Jan

17

2013

Collin Hansen|9:59 PM CT

Singleness Is Not a Curse

Almost every day, it seems, we read news of another daunting challenge to Christians who seek to love our neighbors by teaching and practicing a biblical view of marriage. Just this week, one of the most prominent ministers in the UK, Steve Chalke, announced his support for same-sex relationships. The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Christians seeking protection from being coerced to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex relationships in their work. And American evangelicals continue to debate how to respond after Louie Giglio became the target of criticism from gay-rights groups and withdrew from offering a prayer at President Obama's inauguration.

More than ever, we need to learn from the example and counsel of Christians who have fought in the grace of God and power of the gospel to pursue holiness and shun the temptation of homosexuality. Sam Allberry shared one such inspiring story and showed us how the gospel can be good news to gays. Another powerful, prophetic voice for our time comes from Christopher Yuan, co-author of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, A Broken Mother's Search for Hope. In the latest edition of Going Deeper with TGC, Yuan talks with Mark Mellinger and me about costly discipleship and how the gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope the world cannot match. He discusses the limitations of the gay/straight paradigm and why he declines to call himself a "gay Christian." He also challenges the church to make room for biblical singleness, because "living as a single is not a curse." Listen for his insight about the similarities between the Muslim and gay communities, then check out his recent review of a new book from the founder of the Gay Christian Network.

As the podcast continues, The Gospel Project managing editor Trevin Wax talks with 9Marks editorial director Jonathan Leeman about the Old Testament historical narratives and how we understand and teach about such squeamish issues as God's judgment and the Canaanite conquest. Finally, Mark and I wrap up the podcast by previewing a new event scheduled to follow The Gospel Coalition 2013 National Conference. Tim Keller will kick off a Faith at Work post-conference where various speakers from various vocations will aim to connect Sunday worship with Monday work. So even if you're not a pastor, we hope you'll join us in Orlando and stick around the afternoon of Wednesday, April 10, for several hours of focus on connecting the gospel to everyday life in the workplace.

You can stream the full podcast below, download the mp3, or subscribe to Going Deeper with TGC on iTunes or through your other mobile devices.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Going Deeper with TGC, 1-17, with Christopher Yuan

Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. He and his wife belong to Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • Matthew

    Guys... Singleness isn't just about being gay. How about a Christian who's straight, single, never married and a virgin? If you don't believe me? Think I'm just an in the closet gay? What else do you think about someone like that?

    • http://www.everybodyelse.etsy.com Melody – Another One

      Yes, I wish they'd titled this a little differently, though I understand they're pulling from the quote.

    • Phil

      Matthew, I understand entirely. When confronted and held accountable, the church merely pays lip services to singles. But in reality, as most singles in Evangelicalism know all too well, it's a no-win position on almost every front. No matter what we do, someone somewhere finds something about how we're making the wrong choices. How we handle singles is the Jim Crow policy of the Evangelical church; sure, on paper, they're equal, but what comes out of the mouth reveals the truth about how most focused-on-the-family Christians feel about Christian singles. A close second is childless couples, who face their own pain from members of the Mrried-with-kids-so-we're-living-in-God's-will-more-than-you Club.

    • Joe

      So gays who pursue holiness are to avoid the word "single" because it gives straights in the same situation a bad name!? Please don't tell me that you "love" your gay neighbor. You despise your gay neighbor.

      • Melody

        Joe, I don't think Matthew is worried about being given a bad name - although the number of times someone has suggested I'm an in-the-closet lesbian is annoying - I think it's just that this article had "singleness" in the title but it's not directed at all singles, so it was a little confusing.

  • Mel

    Not everyone is called to be married. Not everyone gets that opportunity or God uses them in other ways.

    Paul says that it is good to not be married.

    Unfortunately too many people in the church see those people as defective, pathetic or some other curiosity. It certainly doesn't mean that they are not as Christ-like because they are not married with children just because people can't comprehend it.

    The secular world doesn't have a problem with people not being married but they do have a problem with you not having sex. For some reason that makes a person a freak. So it's okay if you aren't in a committed marriage as long as you are using someone for your physical satisfaction without commitment. (And people always talk about people in church being worse than the world)

    Some would argue that we are causing gays to sin by not letting them be married. They would argue that we are trying to condemn them to being alone because we are saying that the only options are someone of the opposite sex.
    It gets away from what marriage is about in the first place. Even now pastors counsel that people should be "attracted" to each other in order for the marriage to work long term along with the godly attributes. But I would point out that Adam and Eve were an arranged marriage. Arranged by a perfect God but Adam argued with the choice when he got caught sinning none the less.
    What it really gets into is that people think they should be guaranteed joyful sex for the rest of their life, straight and gay. People are capable of having sex with someone they don't care for. Look at Jacob and Leah. People have been doing it for thousands of years. The sin comes in when people think it should be better than what they have.

    Rambling thoughts from someone that learned the hard way that there are much worse things than being alone with God.

  • Rider of Rohan

    I would have to agree with Matthew, above, although it seems to me that heterosexual and homosexually-oriented singles have the same calling: chastity.

    the difference is, christians who experience same-sex attraction are broken in ways that heterosexuals may not necessarily be broken--a brokenness that seems to be a common theme among all strugglers with same-sex attraction, and this isn't limited to lust. i mean, we're not just animals with sexual longings.

