Even this will not satisfy.

white house

On Friday, the supreme court justices voted 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  And the nation has been responding all weekend long.  I have barely checked the news and my facebook because it seems to be the only topic about which people are talking.  Happiness.  Celebration.  Anger.  Lamentation.  Lashing out.  Finger pointing.  Almost everyone is responding, and we all need to be able to articulate our positions well.  Most of my heroes have responded, and so much has already been written on the topic that I wondered if I should enter the fray, but there is one facet to this conversation that I fear is being overlooked:  Satisfaction.

Traditional catechisms verbalize well for us the purpose of man:

To know God and enjoy Him forever.

Jesus said it like this,

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

 – John 10.10

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes unto the Father except through me.”

 – John 14.6

Jesus boldly and unashamedly proclaimed to the world that He came some that we can have full, satisfying life, and that He is the only way to have that satisfying life.  People are searching for satisfaction and fulfillment, Jesus proclaims that we can only find it in Him, yet we search the world for pleasures:  entertainment, relationships, toys, meaning in life through helping others, sex, food, etc.  I live in a city which has a remarkably, and abnormally large single’s population, and many of those singles are frantically looking for a spouse.  Even within the church, there is a sense that life is incomplete without a spouse, and the married people within the church unfortunately have a tendency to encourage that worldview.  This is such a problem, in fact, that many people choose their church based on the number of singles who attend.  We would never consider joining a church that had few singles, because the dating pool would be so small!

So here were are in a [church] culture that has taught us we need to be married, being single is a curse, we do not know how to involve and relate to single people, and silently teaching people that they are incomplete without a spouse.  And at the same time we are seeing a multiplying number of openly homosexual people in our world and even in our churches.  So is it any surprise, then, that they would think a sexual and even marital relationship will complete and fulfill them?

The core of the problem is simple:  God did not create us for a spouse.  He created us for Himself.  If anyone enters into a marital relationship looking for satisfaction and fulfillment, they will be looking to receive from their spouse what only God can give.  They will be disappointed, they will think that they have failed, and they will spend the rest of their life wondering what happened, going to counseling and marriage conferences trying to make it better, or they will divorce and look for that “soul mate” who does not exist.  It is only when we find our satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment in Christ that we can have full marriages.

The homosexual community has pushed to have the right to legally marry and be viewed by employers, healthcare companies and the world as a married couple.  Having an unbiblical view of marriage, they cannot enter into a marital relationship having found peace and satisfaction in God first.  In short, they will be disappointed.  Some will stick it out to the end and some will move on to look for something else that will satisfy, and this is where the Church must be ready to respond.

First of all, we must remember that people need Jesus.  We have all sinned, and no matter the type or depth of our sin, if we do not come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, there is absolutely no benefit to fighting sinful tendencies.  In short, we should not waste our time trying to convince someone that the Bible teaches marriage between a man and a woman if someone does not believe in Jesus:  the conversation is moot.  Until we are able to agree that God is the authority and that Scripture is His truth, it does not matter what the Scripture says, quite frankly.  Because even if we do an exhaustive study on marriage and the will of God, if the second party is convinced that the Bible does in fact teach heterosexual marriage but does not know Jesus, we have done him no benefit.  He needs to know Jesus first.

Secondly, we must remember that we all have walked in sin, and when we came to Christ for salvation, we all had to lay down those sins of temptation.  Perhaps yours was not homosexuality, but Scripture says that those who covet (those who get jealous and want what other people have) will not be allowed into Heaven.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, noreffeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

 – 1 Cor 6.9-11

We all were looking for something to satisfy our lusts until we met Jesus.  Some might have the same inclination and you, and others will have different drives than you.  Jesus can redeem and forgive them all.  When people realize that their lifestyles are not fulfilling them, we must be ready to point them to Jesus:  the life.

Lastly, we must stand firm on the truth.  If we stand in silence, then we will in essence give affirmation.  After, and only after someone has come to Christ for salvation do we begin the work of accountability and dying to sin.  When people come to Jesus we have to make Him the Lord of our lives:  He is in charge.  He gets the final say.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”

 – Rom 10.9

You will only be saved by allowing Jesus to have the final say.  And we can know what God has to say from reading His Word, the Bible.  Therefore, once Jesus is made Lord, we being teaching people how to read the Bible, understand it and apply it.  God says that people who are jealous will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight jealousy.  God also says that people who practice homosexuality will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight homosexual urges.  God also says that drunkards, and people who have sex outside of marriage, and people who hate others will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore we must not get drunk, we must not have sex outside of marriage and we must love one another.  Not to earn salvation, but to prove ourselves to have made Jesus the Lord of our lives.  If He is not Lord, then we are not saved.  And for Him to be Lord, we have to do what He says.  But we will all fail along the way, so we walk in grace to help people (and ourselves) recognize their tendencies and fight them.

