What the Bible Says About Singleness
About the Guest
There are many erroneous ideas about singleness floating around amidst both religious and secular cultures. Christopher Yuan tackles these ideas head-on with truth straight from the Bible.
Christopher YuanDr. Christopher Yuan has taught the Bible at Moody Bible Institute for over ten years and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached five continents. He speaks at conferences, on college campuses, and in churches. He has co-authored with his mother their memoir (now in seven languages), Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope and he is also the author of Giving a Voice to the Voiceless. Christopher graduated from Mood...more
There are many erroneous ideas about singleness floating around amidst both religious and secular cultures. Christopher Yuan tackles these ideas head-on with truth straight from the Bible.
What the Bible Says About Singleness
Michelle: Whether you're single or married, you probably know that relationships take work. Well, Dr. Christopher Yuan reminds us that there is a vital reality that we need to keep in mind about every relationship.
Christopher: Our most intimate relationships, here on earth and eternity, are the ones that are bound by the blood of Christ—those are the only relationships. Even marriage is temporary; there will be no marriage in heaven, no matter how you look at it—Jesus’ words in Matthew 22—the only relationships that will shift from now to eternity are the ones bound by the blood of Christ.
Michelle: We’re going to take a look at what the Bible says about singleness; and if you're married, there's probably still something you might learn on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. When you think of the word, “single,” as describing someone who isn't married, what kind of adjectives would you use or have you heard used? Well, there's the obvious one: “unmarried,” or there's “unattached,” “undivided,” “individual,”; I've heard, “lone ranger.” And then, look at all the lengths that singles go to today to make connection—I mean, there’s speed dating; there are matchmaking services; there's online dating—all your weird apps. There's even participating in reality shows like Married at First Sight, which is terrible, by the way.
But all of this to say, we were made for relationship/for companionship—to be known.
That's the way that God made us, and we see that clearly as we read His Word. Now, I'm not saying that all singles are miserable or discontent; but I do think there is a misunderstanding. I also see people jumping through hoops to find “the one.” But what should our main goal be in life?—is it to find “the one”?
There's a single man I know, who knows his main goal. His main goal is to know and serve “the One”—as in, Jesus Christ. And I'm going to have a conversation with my friend, Christopher Yuan; but I want you to hear his backstory. So here's Christopher describing himself at a very pivotal moment in his life, back in the 1990s.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Christopher: I opened up my front door, and I was expecting friends; I was expecting, maybe, people to come to pick up their drugs; so I didn't even look out my peephole. And on my front doorstep were about a dozen Federal Drug Enforcement agents, Atlanta police, and their German Shepherd drug dogs. I had just received a fairly large shipment of drugs that I had just opened; it was right behind me on my kitchen counter top. They opened the door, saw it in plain sight, and came right in. They confiscated my money/my drugs, and I was charged with the street value equivalent of 9.1 tons of marijuana. With that amount, I was facing ten years to life.
I did not think I was going to get caught. I thought that I was invincible/no one was ever going to touch me. So, when I finally got arrested, it was unbelief—I couldn't believe that this was it. Well, I got some even worse news for all inmates that come through the system—the federal system—they all have to get a physical. I went through the physical—got blood tests. A week after that, I was called back to the hospital. I sat there in the nurse's office. She was all nervous, just uncomfortably struggling with the words; so she wrote something on a piece of paper. She slowly slid it across the desk to me, and on the piece of paper I saw three letters and a symbol; and it read, “HIV+.”
It was a few days after I was incarcerated, and I was walking around the cell block.
I passed by a garbage can. It was just—just filth coming out of it. I thought, “That's my life: trash!” I was about to walk by that trash can; and yet, I saw something on top of that trash; it was a Gideon's New Testament.
Michelle: And that New Testament has changed the life of Christopher Yuan, who now, by God's grace, is a speaker, an author, and an adjunct professor at Moody Bible Institute. He's now Dr. Christopher Yuan. I mean, think about it!—a guy, who did time in prison, is now a Bible professor at Moody Bible Institute.
Recently, I sat down with Dr. Christopher Yuan, and we had a conversation about singleness; and sexuality; and really, just identity: who we are in Christ.
Michelle: Dr. Yuan, in your book—in Holy Sexuality and the Gospel—in the sections where you're speaking specifically to singles, you say that singles need to be welcomed, and valued, and loved as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So why did you feel the need to actually say those words?
