The church has often been accused of being all about families and not about singles. I think the criticism is well taken. “Focus on the Family” is not only the name of an organization but it could also be used to describe many churches. I remember a Japanese pastor seeking my advice as to whether a single man he was mentoring could be considered for the ministry even though he wasn’t married. I responded with a strong “Yes,” but instead of just pointing to Jesus and the apostle Paul as justification, I pointed to the growing number of single adults in our society and the unique challenges they face. In the early 2000’s, adult single people outnumbered married people for the first time in Canada. And the temptations are greater than ever. That’s why I was glad to see the article by Tyler Velin entitled “Don’t Waste Your Singleness.” While the title sounds a little preachy, the principles he highlights are important.
What’s the purpose?
He encourages singles that, Our questions need to shift from “Why are you single?” to “For what purpose are you single? I think the same question could be asked of those who are married. If we believe that God is as sovereign over our relationships as He is over the other aspects of our lives, we have to believe that there is good purpose in both a time of singleness as well as a life of singleness if God so leads. What can I do because of my singleness that might not otherwise be possible? What can I learn because of my singleness that God might want to teach me? Again, the same questions should be asked by the married person envying the single life.
What’s the priority?
In looking at Luke 14:26, Velin also points to Jesus’ call in the gospel to make Him the priority over all of our relationships. The verse says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is certainly not calling for people to be more hateful but rather is elevating allegiance to Him far above all human relationships. While pursuing romantic relationships involves time, initiative, and perseverance, if ‘finding someone’ becomes the defining priority of a person’s life, Jesus can be lost in the mix, and a dangerous lack of help and discernment can follow. The same thing happens in a married person’s life where the family becomes their god. I think Velin gets the balance right when he says, “The important thing to remember is that singleness wasn’t idolized (“I don’t need a spouse,” “I like the freedom,” “I’m a self-contained unit of awesome and married people are weak”), nor was marriage (“I need to be married by yesterday,” “If I’m not married I will never find joy,” “If I’m not married I will never get to have sex”).”
What are the benefits?
He closes by pointing people to the three benefits of singleness that the apostle Paul holds out:
1. Single people are spared the “troubles” of marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:28 Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.
2. Single people are spared the constraints of marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none.
3. Single people are spared the “anxieties” of marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.
I pray that Grace would be a place where single and married people alike can build each other up, point each other to Christ, and provide the kind of support and relationships that will help all of us to thrive no matter what our position.
In awe of Him,