Before I married Bethany and I was still single, I remember having so many questions about singleness. Am I called to singleness? Is being single more holy? How do I know if God wants me to be married or not? Is marriage a command? These questions and more were always lingering in my mind.
I certainly was not alone. Singleness brings many questions to many people. The Bible talks a lot about singleness, but sometime it can be a bit confusing. What follows is a “question and answer” dialogue between me and Alice. The beautiful thing about having an online ministry is that you can connect with people across the entire world. Alice has been enjoying ApplyGodsWord.com from another country and has given me permission to share our online Q&A.
I’ve kept the transcript raw and unedited. I think this conversation will be enlightening for anyone who is single or would like to appreciate what many single people think and feel. Enjoy:
My name is Alice (not my real name; it’s an online pseudonym). I am a Chinese girl. I have stumbled upon the concept of “complementarianism” lately and as difficult as it is, I am asking God to help me accept it.
Lately, I have had much confusion and tears over the passages 1 Corinthians 7 versus 1 Timothy 2:15. I know very well that men and women have different roles to fulfill in this life, and that faith without works is dead, but some scholars seem to be saying that women ”show” that they are saved if they are willing to get married and have children (they add that barren women are still saved; the point is that they accept that being a mother is the proper role for a female Christian)…but what about 1 Corinthians 7 where it says that ”the unmarried woman or virgin cares for the things of the Lord….the married woman cares for the things of the world; how she may please her husband”…? Does 1 Corinthians 7 still apply to people today? Some pastors claim that “no”, it doesn’t, because Corinth was in a “famine crisis” of sorts and Paul gave the women special permission to not get married and have kids. However, the more I read the passage, the more the two verses “I wish that all men (Greek: anthropos, a.k.a. “human being”) were as I am” and “the present world is passing away” stand out to me. I have lately became a complementarian, which, to my surprise, I don’t mind at all, but lots of complementarian sources seem to be screaming out at me that if I don’t end up with a husband and at least one child, it’s most likely I was never saved to begin with.
Here’s the problem here: I have an almost-zero sex drive, and no desire for romance or a boyfriend at all. Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t hate men, and I don’t hate children. I believe that both males and females are precious beings made in God’s image, and I hope to adopt a daughter when I grow up because I do love kids. And I was most certainly not abused as a child, whether physically or sexually, or both. I am NOT making this up.
To be honest, I am confused and hurt. And there aren’t any churches near where I live that can really help me on this issue. I’ve seeked out a few churches, but they’re all HUGE churches and you don’t really get to read deep into the Bible or ask tough questions there. There are services, the preachers says a few words, perhaps a Bible verse or two, there’s singing – then, show’s over.
I really can’t describe how sad I have been for so many days and weeks. I trust that in time, God will bring me to a church where I can study the Bible in-depth with people who truly love Him and serve Him, but before that, at least there’s the Internet, where I can read articles and look at websites such as this one – thanks a lot for creating it, it’s really good. Before anything happens, I really want to understand 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 2:15. Is it a sin for me to not be interested in sex? Am I unknowingly rebelling against my design? Were the two godly women Amy Carmichael and Florence Nightingle unsaved just because they didn’t have children? Surely they didn’t hate men.
Am I being called to singleness? I’m not American, but in Western complementarian circles it’s hard to imagine a woman being called to lifelong celibacy in regards of the 1 Timothy 2:15 verse. I may be still young, but I don’t care. I really want to be sure what my purpose in life is, what I can do, and what I’m not supposed to do. What’s your feelings about this dilemma I’m in? Am I called to singleness or am I being rebellious? I honestly don’t want to be the latter. Please help me.
Thank you so much for pouring out your heart like this. I am honored that you would take the time to ask such a personal and important question. I know many people are having the same feelings and questions that you have expressed, so I hope to write a longer article about this topic at some point. Giving me a look into how you feel about all this is really helpful to me so I can better help people with these types of questions.
Let me see if I can run through a few of the questions you asked:
You said, “…lots of complementarian sources seem to be screaming out at me that if I don’t end up with a husband and at least one child, it’s most likely I was never saved to begin with.”
If you have read any complemenarians who have said that, rest assured that they are very, very wrong.
1 Timothy 2:15 is a notoriously difficult passage of Scripture to interpret. For a deeper look into this verse, feel free to checkout this article which is all about 1 Timothy 2:15. http://applygodsword.com/what-does-1-timothy-215-mean-women-will-be-saved-through-childbearing/
It seems you understand that 1 Timothy 2:15 is explaining that childbearing is a good work that saved women will express, not a good work that a woman will be saved by. No individual woman should feel any guilt or shame if they feel called to singleness because 1 Timothy 2:15 is speaking about “women” (plural) not a “woman” (singular). It’s referring to the roles of women in general. It’s giving specific instructions on roles in the church and family, but it does not give an exhaustive list of men and women’s roles. Men and women are called to more than what is discussed in 1 Timothy 2. And just as all men are not called to be husbands and preachers, not all women are called to be wives and to bear children. This passage of Scripture is just meant to set guidelines for those who are.