  • McLean

    My comments pertain to the broader context of singleness conveyed in the article headline and are intended to encourage those who are challenged by their state of singleness.

    I am single as a result of divorce and I have two minor children with whom, thank God, I have very frequent contact. So my experience may not be typical of most singles. Nevertheless, I wanted to relay my story as confirmation that singleness is not a "curse". Like the majority, my desire was to have a love relationship as a means to fulfillment and completeness. Life circumstances have left me with few readily available opportunities to meet single Christian women, so I decided to pursue the internet route. I completed the requisite personal profile on one of the prominent Christian dating sites, and then cast my bait. While I was initially excited about the responses received, I felt a growing sense of discontentment. It seems as if I had employed the means of the world and my profile, while technically true, seemed antithetical to the essence of one called to die to himself for the sake of Christ. It was as if God was halting the process and turning my focus exclusively towards Him.

    A year has passed, and in my continued pursuit of Him, I am experiencing freedom heretofore unknown: freedom from that most idolatrous of enterprises - the building and maintenance of one's reputation. I find myself increasingly less aware of my singleness and its self-perceived deficiencies and more and more able to interact with others, comfortable in my "own skin". The feeling that I'm "missing out" has been progressively replaced with a deep core satisfaction, greatly enhanced by a sense of the glorious future that awaits and a present that is in no way short-changed! Like Paul, I have not already obtained it and each day presents its challenges, but I know that God can more than amply supply what I may lack as a result of singleness. Far from being cursed, the single Christian is provided with opportunities for intimacy with God that just can not be practically experienced by those necessarily distracted by other human commitments. And isn't ultimate enjoyment and intimacy with God the chief end of man?

    • Charles

      Thank you for sharing your experience, it was a joy to read and I am so glad you are experiencing new found intimacy with the Creator and Redeemer. I'm in a boat very similar to yours (though a while behind, I would imagine), and it is encouraging to hear you speak of your victories and blessings in this area.

      It sounds like one of the greatest gifts God has given you in this period of your life is being "less aware of your singleness".
      What a liberation that must be!
      Implicitly I feel that because I am not yet married (or even close!) I must be "missing out" on God's blessing or "outside his will" or any of these things that we would never vocalise, but I suspect a lot of Christians struggle with.

      For everyone who struggles in this area, I would highly recommend watching the poem "I will wait for you" by Jannette...ikz on youtube.

  • Anthony

    May I commend readers to Barry Danylak's very sound and helpful book titled, Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (2010).

    It offers an "in-depth examination of the redemptive history from which biblical singleness emerges. Danylak illustrates the continuity of this affirmation of singleness by showing how the Old Testament creation mandate and the New Testament kingdom mandate must both be understood in light of God’s plan of redemption through spiritual rebirth in Christ".

    John Piper employs Danylak's thesis up in his own book, This Momentary Marriage (2012).

    Ultimately, it is not about one's marital status - single, married, divorced, widowed; or however perceived or termed by others and the world. It is about one's status before God, i.e. one's status in Christ. Sadly, many Christians still have a poor or less than biblical understanding about marriage and singleness - pastors/preachers included.

  • Brian Jose

    There is much good in this interview, and many thanks to Christopher. However, I was disappointed with what felt like an "us-them" tone. Steve Chalke has "defected to the other side" (maybe slightly paraphrased, can't find it to get it exactly). So, as is so often the case, those who know the truth draw a line to exclude those who are "the other side" . We won't "win" many people with this approach. Gay activist Shane Windmeyer writes powerfully in the Huffington Post about how Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy reached out to him. It may be helpful to many to learn from Dan and Shane. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html

    Christopher suggests that gays (and Muslims) think Christians hate them. I think this is pretty easy to understand when we read a few blogs or look at facebook. Hate-speak by Christians is not hard to find. So, if we are going to talk about people living in persistent sin (and start asking if they are truly believers), there may be a case to say that many of "us", not "them" persist in sin, by showing a lack of love. Do we exercise church discipline for such rebellion to the Word? I've never heard of it.

    As someone who lives in a Muslim-majority country, the parallel with Muslims "thinking that Christians hate them" also comes across as unhelpful, to say the least, but to discuss that here would divert from the main point of the interview.

    While I agree wholeheartedly with Christopher's point about identity, it is not helpful to gay people I've spoken with to glibly say "well, straight singles need to be celibate, too". Firstly, it is more than celibacy at issue, it is an issue of companionship. (And this, of course, as Christopher suggested, is where the church fails singles rather spectacularly.) Secondly, straight singles have a chance of marriage. Not so with those who are same-sex attraction if they hold to traditional views on the issue. I found the interview to be unhelpfully glib on this point, and pastorally a bit cold. This, of course, gives fuel to fire of those who would say that many of us with "traditional" views on homosexuality lack love.

  • scottie

    Rider of Rohan,

    Could you qualify "broken"?

    (as in "christians who experience same-sex attraction are broken in ways that heterosexuals may not necessarily be broken--a brokenness that seems to be a common theme among all strugglers with same-sex attraction")

  • Pingback: NUGGETS – Singleness & Relationships [4/5/13] | Counseling One Another