Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Theology of (un)Valentine’s Day

Ah, love is in the air. It is a day to hold hands, sigh sweetly, and make Hallmark a bundle of money. Perhaps this is the cynic coming out of me, but I suspect that for many women this day is a test to see if the old boy will live up to even a minimal standard of affection. One the other hand, for most men, it is unwelcomed added stress on the heels of a taxing Christmas season. Let's face it gentlemen, we just aren't that good at creative gift-giving, especially when it involves chocolate or Victoria's Secret.

There is, however, another side of Valentine's Day that is usually muted, namely, the huge single population for whom this day is a tacit reminder that romantic love is not part of the current fabric of their lives. For them this day betrays the fact that they have no partner with whom to share this level of love—no whispered sweet nothings, no gentle kisses, no promises 'til death doth us part'. That can be a terribly lonely feeling and often society's implicit evaluation of such a state is negative.

However, the word of God speaks differently of singleness. Sure, there are texts where barren women felt abandoned by God (1 Samuel 1:1–10) or where a divorcee was ostracized by a community (John 4:16–19). But for the believer, such a state may be a call of God to single-minded devotion to the kingdom. For example, Paul considered his singleness a gift from God for the work of the Gospel (1 Cor 7:6). He puts it this way: "An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided" (1 Cor 7:32–34). Another example is Philip's four virgin daughters (Acts 21:9). Their singleness was connected to their activity as prophetesses—their devotion to their ministries was mentioned with their marital status. This doesn't prove they were single in order to prophesy, but it is suggestive. One could also note that Jesus was single all his life and it would be difficult to say that he was somehow deficient as a human being because of it. Undoubtedly, Christian singles in the early church experienced the same struggles singles do today—loneliness, vulnerability, and lust, which is probably why Paul had to exhort Timothy to flee youthful lusts (2 Tim 2:22). Nonetheless, Christian singles were, and are, an indispensible part of the body of Christ; often they look more like Jesus, Paul, and Timothy than those who have a significant other.

To those of you who are single, please receive this commendation on this day: According to the Bible, you are not deficient, cursed, or broken (you don't need to be fixed or even 'fixed up'). We thank God for you as persons and for the example you offer of single-minded devotion to Christ. To that end, allow me to give this exhortation: Don't forget our single brothers and sisters for whom Valentine 's Day may be very lonely. If you read this message and agree with the value of singles, carve out the time today to phone an 'unValentine' and affirm his or her value and friendship to you. Buy an extra card or box of chocolates and tell someone without a lover that they are dearly loved.

Mark & Barbara Moore



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