F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends.  It’s all over pop radio right now.  The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone.  In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years.  (Some posts are linked below).  But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.

Let’s first define some things.   I’m not saying now, nor have I ever said, that you can’t have friends of the opposite sex.  That is not what the friend zone is.  I have had many female friends over the years.  The friend zone instead occurs when one person (usually a guy**) is romantically attracted to another person (usually a gal) but the feeling is not mutual.  What the woman says to the guy is that “I don’t want to date you, but I want to be just friends” or something to that effect.

What happens next is that the guy thinks that if he stays friends, and in fact increases his friendship with the woman (because after all she just invited that friendship verbally), that eventually the woman will see him in a different light and become romantically attracted to him.  The guy does all sorts of nice things for his friend.  The woman, may well appreciate some of those things, but at the same time doesn’t become more attracted, and in fact usually less so.  This is because that plan is no where in the vicinity of how female attraction works.

Some might say, what’s the big deal?  Everyone needs friends right?  What’s the harm?  In a way that is what the song/video seem to be saying.  That’s why its the Friend Zone Anthem.  Just a part of life, poor guy.

But the truth is there actually can be a lot of harm.

First, it isn’t really an honest relationship.  What I mean is that the guy is being a friend to “get the girl”.  That’s not usual friendship.  Also, many times when the woman says this, it is her way of saying no, not her way of saying let’s hang out more.

Another thing that can happen is that the guy can get mad at the woman.  This happens because in his mind he’s working to win her affection.  She gives it to other “unworthy” guys who don’t treat her as good as he does.  Let me be clear right now on this part.  No woman owes you her romantic feelings.  You owe no woman yours.

It’s also a colossal waste of energy, emotion and time.  If you spend all of your time as a guy trying to “win your friend” you just become more emotionally invested.  You don’t spend time meeting and trying to date other women.  The truth is, if you want to be married, you don’t have time, energy, emotions or resources to waste chasing someone who wants to be “just friends”.  It’s not worth it.  There are plenty of others.

Here’s the point:  The harm in the friend zone is that people get more hurt than they have to.

Look, I lived this as a young adult male.  I was always this guy.  So I’m not writing this as someone who has always been above this speaking down to you.  I’m writing it to implore you to avoid it.  Like the plague actually.

How do we do that?

First, let me say this to the ladies.  If you are in this spot where you have someone in the friend zone, I get it.  But you have to draw a harder line.  Say no.  Don’t say, “no but I want to be friends”.  Just don’t.  You are not being nice.  You are either being naive or you are using this guy for whatever he does for you.  The best thing you can do for him is tell him no and then not hang out “as friends”.  It might be hard.  But it’s right.  Better for you and better for him.

If you are a guy who finds himself in this spot, it’s time to change.  Right now.  Walk away from it.  Now.  You won’t be hurting her by doing this.  You aren’t missing an opportunity with her later.  She is not The One.  You are only hurting yourself.

Don’t be friends to get her to like you.  Don’t be friends and hang out with someone you break up with.  Don’t hang out with someone as friends who you went out with a few times and she still wants to hang out as friends but not date you.  Don’t do things for her thinking it will change her mind.  Walk.Away.Now.  Move on.

Again, is it easy? Probably not.  But is it the truth?  Yes.

What you don’t want be ever is the guy in this video:

This is a real life picture of what it looks like.  Even better, he’s still hanging out with her apparently:

Take a good look at this guy.  I’ve been this guy.  Don’t be.

Friend Zone Post Links

Get Out Of The Friend Zone

Avoid The Friend Zone

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Treat Her Better

Don’t be Friends First

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

Quit Being Nice

Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

** I understand that this can happen the other way around where the guy tells the woman that he just wants to be just friends.  However it is far, far less common and usually ends much, much more quickly.  But, if you are in that situation, everything I just described applies the other way around.

Should You Budget Money For Dating?

The other day while driving I was listening to some Dave Ramsey.  In case you’re not familiar, briefly, Dave wants people to live biblically with their money, meaning stay out of debt, control your money instead of letting it control you and be generous along the way.

He has a radio show and people call in with all kinds of scenarios asking his advice.  Very rarely do I ever see Dave not have an answer.  In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it . . . until the other day.

A young never married guy called in and said, “Hey Dave, I’m following your plan.  No debt, I have a budget etc.  I’m not married but I want to be.  Here’s my question, how much should I budget for that pursuit?”

