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

The Nuclear Family Or Kingdom Family

A few people in the church starting to wake up to the fact that the cultural context has changed.  Not only that but some are even beginning to see that they are part of the problem because of the ways they’ve handled that.  I myself have admitted many times here that I’ve taught many things wrong through the years – and I was teaching it as a single person.

Now the majority of the church has yet to even roll over, let alone wake up.  But it is encouraging to see some movement.  Over a couple of blog posts I want to sort of encourage (read challenge, push, bother, implore) them to not just offer band aids or think that a few simple thoughts are going to solve this.  If you are a pastor/elder/leader type person, you need to know that it’s going to be slower and more all encompassing than you think.

My fear for this discussion is that churches who are starting to see the problem of having family as an idol or not doing well with singles will only look to give simple answers that won’t actually unmask the deeper assumptions and mistakes that we have made and/or are making with this topic.  Changing what we say won’t be enough. We have to go back and rethink the whole thing to have a chance.

As an example of this I want to respond to parts of an article written by Scott Sauls for Relevant.  Let me be clear – I’m not coming at Scott.  I don’t know him personally but know folks who do and I’ve heard only great things about him.  I also want to give him a lot of credit for writing about this.  He is obviously way ahead of the curve which is apparent in much of what he writes.

I’m simply using his post as a launching pad to challenge some of the things that I believe the leaders in his, and similar circles, seem to assume.

So let’s look at the first part today.  While talking about the family Scott writes:

The Bible does have a lot to say about the significance of the family structure.

Family is the chief biblical metaphor to describe how God relates to us. God is our Father and we are His children. Jesus is husband and we are His Bride, the Church. “We are our Beloved’s, and our Beloved is ours,” says Solomon’s Song.

The marriage between a man and a woman, in the purest sense, is a pointer to and picture of the love between Christ and the Church. In our shared union with Christ, we are also sisters and brothers to each other.

God established three structures to advance His Kingdom and support the flourishing of societies and persons: the Church, government and the nuclear family. As the family goes, so goes a society.

But like any good thing, when family becomes the main thing, it can cause more harm than good.

It is true that the Bible does indeed have a lot to say about the significance of the family structure.  This is true in the sense that there are many direct instructions for families and without doubt it is used as a picture of the Kingdom in many different ways.

I’m not sure that we can call the family the “chief” biblical metaphor for describing how God relates to us.  It is certainly one of them.  But, the problem here is that Jesus changes so much of what the family has to do with the Kingdom.

In the Old Testament, marriage and offspring were basically THE way that the kingdom was advanced. God chose the Israelites as His people.  They were His family so to speak. They needed to continue the line from Abraham to Jesus. After all, this was the promise that God made to Abraham.  His descendants (blood family) were to represent God to the world and advance the Kingdom.  Basically if you think being single now is tough, being single in the Israelite family was by far worse.  If you had no physical lineage, then you had no way to advance the Kingdom.  You had no children in the Kingdom.

But that is not true after Jesus.  Jesus throws open the Kingdom to everybody.  Not only do you not have to be physically born into it, you CAN’T be physically born into it.  You must be born again into it.  What this means is that the nuclear family is NOT the way that the Kingdom advances.  Read that again friends.

For a great message on this take some time and listen to what Hunter Beaumont has to say here.  I was fortunate enough to hear him share a similar message a few months ago. His main point, as I took it, was that we must have a theology of singleness (and marriage frankly) that stems from this new idea that Jesus started.  While important in many ways, the nuclear family is not the way that God’s family is built.

All this to say, that while the family is a metaphor for the way that God interacts with us, it is not the only one and certainly not the way that God is bringing in His Kingdom.

Setting aside whether the Song of Solomon is a metaphor or not (which is open for debate at the least) Scott is right to suggest that marriage is a picture of the love between Christ and the Church.  I’ve said as much many times.  However, it is not the only picture of the Kingdom. What gets left out is that the celibate life is also a picture of the the Kingdom.  It is a picture of what it will look like in the end (which Scott mentions but doesn’t name).  That is a picture of pure and total devotion between us and God.  A person who is called to this is a demonstration of what is to come every bit as much as marriage.

