Laura Smit: Unrequited Love – Singleness [Biola University Chapel]

(upbeat music) – So, I would really
like to talk to you about so many things today. There are just so many topics
that we have not had time to discuss, and so many
things I think is important for you to talk about and think about. My concern when we’re
wandering into this area of sexual ethics and
the theology of romance is that in the church, in
general, especially amongst evangelicals like us, what
we tend to do is we focus very tightly on one question or one issue: how to keep you from having
sex before you’re married. That’s kind of the focus
of the church’s teaching, trying to impress upon
you how important it is not to have sex until you’re married. Now, I think that is
important, but I think that for an awful lot of us, that
is not where we’re living. We’re not living with that question. We’re living with a whole
host of other questions, and the very narrow focus on “When should I have sex,” “May I have sex,” “How far may I go,” that question gives us a
pass then on a lot of other ethical questions that for
many of us are more pressing. If you are in a relationship
that’s a one-way relationship, someone loves you deeply,
and you just don’t love that person back, your
big ethical question is: Am I allowed to say no? Do I have some sort of Christian
obligation to give this Christian brother or sister
a chance, romantically? If I say no, how do I do that? What’s the right way
to do it that’s loving and yet truthful? How can I do it without being mean?” If you love someone who
maybe doesn’t even know your name or is unaware
that you’re desperately in love with him or her,
you’ve got a whole different set of wonders and worries. If I have a whole imaginative
life with this person, (chuckles) this whole daydream
world that I’m living in, am I somehow violating that person? Am I objectifying somebody
I ought to not objectify? Am I doing some things
that I shouldn’t do? And how aggressively am I
allowed to pursue someone who has once said no to me? Am I justified in continuing the hope? I mean, that’s what every romance comedy that we’ve ever seen tells us to do. Eventually, this person will capitulate. I just have to hang in there. But is that the Christian way to behave? I mean, there are a lot
of ethical questions that most of us deal with
that are far more pressing and real in our lives than
that big question of sex, and we’re not talking about them. So I do want to make one
little plug for my book. Yes, “Loves Me, Loves Me Not.” Even if you don’t like my
answers, I’m simply not aware of another book that
raises as many questions. And I think it’s a really
good book for you to look at to ask some questions together. And there are so many people here at Biola who could have those
conversations with you and talk about these things with you, faculty and staff and
other students who have a lot of wisdom that you could share. So even though I can’t talk
to you about everything today, I’m confident that you can
have those conversations and have them well, and
I hope that you continue to do that. We’re going to look today at a passage from the Gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 20, beginning with verse 27. Before we read the Word of God, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help
us, so we can understand what we read. Holy Spirit, come to
us, open us, soften us, prepare us, so that this
Word will not just be empty words for us, but it
will be Your living presence, a living and active Word,
a Word that comes to us as a seed that takes root
in us and transforms us and bears fruit in our lives. We pray in the name of
Jesus, the Word made flesh. Amen. Now, hear the Word of God
from the Gospel of Luke. Some Sadducees, those who
say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus, and they
asked Him a question: Teacher, Moses wrote for us
that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no
children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up
children for his brother. Now, there were seven brothers. The first married and died childless. Then, the second and
the third married her, and so in the same way,
all seven died childless. Finally, the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be for the
seven had married her? Jesus said to them: Those who belong to this
age marry and are given in marriage, but those
who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in
the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed, they cannot die anymore because they are like angels
and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised, Moses himself showed in
the story about the bush, where he speaks of the
Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is God not of the
dead but of the living, for to Him, all of them are alive. Then some of the scribes answered: Teacher, you have spoken well. For they no longer dared to
ask Him another question. This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. No marriage on the other side of death. That’s why when Christians get married, we make a vow: till death do us part. I know that there are an
