A young Christian lady recently confessed that her boyfriend has been pushing for them to have sex. She wishes to honour God, but the pressure seems too much. She confessed to wanting to have a child without committing to a marital covenant and sought to know if God would ever forgive the sin if she willfully went ahead and committed it.
Single motherhood is becoming normalised. There has been an increase internationally in the number of single-parent families in the 21st century. Single parenting is caused by many reasons that cannot be exhausted in this article. The focus of this article is on single parenting that is willfully sought.
You will notice a bias towards addressing women as you read along. That is not to say men do not struggle with the sinful motivations highlighted below as being largely responsible for single parenting or to exempt them from help. My bias towards women is because my experience has mostly been with them, as you may tell from the introduction. Also, I had never heard a man say I want kids, not marriage, hence the seeming bias.
That clarified, let us consider a few reasons why some have favoured single parenting and what the Bible would say in response to each.
The Career Woman
Marital commitment has increasingly been viewed as a deterrent to career advancement. And as women have climbed once insurmountable mountains, many are left feeling that they can take care of their children just fine without the help of a man.
I have a pastor friend whose marriage soured as soon as they got a child. “I married you only because I wanted a baby,” the wife confessed. She went on to seek a divorce and claim custody of the child. But the magistrate ruled in the man’s favour, granting him full custody of their child.
Custody or not, how honourable, just, pure, loving, commendable, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) is getting into a marriage simply with the aim of getting children? Is marriage meant only for procreation? Ephesians 5:22-26 suggests a much higher vision for marriage, treating it as a picture of how Christ loves and cares for the Church and how the Church, in turn, submits to him. If loving God and neighbour sum up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-39), we surely would be sinning if career were to remove from the family rather than be a blessing by adding to it. In that case, a good thing (work) would have become an idol.
Furthermore, to rip a child from the father is to deny them access to the one person who bears the primary responsibility of bringing them up in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). God’s will is that a man and his wife will be bound together until death (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). Hence, there is no question that he also wills that they raise their children together until death alone parts them.
Irresponsible and Abusive Men
Some have preferred single parenting because men are perceived as mostly irresponsible. Caroline (not her real name) found herself pregnant with a man who refused to take responsibility. “When I told my boyfriend that I was pregnant with his child,” she confessed, “he denied responsibility, accusing me of sleeping with other men. He ignored my calls, and whenever answered, it would be by a girl’s voice. I was devastated and felt so betrayed. I kept wondering how a human being could be so heartless, but it was the reality I had to face.”
According to WHO, one in three women is in an abusive relationship. Such statistics and the unfortunate experiences some of us have personally witnessed have led many to shy from marriage altogether. But hearts only faint in this way because enough is not spoken of functional marriages; of marriages wherein the love and submission commended by Scripture are exemplified. Bad news sells, they say. That might explain why the stories that go around quickly are only the discouraging ones. God, however, does keep men and women truly happy in marriage. To commit to marriage is not to blindly place faith in a man (or woman) who is sinful, weak and might hurt you, but to trust in a holy, faithful God who would never fail you.
Is it justifiable to seek a child out of wedlock for fear that a man might hurt you? Fear to be sinned against is not an excuse to sin in response. Sex outside of marriage is not made less sinful by the supposed fact that men have grown increasingly irresponsible. If you’re a Christian, let not a hint of sexual immorality be mentioned concerning you (Ephesians 5:3). In your pursuit of a husband (or a wife), pray for and commit only to one whose heart truly is after God and bears fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). If he dreads the thought of sinning against God, you can trust that he will hate the thought of sinning against you.
Childlessness Seen As a Bad Thing
Women, especially those in their mid-thirties and above, have often felt pressured to have children. Unfortunately, it can be tempting to bow to this pressure, whether real or perceived, even to the point of fornicating in disobedience to God (Ephesians 5:3, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Proverbs 5:15-19). However, if only you delight in Christ as your ultimate treasure, finding your completion in him, no amount of persuasion will convince you to sin against your God just so you can have a child, however desirable a gift.
If, regrettably, through an act of sin you do have a child, do not despair. Scripture is clear that children, whether born within the bounds of marriage or not, are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). It is he who forms all children in their mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13-16). Unto man is sin, for God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13-16), but unto God alone is the glory due a Creator who mercifully gives life even despite man’s sin.
Hope In Him
But would he forgive me for my sin? you might wonder. Yes, for he’d never despise a broken and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17; Acts 3:19; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:13). In his incredible grace, he forgives all of our sins (Ephesians 2:1-5).
If you call out to him, will he not bless you and your child like he did Hagar and her son Ishmael in the wilderness (Genesis 17:20, Genesis 16:11)? Though against him you have sinned, to him alone run. And if tempted to sin against him, from him alone seek strength to continue in obedience. He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4; Exodus 34:6-7)!