The bottom line is that while the nuclear family is indeed a structure that God created and does indeed present a picture of the Kingdom, the Church family is THE picture and it trumps the nuclear family.  The nuclear family is not the the structure that advances the Kingdom.  The Church family is.

This is why focusing on the nuclear family is wrong.  In fact,  Jesus says that unless you love Him more than your family you are not worthy of the Kingdom.  In my opinion simply saying as the family goes, there goes society, ultimately (even if unintentionally) leaves the unmarried out.  It’s still focusing on the nuclear family. God’s family has to be the focus.  As God’s family goes there goes the society.

This is not merely semantics.  I wish it was, because that would be much easier.  But this baseline, that the Church family must be the focus, is the only way to avoid the traps that Scott mentions at the end of the quote – that is making too much of the nuclear family.

What I’m suggesting here is not that we stop teaching on how a family should operate (we probably need more of this) or that we stop saying that the family or marriage is a picture of the Kingdom.  But we need a sort of clean slate.  In other words we need to repent of how we’ve idolized the nuclear family –  not just offer excuses, justifications and rationalizations for it. We need to put God’s family first.  Then, and really only then, can we begin to paint the whole picture and include everybody.

 

 

Celibacy Is Not A Season

This last week I was able to check out a couple of sermons on singleness.  Let me say this before I challenge some stuff.  I actually do feel like the church is starting to get a clue.  One of the sermons a listened to talked about the fact that 66% of unchurched folks are single.  The pastor basically said that we need to get a grip on this if we are going to go after them.  We need to treat them as equals in Christ.  Amen!  I’m glad that people are trying to talk about it more.

In a separate deal I saw, they were teaching kids about dating and at least mentioned celibacy.  So that’s something.

But here’s where we keep setting ourselves up for problems.  We need a better theology of celibacy because if we keep getting it wrong, we end up hurting everyone.

The first thing we have to do is we have to quit using the word single as a catch all.  As I’ve said before there are those who are not married (as in never married), those who are called, gifted, or in a position to not be married (this can happen several ways), the divorced, and the widowed.  These are not the same thing.  So when we say 50% of people in America are single, what we really need to say is that they are unmarried.   This is important in the Church context because they each have different instructions from scripture.  When we lump them together we create confusion for all the groups.

Here is the greatest example.  Everyone wants to look at 1 Corinthians 7 as the go to for singleness.  And there is a lot to learn from this chapter.  Paul essentially says that there are those who should get married and those who shouldn’t.  He says some have one gift and others another gift.  But the gift he is talking about is not the gift of singleness, he is talking about the gift of celibacy.

You are not called to “season” of celibacy.  You may not be married yet, but that is not the same.  You could be called to not get married right now for some reason.  God can ask us to do and pursue all sorts of things at different times.  No doubt.  But the call to celibacy is a call to live that way in a sort of vow with God, not a period of time.  Now we are all called to Chastity, but that’s not the same thing.

Here’s why that matters.  If we say that this gift is for a season, then we end up saying things that don’t make sense.  In one of the sermons the pastor said, “Single people should live in a devoted way that married people can’t.”  This is true of a person called to be celibate for the Kingdom.  But if this is true for everyone, then no one should ever get married.  What we end up saying is “serve the Lord now because when you get married that’s over.”  That simply is not a good plan.

The ironic part about this in the Protestant church is that we don’t even honor, or lift up the people who really do have this gift.  We don’t have celibate (or even single for a “season” people), as pastors or elders.  Missionaries maybe, but not here at home.  We typically have a sort of singleness glass ceiling when it comes to church leadership.

The pastor went on to say, “singles have the opportunity to be undistracted in their focus and can be completely loyal to their King.”  Um, so when I get married then I’m not as loyal to God?

This seems to me to fly in the face of what Paul is saying.  He basically says if you are “distracted” by the desire for sex – go get married.  My point here is that part of the test for the gift of celibacy (not the only one mind you) is if you feel the pull to get married.

