5 Reasons to Stop Saying "Jesus Was Single"
- 2016 11 Feb
I once observed a conversation between two men regarding singleness. The youngest of the pair confessed he was anxious; all his friends were married, he was approaching middle age, and the idea that God might be calling him to a life of celibacy was terrifying. The older man listened and nodded, then responded by saying that, while no one knew what God has planned, the young man should take comfort in knowing that Jesus was also single. Now, I can’t speak for the younger man in this situation, but I personally feel this was the wrong thing to say.
“Jesus was single” might sound encouraging to Christian ears, but speaking as an unmarried man, I’ve witnessed how this little phrase frequently creates more problems than it solves. Just consider these five implications of equating Jesus with singlehood,
It Doesn’t Fulfill a Need
Imagine you came across someone who hadn’t eaten in three days. What would you do? Would you take them to the nearest restaurant and buy them a sandwich, or would you tell them not to be discouraged, because Jesus once fasted for 40 days! Hopefully, you chose the first option.
As much as we should emulate the life of Christ, telling someone “Jesus was single” doesn’t fulfill their basic needs. Like the starving man, single Christians require something more substantial (1 John 3:17-18). They need fellowship, inclusion, and the reassurance that, even if they don’t get married, they still have family in the Church. When Christians choose to focus on Christ’s celibacy, rather than engage the lives of their unmarried friends, we fail to provide what’s truly essential.
It Ignores Real Problems
Being single isn’t a bad thing, but being lonely is. From the beginning, God said it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety, and unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol. Single Christians can also struggle with low self-esteem, believing that no one appreciates or desires them. By using the phrase “Jesus was single” Christians are deflecting the focus from these very real problems.
The unspoken message is that singles need to toughen up. If Christ was able to live this way, so should you! We take a person who is already struggling and make them feel guilty for their struggle. If Christians hope to love their neighbor, we need to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
It Creates a False Image of Singleness
What comes to mind when you think of Jesus? Do you picture him feeding the 5,000? Ministering in the Temple? Perhaps you see him praying in the wilderness, savoring his relationship with God? As it happens, when someone says “Jesus was single”, they can unknowingly project these thoughts onto the person they’re speaking to.
The effect is singles become an idea rather than people. Believers assume the unmarried spend their days traveling the world, or experiencing near-euphoric levels of closeness with Christ. In reality, most single Christians are not sitting atop mountains worshiping God like someone out of a stock photo. They are regular people, with regular lives and regular problems. Problems they often have to struggle with alone.
It Dodges Responsibility
All Christians know we’re supposed to provide for others (1 John 4:19-20), but we tend to focus on physical aspects rather than the emotional ones. Jesus knew better. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus explained how his disciples were called to serve in a variety of ways,
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ‘Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
When we tells our hurting friends “Jesus was single”, we avoid our responsibility to fully help them as Christ commands.
It Lacks Understanding
Yes, the Bible tells us celibacy is a gift (1 Corinthians 7:7-8), but it also repeatedly states that celibacy is a gift people choose (Matthew 19:10-11). When Christians use Jesus as the poster boy for celibate living, it reveals our ignorance on the nature of both Christ and chastity. Jesus chose to be single because it was His purpose to redeem all of mankind. Similarly, a Christian can choose to remain celibate as a means of honoring God with their life. No one should ever be drafted into the Church’s “Hall of Celibacy” just because they happen to be older or unmarried.
If someone believes God is calling them to a life without marriage, encourage them to pray and mediate on these thoughts. Offer to search for sermons on Godly living, or get involved with the singles ministry at your Church. Don’t simply tell them that “Jesus was single”, God has charged us to do so much more.