Christopher: Well, I mean, it's/you know, as an author, we write, a lot of times, from our own experience. I'm a single man. Yes; I write a lot and mostly on the issue of sexuality, focusing on same-sex attractions. As a single man, as well, I’ve realized the need for the body of Christ to do a much better job in, not only ministering to those who are unmarried, but also having a healthier biblical understanding of singleness. I see that lacking, especially—and there's many implications for that—that when we don't have a correct—I would call it a “theology of singleness”—that then has implications in how we treat people, who are single in the church and how we minister to them. You know, they're maybe second-best or, sometimes, if you're single, then you're viewed to be kind of immature/you're not really there yet.
Sometimes, they're perceived—so maybe, you know, we could be putting that on ourselves through kind of, maybe, past experiences—but definitely it's there. As the church, we need to recognize that, and we need to work against that. Knowing that it's there, we have to then counteract that with the correct biblical understanding.
Michelle: As I was reading through your book, I kept thinking, “I need to pass this off to my pastor and to my leaders at church”; because, not only was it just those chapters for the singles, but your entire book felt like it was for the wholeness of the body of Christ—it was for the wholeness of everyone.
Christopher: That was my hope!—[Laughter]—you know, obviously, with the title, Holy Sexuality—in it—and the Gospel. I wrote it primarily to address the issue of homosexuality, and people who have same-sex attractions—how to reach out to the gay community—but my goal underneath it was to have a resource for everyone—not just people who have same-sex attractions, not just for people who have a gay loved one or a son or daughter who identifies as gay—but for everyone, whether you're married—and I have a couple chapters on marriage.
Christopher: There's tons of—you know, we're, here, at FamilyLife®!—there are tons of incredible books on marriage; and I didn't want to, kind of, redo anything that's been done well.
Christopher: I wanted to help us to see how we can have this beautiful understanding of marriage; but sometimes, maybe, go too far to the point where we denigrate singleness.
Christopher: So that's why I also had a couple chapters on singleness, which is very important for people like myself, who have same-sex attractions, who find ourselves not yet married.
Christopher: I’m open to marriage, but right now I'm not; so I'm not going to be wringing my hands, thinking, you know, “Oh, woe is me!” or wringing my hands thinking, you know, “I can't do anything until I find that one person.”
But I believe in a sovereign God—
Christopher: —that knows, you know, what is best for me now. And I know, with my full understanding of that: “This is what God has for me now,” and “I'm going to fully live in that, as a single man, for the glory of God, living to proclaim His goodness to all.”
Michelle: —which is awesome; which is great to hear, but it's hard to practically play that out. And that's why, as I was reading through your book, I really appreciated hearing how you said Jesus defended marriage.
Michelle: And I believe that, and you can point to several passages where you see that; but you also say He defended singleness. Now, that was a paradigm shift; [Laughter] because I can't—I mean, of course, you pointed that out in Scripture; but I wouldn't have been able to pull that out.
Michelle: So help us understand that.
Christopher: Yes; you know, it's funny because I wasn't raised a Christian at all. I didn't become a Christian until I was in my 30s, so I didn't have really good, solid teaching from church. But also, sometimes, what can come with that is—sometimes, a little bit of baggage/a little bit of kind of this misunderstanding,—
Christopher: —where we do—I mean, simply, you know, when you go to church next Sunday, open up your bulletin. There's going to be what's going on today, and then what's going on during the week, and also the programs. There's going to be great programs for kids; great programs for, maybe, newlyweds; great programs for empty nesters; great program for families; etc. And then—
Michelle: —maybe college and career. [Laughter]
Christopher: I mean, that “maybe” is like very, very rare.
Christopher: And you say, “College and career.” I think, in my book, I kind of jokingly called it the, you know, “Singles Ghetto.” [Laughter] Because, you know, the churches are like, “I don't know what to do with singles!” It doesn't matter if they're never married, or widowed, or divorced—which, by the way, we all have different needs, as people, who are unmarried—but usually, it's an afterthought. When you look, the implied message—it might not be completely explicit; we might not say it from the pulpit—but the implied message is: “Singles aren't as welcome as the families and the kids.”
I didn’t come in with that understanding—I came in with fresh eyes—I mean, I was just this, you know: “I just became a Christian! I love Jesus!” I didn't really have all these sort of implied messages from the past. I just opened up the Bible—I'm like, “Jesus Christ was unmarried!” And we also miss how radically counter-cultural that was—for a Jewish man/a Jewish rabbi—in first century Israel—to be single; that was unheard of. So that—just for us to remember that—Jesus, our Savior, was unmarried while here on earth.
And Paul—who wrote most of the New Testament—he, also, was unmarried. We need to realize that that message of the New Testament is not a negative message against single people; that it's this beautiful message that, if we look clearly through the Gospels, and also in 1 Corinthians, there's a really positive message of both Jesus and the Apostle Paul lifting up the beauty and the sanctity of marriage while, at the same time, lifting up the goodness of singleness.