Now I get it, if you get married and have kids you have a different set of responsibilities. Your approach to many things change.  But your loyalty to God?  To me this sets up married people to be over focussed on themselves (family idol) and lumps the people with the actual gift of celibacy in with the people who are just not yet married.

It also creates a problem for single people not called to celibacy because at what point does actually trying to get married come into play.  Chances are I’ll have to act to get married, not just sit around and hope it happens.

Using the word distracted is especially problematic.  I was unmarried until I was 40.  While it is true, I didn’t have family responsibilities, calling me undistracted would have been a huge mistake.

Having done ministry with married and unmarried people for the last 20 plus years I can assure you that someone looking to be married can be just as distracted from ministry as someone who is married.  I can list many people who became better ministers once they got married.  They had answered that question and were actually more free from distraction.

The bottom line here is, Paul is not equating a person who is not yet married to a person who is not called to be.  Neither should we.

 

Does The Bible Tell Me So?

Here’s a quick bible quiz.  Tell me where it asks someone to become a Christian.  How about this one – where does Jesus say that I should accept Him into my life/heart?  Find for me the “sinner’s prayer.”  Where does it say to go to church?  When did Peter become a Christian?

Should I go on?  You get the point.

As protestants we love to say that the Bible is ultimate authority.  Whether protestant or not, we all agree that it is authoritative.  The problem is that it is not authoritative in the way that we often want it to be to make our point.

What we want are simple clear rules, answers and one liners. No where is this more clear than in the realm of singleness, dating, and marriage.

I remember when I was in my twenties the big push in much of evangelical dating (just typing that phrase is sort of disturbing) was the idea of courting.  Now I don’t really have a problem with courting per se.  But what these folks tried to do is to say that their version of courting was the biblical way to find a spouse.  What I failed to realize at the time is that they had absolutely no biblical backing for this.  As I’ve written before there is not a biblical dating model.

But we want so bad for it to be simple.  We want a tweet sized answer to sexual ethics. #whatcanIgetawaywith #justifymyactions

What’s funny about this is that many on the evangelical right keep arguing bible verses that aren’t clear and others that don’t even exist while many of our more liberal churches are arguing contextual loopholes against those very same “verses”.

For example, one night I was having dinner with some friends and the topic of homosexuality came up.  One gentlemen said, “Jesus said that it was an abomination.”  Uh which verse was that again?  In a different conversation a friend said, “Jesus never addresses homosexual marriage.”  Sort of, except that He does address marriage.

The problem is that when we try to make verses mean something they don’t or insert our Christianese into the bible we set ourselves up to be discredited or worse set someone else up to fall when they later realize it.

But the problem with the other way of looking at the bible – using the context of a particular verse that we don’t like to say it doesn’t mean that or “the bible doesn’t really say. . . ” – is that we end up all over the map

Here’s what I mean.  Sticking with the “hot” homosexual issue, I’ve heard some pastors and leaders say that the bible really doesn’t say explicitly (as in an exact sentence) that a monogamous homosexual relationship is wrong.  They say that whole point is the one on one relationship for a lifetime.  They point to the couple of verses that deal with the homosexual act and say that it wasn’t talking about one of these types of relationships.

The problem with that – and it’s a big one – is that the same could be said of a lot of other things. So I ask the people who believe this are you then ok with:

  • The bible doesn’t say explicitly say that two unmarried people can’t have sex
  • It doesn’t say that two unmarried people can’t live together, have sex together or even have children together – so why even worry about marriage
  • The bible says nothing about viewing pornography, masturbation or reading shady literature.
  • It says nothing about oral sex.
  • It doesn’t say anything about appropriate dating behavior.

So basically by this argument, until I’m married, short of sex with an animal, I’m good to go. You can say that’s a slippery slope argument, except for the fact that we are already there in our culture.

(Whats ironic of course is that neither side seems to follow the very explicit instructions on divorce and remarriage.  Did anyone picket state capitols as almost every state instituted no fault divorce? Do they stand outside divorce courts?  Do they avoid making wedding cakes for two divorced people getting remarried?)

The key to all of this is obvious of course.  No straight reading of the bible by anyone without an agenda could lead you to believe any of the above was acceptable.  And there in lies the key – the bible as a whole is authoritative and it shows us what is right and wrong.  It’s not rocket science most of the time.