awful lot of movies out there about finding your dead
spouse on the other side of the grave, going out looking
in some spiritual realm. Not Christian, nope. Marriage is for this life only. Now, I’m a firm believer
in the fact that the world to come, the life that
we are living toward, needs to make a difference
for us right now. It needs to be breaking in and shaping us and reforming us right
now, because right now, what am I doing in this life? I am training to live in
the presence of Jesus, in the presence of the Father,
in the power of the Spirit, in the resurrection. I’m in training for that now. So I have to live toward that. I can’t say, “Well, that’s
all for some other time. “I don’t need to think about that now. “Jesus will take care of all that later.” No. The whole point of my life,
the whole point of being allowed to linger here in this world, is that we have a training time, because if we don’t have some training, when we step into the
presence of the Holy God, we’re not going to be able to bear it. You know all those Old Testament stories about coming into God’s
presence and how you can’t see God without dying? Well, it takes some
working of the Holy Spirit to kind of build you up so
that you’re solid enough and strong enough, and so that your self is spiritual enough, not
just natural, not just dust, but now the Spirit of God
is again animating you as it was supposed to in the creation. That takes some time before you are fit to come into the presence of Almighty God. So that’s what we’re
doing here in this life. That’s the whole point. We’re training to get ready for that, and we have to be living toward it. And one of the few
things we know absolutely about the life after the resurrection, one of the very few things Jesus tells us, not in metaphorical
language about jeweled gates or anything like that, but in
a very straightforward way, is you won’t be married in heaven. That’s not what’s waiting for you. So when you’re thinking
about training for that, remember, you are not
aiming towards some kind of eternal marriage with any other person. Now, of course, we are
all the bride of Christ. And one of the reasons there
is no marriage in heaven is that we’re all the bride of Christ. We have a bridegroom. And all of the marriage
practice that some people have in this life, many of you
will have, all of the work that you do in a marriage
is to prepare you to be a better bride to
Christ, because the union of a husband and wife is
pointing forward to that. So I don’t think Jesus
is telling us that no one should get married now. I don’t think that’s true at all. But I think He is saying: Okay, if you’re going
to be married, you have to be married with an eye on that future. You have to be married
in a way that remembers your marriage is not ultimate, your marriage is not
eternal, your marriage is not what defines you before God. Your marriage is a relationship
in which you’re practicing something deeper. And underneath your relationship
as husband and wife, you had better also be
brother and sister in Jesus, because that’s a relationship
that’s going to last forever. So I don’t think Jesus is
saying no to marriage here, but I do think he’s
introducing something new, not only here but a few other places. In the Gospel of Matthew, we
have him saying to people, you know, some are born eunuchs, some are made eunuchs,
and some become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He talks about this painful
thing in the Old Testament, this state of being not only
unmarried but unfruitful, a state in the Old
Testament that’s considered a cursed state. He talks about that as a blessed state for the sake of the kingdom. Paul does the same thing. He remakes the
understanding of singleness. Being single in the Old
Testament makes no sense at all. The Old Testament, the whole
structure of the people of God is about family. It’s about tribes. It’s about being born into a family group. And the very few people we
know of in the Old Testament who are converted into Israel
have to be incorporated into a family. You kind of have to make up some story about their family connections
in order to make them fit. Caleb has to become a part
of the Tribe of Judah. It doesn’t make any
sense for him to be there unless he’s kind of co-opted by a family. That’s not how life is
in the New Testament. Because of the coming of
Jesus as bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,
the one who completes and fulfills marriage, the
one who completes and fulfills what the creation order
was pointing toward, marriage is no longer necessary for us. Still a good thing, still a common thing. Many of you will marry,
probably later than you expect, because that’s the trend in America today. But many of you will marry. But it’s not necessary anymore. The brand-new thing that Jesus introduces is the possibility of
celibacy and the possibility of singleness. Whenever He talks about
