There’s a problem with the internet. For every great article/blog post/comment you read, there’s at least a million not-so-great ones that you have to sift through to get there. You don’t even really need to go looking for them. More often than not you’ll find them in such places as your Facebook feed. That’s what happens to me. This particular article was shared by a friend on Facebook, and despite knowing their good intentions in sharing it, this article is so wrong, it’s not even funny.
However, before I tell you why, let me be upfront and say that as soon as I saw the title of this article (Church: Set Up Your Singles) I knew I was going to hate it for two reasons:
- a ‘single’ is an individually wrapped piece of cheese. I am a person. The whole Christian world should STOP. CALLING. ME. A. SINGLE.
- The article wasn’t called “Church: encourage all people to follow Jesus, regardless of their marital status”.
There’s just too many things wrong with the core theology of this article to be able to discuss them all, but these are the three most discouraging and dangerous errors I came across:
1. IS SINGLENESS GOOD?
A friend asked me recently, “If God said it is not good for man to be alone, but all he does is good, is my singleness actually good?” Sometimes the best answer to difficult questions is to just say, which I did, “I don’t know but he is good,”
If someone asks you if their singleness is good the correct answer is yes! I know this because God has told us it is good.
1 Corinthians 7:7 states:
“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”
The two gifts Paul is talking about are marriage and singleness. (see the comments on this post for more detail on the Greek of this verse). Singleness is a gift. The Greek word used is charisma (literally ‘grace gift’) and is the same word used in chapter 12 about spiritual gifts. Singleness is a good gift from a good God. Unfortunately, sometimes singleness feels like the kind of gift you receive with a fake smile, accompanied by the inward thought of ‘what do I want this for? Can I exchange it for what she has, please?”
That’s exactly the reason why I need to be reminded that it’s good. When I’m finding it hard, and becoming both sad and bitter, I need my Christian family to remind me that God is good and he wants good things for me. Even when I would hate it, that yes, my singleness is good.
(For those who are single, this is what I want you to know about your gift.)
2. IS MARRIAGE A GLIMPSE OF THE ETERNAL MARRIAGE?
“Help your unmarried brothers and sisters taste a glimpse of the eternal marriage by helping them get married.”
Whilst, this could be partially true, in the same way singleness is itself a glimpse into eternity.
Andrew Cameron says it best:
“Jesus’ new teaching arises from the new future. It turns out that human marriages are not reinstated in the new future, because they point to the ultimate ‘marriage’ – a final union between Christ and his people (Eph 5:29-32; Rev 19:6-8; 21:2, 9-11; cf 22:17). But we need a little more theological detective work to determine how chaste singleness points to the new future.
In the new future, John looks and sees ‘a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the lamb’ (Rev 7:9). The significance of normal social identity markers (nation, tribe, people and language) has melted away. The markers remain visible – but people now gather on a new basis other than ties of culture genes or kinship. These structure social life now, but not then. As theologian Oliver O’Donovan puts it ‘Humanity in the presence of God will know a community in which the fidelity of love which marriage makes possibly will be extended beyond the limits of marriage.’
Single people offer a glimpse of this kind of society. They’re harbingers of an aspect of heavenly community, because they’re not constrained by family boundaries of genetics and kinship. They know how care and intimacy can go beyond family boundaries. They nudge members of families out of the introverted obsession with family life that becomes its dark side. They remind families that God calls everyone into the ‘great multitude’, and they call couples and families to attend to the wider community, and t0 point to heaven. (Joined-up Life, 234-235)”
If I was to rewrite this sentence in the article it would say ‘Help your unmarried brothers and sisters taste a glimpse of the eternal marriage by sharing your life with them. Likewise, you too can taste a glimpse of eternal community by sharing in their life.’
3. WHAT’S MISSING FROM A SINGLE PERSON’S LIFE?
“It is not good for a man to be alone and he who finds a wife finds goodness, but it takes the beauty of a family to see the goodness far below the surface and in the crevices of these clay jars. Church, be that family, be the mothers and father, the sisters and brothers. Guide them, protect them, show them what is true and good and honorable in marriage, and then, please, help them get there.“
It’s true, it’s not good for anyone to be alone but as Christians we must recognise that our loneliness is only fully met in Jesus. Earthly marriage is but a shadow of this, and it’s a shadow that, no matter how good it is, will never completely satisfy our needs. Jesus is the only one who does that. Thus, the advice to the lonely single person should not be a simple ‘get married’ (though of course they may) but rather, ‘enjoy Jesus and his people’.
This quoted paragraph above should instead say “It is not good for anyone to be lonely. Church, to those who are lonely, be their family. Be their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Guide them, protect them, show them what is true and good and honourable in following Jesus and run the race beside them.”