By: Jonathan Harris
It has come to my attention over the last few years that both young men and women want to be in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Big news flash Jon! Yeah, I know. Duh. Perhaps you’re one of them. I know that I am. In a way, just about everyone is! Gen. 2:18 remarks that it’s not good for man to be alone. So just about every woman is designed to want to be a man’s helpmate, and every man is wired to want a helpmate. This is all obvious stuff, especially to Christians, since we know why humans are wired this way. Having stated the obvious, I’d like to examine something troubling to me regarding how this obvious truth is being treated in our Christian culture. I don’t know if this is something personally observable and applicable only in my limited experience, or if it’s an epidemic, but I would like to offer up my perspective on it.
To put it plain, I feel like way to many men and women (especially women perhaps) feel inadequate being single (especially Christians). I’ve noticed conversations about other individuals indicating the unhealthy importance we place on romantic relationships. Let me illustrate. Ever heard someone say things like: “He/She’s doesn’t deserve to be in a relationship.” “Oh, he/she should be in a relationship with someone who will make them happy. He/She deserves it.” When we use the word “deserve” it almost seems to constitute some kind of “right.” If we’re not careful single people can become jealous and people in relationships can become little matchmakers wanting everyone to be like them. Now I’ve heard these types of conversations for years, and am ashamed to say I’ve been a part of some of them. But I’d like to make something clear. My opinion on this shallow way of looking at romantic relationship is that it’s wrong. Plain and simple. Now, let me defend this assertion.
1. Humans are complete without a romantic partner (i.e. husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend).
Objection: WHAT? How can you say this? You just ruined every romantic story. Doesn’t the Bible say that it isn’t good for man to be alone. Doesn’t that mean men and women need each other?
Response: Yes, God did say that loneliness wasn’t good, and woman was created to meet this need. And yes, there are romantic inclinations expressing the joy and need for a marriage partner in legitimate ways (see Song of Songs). But, this doesn’t make humans somehow incomplete if they don’t have that. James 1:4 gives the formula for being “perfect” and “complete, lacking nothing,” and it has nothing to do with romance or partnership with the opposite sex. Think about the single people of Scripture. Think about Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Were they somehow incomplete?
2. Humans are happy without a romantic partner.
Objection: But how can you be happy if you don’t have someone to share all your stuff/experiences with?
Response: Paul, a single man, had “learned to be content in all circumstances” according to Philippians 4:12. I don’t want to take away from marital joy, because surely there is a happiness that comes from it, and having that intimacy is a blessing, but it is not necessary. The Giver of all joy can certainly manage to give someone committed to Him more joy then they could ever have with someone else if He so desired. Didn’t Jesus himself remark in the Sermon on the Mount that in heaven “[we] will be like the angels, neither [married] nor given in [marriage]?” So, the most blissful place ever contains no romantic relationships. Got it. Another overlooked fact is that with marital joy also comes a lot of concessions and compromises (any relationship does), and those aren’t always happy.
3. Some humans are more valuable to the Lord’s cause without a Romantic partner
Objection: Aren’t two always better than one? The very picture of a relationship is a yoking, meaning that the two are better equipped together for a special task.
Response: This is very true. For some people it is helpful to have someone by their side to help them along. I would say this is true for most of us actually. But the truth also remains that we don’t have to voluntarily yoke ourselves to someone. We can still accomplish a task without someone else even if it’s more difficult. In fact, for some of us we’re even more efficient. Read what Paul says in 1 Cor. 7.
If you read the whole chapter you’ll find that Paul is referring to the gift of singleness. Some people can get more done for the kingdom of God without being in a relationship.
I think as a result of these truths we ought to be careful as Christians when talking and interacting with single people. Couples sometimes treat single people as if they have a disease, and the right cure is their friend or neighbor whom they can’t wait to introduce to them for the purpose of matchmaking. This isn’t appropriate. Single people have an advantage in that they aren’t constrained by a relationship. They have freedom to do things people in relationships cannot. We should never push someone into doing something with these incorrect motivations. We, instead, must value single people and the contribution they give to the church. If you are a single person, as I am on some level (I’m not married, though I have a wonderful girlfriend), you need to thank God for it. Thank God for the opportunities you have. I know of a number of young men and women who would make excellent wives and husbands but aren’t in any kind of a relationship at the moment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this! It’s not a problem we have to correct. And if you are single, please don’t conform to that pressure. God in His time, and if He wants to, will give you a partner. If He hasn’t done that for you yet, just focus on him and living your life. You aren’t missing out on anything!