What If You Stopped Lying

This last year I read a book by Jordan Peterson called “The 12 Rules For Life”.  It’s an interesting read on many levels but one of the rules that he espouses has really stuck with me.  That is: Always Tell The Truth Or At Least Don’t Lie.

I think that this rule or idea has enormous implications.  For everyone in every context.

Now, it seems simple enough.  After all as a Christian am I not to always be honest as it were?  Well yes.  In fact “don’t lie” is one of the ten commandments.  It’s one of the basic rules for almost any moral code, scriptural or otherwise.  But for something so simple we aren’t very good at it.

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Singleness During COVID

We are obviously in an unprecedented time right now.  We have a pandemic striking the world, and in response we have asked most people to stay at home.

To be sure this is a strain on everyone in every marital context.  This is not to mention that there are some people in horrible situations.  I think of kids who live in abusive homes or those that don’t have enough to eat.  People who had enough to eat three weeks ago and now don’t. There are those who struggle with addiction, those who were struggling with mental illness before this all started.

But I want to acknowledge a particular group here today.  Not because they are the only ones suffering, but because their suffering is surely different and I’ve not seen it talked about much anywhere.  That is those that are single and live alone.

Now there are all kinds of unmarried people.  Many live with friends.  Some are in cohabitation arrangements.  Some who maybe live with their parents.  But I want to specifically address those who live by themselves.

I was single until I was nearly 41 years old.  Mostly I lived with friends or for a short time had renters in the house I owned.  I’m an extravert and I learned from six months of living by myself that it was an unhealthy setting for me.

25%-28% of Americans live alone.  If nearly 50% of Americans are unmarried that means that about half of unmarried people live alone.  This includes all versions of unmarried that we’ve talked about here over the years.  Not yet married.  Divorced.  Widowed.  Those who are called to Celibacy for the Kingdom.  Those celibate because of the fall of man. Those born in a way that keeps them from getting married.

Let’s remember that no one, even those called to Celibacy for the Kingdom, are called to live their life alone.  And yet there are millions of them doing that exact thing right now.

I’ve debated whether or not to write this post.  Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because what unmarried folks are facing right now I never had to face in my 23 years of adult singleness.  Almost everything on this blog about singleness I’ve written either from personal experience or from the study of the scriptures, church history and other studies. This is different.  So I can’t write with the same authority that I normally do.

However, it needs to be talked about.

First we should acknowledge that it’s hard.  And that would be my first piece of advice to everyone unmarried and married.  To recognize the unique challenges that this context confronts unmarried folks with.

I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting that married folks should feel especially sorry for single people.  But I think it might be good to be aware that they aren’t experiencing this the same way you are.

Church leaders often seem to forget the unmarried.  We’ve discussed this ad nasuem on this blog.  There are churches doing great things right now. Helping with the poor.  Helping provide food for kids.  Doing online things not just on Sunday but every day.  I applaud so much of the effort.  I’m asking you, regardless of how your church views singleness: Please remember your single members right now.  They could probably use a phone call, text, email or whatever.  Simply acknowledging and checking in would be appreciated by many I would think.  There are some who are fine.  But there are some who could use a live voice.

If I go on facebook right now I see all the families on bike rides, in the yard together, taking porchtraits.  Nothing wrong with that.  But if I were single and wishing I was married, this would make even more aware than usual that I’m alone.  I couldn’t go out with friends.  I couldn’t see my co workers.  I couldn’t even sit next to some people at church.

Here are a few thoughts if you are home alone as an unmarried person right now. Remember I’m not speaking with the authority of having lived it here, just offering some things that might help based on 23 years of unmarried life.

  • Give yourself the freedom to feel what you feel.  You’re not bad because the porchtraits make you feel more alone.  You aren’t a bad Christian because Jesus doesn’t seem like enough right now.  Acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Don’t just tough it out.  And for sure don’t condemn yourself for thinking it.  Give yourself grace.
  • Fight to engage others.  If someone does reach out to you, take advantage of it. Use all the technology you have.  Reach out to others.
  • If helping others and ministering to others typically energizes you, do it now. Leadership is lonely but it’s less lonely than sitting there missing leadership.
  • Engage your mind.  Study something.  Read something.  Learn something.  Fight the urge to dwell on darkness.
  • Know your weaknesses.  There is a reason porn sites are offering specials right now. Liquor stores are essential apparently.  Do you already struggle with depression or other mental illnesses.  Don’t pretend right now.  Don’t just sit there and get crushed.  Acknowledge these things
  • Get help with the above if you need it.  Call someone.  Anyone.  Tell someone.  Don’t suffer in silence.
  • To that end, hold onto the truth.  The people that love you and usually hang out with you still love you.  Maybe they haven’t called.  I wish they would have.  But everyone is in free fall in some way right now.  Just because they haven’t called you, doesn’t mean they don’t care.
  • Hold on to the truths of our faith.  You are not alone.  You really can take it to Jesus. He suffered alone.  In front of people, but alone.  In a way only He could.  He sees you!  Please read that again.  Jesus sees you!

Really I hope that if this post does one thing it is that it communicates that.  Jesus sees you.  I see you.  I’m writing this mainly so you know you’re seen.

If any of you who are reading this have thoughts about how you are managing that might be helpful to others, leave a comment.  You’re the expert here.  What has been helpful for you?  What would be helpful to you?

