Some False Choices Of Singleness

I recently saw a sign outside an elementary school that said, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”  That sure sounds good.  Especially in our current culture.

There are at least two big problems with this statement.  The first is that it sort of sets up the idea that there is no right and wrong.  Which may be true to a degree in certain situations, but also is the post modern dodge for actually having any sort of absolute truth.  Of course this is not working out super well and makes no logical sense whatsoever.

However, for the sake of this blog I want to talk about the other problem.  That is that choosing between being right and being kind is a false choice.  You can be right and be kind.  You can absolutely do both.

False choices abound when it comes to singleness and especially the way we talk about it in Christian circles.  I want to name a few here.

Being a good guy vs. being attractive to women

Here’s how this one plays out.  Women are attracted the bad guy.  Therefore I need to be a bad edgy guy to get the woman.  Now I’ve written a ton here about the idea that women are not generally attracted to the nice guy.  But nice and good are not even in the same ball park.  At least not the way that I’d define it.  You can absolutely be a good Christian guy and be attractive.  Of course you can also be a good Christian and not be attractive. But being a good Christian and being attractive are not mutually exclusive in any way.

Dating in a secular way vs. not dating at all

This is the idea behind a bunch of books from about 15 – 20 years ago including of course I Kissed Dating Goodbye and my all time “favorite” Choosing God’s Best.  These books label dating as secular dating, which I think in their minds means sleeping around, dating all sorts of women without any desire for marriage.  They contrast this with their versions of “courting”.  The problem with these books are many.  But for this post, let’s just realize that if you unless you are under 25 and in a very particular environment, their version is going to be tough to come by.  You can date without sleeping around and you can for sure date with the intention of finding a spouse.

Being closer to Jesus vs. being married

This is where we tell singles to enjoy their singleness because they are able to be focused on the Lord without distraction where as once you get married you are now somehow less focused on the Lord and completely distracted.  Now if they were talking about the actual call or choice of celibacy for the Kingdom they would have a point.  But . . . . they’re not. Oddly they are also for everyone getting married.  The reality is this.  You can be single and being completely distracted by the desire for a spouse and/or sex.  You can also be married and be focused on Jesus.  At least I hope so because basically every person espousing this false choice is in a Christian leadership position.

Living life to the full first or getting married

Flowing from the previous thought is the idea that you need to go out and experience life before you get married because once you do life is not fun anymore.  Marriage you see is hard.  So take your time.  Get your masters, travel the world, live for you, and there will still be time to do the marriage thing later.  Beyond the fact that this is a completely self centered way to look at things, it is a false choice.  Life is always hard, fun, challenging etc. Marriage can be hard at times.  Guess what, singleness can also be hard at times. Shocking I know.

Getting married vs. staying an adolescent (or immature or selfish, or unholy, or incomplete as a person)

Marriage does not make you holy.  It doesn’t make you a grown up.  It doesn’t make you mature.  Now God could use it to do those things in you, for sure.  But he could also use singleness to do those things.  Is the priest in town a grown up?  Holy?  God wants to use whatever situation you are in, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, to help you mature, grow and become more holy.  And marriage does not make you a complete person.  Only God can do that.

Working on getting married vs. waiting on the Lord

This is the idea that I don’t need to work at finding a spouse, becoming attractive, learn how to interact with women, or even go on a date to get married.  I just need to let God bring me the His perfect person, in His perfect time and in His perfect way.  In other words regardless of what I do, it will just happen.  As I’ve said here ad nauseam, we don’t do that with any other area of our life.  Need a job? – you send out resumes and interview.  You grow your skill set.  Need a new car? – you research and actually go look at cars.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t pray about it.  It doesn’t mean you don’t walk with God in it and try to listen to His leading.  By no means.  But you act.

These are just a few of the false choices we are given as singles.  I’m sure there are more. Perhaps you’d share some more in the comments section.  But we need to be aware of these false choices because false choices set us up to fail.  They often paralyze us, limit us and most often leave us exactly where we started.  We need to not get caught in the middle of them and we for sure as leaders in the Church need to stop espousing them.

You Are Not Just An Animal

It’s funny the things that you remember from college classes.  I remember one of my favorite classes was an introduction to philosophy.  I loved this class because the professor was very unbiased and we got to write some really cool papers.  (One of my papers was: Is the judaeo-Christian ethic sufficient for handling environmental issues.  The answer was of course yes – which I proved rather convincingly I might add).

