As we look back at history, we find that each era brings forth unique new social changes which redefine what humans value in life and how we live. I think that God uses such social changes unique to each age, to bring glory to His name. In the early Christian age, God used the Roman Empire for the sake of His own glory. As the famed Historian Will Durant says, “Christ and Ceaser met in the arena and Christ won”.
One of the most important contributions of the middle ages to the development of human progress is I think, the universities. In the middle ages, universities were places which God used to glorify His name. Historians say that ‘theology’ was then the most important course taught. But for these universities we may still be living in the world of divine right of kings. Then there were monasteries and convents where monks and nuns lived, who apart from praying ceaselessly, helped the downtrodden by managing orphanages and helping the widows with fire wood. God’s name was glorified through those celibants.
Back in those days, unmarried celibants had to live in monasteries and convents because if they tried to live with the society, they felt ostracised as everyone else was by default, married. But now, our society has changed. Thanks to the social devlopments of this age marked by individualism. The kind of individualism that we have gives an opportunity for singles to remain single live a very ‘active public life’ and not feel left-out by the society. So we all, by default, remain single and we get married if we choose to.
I am reminded of St. Augustine’s quote. “If God is God, and He is good and powerful and omniscient, He has to be all powerful to bring something good even out of something that is bad”.
On one side, radical individualism and unfettered freedom is wrecking havoc in the fabric of our social structure. But I think God is using the new freedoms, to set apart a group of singles who will live active, admirable and evniable public lives that gives glory to the name of God and possibly bring the nations closer to the heart of God.
I say this because I know some remarkable men and women in the 30s, 40s, who are single and are admired and may be even envied by many for the amazing work for God. A single businessman who in the freetime he has being a single guy, has built an amazing Christian ministry for singles. A single media director who makes the Church worship cherished by his extensive knowledge of the media he has acquired by spending time analyzing many movies and reading books. A single girl entrepreneur, who in her spare-time (thanks to her singlehood) travels across the nations building communities for God’s glory. A single girl who was a CEO herself and is now a high profile corporate trainer, training CEOs across the globe and using every opporunity to communicate the good news.
I don’t mean to say that families cannot serve God. There are great examples of folks with family lives serving God Billy Graham, John Piper etc… But what is interesting about the current generation is that unlike the immediately prior generations, in the 30s and 40s age category, it appears that an increasingly high number of singles live for the glory of God through their singlehood, even as temporary as the singlehood may be. They are, I believe, the Christian monks of the 21st century who live active community-oriented public lives for God’s glory.
Let me also state that God’s creation-mandate for us is to be married and have God-loving children. God’s redemption mandat is for us to go ALL-out and be His disciple. God’s redemption-mandate sometimes conflicts with creation-mandate. In the early Christian age, just having Godly children wasn’t going to help the cause of the gospel. So Paul said that Christiendom needed monks who’ll remain sigle for the sake of glorifying God. I believe the age we live in now, is another age where the redemption-mandate would override the creation-mandate.
I think the Christianity of the next century may be shaped heavily by the 21st Century Christian monks who are giving in to fulfilling the redemption-mandate at the cost of fulfilling their creation-mandate, perhaps just as early Christianity was heavily shaped by the life and the opinions of celibate early Church Fathers.