There are quite a few “norms” when it comes to being a Christian single. I’ve struggled with being a Christian for almost twenty years now. I’d struggled being single for about fifteen of those years, only in the last three (mostly) have I found the struggle seemingly nonexistent. I say seemingly, for the reason I’ve studied the topic with purpose during this time.
As a young Christian in my teenage years, like many, I read “I kissed Dating Goodbye.” At the time my take-away from it was just reflection on what it meant to “date” as a Christian. Suffice to say it wasn’t very helpful, and as it stands now I wouldn’t recommend the book. Not that the main point of his argument–purposeful “dating” i.e. the end result being marriage–is what I am against, just that from what I recall it was confusing and led me to believe dating was wrong and courtship was correct.
From my perspective now, as someone who has studied the topic in-depth, there is a vast nuance to the topic of dating vs. courtship and the foundation should be changed. It’s not the model of “dating” that, to my judgement, is the primary issue; the issue is,
“Is being single a good thing and how am I, as a Christian, to live my single life?”
I’ve read quite a few books in the last few years on the subject, far and away the best one on the subject is Barry Danylak’s “Redeeming Singleness.” The short take-away is a foundational argument; the single Christian is to find their identity in the inheritance they have in being united with Christ, whether or not they are currently, will be, never will be married; that is the driving focus. I find it telling that this is something that permeates most every doctrine Christians find giving comfort and purpose in every other aspect of their daily walk in this life.
When I hear non-christians and Christians alike speak of the issue of singleness certain points are said numerous times:
- I hate being alone
- All of my friends/family are getting married
- I feel incomplete
- The single person is looked at as “deficient”
- The single person is looked at as “not taking advantage of this ‘freedom'”
- I don’t have the “gift of singleness”
- I’m running out of time
- I’m too young
I could list more but these are a few that are most common and I feel lacking in bearing any weight. I want to give a few comments on each in passing and then give a brief word of exhortation to the single Christian.
- “I hate being alone” Being alone for some is awful, I used to have this outlook. I grew to prefer it; it’s much easier to succeed at not disappointing other people when you’re alone. The Lord gave us the Church and specifically the local church, so being alone need not be common.
A girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife will not vacate the feeling of being alone. In-fact it may exacerbate the feeling; when you have this person who is supposed to be your “partner in life” and is to your judgement, lacking in this endeavor the sensation of loneliness could be heightened. Go and be with other Christians, do things together, get coffee, get in a small group, see movies, go on missions trips, minister at a local abortion clinic… there are a litany of things to do to “not be alone.”
- “All my friends/family are getting married” Looking at another person’s “success” often can have the effect of a failure to look at the blessing they have received. To view it as what you’re lacking is selfish; how in good conscience can you congratulate and encourage the new couple to propel them toward a more sanctified relationship?
- “I feel incomplete” As a Christian being united in Christ is being complete. Being unable to see this as relevant, is a detriment to your Christian walk. Is the failure to procure a spouse the end all be all of being human, or is the salvation from alienation from the Creator of the universe (and being complete in that) the ultimate end to your existence?
- “The single person is looked at as being ‘deficient'” This point is usually said within the context of the Church and follows with the last point.
- “The single person is looked at as not ‘taking advantage of this freedom'” This is said in the context of the unbelieving world. For the Christian, scripture’s testimony is that sex before marriage is unquestionably sin, to reject this doctrine is indefensible. So with that said, a Christian who is satisfied with and redeeming the time in this life of being single is often looked at as “not taking advantage of this ‘freedom’.”
“Sow your royal oats”, “Play the field”, “You can’t know if they are right for you till you’ve slept together first” (Here are a couple of articles giving something along this perspective 1, 2. I would post more but the reading got quite putrid and I don’t want to share those things with you, my readers); these are all common phrases used. This is coupled with the last two so I don’t feel the need to comment further.
- “I don’t have the ‘gift of singleness'” Often this is a presupposition or being incorrectly taught about this “gift of singleness.” I would highly recommend Mr. Danylak’s book at this juncture. In passing I would ask; if Paul in the same passage (1 Cor 7) can say he prefers all would be the same as himself i.e. single and then go on to say that all who are married should be as if they are unmarried, what does that say of this gift?
- “I’m running out of time” You have a deficient view of time. How are you casting judgement on when the right time to get married is? Is not God the arbiter of how to think of when the circumstances in your life come about?
- “I’m too young” You have a deficient view of age. If you are claiming to be unable to make life decisions for yourself then you may be too young. But is that not a life decision you are in-fact making? What is your criterion of too young? Money? Living arrangements? Age? Anything apart from the “legal age” may be a bad theological reason to say “I’m too young.” A practical reason on the other hand is an entirely different issue all together.
In closing I would like to say a few words of encouragement.
Being single is wonderful, it is also hard and at times lonely. When I see a father and his child playing, or a parent consoling their child, or a husband and wife holding hands and walking down the street I often wish I had the same. I try and reflect this joyful thing the Lord has blessed them with. When I see this among my fellow church members I remind them of this blessing. It becomes an encouragement to me and I believe to them as well. I believe it is part and parcel of stirring one another up towards love and good deeds. This life is a blessing as we, as Christians, continue striving toward further christ-likeness; the next life in the resurrection/eternal state is what we are waiting for…
1 Corinthians 2:9-10(NET Bible)
But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
Now go and pursue righteousness.