One of the great moments of the class that has always stayed with me was a video in which a female pastor of some kind said, “The thing that separates humans from everyone else is our ability to sin.  Nothing else on earth can sin.”  That, friends will preach.

I bring that idea up today because I want to look at a couple of important things that we have sort of accidentally gotten backwards in the western church when we talk about singleness, marriage and sex.  That is, that you are just an animal instead of a person.

It seems to me that when it comes to sex and to some degree dating, we have taken choice out of the equation.

We’ve made men animals that cannot control their sexual desire.  The message is that sexual desire for men is king.  You can’t possibly contain it.  I remember as a young man hearing a lot about how all men lust.  In fact you can’t help but lust.  Men are “always” thinking about it, acting upon it in one way or another, and of course seducing women who oddly enough according to many church leaders do not have this out of control sexual desire.

Women you see are also not able to control themselves.  The difference we’re taught is that they don’t desire sex as much and only give into sex because they are tricked by the men who are being overcome by their sexual desire.  So men are the perpetuators of out of control sexual desire that they can’t control and women are the victims of sexual desires that men can’t control.

There is a lot wrong with this and a lot of bad results.

We all, men and women, are created sexual beings.  Every.Single.One.Of.Us.  God created us, and He created sex.  But unlike animals, God created us in His image.  And because of that He gave us moral agency.  We can choose what to do with our desires (not just sex).

If we say that men can’t control sexual desire then we are taking away their God given moral agency.  On top of that, while church leaders are trying to not call women out, they are actually taking away their moral agency as well.  They can’t possibly say no to men’s lack of moral agency.

But in reality, sin is a choice.  Attraction is not a choice.  Action is a choice.  Desire is not a choice.  What I do with it absolutely is a choice.  When we take that choice away, in essence we are taking away the responsibility of sin.

This teaching makes sexual desire itself bad.  We also then say essentially that “sexual desire is bad, and the only way to redeem sexual desire is marriage.” That is ridiculous and completely backwards and leads to all sorts of problems.

God gave us marriage pre-fall (before there was sin).  He gave us sexual desire to bond inside of marriage.  This is what God meant when He said the two become one flesh. God did not create marriage to redeem sex.  He created sex to enhance marriage. Feel free to tweet that.

It also completely rules out celibacy as a gift, calling or vocation in the Kingdom.  It says that you can’t be holy or complete without marriage.  If no one can control their sexual desires then they can’t possibly be expected to be celibate, let alone called to it.  And yet both Jesus and Paul say that celibacy is an option, and actually a picture of what the Kingdom will be like.

As a bonus this also cuts us off at the knees when it comes to the same sex marriage debate.  If sexual desire is something that can only be redeemed in marriage then we have no answer.  If marriage makes you holy then we we either have to come down on the side of same sex marriage or tell people that are attracted to the same sex that they can’t really be whole or holy.  We’ve created a false choice and churches are choosing one or the other.  Both are completely wrong.

We are not actually animals though.  We are persons.  We are not victims of our actions, we are responsible for them. We, both men and women, have moral agency.  Not only that but in Christ we have the Holy Spirit. Sexual desire is not king, Jesus is.  That has to be the starting point to the discussion.

Is Situational Singleness A Gift?

One of the things that I’ve read on occasion and heard in conversations as well as from the pulpit, is the way to know if you have the gift of singleness is if you are single right now, then you’ve got it.

Now, in some evangelical circles, there is of course debate on whether singleness is a gift or even a calling at all.  But I’m going to go ahead and side with 2000 years of Church history along with a straight reading of the scriptures and say that it is.

Here is the general idea of what these folks are selling.  The basic idea is of course that God is sovereign and therefore whatever context you find yourself in is the one that God is “gifting” you with right now.  If you are unmarried then right now you have the gift of singleness.  Married?  Then right now you have the gift of marriage.  Both are gifts.  All contexts we find ourselves in are gifts.

But in our current culture this idea is fraught with problems.

First of all, we don’t do this with other contexts of our lives.  For example.  Let’s say that you don’t have a job.  One might say, “God will bring you a job” or “God will show you how to get a job”.  We might even say, “take whatever job you can to provide for your needs but look for what God is calling you to do.”  What we don’t do however is say, “sit around and in the right time God will bring you a job.”  I’ve never heard anyone preach about the “Gift of Joblessness” simply because you don’t have one.  “God is gifting you with joblessness right now.”  Yeah no.  Do you have the gift of being thousands of dollars in debt because that’s your financial context?

