1 Corinthians 7
I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.
I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
I’m mostly writing this because it seems to be one of those things where there are so many misunderstandings, that it seems worth mentioning.
Someone on Quora was asking if there are any Christian denominations that forbid marriage (1 Timothy 4:3) and – of course – someone else responded that the Roman Catholic Church forbids priests and nuns from marrying and I … breathe deeply in and out.
It’s kind of like this. If you are president of the United States, you are not supposed to at the same time receive even well-meaning payments from other government leaders – for obvious, conflict of interest reasons. (It is called the emoluments clause and it IS in the Constitution.) I have worked for the government in various roles and we make similar promises, because we are supposed to Do Our Jobs and Maintain Personal Integrity. It’s totally a thing. Because we want to (try to) be fair to everyone.
Saying that the church forbids people (in general) from marrying because it forbids some people from marrying is kind of like saying the United States forbids people (in general) from receiving gifts. Not true. Unless you’re in a position where a conflict of interest could arise based on the gift and the giver. Then, you need to decide. The job, your integrity, or the gift? You can’t have all three.
We all make choices. It is called life.
No one has to stay single. God allows marriage, even encourages it if that is your call in life. It is also wrong to say that we cannot choose to promise to stay single. God also allows us to vow ourselves to single life. This distinction has some heavy-duty precedent in the Bible. I am one of those latter people, and it is something I take very seriously. I know why I made my promise to God. No one ordered me to do anything, not even God. It is a choice.
I am of the camp that secular priests should probably be allowed to be married. Through years of experience, I can usually tell when people are trying to placate God by being holy in one way while avoiding the other things they should be doing but aren’t. Like humility and service. And that is what this looks like to me. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure I am right.
It is not up to me what people do, but in my world authority is a two-way street. If someone doesn’t seem to care about me or what I think, I consider myself at liberty to not care what they think either. In my not so humble opinion, it is counter-productive to “lead” while being out of touch.
No one has to be Catholic OR a Catholic priest OR a nun. The church does not forbid marriage to anyone. It just says that sometimes you have to choose. You can get married, but you can’t get married and also do certain other things. And that is true of just about any state of life.
I often think of Jane Austen’s witty opener to Pride and Prejudice.
How little things change in terms of the assumptions people make of other people. It is NOT in fact a given that a single woman without a man to provide for her is necessarily in need of a husband. That doesn’t mean marriage is wrong. It just means forcing people to marry or think they are supposed to marry (someone of the opposite gender and similar social class) is also wrong. Mind your own business, universe.
Or, in the also-immortal words of Meghan Trainor.