the kind of self-control that would be necessary for celibacy, or He says things like,
“You’re not even supposed “to lust after another
woman in your heart,” and if you’re married, that
means you don’t lust after anyone other than your wife,
and if you’re not married, you shouldn’t be lusting at all. And the disciples say,
“Are you out of your mind? “I mean, how do you think, “(chuckles) how is that possible?” And He says, “Yeah, it’s a hard saying.” Yes, it’s a hard saying. Jesus does this all the time, right? He says, “This is the Old Testament law. “Now, I make it harder.” And why does He do that? Because we have a new power. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. And one of the great
fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control, and that
fruit is given to all Christian people. It’s not some special gift
that only a few people have. Everybody is supposed to manifest
the gift of self-control. So this is the new thing. Some people talk as if Jesus
never talks about marriage. In the same sex marriage conversations, that’s a common accusation. “Jesus never addresses this. “Therefore, we can say whatever we like.” Jesus addresses it plenty. He does change the Old
Testament laws about marriage. He does change the Old
Testament laws about sexuality. He makes them harder. He raises the bar. The new thing He introduces
is not new forms of marriage. The new thing He introduces
is the possibility of blessed, holy, fruitful singleness, and that’s a new thing. Now, some of you are thinking, “Oh, I don’t really
need to hear about this “because I know I’m not ever
going to be single, you know. “I’m going to get married
as soon as possible “after graduation.” And maybe you will. But everybody in the room
needs to know about singleness, for several reasons. For one thing, we all start life single. So we all spend some time
being single in our life. So this idea that you’ve got
to wait for some special call from God to decide that
you’re going to be single, whereas the default is marriage, that, “I know I’m going to get
married unless God breaks in “with some special call.” No, that’s not, that’s
not very reasonable. You’re already single. This is already your call, okay? (muffled laughter) This is your calling. You have to live it honorably. You have to live it faithfully. The special new thing is
the decision to get married. And that’s what you need a reason for. That’s what you need a
sense of calling toward. You need to know that,
that God is summoning you into a relationship that’s
going to be fruitful, a relationship that’s
going to be God-honoring, a relationship that’s going
to help you be a better disciple of Jesus. You need those kinds
of reasons to step off the path of singleness into
the new thing of marriage. You don’t need any reason
at all to stay single, okay? The burden of proof is on
that decision to get married. If we would all think this way, if we would all say as Christian people, “I don’t need a reason to stay single. “I need a reason to get
married, and it has to be “a God-honoring reason,” I think that we’d probably
still have most people getting married. I just believe we’d get
married for better reasons, and maybe we’d have a few, fewer divorces. Don’t you think it’s
a shameful thing that, that the divorce rate among Christians is virtually identical to the divorce rate among non-Christians? Don’t you think that’s a
sign we’re not doing things quite the way we’re supposed to do them, that we haven’t figured out
how to be distinctively, alternatively Christian,
living a different way in our society? So, we’re all born single. And I would estimate that
at least half the people in the room, even if you
get married, will have a significant time of singleness
at the end of your life. Let’s even imagine that
you don’t get divorced, that you defy the odds
on that, and you survive for decades with a fruitful,
fantastic marriage. Someone will die first. Someone will die first, and
about half of you will be single again. And let me tell you, having
watched a lot of people go through that as a
pastor, it’s a lot easier to go through that horrible
experience of being a widow or a widower if you
know how to be single already, if you’ve embraced that
for a time, if you’ve lived your singleness in a God-honoring way, not in a desperate, needy,
hurry to get out of it at all costs, not in a
desperate need to marry for whatever reason just
to stop being single. If that’s your mindset,
you’re not going to be very good at being a
widow or a widower later. This is going to be a problem for you. But people who have had some experience of independence still
have huge sorrow and loss at the loss of a partner,
but at least they do know how to run their life. You know, I sometimes
think when I’m in a church, who are the most spiritually
heroic people here in this room, and I would suggest to you that when you’re in your
church, look for that, that row of gray-haired
ladies all sitting together that you usually ignore, those women. They’re all widows. They’re not complaining about that. Because of the age they are, they probably all survived their marriages. They didn’t get divorced. They had decades of
