Don’t Find The One, Be The One

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/4/2022

I’ve never really had anything to add to the purity culture conversation until now. For the uninitiated, this was a Christian subculture movement in the late 1990s, which influenced how parents raised their kids in the 2000s to roughly the early 2010s. This was in response to a lot of cultural artifacts of that time: celebrity sex tapes, normalization of hook-up culture, online pornography, the AIDS epidemic, and even the internet boom of the 1990s.

Purity Culture Defined

Now were there other factors during this period of time? Of course, but this helps set the stage for why the purity culture movement began and what was the root of parents’ fears. The introduction of the new always brings the reversion back to the old for some. This happens with everything.

In this case, it was the reversion back to old ideas about dating. Like arranged marriages by a church congregation or even the Christian concept of courtship. This time, it just had a new spin. That spin is what spun an entire generation into sexual shame.

Under immense pressure to balance the natural inclinations of adolescence with the fear-mongering led by thought leaders at the time, people were stuck in a state of never knowing if they handled their dating life right. Doubts on if they were even good enough to be with someone because they weren’t virgins or “pure” enough. It was a movement that had good intentions at first, but with awful execution ended in disastrous results.

When a movement is rooted in fear and not grace, it always ends poorly. The purity culture movement was rooted in the fears of its time, not in the grace of God. Given it was grounded in the former and not the latter, Christians recoiled from what they thought was God’s hate. Instead of emulating God’s love in their relationships and enjoying the grace that’s supposed to be found within them.

From side hugs and purity rings to parents having to meet each other to decide if this was a “good” relationship, it was the norm for a lot of kids at this time. Even the perversion of modesty to the point of being a tool to elicit the young to be ashamed of their own bodily desires was standard malpractice. Then again, these repulsive symptoms were more of a theological problem than anything. At least, that’s where I think it starts.

The Modern Myth Of The One

What bothered me the most about this whole thing was the prevalent concept of the one and how that framework warped everything going into this movement. Which then bled into our current relationship climate of the #MeToo era. How all modern dating is based on the lie of the one. A theological misconception that has ties to determinism, God’s sovereignty, and a blatant misunderstanding of what it means to become one in marriage.

How is this the root? Well, it starts with some believing that everything is determined by God. A sort of manifest destiny, but instead of land promised by God it’s people in this case. Those people are the one.

The person you were destined to marry no matter what. It’s this idea I believe laid dormant in the subconscious of Christians until the purity culture movement awakened this aged-out concept. A framework that gave rise to a lot of these conventions we mock now.

Then again, what does the Bible actually say about this? What is God’s design for relationships really? Put simply, the Bible doesn’t promote the one. Rather it does promote becoming the one for someone else. Let me explain.

Becoming The One vs. Finding The One

We could go in a lot of different directions, but for now I just want to zero in on the book of Ruth. Why? Well, it dispels this lie of the one quickly with a simple question. Who was the one for Ruth? Was it Mahlon or Boaz?

Her first husband Mahlon was married to her for 10 years, provided in the famine-infested land of Moab, and married Ruth when she was fairly young. Her second husband was Boaz, grafted her into the family of Jesus, and married Ruth when she was middle aged. The first husband gave away his health to provide, while the second gave away his wealth to provide.

The former was equivalent to a blue-collar worker if he worked in our time. The latter was a man of valor whose military service allowed him to benefit from the spoils of war. When you think about it, neither of them were the one but rather became the one she needed.

Mahlon became the one in that he sacrificed everything to care for Ruth. Boaz then became the one in that he shared everything to care for Ruth. Both men became the one over time.

A good, godly relationship isn’t about finding the one. It’s about becoming the one for the sake of someone else. That you love someone so much you change to become better for them and to them. Not to say you shouldn’t choose wisely who you end up with, but you’re not agreeing to a completed person. You’re agreeing to being there as they are made complete in Christ.

Like God commands, they fully committed themselves to Ruth. Loving sacrificially and being there. At the time, Mahlon was the best possible choice for Ruth and later on Boaz was the same. Of course it’s conjecture since we only know snippets of their life, but their character bleeds through the page. Where we progress, God perfects. Marriages thrive when God guides them. Grace is our guide, not fear. Becoming the one is a grace-guided process.

Although, this could be distorted into a work-mentality where you have to do all of these self-help hacks to appear to be better. That’s not what becoming the one means. Becoming the one isn’t about performance, but patience and persistence.

The humble heart in asking God to better you so that you can be the best possible spouse in your marriage. An acknowledgement that your starting point is bad and only God can restore your soul to its best. The idea of the one is an attractive cultural myth, while becoming the one is simply self-actualizing into who God designed us to be in him. One is chasing after the winds of the world, yet the other is weathering the storms of a holy covenant and promise.

Final Thoughts

Having been in the most serious relationship of my life currently that’s heading towards marriage now, I just see this flaw so much more clearly. Our culture taught our brains to go after plastic-bound porn stars and the powerful with influence, instead of ordinary people that look and act just like us.

What makes the person you end up with special isn’t status or a lack of stretch marks, but the extraordinary fact that God made them and you get to be with them. Modernity has killed the mundane. Public image defines us more so than being imagers of God. We need to change that toxic perspective that has hurt a lot of people.

Don’t look for the perfect person because you’ll never find anyone close to that sinful standard. Rather, become someone who is by God’s sanctification transforming you into the one for someone in your life. Don’t find the one, be the one. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

A Renewed Purity | 4-24-2019

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.]

Introduction

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.”

Conclusion

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.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, P. 278
  3. https://youtu.be/4pXSJ35_v2M
  4. The Sacred Search, P. 67
  5. https://www.chesterton.org/taking-a-fence-down/