Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-18-2020
[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand relationships and sexuality. This was apart of a series of sermons given on the subject that paralleled our church’s main service series on the same topic.]
For a lot of reasons, the world is a different place than the one our parents grew up in when they were our age. According to Professor Scott B. Rae (2), for the first time in American history “the number of households headed by single adults [is] greater than those headed by married couples.” Basically, when our parents grew up, being married was the norm and being single was weird.
Now it’s the opposite: being single is the norm and being married is weird. So why is being single still not socially accepted, even though there are more singles than couples in America? Is being single weird? Not exactly.
Like every first world country, America no longer sees the need to be married or have sex as often as former generations. In fact, most first world countries seem to have this problem. For instance, in Japan roughly 35% of Millennials are virgins due to circumstances like work fatigue, social anxiety over relationships, and even addiction to technology (3). Because of the rise in automation in America, this might happen here too where less and less people are going to be romantically active and will remain single to pursue other things.
With all of that in mind, being single is not that bad. No for real, being single is super underrated. I mean, single people can literally go and do whatever they want when they want. For instance, I just got my ticket to see Avengers: End Game in IMAX opening weekend, I’m planning my vacation in Florida to see World’s Strongest Man for my birthday, and two other vacations later in the summer to go chill somewhere else.
Why? Because I do what I want within reason. But in a culture obsessed with relationships and sex, what should life be like for those of us who are single? For those of us who are just not with someone at the moment?
In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, Paul writes about us singles when he says,
“Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Here in this text we have three main takeaways: being single is preferred, being single is good, and being single is for the self-controlled. To start, we’ll look at how being single is preferred.
Singleness Is Preferred
As Christians, we don’t have the same goals as the world. We are not about fulfilling the American dream where you get a job, go to college, find a career, get married, have kids, get a house, and so on. We are all about seeing people made alive in Christ. Showing others what it means to know God and make God known. Everything that we do must be completely centered on Jesus and sharing the Gospel to help the hurting.
Single people are not tied down with the stress or worries of a family life. Therefore, we are way more effective in helping those who are hurting. I see this a lot firsthand in my life where married people can’t always help you because of family responsibilities, but singles can in those moments.
When Abe [a former student in the youth group that graduated from high school a year before this sermon] was kicked out of the house he was staying at because he was homeless for months and was crashing at multiple people’s places, Andrew [the youth pastor] could not help him out. I woke up, picked him up, and he stayed the night at my place with my family. The next day, we got him the help he needed by having him return home shortly after that incident to figure out his young adult life. This is something that I’ve done multiple times not only for Abe, but others as well who needed help immediately. I got up and got to work when someone had a need.
Singleness is preferred because of the ability to get up and go whenever a need must be met in the community. Instead of worrying about a family, I worry about everyone as if they were my family. Growing up, I’ve always had this mental image from God that I’m to be a bridge for all people.
That my life would be one of continuously humbling myself and allowing people to walk all over me, so that they can be reconciled with God and those they disagree with in life. That God would use me to connect and bring people together in unity. Rather then division in the name of social conformity to this side or that side of the culture [When I shared this message, I expanded on this idea much more, but don’t remember what exactly I said].
Singleness is preferred in the kingdom of God because of how effective we can be in serving others. Is being single better than being married? No, not at all. They are equal from an eternal perspective. In Heaven, no one will be married or single. Why? Because we are there to love God and others, not ourselves. Both gifts are equal, but only one can effectively help more people.
Singleness Is Good
God’s gifts are always good. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus explains how much better a gift is from God than the gifts from those who love us. How even when we with our best intentions give something to someone we care about, it doesn’t even come close to the gifts that God gives us. One of those gifts is whether we are married or single.
For the married, the gift is pretty obvious. The woman will honor and respect her husband in all things, while the husband will let all of his desires die and give his wife everything that was his own. You see, true love is not sexual, but sacrificial. This is demonstrated when the two love each other day-in and day-out, even when they don’t like each other everyday.
But what about us who are single? Think of it this way: if you remove the romantic element out of the equation, what is the difference between the love of a couple and the love of friends? Nothing. They’re the same sacrificial love. In the end, there is no greater love than putting someone else’s life above your own. Whether that’s romantically with your spouse or the camaraderie of friends. Both gifts, marriage and singleness, are expressions of true love. A type of love that looks out for the needs of others before the needs of yourself.
I love how Gary Thomas describes love in his book, The Sacred Search, where he says “Infatuation fills your eyes with what you’re getting, but let the Bible fill your mind with what you’re committing to give (4).” Lust is all about what you can take from someone, yet love is all about what you can give someone. Remember: lust takes, but love gives. In the kingdom of God, singleness is a good gift that demonstrates the same sacrificial love we see in marriage, but expressed differently.
Singleness Is For The Self-Controlled
When it comes to singleness, self-control is an important aspect of that gift from God. We sadly have many cases where those who are single don’t show self-control. From priests sexually assaulting kids to teen pregnancy, the lack of self-control is everywhere in our culture. There are more examples of no self-control than there are of self-control.
In this respect, there tends to be two types of people who lack self-control. Those who should be married, but are not and those who should be single, but are not. For the former, they are mentioned here in 1 Corinthians and Paul tells them that it is better to marry than to constantly wrestle with lust.
On the other hand, there are those who know they should be single and yet are doing everything they can to find a relationship. Both these people have the same problem: being a control-freak. They are trying to control their desires without the designer who gave them these desires in the first place. No human can control sin. That’s your pride saying that you have everything under control.
In reality, self-control is really when we give up trying to solve the problem on our own and get help from God. Our self-control is by the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot stop sin, but we can escape it. There is always a way of escape from sin and that is the quickest path to purity. Sadly, we would rather be stubborn in sin than have self-control in the Holy Spirit.
No matter where we are relationally, we must remember that we are God’s first before we are anything to anyone else. Self-control in the kingdom of God is giving Jesus control of all our struggles and trusting that he will bring us through them. It’s when people decide to solve these temptations on their own that they lose control.
Before we pray and breakout into small groups, let me end with this quote from G. K. Chesterton (5),
“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
To sum up what Chesterton said, don’t remove a fence until you know why it was put there in the first place. Not all borders need to be crossed or at least not yet, especially when it comes to this stuff. Being single is normal. The gift of singleness is preferred, good, and for the self-controlled. Don’t throw away your gift of singleness until you know why God gave it to you in the first place. Let’s pray and we’ll break up into small groups.
I distinctly remember this sermon because of how much prep and research was utilized on my part. Given the subject and audience, I didn’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of singleness from the Christian perspective. So I studied a lot of sources and tried to whittle down those ideas as much as possible into a coherent sermon, which I think was fairly effective.
When it came to this series, we were struggling a lot with how to approach explaining God’s view on relationships and sexuality to a generation that has seen more pornography than any generation previously. That’s exposed to so much inappropriate material online and is essentially numb to the fact that they are too young to be engaging in said activity. This is wrong and we hoped that with this sermon series we could steer them in a direction long-term that would greatly benefit their emotional intelligence, mental health, and spiritual maturity.
Was it a success? Somewhat. Some students took the advice of us and other professionals we brought in like third-party counselors for this issue, but there will always be those who are non-receptive to what is being said. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.