commitment to each other. And so they’ve lost someone
that they were intimate with in ways you can’t even imagine. Decades of marriage. That person is gone, and
they remain cheerful, and they show up in church, and they are prayer warriors, and
they are following Jesus. And those are the
spiritual heroes and giants in your congregation, and
you should get to know them, because they can teach you something about being single and doing it with grace and with dignity, doing it well. So everybody here is going
to have some experience of singleness, and even
if you’re getting married tomorrow, you need to
know about singleness because the Bible is
telling us here that that’s where we’re all going to end up, and that that needs to be an ingredient in the church today. The community of the
church is the community that survives into the next life. It’s the community of
the church where we are brothers and sisters together,
where we live together in this place of equality
and support and love and communion. That’s the new thing in the new creation. So if you’re married, your
marriage needs to be rooted in the church, in a community,
and you need to be part of the whole community, not just the other young marrieds, but the whole community. And if you’re single, you
need to find a church, and I know this is difficult,
but you need to find a church or make one. You’re the new future of the
church, so make this happen, a church where single people are welcome, where single people are
treated as grownups, where single people are invited
to the table of leadership and prayer and spiritual guidance, where they’re not given a pass and told, “Oh, just continue being
adolescent until you finally “grow up enough to get married.” That’s not the biblical
picture of singleness. Jesus says, “People are
not married in heaven “because they are like angels. “They are like angels.” Now, I don’t know what
picture comes into your mind when you think of that,
that, that somehow, being like an angel means you’re not, you’re not married, I suspect
that you have a picture of a kind of disembodied being. “Oh, yeah, they’re single
because they no longer care “about their bodily needs. “They’ve risen above it.” I don’t think that’s what this means. What is an angel in the Bible? The root of the word “angel” is messenger. And what we know about the
angels is that they are constantly and completely
at God’s disposal. They are the ones who are
sent out into the world, and when they are sent, they go. And Paul says that’s, that’s
the virtue of singleness, to be completely at God’s disposal. Send me, here I am. I don’t have to worry about anybody else. I don’t have to say,
“Well, I’ll follow you “as soon as I get my kids
old enough so that I can “be away from them for a while. “I’ll follow you as soon
as my marriage is a little “more stable. “I’ll follow you as
soon as my parents die.” Jesus says, “No, if you
follow me, if you set your eye “on this path, you have to keep following. “You have to be like the angels. “You have to go when you’re called. “You have to leave when you’re sent.” And that’s what it’s going
to be like for all of us in the new creation. We’re all going to be like
angels that God will say, “Come,” and we’ll just go. Our hearts will leap in response to Him, and there we’ll be. There will be no hesitation, no wondering, no weighing the pros and
cons, no trying to discern His call on our lives. We will go. And there are some people
who are able to start living that way already now. The point of Christian
singleness is not to allow you to be completely
solipsistic, selfish people. I mean, sometimes, single
people talk this way. It’s like, “Wow, it’s so
great to be single, you know. “I can travel all over the world, “and I can spend my money on myself, “and I can have a great
sound system, and (chuckles), “you know, nobody bothers
me in my apartment.” And I understand that. I do, as I’ve never been married. I get the pros of singleness
that are pretty selfish. But that’s not the Christian
vision of the single person. The Christian vision of the single person is somebody who is
unencumbered and so can give everything to God, everything. And I would say, if you’re
going to be married, you should be married to
someone who will help you be more that way,
someone who will help you to give everything to God. I’m going to read you a little story. This is an interview I did for my book, and this is actually not
an interview with one of my students. It’s an interview with a
graduate of Calvin College. After I had done a whole
bunch of interviews with students for this book, I realized, “Wow, I have a great
collection of stories of pain, “but none of my students know how to solve “any of these problems. “They’re doing a wonderful
job of articulating “the problems.” And I was out one afternoon
with a whole group of single faculty, and
I was telling them some of the questions that
