Chapter 7 – Singleness and Marriage
Why does Timothy Keller address singles in a marriage book?
“The answer is that single people cannot live their lives well as singles without a balanced, informed view of marriage.” (192)
I agree with Keller on this. So many times people, whether single or married, have a distorted view of relationships. I believe it is important for everyone to educate themselves on marriage, specifically God’s intentions for marriage, whether they get married or not.
Keller dives into this chapter by sharing a little historical background on the family unit. In older cultures it was pressured upon people to get married and have kids so that one would have caretakers in old age and to leave a legacy when they pass. There was honor given for marriage and family. Even widows were pushed to remarry so that they would have support and care.
Christianity broke that mold. No longer did people need to rely on family, for God was their family, and other believers were their family. Widows were able to rely on the Church for care. Jesus broke the mold and showed others how to have hope in God. This attitude released the pressure of singleness and marriage… both would have positives and negatives to compare and contrast, but ultimately it didn’t matter if one were single or married.
Unfortunately, some Christians still do not fully understand the goodness of singleness. Remnants of the ancient cultures seep into hearts and distort views on whether it is better to marry or not. Keller quotes Paige Brown’s “Singled Out By God For Good” by sharing a few “explanations” Christians give for singleness. Here is just one that caught my attention:
“ ‘As a single you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work.’- as though God requires emotional martyrs to do His work, of which marriage must be no part.” (196)
We must be aware of viewpoints both towards singleness and marriage, as to not forget what God is capable of doing through us according to His will. I have been able to serve God alongside my husband and it has been an incredible experience. Although, I have friends who have yet to marry and also serve God. There should be no stipulations placed on how we can serve God as He calls us to do His will!
Keller goes into further detail explaining the importance of marriage being a reflection of our relationship with God, with Christ being the groom united to His bride, the Church.
“It [marriage] points us to the Real Marriage that our souls need and the Real Family our hearts were made for.” (198)
A relationship with God is the single most important relationship one can have. Any person, whether single or married, can never be completely fulfilled without having a relationship with God!
This chapter develops with a focus directed at singleness that I believe is necessary for today’s generation to grasp. Keller digs into evaluating the dating process, shining light on how it has changed over the decades. Years ago there was an understood courtship that defined dating. A man would be invited into a woman’s home to meet her family and to observe her way of living. This process evolved into another form of dating where a man and woman would “go-out” and experience things together such as eating at a restaurant or attending a concert. Then came the era of the “hook-up” where a man and woman would determine to begin a relationship after being physically intimate.
“As dating spread throughout society, it not only individualized the whole process, removing the couple from family context, but it also changed the focus of romance from friendship and character assessment to spending money, being seen, and having fun.” (205)
I feel like it is imperative that singles seeking marriage revert back to the value of friendship and character assessment. I hope others reading this book feel the same way. Our culture needs to step up in this area and value the marriage relationship, through the dating process and all!
Keller wraps up this section with 8 pieces of wise advice for singles seeking a marital relationship:
1. Recognize that there are seasons for not seeking marriage - There are emotionally draining seasons in life such as the death of a loved one or a busy schedule that has the potential to cloud one’s mind about marriage. Sometimes during those seasons what is really needed is deep Christian friendship, rather than the pressure of dates or ideas of marriage.
2. Understand the “gift” of singleness - Being single allows the freedom to serve God in ways that a married person may not be able to with their concentration focused on their family. Also, this “gift” of singleness may only be for a period of time. It should be embraced instead of being a struggle to rush into marriage.
3. Get more serious about seeking marriage as you get older - A person in their teen years may have fun dating to share experiences with, however as time marches on, the process of dating should be more directed as one sincerely seeks for a life-long partner.
4. Do not allow yourself deep emotional involvement with a non-believing person - It is impossible to fully know the person you are marrying, but you can know them better if they have the same foundational beliefs as you.
5. Feel “attraction” in the most comprehensive sense - Although physical attraction is important, marriage should not be based on looks alone. “Comprehensive attraction” is being attracted to a person’s character, spiritual fruit, and interests. Couples need to share a mutual attraction for each other as a whole for marriage to thrive.
6. Don’t let things get too passionate too quickly - Emotions can come on very strong in the beginning of a relationship. Infatuation is often misinterpreted as deep love, and people become blind to each other’s flaws, disillusioned. Take your time to build up the comprehensive attraction mentioned earlier, which will be a more sustaining, stronger love through years of marriage.
7. Don’t become a faux spouse for someone who won’t commit to you - Some people reach a level in their relationship they are comfortable with, just short of marriage, which can drag on for years. This person is being fulfilled enough to not need marriage, while the other person is wanting marriage. Be careful not to get wrapped up in a relationship like this, where the other person cannot seem to commit.
8. Get and submit to lots of community input - Lots of people have experience with marriage relationships. Seek out wise counsel, as well as friends who can be open and honest about marriage. Get advice and allow others to help you through your relationship.
GET The Meaning Of Marriage: Facing The Complexities Of Commitment With The Wisdom Of God HERE