One thing about Dave is that he’s always honest with people and he just laughed and said, “I have not been in that world for so long, I have no idea.”  After both he and the caller laughed a little, he did toss out a couple of thoughts, but it made me think of a couple of important ideas and some practical ones if you find yourself in that position.

To begin with, as a single person you need to have a handle on your money.  I’ve written once about this before, but you and your money are not less important because you are not married.  The biblical principles for money apply to all of us, no matter what our marital status is.  I messed this up quite a bit in my 20 years of singleness (as well as doing a few smart things) and I’ll share more about that later.

Secondly, I think it can be really healthy, if you are in search for a spouse mode, to intentionally budget both some money time in that direction.  It is ok, and in fact I would suggest a good idea, to be intentional about looking for said spouse.  As is well documented all over this blog, I’m not a big believer in platitudes that say, “It will just happen” or “God will bring you the one at the right time” or “being content with singleness“.  Again, there are probably double digit posts here on this.  We have to act.  Especially if you are out of college and living in the “real world” so to speak.

Now this is different than obsessing over it, making it an idol, being desperate for it, or letting it run your whole walk with God.  That’s all bad and admittedly it can be a fine line.  But intentionality, especially when involves doing it with God and within His guidelines, is always good.  In any context including this one.

That means I’m going to have to carve out time and, as the caller mentioned, carving out some budget money is not a bad idea either.  But again, I need to be intentional with both, because I don’t have a limitless supply of either.

Let me throw out a few ideas about how one might do that. A couple of caveats here.  I did some of these at some level, but I did not really handle my money as well as I should have as a single.  Also, these are just ideas.  I would really love it if some others would chime in here with either ideas that they’ve used or that they might try out if they thought about it.  Finally, this assumes that you actually have a budget.  If you don’t I’d start there**.

I think I’d start with an overall spouse search budget.  Then I’d have a couple of sub categories.

I’d have a meet people budget.  Depending on your mode of operation this could include different things.  But as an example budget an amount for online dating.  Look for deals.  A couple of hints here.  Rotate your paid subscription to different sites.  For example, sign up for three months of Eharmony, then if you want, sign up for three months of Match.  They’ll let you keep your profile for free so you can easily rotate the one you are paying for.  Look for promos.  Eharmony will do free weekends for example.  The point is, part of your monthly budget could go to this.***

Then have an an actual go out with these people budget.  If you aren’t in a relationship this does not need to be large amount.  I know there is debate in certain circles about the guy paying which I get.  I think in general it’s good for us to pay.  However, we should have a budget for what we are paying and frankly I wouldn’t bust your budget meeting someone the first couple to times.  It’s ok to go somewhere nice, but just be smart.  Too much too soon is not helpful anyway.

Now, if you get serious about someone, it is time to stop putting money in the meet someone budget, for now, and start putting more into the actual going on dates budget.  Eventually if things go really well, you could start a ring budget.

A question I thought of is this, “What if I have dating budget money left over at the end of the month?”  Maybe nothing shook out or led to any dates.  Or maybe a couple of inexpensive meet ups but nothing beyond that.  Great.  Now I have extra money.

I don’t think I’d roll it over into the dating fund of the next month although maybe now and then you could.  Perhaps put it toward savings or towards a particular purchase you’d like to make in the future.  Maybe some months you spend it on you.  The point is, you don’t have to spend all you have allotted each month, but you have it if you need it.

The point here is have a plan.  See what works.  Try different things.  But budget for it.

I welcome other thoughts here.  What do you think?

 

** For a great budgeting app go here.

*** This is a pretty good breakdown of some different sites.

Should You Be Content With Singleness?

One of the things I used to hear all the time when I was a in my twenties and single was the idea that I needed to be “content” with my singleness.

Now there were at least two origins that this thought came from.  Some were espousing this advice because, “it’s when you’re not looking that you find someone”.  In other words if you were content and not striving to get married, you would be more likely to find someone to marry.  Just typing that makes me laugh.

I addressed this particular angle long ago but let me just touch on it here.  If you are actually content in your singleness, meaning that you do not have the desire to marry, and/or feel that God has called you to celibacy for the kingdom, and/or you don’t desire sex then there would be no reason to get married.  This is an actual viable vocational path within the kingdom.