1 Timothy 2:15 doesn’t mean all women must bear children, as some women can’t. But it does mean childbearing is a good work solely dedicated to “women” (the entire species as a whole, not a woman as an individual), because obviously men (as a species) could never do it, no matter how much faith males had. I hope that helps a bit!
You also mentioned, “Is it a sin for me to not be interested in sex? Am I unknowingly rebelling against my design?”
As you mentioned, I too believe 1 Corinthians 7 absolutely still applies to our day and age. 1 Corinthians 7 sets its own context, so any pastor that seeks to add extra historical context to interpret the text is doing something unnecessary. In short, these verses say that if you have a sexual drive, you are probably supposed to get married. If you don’t have a sexual drive, it may mean you are not supposed to get married. With all that said, 1 Corinthians gives guidance and not commands (1 Corinthians 7:6). Thus you will have to walk with God on what he is leading you to do specifically. Some people who have a sex drive don’t get married. God has a plan that doesn’t always meet our desires. 1 Corinthians 7 gives wisdom and guidance on what is likely for most people, not certain for all people.
When Corinthians 7:7 states, “I wish that all men were as I am” we must make sure we also read the rest of the verse, “But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” A few things to note: Paul says “I wish” which again shows this is not a command to be followed but guidance to be considered.
It is very clear that singleness and marriage are both gifts from God. You can be called to either one. You should not feel any shame if you are called to singleness or marriage. You should rejoice in either one. Don’t let people make you feel this way. Take comfort in what the Bible says and rejoice in how God has made you.
Additionally, 1 Corinthians 7:7 should be seen in the light of 1 Corinthians 7:29, “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none.” Certainly Paul is not saying that a husband should stop caring for his wife or a wife her husband. What he is saying is that even those who are married should have the singular pursuit of God that a single person can more easily have. Biblical singleness should be rooted in a desire to focus solely on God. However, Paul states that if you have the gift of marriage, you should get married but also have the motivation of someone who has the gift of singleness. Whether we are single or married, we must live with a heart solely seeking God.
Lastly, you asked, “Am I called to singleness or am I being rebellious? I honestly don’t want to be the latter. Please help me.”
Only you can really answer that question. My best counsel is that you are probably weighing through this so heavily because you really want to please God. 1 Corinthians 7 can make us feel like if you really want to please God, you will be single. However, a deeper look at it should make you feel different. Paul is encouraging us that singleness is best because it’s more practical in focusing on the Lord. But God literally gives some this gift and some not. The part that is in our control is not the calling to singleness or marriage but how we live as a single person or a married person. God has wired you a certain way and that is out of our control. What is in our control is how we use that gift to love God.
Therefore, perhaps don’t focus so much on if you are called to singleness or marriage. Focus more on using the season you are in to pursue Jesus. God may or may not bring a man into your life, but what we know for certain is that he wants you to pursue him all the time.
A good test is to be honest about what brings you joy. It’s commendable to God if you would be single for him even if you wanted to be married, but if it makes you sad to think about that then he’s probably wired you for marriage, and vice-a-versa.
Also, you can still be a complementarian without being married. You can respect the different roles men and women have as a single woman and show the beauty of a feminine heart express in the biblical roles of a woman while being single. Marriage and motherhood are not what make you a complementarian. Respecting the roles of men and women given by God is what does. As a single woman, you should look for ways to respect the men in your life (dad, brothers, friends, pastors . . .) and then you will be fulfilling the God’s hope for you as woman living in her design.
It is not a sin for you to not be interested in sex. However, just something to consider: Often times a person’s sex drive is more connected to their emotions and heart, especially women. Men are more visually wired than women in general. Thus your sex drive may be awakened when your heart and emotions are. You may not be visually wired. You may be wired to have attraction once a man and you connect relationally. If there is no man in your life like that, perhaps this is why you have not been awakened like that. Everyone is different. And this may not be true of you. You may just be called to singleness. But wisdom says that if you are young you should stay open to the idea of marriage if the right guy comes along. You may not be awakened yet because the right guy has not come to yet. Perhaps God has blessed you with a guarded heart so you will not give it away until it is truly time.
In conclusion, none of us know for certain what the future specifically holds. You may be married in five years, ten years, thirty years, or you may not ever be married. Don’t try to become what you think God wants you to be. Rather, pursue God and allow him in the process to make you what he has already planned for you to be.
Pursue God with an open heart to anything he wants to bless you with, singleness or marriage, and I guarantee it will all work out the way God wants.
I hope that helps, God bless!
PS: You may also benefit from these articles: