We’re taking a slight, but needed, detour from our Proverbs series this week to address the important topic of singleness. This is particularly relevant for us as a newly forming church, the majority of which is single. “What does God tell us about the season of singleness? What does he want us to know?” Looking at Proverbs and 1 Cor 6-7 we’ll examine this topic through four categories: biblical perspective, intentional preparation, guarded pursuit and ordered loves.
We’re taking a slight, but needed, detour from our Proverbs series today to address the important topic of singleness. This is particularly relevant for us as a newly forming church, the majority of which is single. When I originally planned the Proverbs series I didn’t anticipate devoting an entire week to this topic (as Proverbs doesn’t address it specifically) but after three weeks on marriage, husbands and wives, I felt it was a necessary addition. Many of you who are single have asked some important questions over the last month and we need some space to address them. Those of you who are married may be tempted to think, “Well, I guess today doesn’t apply to me.” Hang tight. It does. There is something here for all of us. In fact, the last census revealed that 43% of all Americans (18+) are single and one of the fastest growing demographics is aging singles. In other words, the topic of singleness is becoming increasingly important to address – particularly in urban settings with disproportionate populations of single people. So, this morning, we’re asking, “What does God tell us about the season of singleness? What does he want us to know?”
To answer those questions, and others, we’re going to spend our time moving back-and-forth between Proverbs and First Corinthians 6-7. Why Corinthians? Corinth was a city, much like Seattle. It was progressive, morally confused and very sexually promiscuous. In fact, if someone was known to engage in sexually illicit behavior they would be called a “Corinthian”, whether or not they lived in Corinth. The people of this city began to meet Jesus which resulted in a young, newly-forming, morally confused church with lots of questions. So, the Apostle Paul wrote the church to give them understanding in what it means to follow Jesus in a host culture that holds vastly different values and priorities. One of the questions that came up was how to handle singleness and marriage. Based on that, we’re going to look at four general categories we need to have in mind as we assess and process singleness, including:
“Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But, if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that…so then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” 1 Corinthians 7:27-28,38
Q: What is the Apostle Paul saying here?
Paul is saying that being married and being single are good conditions to be in. But, marriage is not always easy, “those who marry will have worldly trouble, and I would spare you that.” If you’re single, there can be a strong tendency to think, “If only I were married, my life would be so much better…” The truth is: not necessarily. There is no question that marriage is a great gift from God, but it can be terrible if you enter it with unrealistic expectations. Though they don’t say this outloud, many singles think, “Marriage will save me from my insignificance, loneliness, fears…” But, this is important, marriage is not your hope for a better life and future. It’s not. Yet, it is a great gift – and something God desires for most of us – but, it will bring difficulties and conflict. That’s what Paul is saying here. Every time 2 sinners say “I do” things get difficult. There is added conflict, responsibilities, expectations, complexity, layers of comunication, differences in personal tempraments, family history and more.
Marriage is bad, it is just an inadequate savior. Many make idol an idol of interdependence: fix my life, joy, identity, worth. If your heaven is marriage and your hell is singleness, then boy/girlfriend will be functional savior. The result is that you’ll constantly be throwing yourself at any potential spouse, whether a good choice or not. Or, depressed when you don’t find anyone to throw yourself at.
Often, many overreact against interdependence and instead seek independence. Here, heaven is viewed as independence (a state of no strings, just freedom to do what you want, whne you want) and hell, therefore, is interdependence. Thus, in this case, singleness becomes functional savior. But, nobody wants to be alone, so you end up with endless dating relationships with no destination filled with at least one person who idolizes independence while also wanting the perks of being in relationship, albeit non-commital.
Jesus is only one that can give us the ultimate joy, worth, identity, peace, satisfaction we’re looking for. There is a Real Marriage that our souls need. Even the best marriage cannot, by itself, fill void in soul left by God without a deeply fulfilling relationship w/ Jesus Christ.
Singles: if don’t develop deeply fulfilling relationship with Jesus, you will put way too much pressure and unhealthy expectations on your future spouse. No one can bear the weight of God, but God. If you do that, you will crush your spouse. But, if you learn to rest and rejoice in Christ you will be able to handle singleness without feeling unfulfilled.
