Monday, August 17, 2015
Is the choice of a single life or deliberate childless marriage an equal choice with marriage and children?
The problem here is that more and more Christians are echoing this sentiment and choosing to go childless or even spouseless while believing that these choices are just as noble and virtuous and godly as the choice to marry and have children. Unless you live under a rock you noticed that the birth rate and marriage rate is also dropping among Christians. The unbelieving single individual and the childless couple are not alone -- they have friends in the pews.
Is the single life by God's design or is it the frustrating result of a world marred by sin? The first job of Adam in the garden was to discover that he was alone and that this alone-ness was different from God's design for all other things in creation. From that Adam exclaims to the Lord when Eve is brought to him: This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Adam finds his purpose and his completion in the woman whom the Father has made from his rib. The first order of creation is marriage. There is no single life in Eden.
But there are people who do not find a spouse or who never have opportunity to marry and for whom the single life is not their choice but their burden (don't get me wrong here, marriage is also a burden since the fall and it is no magical relationship but one of work in which the hardest labor is confessing wrong to and forgiving wrong from your spouse).
The mark of our fallen natures is also revealed in the fact that the order or design of God in creation remains broken and difficult. We were created from the unique community of family and from family we are meant to learn of God and learn of life together here on earth. Sin has taught us that marriage and family are hard work and require sacrifice. This is the unpleasant truth of love. It hurts. It gives. It surrenders. It dies. All by giving up right for the sake of service. Only God can engender such love and He has become the refuge for those who struggle under its burdensome expectation. But it is not only burden and service. It is also blessing -- not the kind you tally up on the balance scale but the joy of giving which we discover is our noblest purpose.
I think it is high time we stopped allowing the illusion of singleness and childless choice as equal to the covenanted love of marriage and the openness to children. The Church must begin to remind people that marriage is not choice but order, that family is not an economic benefit but the design of God from the beginning (be fruitful and multiply), and that children are not choices either but the fruit of God's ordered life by His design. Even celibacy is not the choice of a single life but love covenanted to God and neighbor at least as deeply in intent as love covenanted to spouse and children.
There is no moral equivalency to marriage and family for those who seek the single life or a childless marriage by choice. It is for the disappointed who long for marriage and children the painful shape of our lives since the fall and it is for those who seek to avoid marriage and children one more mark of just how disordered our lives have become since Eden. And for those who marry and find out it is hard and costly to you, you have discovered that sin's disorder is not without consequence even when we do marry and have many children. Our joy lies in the Lord and our delight in His service -- no matter in what estate we find ourselves.
For those tempted to justify their choice of no marriage or a childless one, perhaps the best condemnation is the extreme of the green perspective which suggests the world would be a better place if there were no people at all in it.
Edit: For those who are complaining, this was NOT directed at those who choose to be chaste as a gift of celibacy nor at those who are unable to conceive or adopt. It was directed at those Christians who have adopted the non-Christian idea that life is for me, may be better lived as a single uninhibited from the unrestrained pursuit of personal desire OR as a childless couple who do not want their neat lives messed by children or their pursuit of self hindered by the reality of the demands of children and family. It was the suggestion, as at least a few of you might have gotten, that to say "no" to marriage or children because we fear giving up something is not a godly option for the faithful. To those offended by what I wrote, read it again. I think some of you are inferring things into the text that I did not intend or write.