Michelle: The goodness of singleness. And you had said, in your book, about: “Marriage is advantageous; singleness is advantageous.” And then you talked about the gift of singleness. I've just got to say that, when I think about a gift, I think of a nice, pretty wrapped gift underneath the Christmas tree that I'm excited to open up. [Laughter]
Christopher: That’s right; yes.
Michelle: And then I open it up; and usually I'm like: “Wow! That is so incredible,”—the person knew exactly who I am.
Michelle: The gift of singleness is not that way for a lot of people.
Christopher: —not like that—no; it's not. Let's say you open up that gift and you’re like, “Oh, you know, well, it's not exactly what I want.” What can you do? You can replace it; you can take to the store and get something that you want; right?
Michelle: Re-gift it!
Christopher: Re-gift it, or get something—you know, replace it. So gifts, as we understand it today, whether it's your birthday or whether it's the holidays/Christmas, we think about it as, honestly, a little bit kind of more me-centered.
When we approach God's gifts that way, as kind of this me-centered—you know: “Something that I enjoy,” “Something that I want,” “Something I need,”—that kind of distorts God's gifts, because God's gifts can be hard/can be difficult. Take, for example, the spiritual gifts. Now, I talk about in my book—years ago, I thought that singleness was a spiritual gift because of the Greek word that is used: “charisma”—but then, as I studied more, I realized that there are other things that are called “charisma” that aren't necessarily a spiritual gift. But even the spiritual gifts, which is still considered a gift, like the gift of prophecy—that's not an easy gift to like!
Michelle: No; it’s not.
Christopher: Read the Old Testament—I mean, all that they [prophets] went through for being—many that lost their life!
So the gifts from God aren't me-centered; they're all God-centered. And they're not going to always give us kind of happy, clappy joy, or you know, just kind of this, you know, “Everything feels good, and no suffering.”
Christopher: Sometimes, the gifts that God gives us are suffering; but suffering can also be a gift. Anyway, having this really God-centered understanding of singleness and gifts really, really helps.
And then, the way I pointed it is—we don't really need to read more into what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 7:7, that he calls this a gift—that it doesn't have to be, “Well, what is it, exactly?”—you know—“Does this gift mean that I'm good at something?” or “…that I have some type of special ability?” or whatever? I mean, if you just read the text, Paul kind of just mentions it; and he doesn't really develop it. I think maybe that was intentional; because maybe he was just saying: “You know what? It's just a gift!”—you know? So it's just good—it's good for you from God—
Christopher: —not necessarily like good, as in the way that we think like, “Oh!”—like—“I enjoy it for a moment,”—you know—“…for that time.” But it's something that's a gift, and it's also a gift for the church; for us to bless others with.
Michelle: That's Part One of my discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan. We need to take a break; but when we come back, we're going to talk about singleness in the church. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I am talking today with Dr. Christopher Yuan.
Dr. Yuan, I want to circle back around to the church. How can singles enter in conversation with our pastors, our leaders—our married friends—to start feeling included in things? How do we change that conversation?
Christopher: Well, I think, because our goal is to have our church, as the body of Christ—other believers, who are married and are not single—for them to better be able to understand us and to minister to us. And so I think, for them to minister correctly and to love correctly, they have to have that grounded in truth—that was kind of actually one of the big premises of my book—was that—for example, addressing the issue of homosexuality. I don't think that the problem is that we need to love more; right? That's what we hear from the world—
Michelle: Right; exactly!
Christopher: “You need to love more: You need to love your child,”—you know—“You need to love the gay community.” That's not the issue—it's, “How do we love?”
Christopher: Is our love—and how you love is determined by our truth.
Christopher: Love is—the foundation for love is truth—if you're building your love on false truth, your love is not really love. Same thing with: “How do we love our single sisters and brothers?” “How do we love people like us, Michelle?”
Christopher: Well, that love needs to be grounded in truth; because if your truth is, you know: “Singleness is just this temporary stage,”—you know—“And everyone needs to be looking toward, you know, marriage; because that's the ultimate goal in life.” You know, that's not really—that's a little bit of a distorted truth.
Christopher: And I don't think that's the correct truth that we see communicated clearly in the New Testament. Well, then, your love is going to look different; right?
Christopher: You're love [based on a false truth] is going to look like: “I need to hook you up with somebody,”—you know—“I want to fix you.” [Laughter] That's why I joke in my book, “I want to fix you up with someone, because you need to be fixed of singleness!”—right?