But if you want to be married and don’t feel called to celibacy for the kingdom, then you are either sort of feigning contentment or at the least simply trying to be content for a different motive.  The other reality here is that if you are over 24 years old or so, chances are that you are going to have to make and effort find someone to marry.  It’s not going to just happen.  That’s not how it works.

I also think that this can lull people asleep in the sense that it’s ok to be content being single for now.  This actually could be necessary for a time.  For example you may need to be focused on a short term mission or for schooling.  But even then, your desire at the end of the day is to be married.  Putting something off is not the same as being content without it.

The second reason people pull out the content with your singleness line is that they think that they are referring to what Paul says in Philippians 4.  The basic message from many well meaning believers is something to the effect of, “Hey Brother, this is where the Lord has you right now, so you need to be content with that, and trust Him.”  That sounds really holy.  The problem is that’s not what Paul says.

Let’s look at it.  Paul is closing out his letter to the Philippians.  In the preceding verses, he asks them to not be anxious about anything, but instead, pray about everything, make requests to God and He will meet you in it.  He then encourages them to focus on the things of God and do the things that he’s taught.

He then thanks them for being concerned for him in his current hard circumstances.  In verse 10-13 he writes,

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

What Paul says is that he can be content in any situation.  What he does not say is that he will be content with any situation.  There is a huge difference between those two things.

Paul is constantly urging change.  He implores people to action constantly.  He is continually advancing the kingdom.

Look at it this way.  If you are being abused should you be content with that situation?  If you are broke and jobless are to be content with that situation?  If you are overweight are you to be content with that situation? Would you say, “God has me overweight right now. If God wants me to lose weight I will, for now I’ll have to be content with it”.

What I understand Paul to be saying is this, no matter what situation you are in God is with you.  I can be content overall because at the end of the day, I have Jesus.  I know how this all ends.  I am content in Him.  It is because of this – that I can do all things through Him.  I can survive a current tough circumstance, for my entire temporal life if necessary, but I could also grow, change, act, heal, and advance, through Him.

Think about your current spiritual condition. God loves you right where you are.  But he doesn’t leave us where we are.  Through whatever circumstances or context, He is pulling (often dragging) us towards holiness and sanctification.

Let’s bring this full circle back to singleness.

It is good not to be anxious about your singleness.  That doesn’t do us any good and in fact is harmful on many levels, not the least of which it can make us desperate.

It is good to be content in Jesus in the circumstance of singleness.  Singleness (or any other context or circumstance) does not define us – Jesus does.

It is ok, to not be content with singleness.  In fact not being content with it is part of what drives us to actually work to get married.

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.

Ministry To Singles Vs. Singles Groups

One of the debates that I’ve seen in churches and even among singles in churches is should we or should we not have singles groups. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches in my over 20 years as an adult single. I’d like today to offer a few practical thoughts on this.

Before we dive in, I want to acknowledge that this can be a really tricky conversation for churches because there are a lot of different voices.  It is however extremely important that churches think about unmarried folks.  As I’ve written there is an extreme lack of this in most of our church culture.  We have created a nuclear family idol which I’ve written about at length.

It is vital that churches stop doing this.  Not only does it alienate singles that are following Jesus, it also keeps non church attenders away.  66% of the people who don’t go to church in the United States are unmarried.  This means that if you want to reach out to the “unchurched” there’s a better chance than not that you are reaching out to unmarried folks.  If there are more unmarried folks than ever before . . . well you see the problem.

In general, grouping people at church into separate groups is a bad idea. An example is the youth group that is completely separated from the rest of the community.  This leads to youth only knowing how to integrate with their own age and therefore less likely to integrate in a church in the early twenties when they are out on their own.

This is why I’ve never been a fan of the singles group per se for several reasons.

First, what does single mean?  Singleness is not actually a biblical term.  There are not yet married, those called to celibacy, divorced and widowed.  Those are all completely different from a biblical and pastoral care perspective.  Completely different.  I guess you could try to have a group for each, but that seems a bit crazy.  Treating all of these as the same is one of the huge mistakes of the modern church.

Secondly, what happens to the single that gets married.  Do they then “graduate” into the married group?  Let’s say you are in the singles group or singles small group, building relationships and community in the church. Then you get married.  Now you leave those relationships and move “up” to new married friends?  Just typing that seems ridiculous and yet many times this is exactly what happens.