Cohabitation Is Not God’s Plan

One of the problems in our culture when it comes to singleness is that the word single is too broad.  It means far too many things.  As I’ve stated before here, this is especially a problem in Christian culture because there are varying scriptural instructions for different groups of unmarried people.  There are at least the following biblical examples of marital status: The married, the divorced, the widowed, those not yet married, those celibate by birth, those celibate because of the fall of man and those who are called and choose Celibacy for the Kingdom.  Needless to say, all of these are different.

But in our culture we have added a group that amazingly I’ve never directly addressed here at the blog.  That is those couples that live in cohabitation.

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Meekness Vs Weakness

Recently I’ve been thinking some about virtue.  That is, what is virtuous and what isn’t.  For example, I’ve written about how being “nice” is not a virtue while being good is. All of this may seem like semantics or splitting hairs but it’s more than that.  How we view these things impacts how we live our lives.  It impacts how we view ourselves and our context, including if our context happens to be singleness.  I want to tackle a few more of these thoughts in the context of singleness.

Today I want to talk bout the idea of meekness.  Meekness is indeed a virtue.  So much so in fact that Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek shall inherit the earth.  But we are very confused in our culture, even in our Christian culture, about what meekness is.

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Suffering In Singleness

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is the idea of suffering.  This has not been brought on because of personal suffering.  I am in a season right now where I don’t feel a lot personal suffering.  But I have had many seasons where I have.  This was especially true when I was single.

What has brought on these thoughts is that I have friends who have suffered and I’ve seen a lot of confusion in the singleness arena about the idea of suffering.  For example there is the idea that celibacy is too great a cross to bear.  That it is unfair that we are asking those who are not called to Celibacy for the Kingdom to suffer.  The idea that it is unfair to ask those who are unmarried and wish to be or those that are celibate due to the fall of man, to remain celibate is to ask them to suffer unfairly.

I want to offer a few thoughts here about suffering in general and then bring it back to singleness.

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The Image Of God Is Not Male Plus Female

Many of you may remember the movie Jerry Maguire.  In it Jerry is a sports agent and his assistant Dorothy falls in love with him.  Jerry at first loves her but isn’t what one might call “in love” with her.**  But at the end, Jerry realizes that he and Dorothy belong together.  He goes to her and says, “You complete me.”  They live happily ever after.

Now from a theological standpoint, there’s all sorts of things wrong here.  As I’ve mentioned over and over here, what we often do in Christian culture is just take secular beliefs and dress them up into Christian ones.  For example we take the romantic idea of the one, dress it up and turn it into the “one God has for us.”  These examples go on and on.

But today I want to talk about the idea of two people completing each other.  We talk about this all the time. Many times we hear how a person couldn’t be who they are without their spouse.  We talk about how a person couldn’t do the ministry work they do without their spouse.  

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Is Sex With A Robot “Wrong”?

You may have seen in the news that a man recently “married” a hologram.  Yes you read that right.  A hologram.  Now before you get all judgmental here please listen to the man.  Akihiko Kondo points out that, “I believe that the shape of happiness and love is different for each person.”  Does this sound familiar?

I’m not here to bash Kondo today.  What I want to do with this post is discuss a couple of things.  1. We are careening off the rails as a culture and 2. What should it look like as the church to stand in the middle of it.

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The Prosperity Spouse Gospel

I see a lot of people these days critiquing the so called prosperity gospel.  This prosperity gospel takes several forms and extremes.  Sometimes it’s used to suggest that if I do certain things then God will give me worldly prosperity.  For example if I tithe then God will give me a lot of wealth.  Or if I give my life to Jesus, then my life will go the way I want it to.  The idea is that doing what God wants will alleviate my suffering in this world sort of runs counter to the idea of picking up my cross.**

This is of course not true.  Now it is true that God rewards faithfulness.  It’s important as we critique the prosperity gospel peddlers that we not lose that truth.  Otherwise we’d have to toss out a lot of scripture.  But God doesn’t promise rewards in the way that we often like to see them.  That’s the key distinction.

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Making Your Church Unmarried Friendly – Experientially

This is the last post in a series about what it might look like to make the church unmarried friendly.  We’ve talked about why this is so important for the future of the church and why it matters in the big picture.  Last time we talked about the theological side of being a church that welcomes 66% of folks who don’t go to church – the unmarried.  Today I want to get practical

The question you need to ask is what is the user experience for a single at your church? Here’s what I can tell you experientially; I was single until I was nearly 41 years old and one of the hardest places to go was church.  The experience was mostly not good.

So what does it look like, or maybe a better way of saying it, what could it look like?

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Making Your Church Unmarried Friendly Theologically

In the last couple of posts I’ve been trying to make the point that if we want to do evangelization in the current western culture we have to have the unmarried in mind.  Two thirds of those that don’t attend church are unmarried.  I’ve asked the question, is your church unmarried friendly.  The obvious answer for most of us is no.  So what would it look like if it were?  Today I want to take a stab at the beginning of the answer to that.

There are at least two parts to this.  First there is a belief side.  This is the broader, overall view that we need to have in mind.  It includes theology but also practical belief.  The second part is the practices part.  What does it look like fleshed out.  What are some best practices that make the unmarried feel welcome?  Assuming correct theology and practical belief, how do we put it into practice?

Today we’ll look at the first part.  In my next blog we’ll take a stab a the practical implications.

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