By Bethany Pyle, Crosswalk.com
Bad theology, whether well-intentioned or not, can pop up anywhere in our world. But it seems to show itself the most on social media. Inspirational posts and messages twist Scripture or outright lie about the promises of God, but present themselves in such a way that it seems like a good thing.
I recently came across one such inspirational post that said “If you chase after God like you chase after love, He will send you a soul mate you won’t have to chase after.” Doesn’t that sound pretty and hopeful?
However, it’s a terrible thing to be telling the single Christians in your life, for a whole host of reasons. Let's take a look at why.
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Why Are These Types of “Encouraging” Messages Actually Bad Theology?
Single Christians, unfortunately, get hit with a lot of things like this: positive, hopeful-sounding messages that do a lot more harm than good. And often, things like this look much different from the perspective of the happily married person sharing it.
When I first saw this post, it was (thankfully) from a Christian friend of mine pointing out how unhelpful and un-biblical it is. But when I clicked on the original post, all of the comments were “Amen! That’s what He did for me!” After all, doesn’t the Bible say that “it’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9)?
Yes. And marriage is an incredible, biblical covenant that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is an entirely different article to be written about the joys of marriage and what it means to be a part of a strong, Christian marriage.
But since marriage is such a good thing, and since it is raised to such a high position in the church, we can easily believe the lie that single people are incomplete. Everyone from well-meaning leaders to well-meaning Facebook posts say that if you serve and pursue God with all your heart, then surely He will send you a spouse. After all, the point of marriage is to bring both parties closer to God. So if a single person is actively pursuing Him, why would God not send them a partner?
Let’s take a look at why it’s bad theology to tell single Christians if they pursue God, He will send them a spouse:
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1. It Makes Your Faith Transactional
Grammatically, these promises are “if-then” statements. If you are faithful enough and chase after God enough, then He will give you this thing you want.
The converse of this statement is: If you don’t have this thing you want (a spouse) then you must not be faithful enough. You must not be a good enough Christian. This gives the idea that God rewards those who do enough faithful acts, and punishes those who do not.
This is bad theology. And the belief that those who are lacking good things makes them lesser isn’t new to our society. In John 9:1-3, we see this:
“As he [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”
The man was not blind because someone sinned and God was punishing him. Rather, the man was born blind because God knew that on this very day, Jesus would walk by and heal him. God had a plan for the blind man’s life before he was even born.
God loves the married and single Christian equally. He gives them what they need and sustains them through all walks of life. He is not withholding any good thing from anyone because they haven’t done enough.
There is only one transaction in all of Christianity: If you confess your sins and give your life over to Christ, then He will rescue you from the bondage of sin and give you eternal life. That’s it. If anyone tells you another if-then statement in Christianity, then it is bad theology.
2. This Is Not Something God Promises in Scripture – Anywhere
There is no verse in the Bible that says the faithful will be gifted with spouses or soul mates. If that were true, and God’s intention was for every Christian to have a faithful spouse, then every great hero of the Bible would have come with a partner.
If this statement is true, why did Jesus not have a wife? Why not Paul? Why not many of the prophets? Were they not “chasing after God” enough, like the viral Facebook post suggests?
Of course not! Aside from Jesus, these men and women were incredible heroes of the faith! They trusted in God for everything. And Jesus is God incarnate – there has never been anyone on earth who followed God more fervently than Jesus.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 that each of us has our own gifts; some can use their gifts best as part of a married pair, some as a single person. Paul says that it is good for some to remain unmarried, as he is. It is good! Singleness is not a fault or a shortcoming. Singleness is not a sign of lesser faith. It provides many unique opportunities for ministry that are just not open to married couples. And the Church needs single Christians to embrace these unique opportunities to reach others for Christ.
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3. It Dips into the Prosperity Gospel
If we were to reword this statement with any other sort of earthly desire, it would immediately set off some red flags. Take a look:
“If you chase after God like you chase after success, He will send you your dream job making plenty of money.”
“If you chase after God like you chase after pregnancy, He will send you a beautiful child.”
“If you chase after God like you chase after good health, He will protect you from any disease or illness.”