This also flies in the face of what Paul says, (What is amazing is that they will quote Paul while teaching exactly what he doesn’t say – it’s confounding).  What Paul says is that if you are single and not content – go get married.

One of the big results of this sort of teaching is a bunch of Christians sitting around waiting for their spouse that God has for them or their Christian soulmate.  This creates all sorts of issues which we’ve discussed ad nauseam here.  The worst might be that it turns God into the Great Withholder and puts all the blame for our rise in singleness on Him.

Now we can be content in Jesus no matter what our circumstances.  And every day is indeed a gift from God.  But not everything that happens is a gift from God – although He can use it all.  In fact if we are content in Jesus, frankly that should make us discontent with our context at some level.  If for no other reason than I should at least be discontent with my sin.

Which brings us to the next problem.  It doesn’t take into account sin.  If you are single and sleeping with someone, or a lot of someones, do you have the gift of singleness right now?  If you are living with someone do you have the gift?  If you are divorced do you have the gift?

Whatever else Paul is implying he is not saying, “stay single and date around if you are called to singleness” or “remain single and irresponsible for as long as you can”.  He is in no way talking about the space of extended singleness we have created in our culture. That season did not exist in Paul’s world.  Certainly not as long of one.

We need to understand that in the secular vernacular anyone who is not married is single. And the Church has played right into this.  Rather than lead, we’ve surrendered the terms. Biblically speaking there are those who are celibate via one of three ways, those that are divorced, those that are widowed, and those that are not yet married.  Those are all completely different contexts with completely different instructions.  It would probably be better if the word single was never spoken from the pulpit again.

We need to rescue the call of celibacy for the Kingdom that Paul and Jesus are actually talking about from the contexts of our culture that frankly the church has helped create. We need to help people follow their actual calling.  We need to stop demanding everyone get married while at the same time telling them that God has them gifted as single “for now” which makes no sense whatsoever.  Downgrading the gift/calling of celibacy into a situational gift is hurting both those who are called to it and those who aren’t.

I realize that if you are currently not married, none of this helps you with the actual question of do you have the gift/calling of celibacy.  I plan to write a post soon with some help on that question.  But I want you to hear this:  Your circumstances do not define you or your gifting.

We Are All Called To Reproduce

In the very beginning when God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He created them with purpose.  I like to say that God created us to be in relationship with Him, reflect Him and to represent Him.  Instead he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule . . .”  He created us male and female in His image.  We therefore reflect who he is in our very being.  But we were also to go, to multiply, to fill the earth.  Now this was based on our communal relationship with Him.  This of course takes exactly one page in the bible before we mess it all up.

However, once we are reconciled to Jesus, he essentially gives us the same command.  “Go and share the gospel and make disciples”  In other words, go represent me in the world and multiply.

Here’s the truth I want to get at today.  We are created, each of us, with the desire to multiply.  Yes there is a biological aspect to that.  Understand that God even created that desire.  But there is more to it than that.  There is something deeper.  Something that knows that we are to multiply.

This is part of the reason why we have some of the recent phenomena in our culture including:

  • More women having children out of wedlock
  • Even though women are waiting longer to get married, they still have children late.  Sometimes far into their 40’s.
  • There is a rising number of unmarried women in their 30’s and 40’s having children out of wedlock on purpose.   (I address this here)
  • Married couples are choosing artificial means to have children

What’s interesting is that this is true even in the face of a huge chunk of our culture saying (for a variety of reasons) that having more children is a bad idea and a declining birthrate overall in Western society.

The Church of course is all about this.  This is because many parts of the church, particularly evangelicalism (whatever that actually means at this point), see the nuclear family as the answer to every question.  In fact some go so far as to include in their statement of beliefs that the nuclear family is the foundation upon which God’s kingdom advances.

This is their attempt to both answer the desire to multiply and corral the misuse of that desire.

Now I’m not anti nuclear family.  But the problem is that the nuclear family is not the answer to the to the problem and frankly suggesting that the nuclear family is the foundation for kingdom advancement is at best misguided and borderline heresy.

I’m going to say more soon about the “family” and the Church as well as back up and talk more about why we need a robust theology of celibacy and marriage together.  But for today I’d like to tackle the desire to reproduce.

The truth is that we are all indeed called to reproduce.  The desire is good.  But the Kingdom of God is not grown by having babies.  It is grown by making disciples.  It is true that in the Old Testament, the Kingdom was in many ways advanced by physical offspring.  This starts with Abraham and continues all the way up to Jesus.  But even in the Old Testament there are words that point to a different future – a future we live in right now!

