Now, some quotes:
Two decades of coupling, uncoupling, hooking up, relationships and shopping around. [The teenage and young adult years aren't] a transition anymore. [They're] a sprawling life stage, and nobody knows the rules.
~ David Brooks, New York Times
Contemporary Christian teaching on this subject blurs the line between celibacy and singleness and leaves singles mistakenly believing that the two are the same. God is often painted as capriciously willing singleness for some and not others. Consequently and sadly, many Christian singles resign themselves to this less-than-ideal state. A more thoughtful and critical examination reveals that today's singleness is not some sort of divinely ordained, interminable state for a quarter of the population, but the result of a string of systematic impediments to marriageSome of these impediments are a dating structure not geared towards marriage, but low-commitment relationships, a lack of male leadership, and (my favorite) a "redefinition or a defining downward of healthy biblical adulthood."
~Debbie Maken, Rethinking the Gift of Singleness
But oh, there's so much more. Apparently, there's a trend towards fewer marriages, fewer young adults in the church, and an increase in the preaching on the "Gift of Singleness". And young men seem to be gobbling it up. And young women, to some extent, are too. But the first article brings up a very valid point. In our "Gift of Singleness", how many of us are really pursuing what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 7? According to the article, we are not remaining chaste, we are not remaining sexually pure, and instead, we are falling into the same trap as our secular counterparts.
I'm very surprised that the article did not quote or even mention 1 Corinthians 7, so I'm going to quote some of it here:
1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.And two verses later, Paul adds this often forgotten verse:
~ 1 Corinthians 7:1 - 7
But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.Oh...wait, what was that? Paul doesn't say to stay unmarried if you find yourself "burning with passion". He tells us that we SHOULD get married. How many churches are actually teaching this little bit with their "Gift of Singleness" doctrine? Paul makes it quite clear that not all men are able to proceed with life-long singleness. He says it is better, yes. So that you can pursue God with all your heart, mind, and soul without being concerned about a wife. But if you can not control yourself, or if you have a desire to get married some day, than pursue it.
~1 Corinthians 7:9
I know beyond all doubt that young men can not wait until they are 30 or 40 before having sex. I'm a 23 year-old woman and, in spite of all the claims that women aren't as sexual as men, I'm VERY sexually frustrated and in need and want of sex. I'm "burning with passion", but not just any passion; it is a desire to give myself completely to a husband and to satisfy his needs as well.
What is so ironic about this "burning with passion" bit, is that if you do suffer from a physical need and want for sex (or a relationship), you are going to be even more distracted from God and his calling for you then if you were married and finding that satisfaction. But the distraction won't be one that God created to be good and holy, it will be a distraction characterized by a constant battle against temptation and sin.
So, I must therefore follow Paul's command and "get married". But where are the men? They are embracing this so-called gift and, as one young man put it, indulging in a self-centered, irresponsible life-style. But I am going to add that it is an excuse to be cowardly and fearful and not take a position of leadership. Of course, the men aren't the only ones, as some young men that desire marriage have certainly discovered. There are women who embrace this life-style as well.
Now, I'm not saying that the gift of Celibacy is not a legitimate gift. I honestly think it is. However, it is not one to be taken lightly, it is one to be prayed about. Celibacy is not an excuse to live a self-centered life. It is not an excuse to remain unmarried and sexually promiscuous. It is not SINGLENESS. Singleness is the state in which you are free to pursue a committed relationship with another individual while pursuing a relationship with God. Celibacy is the state in which you pursue God and God only, leaving behind sex and a hope for a permanent, earthly relationship. I also believe that celibacy is not as common a gift as it has suddenly appeared to be.