I continue my series based on the books I have read over the Summer by looking at one of the most important books I read, 7 myths about singleness by Sam Allberry. This is a book I would encourage everyone to read, single or married, because the myths described are so prevalent and need to be called out.
For example he debunks the myth that singleness is too hard.
Talking of romantic comedies.
“Behind the comedy of such movies lies a serious belief, one that is widespread in the Western world today: without sex you can’t really experience what it means to be truly human.”
Against this myth he presents Jesus,
He is the most complete and fully human person who ever lived. So his not being married is not incidental. It shows us that none of these things—marriage, romantic fulfillment, sexual experience—is intrinsic to being a full human being. The moment we say otherwise, the moment we claim a life of celibacy to be dehumanizing, we are implying that Jesus himself is only subhuman.
He compares marriage and singleness and how we view them, often unhelpfully
The temptation for many who are single is to compare the downs of singleness with the ups of marriage. And the temptation for some married people is to compare the downs of marriage with the ups of singleness, which is equally dangerous. The grass will often seem greener on the other side. Whichever gift we have—marriage or singleness—the other can easily seem far more attractive.
Again, many of our default settings see singleness in terms of deficiency. It is the absence of a good thing—marriage, and the romantic and sexual fulfillment marriage seems to represent. Single people are unmarried, while we would never think of married people as unsingle. It is singleness that seems to be wanting and deficient. The only way to cope with it is if God gives you some special superpower.
There is a need to challenge those who defer marriage for ungodly reasons without demeaning those whose singleness is either not their choice or has in fact been chosen for the sake of the kingdom. There is also a need to affirm the goodness and advantages of singleness without unwittingly playing into selfish motivations of those for whom singleness seems easier.
He challenges the perspective that being single means you are alone and there is no intimacy. I have been challenged that on occasions I have even inadvertently said this myself.
But the choice between marriage and celibacy is not the choice between intimacy and loneliness, or at least it shouldn’t be. We can manage without sex. We know this—Jesus himself lived as a celibate man. So did Paul. Many others have done so as well. But we are not designed to live without intimacy. Marriage is not the sole answer to the observation, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
He rightly challenges us to rediscover true friendship, a type of intimacy that singleness lends itself to.
That our culture imagines that intimacy occurs only in the context of sexual attraction goes to show how little our culture actually understands and really experiences true friendship……We need to rediscover a biblical category of intimacy that has been neglected in our cultural context and sadly even in many of our churches—friendship.
There is a powerful chapter that debunks the view that singleness wastes our sexuality.
If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency. …..Celibacy isn’t a waste of our sexuality; it’s a wonderful way of fulfilling it. It’s allowing our sexual feelings to point us to the reality of the gospel. We will never ultimately make sense of what our sexuality is unless we know what it is for—to point us to God’s love for us in Christ.
He concludes by acknowledging and describing the challenges of singleness whilst recognising that marriage also has it sown difficulties. He believes that historically the pendulum has swung one way and then the other when it comes to whether marriage or singleness is most worthwhile or spiritual. Today, in our culture singleness is undervalued. I agree that we need to redress the balance. Reading this book is a good place to start to do that!
Written by Tony Thompson