22 January 2015

Jesus Says It's OK To Be Single

Sisters of Mercy - Calcutta India
Matt 19:1-12

"I don't think that we should be together. And, I've thought about it a lot and this is what's going to happen. OK. I'm going to keep pursuing what I'm pursuing. And, because I'm doing that, it's going to take up more and more of my time and I'm not going to be able to spend as much time with you. And, even when I do spend time with you, I'm going to be thinking about drumming. And, I'm going to be thinking about jazz music and my charts and all that. And because of that, you're going to start to resent me and you're going to tell me to ease up on the drumming and spend more time with you because you're not feeling important. And I'm not going to be able to do that. And, really, I'm going to start resenting you for even asking me to stop drumming and we're going to start hating each other. And, it's going to be, it's going to get very ugly. So, for those reasons, I'd rather just break it off clean." Andrew, Whiplash

If Andrew had said serving/loving God/others instead of drumming, then he would explain what Jesus meant by "there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other." In this context, Jesus was talking about money. But, I think these wise words can apply to any conflicting interest, including spouse and kingdom.

Did Jesus say that one can't be married and devoted to the kingdom? Absolutely not. I know many couples who are of one mind and spirit when it comes to the priority of serving in the kingdom. But, it is hard enough to find one person who place the kingdom of God as a priority over all else, let alone two. AND, even if those two people place the kingdom of God as a priority over all else, it is harder still to ensure how they serve the kingdom of heaven will be the same when circumstances, gifts, abilities, family inevitably changes.

I chuckle and am slightly saddened by people who criticise Christians for following a pie-in-the-sky religion. It is the exact opposite. At least when we take the teachings of Jesus seriously. Jesus, the one through whom all things were made, does not hide, does not flinch, does not hedge about reality. Instead, he encourages us to look it square in the eye and deal with it head on. Jesus teaches time and again that we get ourselves in trouble when we don't deal directly with the realities of life.

My dad told me on a few occasions about his frustration with my mom after a few years of  marriage because he wanted to work with Bible translators in Papua New Guinea and Mom did not want to live in that situation with two young boys in tow. He told me he was on the verge of divorce when he was talked out of it by the pastor of his church. Why did he tell me this story? I don't know. I think it was dad's way of showing us the huge favor he did for us by changing his life plans for us while giving a resentful sideswipe to my mom. And, how I felt about the story was I was part of the reason dad couldn't do what he was really gifted to do for the kingdom of heaven. It made me feel guilty at worst and a consolation prize at best.

We modern humans want shortcuts. We want to have money without working for it. We want to be healthy without eating well and moving regularly. We fell for the myth that we can have everything and still be great. And, what Malcolm Gladwell and other sociologists are trying to teach us is Jesus is right. To be truly great at something is to devote your life to it and leave as many other ambitions behind as possible.

Do not misunderstand, marriage is wonderful. It is a beautiful gift from God designed as a way to teach us about his perfect, Trinitarian relationship. In marriage, the two become one flesh, as Jesus reinforces in this teaching. This is why divorce is such an abomination. It tears apart what God himself has joined together. It is a blessed outlet for our God-given sexual drive. A husband and wife were made for each other. And, if that marriage continues to grow and mature accepting the Word, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, it will be a wonderful force for good acting as God's ambassadors in the ministry of reconciliation.

Some of us are so sexually driven, we need to be married. But, as we are growing in the Spirit, we husbands need to be sure to take on the responsibility of loving our wives with the goal of presenting them as radiant before Christ.  And wives need to be able to respect their husbands, trusting that his decisions are motivated by his love of God and his love for her. And if that union produces offspring, to be devoted to raising godly sons and daughters. When we decide to be married, when we make those vows before God and friends, this becomes our priority.

But, marriage is not the end all, be all, goal of following Christ. Jesus is the goal of following Christ. Growing in the Spirit of God that allows us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as he loves us, to become like Christ, is the goal of following Christ. And, we don't need to be married to achieve this. In fact, some of us are not made to be married and some of us have wisely decided it is better for them, in their walk with the Lord, not to be married.

I know so many people who are having adventures worthy of the greatest novels of human history because of their singular devotion to the kingdom of heaven. They are living in exotic lands, among strange people, serving as a kingdom spy in hostile territory without having the added responsibility of a spouse. And, side note, I am honoured to know childless couples who went out under the banner of Christ to find orphans that needed parents to love and nurture them. It's a beautiful thing.

I know so many people who are able to volunteer and devote so much of their time and energy to helping those in need because they don't have to pick their own kids up from school or call their husband to see when he is coming home so they can prepare for time together. It's a wonderful thing.

Heed the words of Jesus, friends. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.

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