Look @ 7:32-35. Paul presents an alternative. Don’t love marriage too much but don’t love singleness too much either. What should you do instead? Leverage your singleness. Being single is a unique position to be undivided in your devotion to the Lord; to fully leverage your life for Him. Marriage puts a ceiling on options for ministry. Married people cannot be undivided, to use Paul’s language, because they have responsibility to one another.
Challenge to the singles: Leverage and steward this season well. Don’t spend it on own passions and selfish ambitions.
Q: Where can I leverage my time and resources to serve the purposes of God in church and in our city?
Q: More time tv than serving? More shopping than giving? Focused on self or others?
Q: Instead of merely consuming, how can you begin contributing?
Don’t wait for the church to organize something for you. The church is a people, not a place. Leverage the season, whatever it is, for the glory of God and good of other.Singleness is not a curse to bear, but a gift to be stewarded.
“To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth…” Proverbs 1:2-4
The Bible is very concerned with what kind of people we are becoming, also known as character or holiness. Holiness is not God’s attempt at squashing our fun, but helping us become who we truly are. The call here is to leverage gift of singleness by growing in making God defining axis of life – work out daily. Why? Because growth in Christlikeness is the single best preparation for becoming husband/wife and/or handling season of singleness. There is nothing that will help you be a better husband or wife or single than becoming more like Christ.
Men: Walk with Jesus. address character issues, get your finances in order, take care of your debt, start saving, make a plan, get focus in your life, being to act and live responsibly.
Growth in Christlikeness is best preparation for loving and leading a wife.
Women: Walk with Jesus. address character issues, get your finances in order, take care of your debt, start saving, make a plan, get focus in your life, being to act and live responsibly.
Growth in Christlikeness is best preparation for helping and supporting future husband.
Evaluation questions for men:
Do I love Jesus?
Seek to honor Him above all things?
Or, just faking it to win affection of this girl?
Do I pray for my future wife?
Do I treat Christian women as sisters in Christ, understanding most will be someone else’s wife?
Am I treating my current girlfriend as I would want another guy to treat my future wife?
Am I a one woman kind of man?
Am I pure in heart?
Am I self-controlled?
Will I be able to provide?
Am I generous toward God?
Men: Prepare yourselves to become the kind of man that God would entrust one of his daughters to.
Evaluation questions for ladies:
Do I love my Jesus more than my boyfriend or idea of my future husband?
Do I seek to honor Him above all things?
Am I modest?
Do I try to gain the attention of men with my body?
Am I flirtatious?
Am I materialistic?
Can I live simply?
Am I kind, self-controlled, patient?
Is the work of the Spirit evident in my life?
Women: Prepare yourselves to become the kind of woman God would entrust one of his sons to.
Important! Not saying you have to be perfect. You won’t be, but are you on the right trajectory?
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Men are created and called by God to be the primary pursuers in a relationship. (ex. watch movies/tv > 99% women) As we’ve discussed over the past month, men are to love/lead wife, like Jesus and are therefore accountable and responsible for relationship. Because the men are accountable and responsible, he should also be one who pursues and initiates.
What does it mean to carry out a guarded pursuit? (cf Pr4:23) Carefully. Wisely. Don’t lead her on. Protect her heart. She may be someone else’s wife.
There are some important distinctions that you must make and understand in how God has created men and women distinctly. For example, Women bond emotionally (long talks). Men bond experientially (doing stuff). So, a guy can have long emotional talk with a gal and for him the conversation was the same as talking about M’s game, but in her mind they’re almost married. Gal: “So, what do we really mean to one another?” Guy: “Are we still talking about the Mariners?” Guys function like multi-room apartments and are able to compartmentalize. Meanwhile, gals are more like studios, where nothing is compartmentalized, but all happens in the same place.
Q: So, how do you guard your pursuit? Some of these may sound obvious, but unfortunately they are not.
FIRST: Pursue one woman.
Ladies: If a guy is pursuing you and another other women at the same time, you can guarantee (apart from the work of grace in his life) that he will not be faithful in his heart when married. if he can’t pursue you alone in dating relationship, he won’t pursue you alone in marriage relationship. Remember, that you’re not dating for the sake of dating. The purpose of dating is to identity your future spouse.
SECOND: Pursue fellow Jesus-followers.
