On Wednesday Pastor John Piper published a response to a single mother named Anna who asked if she had a biblical obligation to marry.
My question for you is one that I have wrestled with since the birth of my only child, a son. He is three. I’m a single parent and have been since his conception. I thank the Lord for his work in my heart that has transformed my soul and lifestyle from where it was then. Now, as I attempt to wrap my head around the overwhelming task of raising this boy into a man by myself, I do not feel called to marriage. But am I obligated to find a godly mate to complete the model of family that is clearly laid out in Scripture? As a single parent, is it forbidden for me to embrace a life of singleness and ‘unhindered service’ to the Lord as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7?”
She doesn’t say she knows she came to be in this position due to her own sin, and she doesn’t say she repented, she says God changed her soul and lifestyle. She is saying she is saved, and not that kind of girl anymore. This is especially important because there is a very common tendency for single mothers to deny their own sin and instead say something like “life dealt me a difficult hand”, and compare themselves to widows.
Not only does Piper not address the issue of sin and repentance, but he goes so far as to make the rationalization himself. Piper likens her to the widow in Luke 7:12–13. He speaks in the language of the harlot, saying life has dealt her a difficult hand (emphasis mine):
…First, Jesus, the incarnate Jesus that we know in the Gospels as an expression of God’s own heart, has a special concern for mothers who have children to raise on their own.
For example, in Luke 7:12–13 we read, “As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” Her husband is gone, the only son she has is gone, and this is the next thing we read: “A considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her.”
He says to her, “Do not weep” (Luke 7:13). The point of the story is that he has power to raise the dead. He raises the boy from the dead. He does it, he uses that kind of power in the service of compassion, for someone for whom life has dealt a very difficult hand. That would be the case for Anna. The first thing, Anna, is to take heart that Jesus has a special kind of compassion for women in your situation.
Keep in mind that this is a message not just for Anna, but for all of the single mothers who are reading.
It takes a village.
But then Piper does something even more astounding. He explains that married couples are the old way to make a family. It turns out that women like Anna are a sort of cutting edge Christian:
Departure of the Nuclear Family
Second, never think of the family — the nuclear family: husband, wife, and children — as the only or the eternal or the main family with which God is concerned. The church is God’s main family on the earth. In the age to come, there will be no nuclear family because Jesus says in that age that we will “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). The nuclear family is temporary. The eternal family is the church with God as our Father and all of us as brothers and sisters.
I want to elevate this. She didn’t mention the church, but I’m sowing the seed for her to think about it. I want to elevate the local church as the expression of God’s family for her life. That’s precisely where she should embed this child in relationships with the wider family — men, women, boys, and girls — so that the child will connect in all the varying ways that he’s going to need in order to be as rounded as he should be.
The third is just an expansion of it. The church is where this little boy is going to find or should find strong, humble, godly men in action.