Hear these words from Isaiah 56

Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
    “I am only a dry tree.”

  For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose what pleases me
    and hold fast to my covenant—
 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
    a memorial and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that will endure forever.

Or from Isaiah 54

“Sing, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband,”

How can Eunuchs and barren women have sons and daughters?

It starts with Jesus.  Listen again to Isaiah from chapter 53 after he describes what the Messiah will go through he says:

For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

The truth is that Jesus changed the whole thing.  The gospel puts things right.  It reorders the way things work, and re-establishes our call to reproduce and multiply.  As a believer you may or may not be called to marry and have children.  And because we live in a fallen world, even if you are called to that, it might not happen.  But all of us, regardless of if we are called to marriage or celibacy are called to multiply – to grow the Kingdom.  But not only are we called to it, we can participate it in it.  The celibate man can have offspring.  The barren woman can have children in the Kingdom.

At the end of Matthew 19, which is chalk full of thoughts on celibacy and marriage, Peter says to Jesus, “we have left all to follow you.”  Jesus replies,

“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

The Kingdom is both now and coming.  Marriage, family and celibacy are all a reflection of it, not the other way around.  In the Kingdom, regardless of context, we can and in fact are called to be fruitful and multiply.

Honoring Vows: Conversation With A Priest

Several months ago I had the opportunity to hang out with a group of men that included a Catholic priest.  I could tell right away that this guy was just on fire for Jesus and we had a wide ranging conversation.  This man was significantly older than me, had a great spirit about him and was in a role that really fit his sweet spot – ministering to college students.

But of course, as I write a blog about singleness, at one point I had to corner him at the end of the table and talk about celibacy and ask a lot of questions about how he viewed that.  How could I not right?

I’ve written a lot here about celibacy and how that calling and commitment is different from what we call singleness in our culture.  I’ve talked about different ways we can come into that calling.  I’ve also discussed how we have a major problem in protestantism as it relates to this because frankly we have no theology of celibacy.

But I must honestly say that while I can perhaps give some great theological pictures of it and biblical support for it, I sometimes feel that I’m not much help to the people who are actually called to it, other than being on their side and fighting for them where I can.

I’m hoping that parts of my conversation with this gentleman might be of help at some level as well as give more understanding to those of us who aren’t called or gifted with celibacy.

Let’s first back up for just a second and refresh our thoughts on what exactly I’m talking about here.  I’m not talking about the not yet married, the divorced or the widowed, although I think some of this applies to them at some level.  What I’m talking about here is people who are called and/or gifted with celibacy.  Those who have made a commitment or even vow to celibacy for the Kingdom.

As one priest put it – we all make a first vow – that is to Jesus.  But then we make a second vow – some of us to God and another person (marriage vow – serving God from that context) and some of us to God and no one else (celibacy vow – serving God from that context).

This man, long ago, made that second vow to celibacy.  Here’s what I learned.

This man had great freedom and he lives joyously in it.  I want that to be an encouragement.  In no way did this man feel he had “missed out” on marriage.  He uses this to serve God in ways that others can’t.  As an example of this he left our gathering at midnight because he had a meeting – with a college man he is mentoring – at 2 AM**.  He couldn’t wait to get there.

My point in sharing this is that a lot of times there is sense of feeling sorry for those called to celibacy.  Or at the least a feeling of, “I could never do that”.  But the truth is, if you are called to it, not only can you do it, but you’ll probably love a lot of it.  If you are called to celibacy there are great advantages and opportunities to live in that.  It’s not a second class place in the Kingdom.  Not in any way.

A second thing that I took away is that the vow, while real, is just that.  What I mean is that just as you make a vow to a spouse and then have to choose over and over again to honor that, the same is true to vow of celibacy.

We tend to have this belief that if we are called to celibacy and make the vow that there are not struggles or questions about that.  In other words there is no temptation to break that vow.  But he assured me that this if false.

I asked him about what that looked like.  His answer was refreshing.  He said, “It is a vow.  And yes I sometimes have to fight to honor that vow.  There are temptations.  I have sexual desire from time to time.” He joked, “Heck every time I have a hard on I have to remember my vow.”

That may seem crude but he didn’t mean it to be.  His point was that a vow is something that will be tested and that is no different just because his vow was different than mine to my wife.  Just like not every man who makes a vow to a woman honors it, not every person who makes a vow of celibacy honors that.  It’s not just a one time ceremonial moment.  It’s an over and over again living out of and choosing that vow.

