster is right about the condemnation from the church towards singles but convincing some of them that it must be a call from God is simply not supported biblically and potentially dangerous. Mind you, I am not judging Mr. Foster's personal beliefs because I do not know him. If this is the story he has convinced himself of, fine. My concern is for the single sheep out there and the mixed messages this type of article sends. It is difficult enough in the modern church as a single to not have to deal with evaluating if God is calling us to stay that way. Foster closes with some general comments on four areas, which we will go over next time as well as some direction for single Christians.

Reverend Anthony Wade -- December 10, 2018

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.