Yes, I know what you are thinking. Why is a married man writing a blog post about singleness? I have wondered the same thing. If you are single and reading this you might wonder what I know about the struggles of singleness or when I talk about the struggles of marriage some of you may start to question whether Kasey and I are okay. Which we are, I assure you. But then I realized that as a church, we don’t need “wisdom” gained through someone else’s personal experience. In all things, we should strive for wisdom that comes from above that God has revealed through His Word.
To add some credibility to what I say I read a book called 7 Myths about Singleness by Sam Allberry. His book helped me understand the difficulties that single people often face within the church in a new way. As he states, the church is a body and what happens to one of us affects us all. Therefore, both single people and married people need to be aware of what life is like in each other’s situations. It is in all of our best interests to understand the Biblical teaching on the subject of singleness and marriage. I would encourage you to get a copy of this book and read it for yourself, but I’d like to take the time to summarize one of my key take-a-ways from the book here for you today along with the Biblical passages some of these truths come from.
Sam Allberry opens his book by addressing the common idea that singleness is too hard. This is the first myth about singleness. This is an interesting idea because we live in a world that seems to be okay with singleness, yet within the church there is an underlying pressure to get married. On the surface this pressure kind of makes sense. Marriage is a good gift from the Lord, but then as you think about it, so is singleness. Why then do we put this pressure on ourselves when we are single that we must get married and then turn around and put the same pressure on our single friends?
First, there seems to be a commonly held belief in our world that without sex you cannot really experience what it means to be truly human (18). According to the way the world thinks our sense of humanity is directly attached to our sex life. The world yells at us to express ourselves sexually. This is plainly seen in advertisement, what popular media portrays, and by and large through the ways dating apps like Tinder are so commonly used. Second, Jesus defines sex outside of marriage as sinful. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19-20). If you have been part of the church for a decent amount of time, it is likely that this teaching has been drilled into your head. If Christians buy into the idea that we need to have sex in order to experience the true human life but still hold to the teachings of Jesus, then the simple solution is to get married. This is why our common starting place today is that a life of celibacy is too hard and therefore marriage is easier.
Interestingly though, Jesus’ teaching seems to be quite different from that. In Matthew 19 when the Pharisee’s tested Jesus about divorce he instead talks about marriage. He goes back to Genesis and explains that God’s design for marriage is a man and a woman joined together for life. The disciples then respond by saying “it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10). Isn’t this fascinating? When Jesus teaches about what marriage really is, he puts people off from getting married! Jesus’ view of sex and marriage, like many of his teachings, were not easy. Jesus goes on to provide the answer for the difficulty of marriage: celibacy.
We as believer’s can truly experience what it means to be fully human because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He is making us into the new and full humanity he always desired for us to be.
If we take the world’s view that sex is required to experience full humanity, then Jesus’ teaching to remain celibate in your singleness is somehow asking believers to never experience true humanity. This thinking is problematic on so many levels and what scares me is that we allow it to slip into the church even if it is in a very minor way such as pressuring single people into marriage. Jesus says in John 10:10 that he came to give us abundant life. We as believer’s can truly experience what it means to be fully human because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He is making us into the new and full humanity he always desired for us to be. Not only does this teaching of the world contradict what Jesus came to do, but it is contrary to who Jesus is. We need to remember that Jesus made himself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. Sam Allberry wonderfully explains this by saying:
[Jesus] is the example of the perfect man. He is the humanity all of us are called to be but which none of us are. He is the most complete and fully human person who ever lived. So his not being married is not incidental. It shows us that none of these things—marriage, romantic fulfillment, sexual experience—is intrinsic to being a full human being. The moment we say otherwise, the moment we claim a life of celibacy to be dehumanizing, we are implying that Jesus himself is only subhuman. (25)
I would challenge us as believers both single and married to look to Scripture for our understanding of what it means to be fully human. Be careful not to let the thinking of the world impact our theology. Jesus was both fully man and fully God and he lived on this earth and died on the cross so that we could experience the abundant life found only through him.
The fact is, singleness and marriage both have their ups and downs. Neither one is harder or easier than the other. If Jesus has called you to a life of celibacy, no matter how long, cherish the flexibility and freedom to “devote yourself to the Lord.” The church needs single people who find their fullest satisfaction and fulfillment in Jesus. Remember your singleness is not for you, but for the Lord. Likewise your marriage is not for you, but for the Lord. Whether you are single or married the main issue is God and whether we long for his goodness and mercy in our lives and extend that to others. Are you going to leverage your relationships for the Kingdom or for yourself?