For me personally what I wanted as a single in the church was to be seen as an equal, not a special case. In fact one of the reasons I chose the church I did at age 30 and single was that they didn’t separate singles out.  Small groups were mixed.  Leadership was available to singles.  I even led small groups with marrieds in them – as a single.  Crazy I know.

However this doesn’t mean that we can’t minister to singles specifically.

While I’ve railed against the church’s nuclear family idol, I’ve also said and believe that a lot of the ministry to marrieds in the church are pretty valuable.  I don’t understand why we can’t do the same for the unmarried.

This to me is how we can bridge the gap between two contrasting ideas that most singles seem to want.  They want to be equal and part of the bigger picture.  But they’d also like to meet other people in their context as well as learn how to live as a single following Jesus and even how to get unsingle in a Godly way.

What I would propose is this:  Don’t segregate singles out from the other things that you are doing.  Don’t do this on purpose or by accident.  Some examples of making singles feel unwelcome:

  • Constantly making church about the nuclear family in message or method
  • Women’s bible studies and small groups that only meet during the day (which is really a stay at home moms’ bible study, not a woman’s bible study)
  • Having no place for those that are called to celibacy to be celebrated or supported
  • Creating all of your small groups (or Sunday school or what have you) based on marital status
  • Not including singles in leadership opportunities

Does you messaging and group dynamics feel inviting to the unmarried person that walks in your door?  If not that’s problem number one.  Start there.

Do provide singles with opportunities relevant to their context.  We do hundreds of marriage seminars, retreats, mom’s nights out, parenting helps etc.  We need to do the same thing for the unmarried.  This would include things for the more specific groups such as those called to celibacy, the divorced as well as the not yet married.  This does several things:

  • It says that we have something to give and/or teach them.  Which we do.
  • It creates space for some singles to meet each other.
  • Sends the message that we value those living in those contexts
  • Creates the space for actual pastoral care for those people

In other words, we can have ministry to “singles” without having “singles groups”.  If I had a large enough church I’d have a staff person committed to this.  We have a pastor for everything else under the sun, why not this?

The Church Is Fighting Yesterdays Battle

Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom.  While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.

As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past.  These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.

Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.

First, the church is in constant reaction mode and almost never in leadership mode.  There are numerous reasons for this including insulating ourselves and living in fear of everyone else’s opinion.  We want everyone to like us – and come to our events.

Secondly, we come late to every fight.  Now in fairness – we almost always get there – just not usually first, or when the problem starts.  So bottom line, we react to what is going on around us too late, and then fight the battle that we should have fought earlier.

There are sooooooooo many examples of this in the last 50-60 years.  Marriage is one – I don’t remember the protests when no fault divorce was being ratified state by state across the country.  I don’t remember bakers not doing third weddings?  But now we want to take a stand on marriage.  Here’s one happening right now.  We are now in the last decade or two really figuring out that we ought to do poor urban ministry – heck we should even all move there.  But the next wave – it’s already coming – is called the rural poor.** I’m not seeing a bunch of hip young believers heading out there to “live among” the people.  That’s probably a little harsh.  But the point is valid.

What made me think of this is a recent sermon series from a church about family.  I’ve talked a ton here about the the churches nuclear family idol.  To this particular church’s credit while they did talk about the nuclear family, they started and clarified that the church is a family and we have many different family make ups.

But regardless it was their series description that got my attention and that I want to discuss today.  The first part of that read something like this: Our families are in crisis, marriages are crumbling, kids are hurting . . . .Rediscover how the family (read nuclear) can be transformational.

I’m not picking on this church today.  But this is a great example of the problem.

For starters, the idea that families are crumbling is only sort of true.  Actually most marriages aren’t in crisis.  The divorce rate is actually going down slightly for first time marriages.  Even better news is that the idea that divorce is rampant among practicing believers is not true at all.  The funny thing about this is that the church probably should take some credit here.  But instead of pointing to the success of their marriages, they are reacting to the sky that was falling 25 years ago.

The reality is that the boomers caused the divorce rate to skyrocket. They’re still doing it actually – now they are leading an all time rise in “gray divorce“.  But the new problem, the one going on right now, is not divorce – it’s lack of marriage.  It’s the fact that people aren’t getting married.  The new “family” problem is not “My parents got divorced”.  It’s literally that “My parents were never married”.