7:39 “a wife is bound to a husband….only in the Lord” This is the constant testimony of the scriptures. If you trust, love and follow Jesus you should marry someone who does the same. Some might say, “Ugh, so closed minded” But think about it. Faith is not a peripheral issue or mere personal preference, but core issue. This is not like saying “She really likes the Apple and I like Microsoft.” Those are preferences. Core issues, like faith in Jesus, deal with ultimate matters of life and shape values, priorities, and life. Do not date someone who does not share your faith in Jesus Christ. They are not going to understand, know, and appreciate you at your core if they don’t share the same core.
THIRD: Don’t overlook people right in front of you.
FOURTH: be wise and guarded with your timing.
How? Be slow to enter into a relationship and be intentional while in a relationship. How can you be slow to enter into a relationship? Avoid tons of 1:1 things together, but hang out in groups, serve together, etc. Take the time needed to assess whether she is worth pursuit before entering into a relationship to figure that out. Too many men and women get hurt this way. Be slow to enter into a relationship. Ladies: Avoid becoming a sort of half-way spouse for men if they’re not leading you anywhere. Men: One you’re in a relationship, don’t take forever. It shouldn’t take you three years to figure it out. Take the amount of time needed, and not any more. Keep in mind, throughout, that the girl you’re dating may be someone else’s wife – treat her like you want your future wife to be treated by some other guy.
FIFTH: Make sure you have appropriate affirmation of godly friends.
Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people fails, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
if you’re in a dating relationship and your Christian friends do not affirm it, you should get out of it. Assume they are seeing something that you are not seeing. Assume a posture of humility and teachabiility. Assume they are trying to help, not harm you.
SIXTH: Don’t be surprised to find the other person is a sinner and don’t forget that you are too.
At times guys will say to me, “She has a past…” To love and lead like Jesus is to not only see the sin but see her delivered from it.
(and the priority of friendship and purity)
Storge (affection, general enjoyment) primarily based on feelings/emotions
Eros (attraction, romance, sexual intimacy) primarily based on feelings/emotions
Agape (sacrificial love, commitment, active service)
Most relationships in our context start with affection or attraction (feelings) > then move to friendship (often after having already been physically intimate) > and then, finally, agape (sacrificial commit). But, interestingly, the Bible (Pr 2:17 – allup) says we should start with friendship. Your spouse should be your best friend. If married and best friend not spouse, your marriage is in trouble. Why? What creates a marriage is friendship because affection, attraction, romance come-and-go. What makes marriage great is that you know the other person understands you and you them.
So, instead of walking into a room and thinking “Who am I attracted to?” you should ask, “Who would be a great friend?” That is not to say you shouldn’t be attracted, but there is a priority of friendship. Start with friendship, naturally move to storge (affection), agape and then comes eros last.
This is important. Sexual intimacy is not meant to determine whether or not you want to make a lifelong commitment. Sexual intimacy is meant to establish and strengthen a lifelong commitment. Our culture has cheapened sex, robbed it of its sacredness and made it common by putting it first. The scriptures tell us the opposite. Marital intimacy is the one act that deserves a unique, exclusive, permanent relational context. God’s design for sexual intimacy is for it to seals and strengthen the existing commitment of married couple.
Jesus did not come to condemn us, rub out noses in our sin.
Look at those who were most attracted to him? Lepers, prostitutes, all the shady folks. Why? Because he offered them – and he offers us – opportunity to be clean, no sin, no guilt, no shame. He did not come to call the clean and upright. He came to call those who knew their sin and their need for a savior. That means that by faith in Christ, we can stand before God and one another clean. Maybe you or someone you’re dating has a past. Don’t call unclean what God has called clean. Marriage is not your hope for a better life but Jesus is – no matter where you find yourself in life. Make the most of the season you find yourself in – whatever it is.
Biblical perspective: Beware of making an idol out of marriage or singleness. The season of singleness is not a curse to be endured, but a gift to be stewarded.
Intentionally prepare: Grow in making God the defining axis of your life – and work that out every day.
Guarded pursuit: Be wise, careful, thoughtful in how/who you pursue and are pursued.
Order your loves: Don’t merely look for someone you like, but consider, “Who would be a great friend?”