We say that we as a community celebrate single people, but when do those celebrations actually happen? Tolerating or even valuing something isn’t the same thing as celebrating it. [...] Our churches might value single people—but how are we celebrating them?
The underlying assumption of these questions and answers is that our aim is to lead surrendered lives, that we let God be god, the idea at the heart of being a Christian. Each of the four sections of the catechism deal with a “jurisdiction,” if you will, of God’s sovereign reign in our lives: over our status, our self-image, our sorrows, and our futures. These are all his to shape and defi
Mother’s Day stirs up so many different emotions for us. Becoming a mother is one of the most gratifying aspects of life. Having children is a lifelong journey of laughter, tears, duty, and delight, with endless opportunities to learn something new each day. For many, though, Mother’s Day is a deeply painful holiday.
In a story polished to a fine gleam by Disney, pop music and the rolling fairytale of our Instagram feed, we are told that the destination we are all heading for and the only thing that will complete us is our soul mate. Marriage, in this narrative is an idol. And when the story goes off course, it leaves us feeling empty and hopeless. But Paul has a different story to tell us in 1 Corinthians 7, one that gives us a blueprint for greater contentment: stay where you are; serve God where you are.
The fact that “home” is so often the location of such inner turmoil for single Christians can actually be a great blessing. In fact, in it is precisely one sense in which we unmarried Christians are called to faithfully exhort, encourage and even (lovingly) rebuke our married brothers and sisters in Christ.
My generation, which came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, was inducted into the idolatry of love through romantic movies and love songs. The film The Princess Bride captured the vibe. It’s a sarcastic fairy tale, but it’s a fairy tale. Picture two blond and beautiful individuals, detached from all family and meaningful relations, alone in the world, beset by misfortune, yet trading ironic quips and saving themselves by the power of “true love.”
I don’t often find myself wishing for a man, which is quite a confessional way to start this article, but there you have it. Yet this week, I moved house, and 7 of them came to help, or more precisely 4 men, 2 teenagers and a tween. None of these men are related to me, and none were known to me just 3 years ago. And yet they made me misty-eyed as we drove in a convoy of trailers down the main street connecting old house with new. This is church family, sweating and schlepping my furniture at 8am on a public holiday Monday. Of that I am sure.
It was fairly obvious to me, from the minute I first met Jesus, that Christianity meant signing up to be countercultural. When I told my friends that I believed in Jesus, some of them no longer wanted to be around me. When I shared with my family that I believed God’s design for sexual fulfillment finds its home in marriage, they had a borderline intervention, desperate to convince me that I would never find a healthy relationship if I took sex off the table.
WHERE TO FIND HOPE & HELP AMID THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION
It’s no secret that the Western world has undergone a dramatic transformation regarding issues of sexuality and gender identity. Twenty years ago, the widespread acceptance of gay marriage seemed largely unthinkable. Even just 10 years ago, issues of transgenderism were far from mainstream consciousness. Many in our culture have seen these shifts as an unqualified good, a needed sign of progress toward a more just and inclusive society
Apple or Android? Which is better? More than likely you have an opinion on which is better than the other. But when you stop and think about it you soon realise that both of these types of phones are good. They are different from each other in many ways, but both of them are good. So how do we decide which we should choose? One of them will be a better choice for each of us.
There are moments in our lives when we have startling clarity about a painful memory or circumstance in which we find ourselves. It is at times only a moment, and other times it shakes us so deeply we know we'll remember it from then on. There was a moment like this for me in 2012.
In the last half a century, we evangelicals have continued to stand at odds with the world around us on important matters such as the significance of marriage and the purpose of sex. However, when it comes to the world’s insistence of the centrality of romantic love as necessary for ultimate happiness and fulfilment we haven’t always been as discerning.
I was single all through my twenties, and I enjoyed it a lot of the time. When I wanted a particular food for dinner, I ate it. When I wanted to take a week to hike a one-hundred-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it. When I felt called to pursue graduate work in another country, I went. And there were other, less selfish benefits, including more time and energy for building deep friendships and fruitful ministry. But, all in all, I found singleness pretty tough.
FIVE LESSONS ON FRIENDSHIP FROM ESTHER EDWARDS BURR
To students of church history, Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758) is known today as one of eleven children born to Sarah and Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian. To students of American history, she is known as the mother of Aaron Burr Jr., Thomas Jefferson’s vice president who mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in an illegal duel in 1804.
Have you always wanted to be married? As a child, did you dream about what your spouse would be like and how many kids you would have? Or maybe you’re more like me. Your desire for these things came later. Maybe you wanted to be on your own for a while, enjoying the freedom and benefits of adulthood. But now you would prefer a little less freedom and a lot more companionship. You would like to share your life with someone and long to settle down and have a family.
Sexually chaste Christian singles are such an important resource for the church today. As contemporary Western culture drifts further and further from its Christian past, sexual self-satisfaction has become the goal of life. Culture battles over same-sex “marriage”, issues of gender and transgender identity, and even the ruckus about the aggressive promotion of gender fluidity by the Safe Schools Coalition, all stem from one source: the assumption that that in order to be a complete, whole, healthy human being, we need to be sexually satisfied
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.
There are many privileges involved in preparing and giving Christian talks. One of those is growing in your own understanding, learning new truths and relearning old ones. Not so long ago I had to give a talk on singleness and in the course of preparing these are some of the truths that were impressed upon me.
You sit down with your single friend who has been struggling with their singleness. They want to be married, they want to have the same kind of intimacy that you experience in marriage. They long for the day when they will be able to walk down the aisle with their new spouse. But they don’t know what to do; they don’t know how to move forward...