If you are called to celibacy and have made that vow or are thinking about it, I think this would be both sobering and encouraging.  On the one hand, just like the marriage vow, you could break it.  There will be temptation.  On the other hand, just like the marriage vow, you can choose not to break it, even when everything in you wants to.

It’s also important for us as the church to realize that just as we try to help people live out and honor their vows of marriage, we can do the same for those who have made a vow to celibacy.  If we have a better understanding of what celibacy actually is, we can do that.  Supporting a person called to celibacy is completely different than supporting those not yet married, the divorced and widowed.

 

** I understand that this freedom comes from not only celibacy but also his particular job.  However it is still an example of living joyously within his calling – which is the point.

It’s Time To “People Up”

I have a confession.  For a long time, I thought the way to fix things was simply fix the men.  In fact I remember a meeting where another guy and I were planning a men’s retreat.  We said basically that if we could just fix the men, then the rest would fall in line.

This is the general consensus of a lot of evangelical leaders today.  I’ve talked about this ad nauseam here.  I’ve talked about blaming men, the man problem, the idea that if only men would ask women out, and on and on.

While I think that there are a few people waking up to this complete over simplification of the problems in our culture, it’s still rampant.

The good husband is almost always the butt of the joke in secular culture media and perhaps worse in a lot of Christian media.  Divorce is almost always seen as the guys fault – in the courts and in the church.  Men are the sexual sinners, not women.  40% of births in our country are out of wedlock – that’s just the men’s fault – which makes absolutely no logical sense really.  Delayed marriage in our culture – men won’t commit.  Lack of guys at church or as volunteers – can’t be anything that we are doing wrong – must be the men are worse now.  It’s everywhere.

We have a man problem we say.  A father problem.  An immaturity of men problem.  A video game problem.

The solution to this of course it to get men to “man up“.  So we create all sorts of web pages and sermons.  Some attempt to be encouraging. In other words “come on men – we can help you fulfill all of your societal responsibilities and save everyone else.”  Others are more “challenging”.  Just beat on the men, yell at them and about them until they “get it”.  Of course there is now even a MAN UP APP.  No lie.  It’s true.

It’s not that some of the thoughts and advice on these sites aren’t good.  Some of it is good.  But the problem is the premise.

The truth is that we don’t have a man problem.  We have a people problem.  We have a sin problem.  And men are both people and sinners.  You know what though?  Wait for it.  So. Are. Women.

This is true even when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage.  Want proof?  40% of births are out of wedlock – up from 10% in 1969.  It takes men and women for that to happen.  Women can be controlling and aggressive in relationships too.  Women are more likely to initiate divorce.  Women cheat as well as men and celebrity women think thats ok.  I could go on and on.  The point here isn’t to bash women.  By no means!  The point is twofold.

First and foremost we are all sinners.  Second, you won’t hear many sermons or websites pointing to that last paragraph and saying we have a woman problem.  In fact I would be willing to bet you can’t find one.

There are a bunch of reasons we as the church have fallen into this.  Male pastors like being the best man in the room.  We want the culture to like us and right now the culture says we have a man problem.  We want to be feminist friendly.  Many sincerely believe that if men were better that the women would just automatically fall in line (which is actually sort of demeaning to women if you think about it – do they not have moral agency?).  Men in the church will either take it or leave.  These are just a few of the reasons.

All of this is extremely counter productive.

We have to stop doing this if we want any of the trends we don’t like to change.  The singleness and delayed marriage – or total lack of marriage – trend is a prime example.  It is not a man problem either.  It is a people problem.  We have to start addressing it as such.

When it comes to men specifically, maybe, just maybe we should ask ourselves why we are where we are.  What I mean is, lack of guy volunteers, lack of guys coming to church, lack of guys asking out our favorite single women etc.  Maybe we should resit the urge to look at them, call them names, tell them how bad they are and challenge them to get on board with us.  Instead how about we start with this question: What are we doing/have we done to create this?

Here’s what I know.  There was no secret men’s meeting where we all got together and said, “Let’s quit volunteering.  Let’s quit going to church.  Let’s play video games instead. Let’s delay marriage.”

If less men, and for that matter less singles period, go to church, perhaps we should look inward first for why, before calling them out and blaming them.  Maybe instead of asking singles to suck it up and men to man up we ought to ask everyone to people up.  And maybe, just maybe, we ought to take a good hard look in the mirror and “church up”.

