Sam Allberry has authored a spectacular book, addressing seven assumptions about singleness that are simply untrue. In turn, he illuminates a biblical picture of singleness, all the while pointing to the goodness of God.
Allberry points to Jesus first, as proof that marriage, romantic fulfillment, and sexual experience are not intrinsic to being a full human being. He presents God’s counter-cultural truth, highlighting wrong thinking I didn’t even realize had crept into my mind. I wish that all people, single and married, would read this book!
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5 NIV).
This passage speaks of the church as one body. We belong to each other. What affects one member affects us all. “As a single person,” Allberry says, “I have a stake in the health of the marriages in my church family. And those who are married have a stake in the health of my singleness” (p. 15). We’re invested in one another. Right thinking of singleness now applies to all of us!
Yet in the church, singles can be viewed as loose ends; those awaiting processing. We either need to be fixed or fixed up. But there is more to singleness than just the absence of marriage.
Imagine if a married person was described to you as “unsingle.” Certainly, you would think it bizarre! Yet it is normal to refer to a single person as “unmarried.” This is partly because we tend to define singleness in the negative: The absence of a significant other. The state of not being married. Allberry explains, “This defining by negation reinforces the idea that there is nothing intrinsically good about singleness, it is merely the situation of lacking what is intrinsically good in marriage” (p. 12). He goes on to identify the 7 myths regarding singleness and shares biblical truth to help Christians (both single and married) value and take hold of the distinctive opportunities their singleness affords.
In Chapter 1, Allberry addresses the first myth, Singleness Is Too Hard. He points out that we tend to compare the downs of singleness with the ups of marriage, concluding that marriage is better or easier. Singleness, however, not only avoids the “worldly troubles” caused by marriage but presents unique opportunities. “For the single person, there is greater freedom. Our focus is less divided. Life is less complicated. We are able to give of ourselves in a way that married people are not” (p. 32).
He skillfully maneuvers the often-misrepresented and misinterpreted concept of singleness as a gift in Chapter 2, pointing out several problems with thinking of the “gift of singleness” like a rare and unusual superpower.
One chapter I particularly appreciated was Chapter 4: Singleness Means No Family. In it, Allberry references Mark 10:28-31 where Jesus promises a hundredfold of the houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, etc. that people have been left behind to follow him as well as Psalm 68:6: “God settles the solitary in a home.” He illustrates how we are the families of Psalm 68 that God promises to place the lonely in! All of us at Covenant Fellowship have an opportunity to invite into our families and communities those who would otherwise be alone. “Jesus reconfigures how we are to think about family. His real family is defined along spiritual rather than biological lines” (p. 64).
I’m tempted to look at my biological family and feel that if I physically leave them, I’ll be alone, but that’s not what God says. Within the church, I have a spiritual family. But as a member of the church, I’m also called to provide that family for others; it goes both ways.
In Chapter 5: Singleness Hinders Ministry, Allberry mentions that he preaches on passages directed to husbands and wives and parents, highlighting that human experience does not matter more than divine wisdom. “What matters most in ministering to marrieds and parents is not personal experience but faithfulness to Scripture.” This reminds and encourages me that God can use me in my role as a college community group leader to disciple those in relationships even when that isn’t my current situation.
In Chapter 6, he demonstrates that marriage is temporal and momentary, not eternal. Apart from our relationship to Christ, once in eternity, we will all be single. This reminds us that “marriage now is not ultimate. It will be absent in the age to come and is not vital in this present time… Singleness for us now is also a way of bearing witness to this reality. Like Jesus, we can live in a way that anticipates what is to come. Singleness now is a way of saying that this future reality is so certain and so good that we can embrace it now” (p. 120).
Allberry’s Chapter 7: Singleness Is Easy, is a powerful articulation of the challenges of singleness. I think everyone ought to read this chapter in particular. In it, Allberry points to the trustworthiness of Christ, who will never leave or forsake us, and shares several phrases he clings to in times of pain and anxiety.
“God knows me more than I know myself.
God loves me more than I love myself.
God is more committed to my ultimate joy than I am.
So I can trust him.” (p. 140)
Finally, Allberry reminds me that “No one situation provides any ultimate security… Our deepest aches and yearnings for intimacy will only be ultimately met in Christ (p. 140-141).
Overall, as Sam Allberry writes about the goodness of singleness, you can’t help but also hear of the goodness of God. While Allberry sets an attractive, inspiring vision of singleness, he also acknowledges that singleness isn’t easy. The difficulties are still difficult. He articulates this tension in a beautiful, tangible way. He puts words to thoughts and feelings so that I imagine singles will read and feel understood. “Aha! Yes! He gets it!” And married folks will read and be equipped to love and care for their single friends better.
I could go on and on with quotes and highlights from the book. It’s a short read, so do me a favor and pick it up! I promise there will be countless gems to uncover as you read, absorb, and learn, to the benefit of you, me, and our church as a whole.