Valentine’s Day is coming up fast; and so this Sunday, we’re going to celebrate by talking about…singleness!
Over the next few days, stores and different organizations are going to find ways to make us feel incomplete for being alone and convince us that if we can just purchase the right things then we can find a partner and we will be complete.
And the church has a very funny and interesting history when it comes to dealing with marriage versus singleness.
Many Christians in the first few centuries of the church embraced the idea that sex is bad, and celibacy was the way to go. Some philosophical movements that influenced many Christians in the 1st century, like the Stoics and the Cynics, taught that abstinence leads to wisdom. The Essenes, a sort of uber-spiritual Jewish movement, encouraged abstinence.
Early church leaders like Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine pursued celibacy; sometimes to the tune of some very misogynistic language.
Since the 4th century, Roman Catholic clergy have been required to take vows of celibacy.
On the other side of the spectrum, Michael and Margaretha Sattler, two early leaders in the Anabaptist movement, left their respective religious orders and vows of celibacy to become married to one another.
In much of Evangelical Christianity, there has been a large focus on “family values” that, in practice, seem to esteem marriage and denounce singleness.
In our North American culture, sexual activity is assumed to be a human right and essential to well-being. If you are celibate or not having sex, our culture looks on this with a lot of scorn and pity.
And although there has been a lot of going back and forth on marriage and singleness throughout the history of the church, I do think we have to ask ourselves today, are we equipping people in our churches who are single? And are we honouring and respecting their status as single people?