“I’m going to speak of the sin I think besets this generation. It is the sin of delaying marriage as a lifestyle option among those who intend someday to get married, but they just haven’t yet. This is a problem shared by men and women, but it’s a problem primarily of men.” Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

This wasn’t the first time I head of this school of thought. There is a prevalent attitude, in action if not in word; in fact, I heard it from a pulpit not too long ago. The implication seems to be that we aren’t taking marriage seriously. I would contend the exact opposite. I guess we’re overlooking the fact that our parent’s generation did marriage so well. What happened to not entering into marriage lightly? Or a person simply not finding the right person yet? It’s almost like they are advocating “you better settle for whoever by the time you’re 30” as if marriage was the point of life. Their indignation at this generation of singles flies in the face of their belief in the sovereignty of God. Unless they are going to say that it’s God’s will that you get married by your early 20s: “If you’re 17, 18, 19, 20, in your early 20s—what are you waiting for?”

Here are the plain facts: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the first marriage for a white male is now at age 27.5. For white females, the age is slightly lower. This amounts to a delay that often has devastating consequences. With puberty coming at earlier ages than ever before–certainly in the early teens for most Americans–the period of time between sexual maturity and marriage is now stretching out into something like an average of ten to fifteen years. The accompanying statistics related to premarital sexual activity parallel the statistics related to the delay of marriage. Can anyone be surprised?

The assumption that the delay is due to “young people” sowing their wild oats, every body’s doing it, and no one is capable of learning the discipline of chastity. I get that there is a generation of folks who refer to said singles as “younger folk” and who are more comfortable with the days when women stayed home and fulfilled their established role in life, however, this is also a symptom of the school of thought that has turned the family into an idol. Yeah, I said it. Too often, the singles of the church are neither reached out to nor truly appreciated, but treated like second class citizens within the church (because you haven’t fulfilled your role as a man or woman until you’ve gotten married and had children). Singles have all of this mythical disposable income since they don’t have a family to support and they are always available to run the church nursery so that real Christians can hear the sermon.

As one who believes wholeheartedly in the biblical pattern of complementarity and in the male responsibility to lead, I charge young men with far greater responsibility for this failure. The extension of a “boy culture” into the twenties and thirties, along with a sense of uncertainty about the true nature of male leadership has led many young men to focus on career, friends, sports, and any number of other satisfactions when they should be preparing themselves for marriage and taking responsibility to grow up, be the man, and show God’s glory as husband and father.

Do you know why it is the men’s fault? Primarily because it was women who raised the ruckus when he first talked about the sin of singleness. I guess we could blame the guys, but I suspect there’s a dearth of dating across the board. One of the things that plays into this extended dating time is that it is taking our generation(s) longer to find themselves. (My personal theory is because we haven’t had to. There’s been no major cultural event that has forced us to “grow up,” no major war (not like a World War or anything involving a draft), no Depression, no defining societal moment. It’s just a theory.)

That and Jesus was still single in his 30s. Couch that in “he had a mission” all you want, but the truth is that we all are to join in with his ministry and frankly, we are more able to be about kingdom work without the divided distraction of the idol of family. Some people take the apostle Paul seriously about not being hindered by marriage. Be content where you are. If you’re about the “hunt”, you miss opportunities to live life where you are. Be aware of the hunt, not focused on it. If someone comes along, good; if not, we have our work, our life, to be about.

Just a few thoughts.

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