Will She Go With You?

Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.

Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife.  There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.

The number one thing has to be that you have to be going somewhere, and that needs to start with following Jesus.  Now I’m not saying following Jesus perfectly.  That’s a ridiculous standard.  But are you overall submitted to Him?  If not, you need to try to move there.  If you move there, typically He’ll give you some direction.  If someone were to ask where are you going – do you have an answer?  Does the first part of that answer sound something like, “With Jesus.”?

The second thing you need to think about is the role you have as a man and how to best exercise that role.  The idea of headship in a marriage should be exciting and humbling at the same time.  With it comes responsibilities.  But if I understand that as my role, then I’m better able to become the man I need to be to fulfill those responsibilities.* Or as I heard in a sermon recently – If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.

Let me also state that while both of the above can be hard, they are not only essential but doable.  We have to embrace them.

Now, let’s talk about this from a dating perspective.

First of all, you are not – I repeat not – the head of your date.  You have zero authority. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead while dating – see this post for more thoughts on that. But you don’t yet have that role in your date’s life which is important to remember both in terms of pressure on yourself and frankly for her as well.

Secondly, I would advise you that as you are dating someone to ask the question, “Would this person respect my role and come with me?”  I could list 100 qualifiers for that statement (this doesn’t mean you command something and she says yes etc) but none of those change the general question.

If the answer is no, then you need to not marry that person.  It will not go well.

Here are two “pictures” of that from my own life, one from dating and another from ministry.

After some dates with one woman we began to talk about what we wanted in life, in the near and far future.  We weren’t getting real deep here but just talking and getting to know more about each other. In the midst of that conversation she said, “I don’t ever want to leave this town.  Ever.  My family is here, my life is here. I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t think they would always live here.”

I knew right then that this wasn’t going anywhere.  It’s not that she was a bad person or even that she wasn’t a Christian.  But that is not my life.  I told her that.  I would go wherever I thought Jesus wanted me to go. I had to know that we would follow Him wherever, no prerequisites.  We stopped dating shortly after.

The other example was in ministry but I think it paints a picture of what it would be like if you married someone who didn’t come with you.  In the ministry that I lead it means going to where kids are.  We go to their turf.  It’s what we do.  I lead other people to also do it. Some people do it with me and some don’t end up doing it.  I remember a meeting with a volunteer who was struggling.  This person said, “I feel like you don’t care about me as much as this other person.  You talk to them more.  I can tell you are close to them and I don’t feel close to you at all.”

I thought for a moment because they were right.  But the reasoning was the problem.  I said, “Well it’s not that I like them better per se.  I like you.  I believe in you and love you. But here’s the difference.  They are in it with me.  They show up.  They go with me as I go. You don’t show up.  My job is to lead people in this mission. That’s where I’m going.  If you want to be with me – you have to actually come with me.”

Now again, I could list 100 caveats and talk about how this can look all sorts of different ways.  But the general truth stands.  You can’t make everyone follow you.  Jesus let people walk.  It’s complicated.  Jesus pursues us yes.  He left His throne to do it.  And yet He doesn’t make people go with Him in response.  And He doesn’t chase them either. The rich young ruler walked.  A man says, “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead – follow me.”  The gospels and parables are full of this.  Sometimes you have to let people you wish would come with you walk.  It’s true in life.  It’s true in ministry.  It’s also true in dating.

Remember that marriage is a picture of the Kingdom (as is Celibacy).  They both point towards the Kingdom in unique ways.  Part of the marriage picture is this idea of response to invitation.

I would strongly advise you as a man not to marry someone that wouldn’t go with you. You may be thinking, “Bro you have no idea.  There just aren’t that many women out there like that.”  Maybe.  But there are more than you think.

You need someone who will come with you.  When I do weddings I always tell the groom that the bride needs to know that he isn’t leaving no matter what, and I tell the bride that the groom needs to know that she is on his side no matter what.  I know that both of those will get tested.  But they are necessary.

This doesn’t mean that the only qualifier for a spouse is that she would come with you. However I would tell you that it is one of the essential qualifiers and one that often gets overlooked when the woman has a bunch of other qualities that you are looking for.

I wouldn’t advise marrying any woman who didn’t respect you and who wouldn’t have a posture of going with you as you follow Jesus.**

 

 

* I first read about this idea of roles then responsibilities on this post.  I think it is helpful in seeing that how we view the order of roles and responsibilities is extremely important.

** I would also advise women not to marry anyone they didn’t respect or want to go with