No no no! We don’t “chase after God” with the hopes that it will bring us what we want. We do it because our souls long to be closer to the Father. We chase after Him, relentlessly, because we want to be more like Him. We want to be sanctified, and to know Him better. He has already given us the greatest gift in His Son, Jesus.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t pray and ask for these things. The Bible calls our God a “Good Father” who cares for our earthly needs and desires. Luke 11:11-13 says “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Pray and ask God for a job that will sustain you. Ask Him for a child to add to your family. Ask Him to bring healing to those who are sick or suffering. Ask Him for a spouse. But don’t ever feel like if you pray more, or read your Bible more, or fast more, then that will add extra “points” to your prayer. If God’s answer to your prayer is “no,” then know that He will do something great with that no. He isn’t doing it to punish you.
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What Can We Say to Single Christians? And What Should We Not Say?
First of all, say nothing! I know many single Christians, myself included, who get tired of being seen as just that by the church. The single adults in your church are whole, complete people – even if they long for a spouse. They have jobs, friends, pets, dreams, and homes that are entirely unique from their desire for a spouse. Try talking to them about that.
But if the subject of singleness does come up, here are a few things not to say:
Don’t worry, God has someone for you!
Maybe He doesn’t though? Remember, the Bible never promises everyone a spouse. And for someone who’s been single a long time, this statement can sting.
But you’re so (beautiful/handsome/smart/wonderful)! Why hasn’t anyone snatched you up?
Thank you for the kind compliment, I appreciate that! But perhaps God has other uses for my talents besides finding a potential spouse.
Oh, I’m so sorry.
It’s ok! My lack of a partner isn’t the defining feature of my life. I’m doing some other interesting things actually, and I’d rather talk about those!
But Bethany, you ask, my Christian friend specifically said he/she is upset that they are single and I want to comfort them! What do I do? I hear you. Here’s are four things you can do.
Listen to what they have to say about this, just like you would with any other friend who is upset. Maybe they want you to offer advice, maybe not. Maybe they are feeling forgotten or unloved by God or the church, maybe they are feeling lonely and left out. Before you respond, just listen to your friend talk about the way they are feeling. I guarantee it’s not only a “woe is me, I wish I had a partner” feeling. There’s probably some deeper pain there.
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2. Speak the Gospel to Them
If your friend is feeling forgotten or unloved, remind them of all that God has done for them specifically! Flip open your Bible and show them some verses that remind them of just how loved they are. Acknowledge the ways that they’ve felt left out, or the bad theology (like the post that launched this article) that they may have been exposed to. Remind them that their faith is not transactional; they don’t have to do anything more to get God to love them and notice them more. He already loves them more than they can even fathom. He has a good plan for their life.
3. Hype Them Up!
As a longtime single adult, I can say one thing for sure: it gets lonely having to hype yourself up all the time. When I’m feeling down, there’s no husband to bring me flowers or finish the laundry so I can take a nap. Sometimes, it’s so helpful to have a friend there to hype you up.
Tell your friend what you like about them. You can be serious (“I’m so impressed by your ability to cling to Jesus in difficult times, and you are always so positive and encouraging of others) or funny (“your hair looks INCREDIBLE recently by the way! And when are we going to make your mom’s cookies together again? I’ve been craving those!”) Some words of affirmation, a small gift or some quality time together can do so much to make your single friend feel loved.
4. Pray with and for Them
If your friend wants to, pray for them in that moment. It’s ok to ask that God would bring a godly man or woman into your friend’s life if that’s something they are actively looking for. But also pray that God would make your friend feel loved and strengthened. You could pray something like this:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you so much for (friend’s name). He/she is such a gift to me, and I’m so thankful for their friendship. God, you know that my friend is hurting right now. I pray that you would comfort her, and remind her of all the ways that you have always provided for her. Help her to feel loved – not just by you, but by her friends and family and members of the church. God, I ask that you would prepare a spouse for my friend – someone who loves you and will love her and guide her closer to you. But until then God, or if that’s not part of your plan for her life, then I pray that you would empower her. Help her to do incredible things for your Kingdom! Help her to be bold in her faith. I thank you that we had this time together, and that she was able to open up to me and you, Lord. I pray for (friend’s name), that you would remind her that she can always come to you in prayer with any need or worry, and that you are always listening. Be with my dear friend as we go out from here, God.
In your name I pray,
My single Christian friends, don’t believe the lie that you are single just because you haven’t done enough to earn God’s favor. There are no levels in Christianity. You are still a complete, and completely loved, person. And you will do great things for the Kingdom!
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