Stop Telling Christian Singles What They Can't Do
Have you ever noticed how our discussions of sexual obedience emphasize the negative? I don't mean that they're discouraging or shaming (though that can sometimes be true, too), but that that we focus on prohibitions rather than prescriptions. "Don't" dominates the church's guidance for singles far more than "Do."
I understand how easily we can slip into such an approach to sexuality and singleness, yet it isn't very well attuned to human nature or even all that biblical. People don't achieve something by focusing on what they're avoiding.
Now, to be very clear, I believe the sexual standard God calls us to is the self-control of abstinent singleness and faithful, self-giving monogamy within marriage. But the race is run looking forward — no matter how badly you ran the last mile. Paul said it was by "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead" that he pursued his goal, "the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
A few verses later, he concluded his remarks to the Philippians with a detailed list of positives, worthy things to think about. And despite the many "don'ts" among the Ten Commandments, Jesus summarized the law with two positive statements he called the greatest commandments: "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor." So why don't we take a similar approach to single sexuality? What does single chastity free us to do?
It has taken me a long time to formulate any kind of serious answer to that. In my early years of adulthood, I was so disgusted with singleness that about the only advantage I could see was the chance to practice lazy hygiene without major consequence. But the older that I've gotten, the more I've begun to see contrasts between my own life and opportunities and those of my married friends. And while I still don't always enjoy sexual abstinence, I believe the church would do well to talk more about what such restraint frees single people to do with our bodies and our lives. We need a larger, ongoing, vibrant discussion about that, but here, in no particular order, are a few things single Christians might focus on using our unmarried season to do.
Invest in non-romantic relationships.
Dating usually connects you with people of the opposite sex, who are roughly the same age you are. But the universe of relationships is much bigger and more diverse than that; interacting mainly with those who share your life stage or could share your bed relationally impoverishes you. My prolonged singleness allowed me the free time and money to more frequently visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even my cousins' children than I could if I were married or a mother. Admittedly, I'm fortunate to have a large extended family I love and enjoy, but you can also build relationships like that at church or in other settings.
To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.