Christopher: The words that we use mean something. [Laughter] So that's why I think the best way—instead of telling our married friends, “You need to minister to me this way…”—give them some good resources on singleness. Actually, what I wrote from was grounded in several good books. One was this little pamphlet written by Barry Danylak, called “A Biblical Theology of Singleness.” It’s only like, I don't know, maybe 40 pages; and it just was so—it transformed the way I look at everything, and this is even while I was a single man—just how God's vision—it's not just a biblical theology of singleness; it's a biblical theology of family.
In the Old Testament, everything is the family: the tribe, the clan, blood relatives; and in the New Testament—yes; you have that focus—but do you know what the focus really is on?—it's on the family of God—that's the true, eternal family.
Michelle: That’s true.
Christopher: All our mothers, brothers, sisters—that's actually temporary—I mean, look at the words of Jesus; He said: “Who's my brother? Who’s my sister?”—right?
Christopher: And, you know: “It's the one that obeys my Father; that's my brother and sister.” Actually, our most intimate relationships, here on earth and eternity, are the ones that are bound by the blood of Christ. Those are the only relationships that will shift from now to eternity—those are the only ones—even marriage is temporary.
Christopher: There will be no marriage in heaven, no matter how you look at it—Jesus’ words in Matthew 22—there is not going to be that—but the only relationships that we have, that will carry on in eternity, are those between brothers and sisters.
If our married friends in the church can grasp that, I think they will be completely compelled to be able to, you know, know that: “My single sister or brother is no different than I am,” and “Their calling might look just a little bit different for now; but as I can learn from them, they can learn from me.” It's this really healthy understanding of what the body of Christ is.
Michelle: Well, and it sounds like it's the basis of truth, with some love and understanding. And the love comes through the understanding part of who everybody is.
Michelle: We're all different, and we all have different needs.
Christopher: Yes; yes.
Michelle: And I was just thinking, as you were talking about the ultimate goal of marriage—really, truly, that's all of our ultimate goal—is the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Michelle: And one day that will happen, and that will be a glorious thing.
Christopher: Yes; yes! Amen.
Michelle: So Christopher, please—what is the understanding of the theology of singleness?
Christopher: You know, it begins with the Old Testament, where I think a theology of singleness is closely tied to theology of family. Really, it's not really talked about much in the Old Testament; but then, when we move to the New Testament, this biblical theology grows. We see that, actually, as in the Old Testament, the people of God grew by procreation; right?—having babies.
Christopher: And people of the New Covenant—we don't grow by procreation; how we grow is by regeneration—and what that means, for the single individual, is that we have family! You know, Michelle, you can be a mother as a single woman. You can have daughters and sons, that you are discipling. I mean, that ties right into the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples…—not just “Go and make converts,”—“Go and make disciples.”
And those disciples are our spiritual children; and our spiritual brothers and sisters are those who also have been converted from death to life, and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Having that understanding of singleness—that's tied directly into a theology of family—I think, to me, has so much meaning and gives me so much hope, as a single man—that, yes, I might not have physical children of my own; but I definitely have spiritual children. That's much more important.
Michelle: Well, and this puts a great framework around singleness. I'm almost excited now in my single state; because it puts a framework of, “We're not fighting.” And I think, at times, it feels like the families or the marriages can be fighting against the single people in church. This puts a whole new framework of: “We’re all shooting towards the goal of heaven and living a life consecrated to Christ.”
Christopher: Yes; and also, see, I wanted to write a book that was saturated with the gospel—that everything that we could see is—like, it ties right into the gospel. And this is why singleness ties right into the gospel; because I have married folks and they have
a beautiful, you know, life, with their family and kids and raising—you know? And their kids are just, you know, these bubbly, fun kids. I’m like/you know, you could get to the point, where you’re like: “Oh, man! I missed that.” But you know what? I have all this extra time to be making spiritual babies. [Laughter]
Christopher: I can be having spiritual children and being with a disciple, and that's what I'm called to now! I don't know about you, but I'm excited about that and being able to do that; because that's what it's all about. It's about sharing the gospel, preaching the gospel, living the gospel; and also, that gospel is about that discipleship—that it's not just, “I share Christ; they become a Christian,”—but then, it's: “How do we now live as a Christian to pursue holiness?”
Michelle: That was my conversation with Dr. Christopher Yuan. It has been an amazing journey that God has taken him on; and through that, he encourages so many people. If you're curious about his background and about his story, go to our website,
FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. Christopher shares his entire story in an interview with Bob Lepine and Dennis Rainey; and also, Christopher's mom, Angela, joins them.
Next week, we're going to continue our discussion on singleness, and we're going to bust some myths. Matt Perman’s going to be my guest next week. Matt is the head of Career Development at King's College in New York City. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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