The bible does indeed speak to sex and marriage.  From front to back actually.  It always speaks of them together as a good thing or apart as a bad thing.  There is zero exception to this.  Sex has a purpose higher than orgasm.  It’s apparent that it is from God for marriage and all other uses are out of bounds.

What does this have to do with singleness and the church?  Everything.

We are confronted with a culture that has been and is still in a sexual revolution.  Our answer to that can not be picking one liners from scripture and trying to make them say things they don’t.  When we do that, we end up arguing over stuff that we don’t have to. It also can’t be ignoring the whole of scripture so that we can do what we want.  When we do that we take away any authority whatsoever.

The bible does lay out the answers – it’s just not tweet-able.

The Orgasm Idol

Probably 15-20 years ago I was at a conference of some sort and sharing a room with a couple of guys that I didn’t know (and whose names I don’t remember).  But as is often the case with young guys the conversation one day turned to dating and marriage.  We were talking about the desire for sex etc, when one of the married guys busted one of the best one liners I’ve ever heard.

He said, “One of the most overrated things in the world is sex and one of the most underrated things in the world is taking a quality dump.”

I don’t really think that he was saying we should say forget sex, and just work on taking quality trips to the toilet.  Nor do I think he was unhappy in his marriage.  I think his point was that the physical feeling of an orgasm could be relatively equal to the physical feeling to the old number 2.

How I’d say it is this, the goal of sex is not just orgasm, and if it is, we’re in trouble.

Let me first say clearly that I’m extremely pro-orgasm.  I mean I want to have them and I want my wife to have them.  So orgasms all around = good. Seriously.  Good stuff!  Outstanding stuff!  I’m for it!  Ok you get the picture.

But to this guys point, and the one I want to make today, that’s not “The Point” of sex.

We have come to a place in our culture where sex has been relegated to a physical thing – aka – the orgasm.  When it’s relegated to this, then why not have it, whenever with whoever.  If the orgasm is king then why does it matter how we accomplish it.

This is the result of so many forces in our society.  Hollywood constantly promotes sex with whoever.  Feminism tells young women, wait to get married – but don’t wait for sex.  Porn let’s you watch others’ orgasms and have your own without any effort.  Kids are told, essentially, “Here’s how it works.  Here’s a condom for you boys and a shot for you girls. Good luck out there.”

We live in the world where “science” reigns supreme.  You’re a sexual animal, just a bit more advanced.  It’s natural.  It’s about the physical realm.

There are also the “realists”.  These are the people who say things like, “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, why should you marry someone without sleeping with them?”  Yeah it’s like a test drive, except that every time you take a car out, you wreck it.

All of this is a lie.  It doesn’t make sex better.  It just makes it cheaper.

Most Christians would say they know all that I’ve said so far.  And I get that.  But I think the reality is that this notion of orgasm as the goal of sex has totally infiltrated even our church culture.  We don’t wait for marriage – we wait for sex.  The basic message often inadvertently becomes, “Don’t have sex then get married and have lots of sex.”  Sex outside of marriage leads to bad stuff, but sex in marriage will be all pleasure.  If only it was so simple.

The reality is if the point of sex is the orgasm – I can have one of those inside or outside of marriage, and it will still feel good.  I might or might not feel bad about it later.  Heck if the point is orgasm then I don’t even need a partner.

Let’s assume that the bible is true.  That means that sex was created by God for us in the context of marriage.  In the bible there are only two contexts for sex – Marriage and Sin. Now God does have our pleasure in mind.  He created orgasms and the truth is that in study after study people who are married having sex report more orgasms than non-married people having sex.

But that’s not all it is.  God’s view of sex isn’t smaller than the worlds’ view.  It’s bigger. From the very beginning of the bible, as in the second chapter of Genesis, and reconfirmed throughout, sex is the joining together of two people.  It is becoming one flesh. It creates oneness, bonding two people physically, emotionally, and spiritually together.  It grows intimacy both in that moment and over time.  All of this can happen whether or not both people orgasm every time or not. How amazing is that.  This is why if you aren’t ready for marriage, then you aren’t ready for sex.