students were raising in my interviews. And they started
laughing, and they started rattling off the answers
to those questions. I thought, “Well, these
are the people I need “to talk to,” right,
people who have been single for 15, 20 years, who have
been dealing with this for a while, and they have figured it out. So I put out a call to
our alumni, and I started interviewing people who were 35 and older who had never married. I started asking them questions about, “How do you do it? “What do you do?” And this is one of the stories. I had always been taught that it was wrong to date non-Christians,
and so I never have. But when I was younger,
I sometimes dated men who were Christian in name only, or maybe they really were
believers, but still our values were a long way apart. I remember when I first
started going out with Tom, a man I met at church, and
I realized his past dating relationships had always
been sexually intimate. I was surprised, but he
told me that he respected my values and he wouldn’t
pressure me to sleep with him. I thought that was good
enough, until one day, I was at a meeting at
church about recruiting new Sunday school teachers,
and someone suggested that Tom would be a good
teacher for the senior highs. My immediate reaction was, “Oh, no. “That would be a bad idea,” because I didn’t trust
what he’d teach them about sexual morality. Then, it suddenly dawned
on me that I was dating this man and even thinking
about marrying him, and yet I didn’t trust him as a teacher of senior high school students. So how could I think about entrusting him with my own children? I started to imagine
the kind of instruction that he’d give to our kids if we were ever to get married. I imagined him saying,
“Sex outside of marriage “is perfectly normal, but
it would upset your mother “if she knew about it, so
humor her by not letting “her know.” I broke up with him soon
after, and from then on, it was never enough for me to date a man who was willing to respect my beliefs. He has to share them. I find that some men think this
is pretty intolerant of me, especially men who think of themselves as good Christians. They think I’m being too judgmental. But I just asked myself,
“Would I trust this man “to raise my children?” I figured that there’s no
point in dating someone I wouldn’t want to raise my kids. Ever since I heard that
story, I’ve thought, “That’s a really good
diagnostic question.” Okay, so, if you’re thinking, “Should I be stepping off
the path of singleness,” sometimes you have a positive reason, sometimes you have a big warning flag that says, “No, no, no,” right? And here’s a big warning flag. This woman was in love with this guy. She was thinking about marrying him. And she walked away from
that out of obedience. Sometimes we talk about marriage as if some people have choices
and other people don’t have choices. The truth is, nobody
really has a lot of choice when it comes to marriage. I mean, it’s not like you
can go out and order someone from a catalog, right? Sometimes we approach it that way. If you’re not thinking of
singleness as your default, if you’re assuming,
“I’ve got to get married, “I’ve got to married,” it can
turn you into this consumer of other people, can’t it? You’re going, every person
you meet, you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t know. “I really prefer blondes, but okay.” (muffled laughter) “You know, I’ve got this
list, and I’m ticking “things off on the list, and how many “things am I willing to compromise on.” And you’re turning other
people into objects of your shopping. That’s what you’re doing. That’s not Christian behavior. Come on, yeah, I know (chuckles). I know you want to do it, but don’t, okay? Don’t. But the thing is, the things on our list are often really shallow things. They’re foolish things. They are things about our tastes. They’re not things about
who’s giving God glory, who’s helping me to honor
God more fully in my life. And here is a Christian
woman who means well, who’s getting set into a relationship. She says, “This is a good relationship. “He’s a Christian man. “He’s active in my church.” But no, no. She’s asking the wrong questions. So the choice she had,
the choice everybody has, is the choice between
obedience and disobedience. Everybody has that choice. And she chose to be obedient. She chose not to be unequally yoked. She chose to stay on the singleness path. And when I interviewed her,
still single in her 40s. That was a choice that cost her something. We all have that choice. There are obedient reasons
to step into marriage, and there are a lot of disobedient reasons to step into marriage. So, you have a call to be
single until you have a reason to step into marriage
or into a relationship that’s an obedient reason,
a God-honoring reason. (upbeat music) – [Voiceover] We hope
you enjoyed this message. Biola University offers a
variety of biblically-centered degree programs ranging
from business to ministry to the arts and sciences. Learn more at (upbeat music)

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