You see while people aren’t getting married (or divorced – as much) they are still having sex, living together, and having kids (sometimes alone on purpose – future post).  40% of the kids born in the U.S. today are born out of wedlock.  Don’t look for that number to drop.

Basically what we are doing is telling all the people who probably won’t get divorced, how not to get divorced.  I guess that’s good.  It’s for sure easier.

The problem we are facing now is different.  Why aren’t people getting married?  We have to be willing to actually look at the real answers to that.  Why aren’t they at church?  66% of the people that don’t go to church are unmarried.  We have to be willing to deal with the real reasons for that.

If we want to go make a difference in culture we have to figure out how to talk to single people.  We have to stop being the church for the family and start being the church that is a family. We need to stop looking to save the family and start trying to save the people.  If we do that, the family part will take care of itself.

 

** For free – Read that link and ask – where’s the church in this story?  We should be going there now.

 

Singleness as Identity, Context or Vocation

In our culture we are constantly talking about how we identify.  Not only that, but we know that whatever our answer is to that question, we will be judged by it.  It has of course to do with who we are, what we do, or even what we believe.  We are republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, American, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, feminist and on and on.  In the Church identify ourselves and judge others as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic, Baptist, Calvinist, Lutheran and on and on.  Heck in my town we identify people by their zip code, whether we live north or south of a street and what high school that someone went to.  We can also identify ourselves and others by things that have happened to us, or that we’ve participated in or even what teams we root for.

Some of these are things that we are born into and others are things we choose or believe.  But if we are in Christ none of these things are supposed to be our core identity. Meaning that they are not to be the first thing that defines us.  This includes whether or not we are single or married.

Being single or married has become a core identity for us, maybe especially (though certainly not limited to) in the Church. This is a real problem because in the Church we are supposed to be one family.  We aren’t really supposed to divide ourselves up by category and then just hang out with the other folks in that category.  The Church should be the one place where your category doesn’t matter.  We are all of equal value under the cross.  We all are sinners. Jesus thought us each valuable enough to come and die for.  Sin and the cross are the ultimate equalizer.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t offer practical teaching, guidance and wisdom for people in these different contexts.  But we have to start with the fact that at the core we are created in God’s image, all have sin, and all are loved by Jesus.

Adding to this, singleness is not really even a biblical category.  You could be unmarried, divorced, widowed, celibate by gifting, by the sin of man, or by choice for the Kingdom. This is really important because it affects how we see ourselves and how we set people up within the church.

Being unmarried is a context that you may be in.  But that is not the same as your identity or for that matter even your vocation.

This matters for those called to Celibacy because Celibacy for the Kingdom is not simply a context they find themselves in.  It is a calling and a vocation within the Church, at least historically.

Vocation is an interesting word in our culture.  It’s not really what your job is necessarily.  It could be.  But really your job could be simply your means to your vocation.  In fact, as a lay Christian, this is always true.  Let me explain.

Our first vocation as a believer is to follow Jesus and represent the Kingdom wherever we go.  This was our original created vocation going back to Genesis.  We were created to know God and advance His cause.

But we also have a secondary vocation.  That is either to be in the married vocation or the celibate vocation.  As I heard a wise priest once say, “The first vow we all have to make is to Jesus – to be committed to Him. Then we can make a second vow – either to God to be in celibate ministry or to God and to another person.”

Now here is where we screw it up in Protestantism.  We equate the vocation of celibacy with the context of being unmarried.  This is unfair to both the person who has the vocation of singleness and the person who doesn’t.  We need to honor the person who is called to that vocation by recognizing the Kingdom picture it represents, honoring their pursuit of that, and giving them the support they need as well as utilizing their gift and choice.

At the same time we need to not saddle the people who are not called to that with the responsibilities, lifestyle or teachings that those called with that vocation have.  Instead we need to support them in their context, help them navigate it, and ultimately help them pursue marriage.

In short.  Being unmarried is not an identity group and shouldn’t be treated as one.  It is a context that people are in.  For some it is a vocation they are called to.  Recognizing all of that sets us up to serve, teach, empower and support each group.  Not recognizing that hurts everyone.

We should instead identify people first by who they are in Christ, created to by God to know him and advance the Kingdom.  Secondly we should help them pursue their secondary vocation from whatever context they are currently in.