In a way, we need to demystify the orgasm and re-mystify sex.  Talk about countercultural.

Maybe it’s time for each of us to take stock.  How do we really view sex?  What is it for? Do we want to relegate it to a bodily function? Or do we want it to be holy?

My Church Doesn’t Get Singleness And I’m Mad Pt 2

Yesterday I said that a reader had posed the question, “what do we do about anger at the church when it comes to singleness?”  I offered some reasons why it’s important to deal with and some reasons why that anger can be legitimate.  I then said we could leave the church, ignore the problems, or actually engage the problem.  If we choose the third problem I offered that there are at least three things we need to do.
  1. Do our best to understand why it’s the way it is, and trust that most of it is not personal.
  2. Earn the right to have a voice.
  3. Exercise our voice in a way that can be heard.

Yesterday I offered some thoughts on part one.  Today I want to comment on part two and three.

The second part is vital and it starts with this.  We need to do a good job of loving people. We need to love an help shepherd younger single people.  We need to have married friends and learn to minister to them as well.  We can speak into married people’s lives and marriages.  We need to love our married friends well – and this includes loving our married church leaders well.

If we want to change the stereotypes then we have to be different.  There is no reason why we can’t lead a small group with married people in it. Attitude is important.  For example, what do we do when there is a marriage sermon series?  Do we check out, or double down?  How I love other singles, married people, and leaders in the church carries weight. What I’m kind of saying is get off of the defensive, “no one gets it” level and onto the “I’m an equal follower of Jesus and I’m going to live it” level. Church leaders may not pick us to lead naturally, but we have to actually try to serve and lead.  Maybe more than once.

This leads naturally into point three.  That is, once we’ve earned the right to have a voice, freaking exercise it.

I’m not saying it will be easy or that they will listen to that early on.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t listen at the end of the day.  What I know for sure is that if we don’t speak, and don’t act, then nothing will happen.  But if we earn the right and speak up, someone (not everyone) will hear us.

Someone once posted in the comment section , “I wish I was brave enough to share this post with my minister and elders”.  I’m not trying to be self promoting here, but if you like something I or someone else writes about this stuff, share it with people that count.   Have conversations (not just complaining sessions).  Point out that the bible talks about celibacy and that maybe your church should think about it.  Go missional on them (churches are all about “being missional”) and tell them that 50% of people are single and that those people are WAY less likely to go to church.  If they approached it differently maybe those people will come.  Speak up when it’s not right, not just under your breath to your friends on the way out the door, but with your elders and leaders that you’ve earned the right to talk to.

What we need is to lovingly challenge the church.  Not softly mind you.  Firmly and with conviction, but in love, for the good of the whole body of Christ and for the lost.

Offer solutions, and offer to help make those solutions happen.

This blog, and my whole writing and speaking ministry, started in one conversation about four years ago.  My church had a singles seminar that went bad.  I met with an elder and pastor at my church and after some niceties said essentially, “So, your singleness seminar sucked.”  They knew it.  Now understand, I was mid-30s, had helped our church plant a new campus, led several community groups and genuinely loved these guys.  I said, “Look, here are some of the things I would have maybe talked about.” and I shared some new ways of looking at it, from a single perspective.  Less than a year later they asked me to come to a weekend on Marriage and Family (of all places) and present on singles and marrieds together.  I just finished teaching (with another single person) a four week course on Singleness and the Gospel at my church.

Now does it look like it should?  No.  Do we as a Church get it?  Heaven’s no, not even close.  But is God moving in it? I’d say yes.

I don’t have a list of easy answers but here’s my point.  We can sit around, be mad and/or be the victim, or we can get off of defense, go love people, trust that they might have a good heart, forgive them for what they probably don’t even realize they are doing, without selfish ambition offer ideas – and then back it up.  It needs to be bigger than just me and it needs to come from a heart of conviction, not bitterness.  It will not be easy, but it could be good.

