In my last post I shared some thoughts in response to what Scott Sauls wrote at Relevant’s site about why we in the Church focus so much on the nuclear family. The focus of that post was to point out that we need to focus on God’s family not the nuclear family. Simply saying that the nuclear family is not the savior or necessary for salvation is not a good enough starting point.
Today, I want to talk about the idea that God is running every aspect of our dating lives.
I want to again say that I’m not trying to go after Scott but simply saying that what he writes, while better than what a lot of Church leaders are doing, is frankly not enough. I believe he represents what many people in leadership are thinking. There are assumptions here that I believe are at best short sighted.
When the nuclear family is treated as the end-all-be-all in churches, it tempts single men and women to believe that they will never be complete until they find that “special someone” to spend their lives with.
But this is a lie. As my friend Paige Brown once said—as a single Christian woman with no marriage prospects who wanted very much to be married—it is not our marital status that defines us and makes us special; it is our redemptive status. According to Paige (and Scripture), it is impossible for God to shortchange any of His children: If she meets the man of her dreams and lives happily ever after, it will be because God is so good to her. If she never marries, it will be because God is so good to her.
Do we believe this in our churches? What’s more, do we act like we believe it?
The first paragraph here could not be more right. He knocks it out of the park. The idea that a person is not complete as a person in Christ unless or until they are married is completely false and frankly borderline heresy. It goes against all that Jesus teaches us about our identity in Christ, not to mention our salvation.
Marriage doesn’t save anybody. This idea that I’m promised a spouse or that God has someone out there for me are not only false spiritual platitudes, they also set us up to think that unless I have these things I’m not a whole person in Christ. God’s family is all inclusive and based on relationship with Him and His family, not on which earthly relationships I’m blessed with, or not blessed with, here and now.
It is indeed our redemptive status that makes us special and complete.
It’s the rest of this section that seems totally incomplete. That is the idea that God is the Great Withholder and we need to just sit back and let it happen.
First of all, the idea that if God brings us someone, then He is good to us, and if he doesn’t He is good to us gets too easily turned into God either does or does not have a “soulmate” for us. In other words if it happens then God wants it. If it doesn’t then God doesn’t want it. This is not the same as whether or not God is good. It sounds deep and theological. But it leaves out a whole lot of factors.
It absolves us of any responsibility. It also turns God into the great withholder. I’ve beat this to death on this blog, but the bottom line, using Calvinism to explain the rapid increase in singleness is just bad and lazy.
Even on it’s premise it’s just ridiculous. God has now decided to make people wait longer to get married? In other words, if He is controlling all of this and is waiting to bring everyone their “one” then all this extra singleness going on is obviously His fault. We can for sure now stop all of the “man up” sermons. Sit back and play a video game. Why not? God will bring you the one when He’s ready to. God used to do that when you were 16-22 years old but now He in His wisdom has decided to test us further by letting us all wait an extra ten years. Come on folks.
Secondly the idea that whatever is happening in my life is God’s best for me is super shaky. I get the desire to honor God’s sovereignty and I’m for it. But we don’t get to leave out our own sin (including but not limited to our pride, insecurity, lust and gluttony) or the sin of others. If I’m being abused is that God’s best for me? Should I stay in that situation? If I’m jobless should I just stay in that situation and wait for God to deliver me a job? Should I send out some resumes or no?
Look, God does bring people into our lives. I’m not saying that God can’t lead you to someone. But this idea of the perfect one delivered from God at exactly the right time is just completely counterproductive. It is not helping. It sounds good. It might help some women sleep at night. But that is about it and it needs to stop.
God is indeed good whether I get married or not. In fact He is good no matter what happens to me and even no matter what I do right or wrong. He’s good period. But we live in a fallen world that is not always good. We have to apply both truths to singleness and dating. Failure to walk both sides of that line leads to a colossal imbalance and confusion. Worse, that leads to people being unnecessarily hurt. Which is about where sit in our Churches now.
I appreciate this. I’ve heard that “God is good whether you’re single or married” line in various forms, in various places. And yes – of course – God is good. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “good” for me to be single. This life situation may not be “good” – even if God is good – because we live in a fallen world. And when I hear that “God is good” line offered in relation to my singleness, it makes me feel like I can’t express my sadness, can’t express my pain. Or it makes me feel guilty for even feeling the sadness and pain in the first place.
So anyways, thanks for writing this! 🙂
Well said and explained Justin. I agree with this post
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