Even this will not satisfy.  Only  Jesus can satisfy.  If you are looking for fulfillment in anything else, you will be disappointed.  And marriage is one of the biggest eye openers to this reality.  People disappoint.  All people.  Only God will bring joy and peace.  So let us boldly and unashamedly offer this gift to a hurting world.  Let’s not get caught up on the secondary issues, but let’s point people to Jesus first.  Then, after they have come to Him for salvation, let us diligently seek the word and help one another grow in maturity in Christ – putting away the sin and flesh and putting on Christ.

He who does not marry does better.

singlehood

This might seem a funny topic to discuss while myself being less than two months from marriage, but it has been on my heart while living in a city which has a larger population of professional singles than most.  It is a blindspot in the American church:

Singlehood.

When God created the Heavens and the Earth, He created man and woman, named them Adam and Eve and put them in a garden to live as husband and wife and to procreate and fill the Earth.  God created us for the marriage relationship, right?  We are only fulfilled if we find our life partner!  And if we live in the South we must have a litter of children and teach them to be good little Christians.  We are to fill and to rule over the Earth!  Yes, this is a dominant part of the American Christian dream.  A godly spouse.  Singles have little place in the church, unless the church is a niche contemporary church that is filled predominantly with single people and organizes social activities like sports, service projects and meal gatherings.

Why do singles not fit in to our churches?  I once was told that married couples shy away from hanging out with singles because the same-gendered spouse subconsciously is hesitant to bring a competitor into the household.  I, as a single thirty year old woman, would pose a threat to a wife, just by nature of being single and available.  She might hang out with me one-on-one, but she would be hesitant or uncomfortable to bring her husband along.  I am no psychologist, but I am not sure that I buy that logic.

I do think, however, that we have become so accustomed to segregating ourselves by age, gender and status that singles often get neglected.  We split school children up by class, we divide college & career from young married, and then of course parents with children can only meet with other parents who have children.  And the senior adults get locked away in a corner somewhere.

But did you know, you cannot learn an abundance of life experience from your peers?!  Is it helpful to have a group of people sit around who are all wrestling with the same problem?  Sure, it can be.  Discussing problem solving tactics through faith with others in the same boat can be extremely encouraging.  However.  The picture we learn from Scripture is that it is more beneficial to learn from someone who has passed through the trials and succeeded.  Someone who is on the other side with stronger faith because of it.  A woman who has raised children and is now enjoying grandchildren, Paul says, should teach young mothers to love their children (Titus 2.4).  Is it not natural to love our own children?  Yes.  But a grandmother can teach well a young mother that spoiling is detrimental and discipline helpful.  And she can teach this because of her experience.  Segregation not only alienates the minority groups in your community, but stunts the growth potential of people who are not learning from a legacy of faith.

My point, however, is not necessarily that singles do not have a place in the church, though often times they do not.  My point is that Paul actually says it is better to not marry:

So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.

– 1 Cor 7.38

The woman who does not marry will do better!  Even in a society where women were always under the authority of a man, either their fathers or husbands, and a society where one needed children to ensure that she would be cared for in old age, Paul says it is better for her to not marry.  Why?

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

– 1 Cor 7.32-35

When we marry, we get concerned about houses, children, money, providing, educating, meals, toys, enough visits with grandparents, naps, etc.  Our time gets absorbed and our energies focused.  But the single person has less distraction.  Yes, single people can and do get absorbed into the world.  They can be just as focused on houses, cars, toys, and pleasure.  But a person who is passionately in love with the Lord who does not have the distraction of a spouse and children can offer full time, total devotion to the Lord.

Yes, a spouse is a gift and is the picture of our relationship to Jesus Christ, but a spouse is also a distraction.  Yes, children are a blessing and gift from the Lord.  But they divert our devotion.  Yes, when we have a family we have a live-in opportunity to put someone else above ourselves, and we learn just how selfish we are.  But the point remains that Paul says even with the learning and sanctification potentials of marriage, it is better to not marry.  It’s in the Bible.

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.  But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

– 1 Cor 7.7-9

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.  But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.

– 1 Cor 7.27-28

Marriage is not for everyone.  It is for some.  If one cannot control his sexual lust, it is better to marry.  And Paul is clear that God gives callings, faith and mercies to each person individually.  So for many of us, we are to marry.  However, if we believe the Bible to be true and to be the highest authority, then we understand that singlehood is a blessing and not a curse.  We should not feel badly for the single person in our midst and ask, “When are you going to find that special someone?”  We also should not force them into a corner to only play with other single people.  Single people make great friends.  They make great aunts and uncles for children.  They can serve when others cannot, and they have more time to invest in their walk with the Lord.

If someone is single there is a reason.  It could be that they are socially awkward and have never found a mate.  But it could also be that the Lord has called them to a life of service unto Him and without the distraction of a family.  So let’s get them plugged into our lives.  Let’s appoint them to positions of leadership in the Church.  They have less distractions!  Which would you prefer as your pastor?  One whose interests are divided or one whose interests are fully set on the Lord?