My particular experience of singleness is categorically different than that of someone who has had a relationship that fizzled, or who found love and lost it. Not only can I imagine how heartbreaking and soul crushing that is, but I’ve experienced the fizzling without the courtesy of a clear relationship status.
Since 2014, single adults have outnumbered married adults in the United States, but church ministries and programs often don’t reflect this reality. Pastors rarely talk about singleness or dating from the pulpit, and churches struggle with integrating singles into church life. If it’s difficult to be a single woman in the church, imagine the burden of being a single woman in church leadership.
My focus was on myself and what others were doing for me. I then began to consider how Jesus models a different focus altogether: He intentionally set his sights on others and how he could serve them. In imitation of Christ, then, we are to be the friend we’ve always wanted.
I wrote a guest post for Equip last spring which addressed the priority of spiritual family in the Christian life. I’d like to follow up on that post by engaging in some more reflection on the ideas I presented. In an age where more and more people feel ostracized by the church, this discussion may be more important now than ever before, at least in American culture. Getting the family of God wrong means getting the church wrong! And that’s something we just can’t afford.
This scene is common nowadays. Christians can’t ignore the subject of homosexuality, as it’s so interwoven with our culture. We need to know how to engage with it, following the example of our Lord Jesus who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And this requires us to pull up a chair and listen well to those who’ve walked its road.
ARE WE REALLY IN DANGER OF MAKING AN IDOL OF THE FAMILY?
“One of the acceptable idolatries among evangelical Christians is the idolatry of the family.” That’s what I tweeted last week. To be honest, I didn’t think much about it. I’ve said similar things in sermons for the past decade, and I’ve tweeted similar things before. But this time—I was later told by friends who track with Twitter more closely than I do—the statement took on a life of its own as this one sentence was liked 1,600 times and bandied about on social media for the next few days. Unknown to me, I was (depending on who you ask) suddenly saying something wonderfully courageous or terribly misguided.
There are two popular, misleading ways of relating the Bible to dating. The first is to think that because the Bible does not speak about dating, we have liberty to dive headlong into romantic waters, guided only by desire to get married. We'll call this the libertarian approach. This view allows us to imbibe secular dating-game platitudes like the currently popular sage wisdom called flirtexting.
Each single person will have a different experience. There are age differences. Being single at 20 is very different from being single at 30, 40, or 70. There are circumstantial differences: some have never married, while others are divorcees, widows, or widowers. And there are experiential differences: some have chosen to be single and are basically content; others long to be married and feel frustrated. What does the Bible say to all these people?
Our story seemed to come right out of a movie. We had been dating for two and a half years when God planted a desire for Jesus in my heart. I began yearning for him; she didn’t. I started seeking him; she just watched. I rose up and followed him; she stayed put. Our relationship stretched, frayed, and finally ripped apart. I walked away from the girl I was sure I would marry.
While the first 1500 years of the Christian church resulted in an unbiblical and unhelpful elevation of celibacy and denigration of marriage, the 500 years that have passed since the Reformation have achieved just the opposite. When pastoral attitudes and theology are 500 years in the making, there can be no quick fix. Nevertheless, if we wish to be committed to loving and honouring our never married, divorced or widowed Christian friends and family, here are a few ways forward for us to consider.
It is true. We evangelical Christians really do have a problem with singleness. The diagnosis of this problem with singleness is multi-faceted, but it begins with something as simple as the words that we use.
I had bought into the modern hierarchy of relationships, with marriage sitting at the top. Unless I got married, I could never experience the greatest expression of love between people. I could be miserably married or miserably alone. A catch-22. And there was nothing I could do about it. Or so I thought. Fortunately, God’s vision for human flourishing looks very different.
She sat across from her counselor, sweaty hands clutching her seat, pulse racing, eyes trained on the ticking clock. As she recounted various events in her life—moments of spiritual darkness, emotional abuse, and crippling self-doubt—her counselor nodded, listening to words she’d never been brave enough to speak out loud.
I recently found myself in tears over a beautiful white couch. Someone had kindly offered this couch to me for free, but I had no way to pick it up, transport it, and store it. After more than a week of text messages, face-to-face requests, and social media posts, I found myself unable to move the couch the night before the deadline I had been given.
It’s that time of year, when countdowns abound and hints of dresses appear on Instagram. The floral arrangements grow and grow and grow and the invitations flow and flow and flow. It’s an exciting time of year for some but for others it’s a time that serves as a three month long reminded of what they do not have and what often feels so very out of reach, and that reminder can lead to loneliness and that loneliness sinks deep and is hard to shake sometimes… and so, here I am. I’m getting married in just over a month and feel a little like I’ve become one of those reminders.
Christians who are single often feel acutely the hardness of their singleness. Deep sadness, boiling anger, overwhelming disappointment, bitter grief. What am I to with these emotions? I am convicted that God’s word is true and good, yet my experience doesn’t seem to line up with the Bible’s description of singleness being ‘good’. It feels anything but good.
It was an elderly Afro-Carribbean woman who said it. “So my dear, you’re here with your husband?” She gestured to my friend, who was actually there with his wife (not me). “Oh no, that’s just my friend. I have no husband.” “Ohhh!” She purred, “so you’re freeeeeee. A free woman.” I assume that like many before her, she was referring to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 7 about the benefits of singleness, but unfortunately, like many before her, she put the emphasis totally in the wrong place.
As our married friend gazes earnestly at us and ponders aloud how it can possibly be that we haven’t been snatched up yet, we know their intentions are good. We know they think they are complimenting us. We know they are trying to say they think we’re great, and that they just can’t understand why Mr or Mrs Right hasn’t recognized what they see so clearly...