The question isn’t “does the church get singleness?”  It doesn’t.  Maybe a better question is if my church doesn’t get singleness – what am I going to do about it? If we don’t initiate the conversation, then who will?

My Church Doesn’t Get Singleness And I’m Mad Pt. 1

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me if I would write a post about anger at the Church and what to do with that so I thought I’d take a stab at it.

Let’s do two things by way of prologue.

Bitterness Is An Enemy and Not From God

I’ve written before about how as a single we can easily fall into the trap of bitterness. There are a lot of mad singles.  I’ve been there.  Believe me.  There is an anguish.  There can be a sense of entitlement.  There is a sense of loss and we react to it.  I’ve written before that we can be mad at God, mad at women, mad at other guys, and mad at ourselves.  All of these are important things to consider and deal with.  I believe that we are mostly mad at God.  Really all of us at one time or another feel this.  We can also be mad at The(a) Church which brings us to:

The Church in general and in particular within protestantism, has really messed this up.

I mean it’s not good.  Where to begin?  The don’t get it.  And maybe worse, they don’t like it.  We don’t honor or even teach about celibacy.  We often don’t let singles into leadership.  The church is in a defensive position on marriage, and is actually often unwittingly helping to hurt marriage in the process.  The Church as a whole has created an idol out of marriage and family.

Rarely does a church address the singles in it’s midst (let alone the outside of it) and when it does, mostly what it does is tell us is what not to do, wait for the one, and then your questions of sexual prowess will magically be answered.  Of course as a guy the church has told us it’s all our fault, and therefore we are all (men and women) set up to fail.

So basically most of the church’s answer to singleness is to offer spiritual platitudes, worry more that we might marry wrong that if we would marry at all, and never address any of the things that we go through – including have to walk into their doors all by ourselves. And that is just a brief warm up.  So yeah, there is a lot to be mad about.

What Do We Do With It?

The real question isn’t are single people generally frustrated with the church.  It’s not even should they be, because frankly they probably should be. The real question (and the one that the reader was wanting to know) is what do we do with it.

I think there are three choices really.

  1. Say screw the church and leave – if I get married think about coming back
  2. Go to church at least at some level, but not engage the battle.  Maybe find a church that at least isn’t anti-single.
  3. Engage the church, forgive our leaders, earn the right to be heard, and then fight for what we know is right.

We all know option one is wrong, but it is an option.  The problem here is that it hurts the church, and that really shouldn’t be our goal. Taking ourselves out of the equation won’t change the equation in our favor (or anyone else’s).

Option two is where a lot of people I know (and myself for a long time) seem to be at.  It’s kind of a surrender really – this is just the way it is.  That is easier in a lot of ways and I guess at least you are there.

But option three is where I think we need to be.  So how do we do that?  We need to do three things.

  1. Do our best to understand why it’s the way it is, and trust that most of it is not personal.
  2. Earn the right to have a voice.
  3. Exercise our voice in a way that can be heard.

Today, I want to tackle the first one and tomorrow I’ll write about the other two.

I’ve written a lot about this part before, but let’s sum up some thoughts that can help.  We need to understand that the leaders of the church (most of the time) have the right heart, even if the wrong solutions.  There are so many factors in play.  Many in the church are looking around and watching the family fall apart.  They see it and want to help. This is where all the family focus and effort comes into play.  It’s why there are hundreds of Christian books on marriage and family.  They are trying to rescue the family, which isn’t all bad.  To their credit, I think these resources have helped a lot of families make it. That’s a good thing.

They also don’t want to see us hurt ourselves or others, which is why they constantly are worried about sex outside of marriage and all that goes with that.  As I told an audience of singles at our church, the surest ways to get the pastor to stop talking about not having sex, would be if all of our singles would . . . stop having sex.

And finally as I’ve written about before, on a practical level most pastors and church leaders have never been single.  They really don’t get it.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care. They just literally don’t understand.

What knowing these things can do, if we can get past the bitterness, is allow us to forgive people for getting this wrong.  I think we have to start there, because otherwise it’s just about us and that’s not enough.  This whole thing is way bigger than just our own personal situation.  It’s a real problem in the Church and we have a chance to help.  More on that tomorrow.