By / Oct 15

When I placed the silver “True Love Waits” ring on my 15-year-old finger, I never dreamed that I would still be single into my 40s. Growing up in the south, expectations included getting married in your early 20s so you could begin adulting and start your own family. In retrospect, I didn’t even have a category for people like me. Today, most churches still don’t have a category for people like me.

For a variety of reasons, prolonged singleness is on the rise in modern societies. So, please consider a few simple reminders and suggestions from a single woman living in a Christian culture that often idolizes marriage and family.

What the Bible teaches us about singleness and marriage

Marriage is a beautiful picture of the gospel. We are the bride, and Christ is the bridegroom. Marriage is one significant way that God chooses to demonstrate his glory to the world. However, it is not the only way. The single life also demonstrates God’s glory to the watching world.

The Bible gives clear teaching on marriage and singleness. Both marriage (Prov. 18:22) and singleness (1 Cor. 7:7) are gifts from the Lord. We should find contentent with either situation. Biblical marriage is a unique reflection of God’s glory for earth, but it is temporary. There will be no marriage in eternity (Gen. 2:24-25; Matt. 22:30). Paul reminds us, however, that singleness allows for undivided devotion to the things of God (1 Cor. 7:35).

Sidenote to singles: Undivided devotion is not our wretched heart’s first instinct. It takes work and discipline to make the best use of our time. The enemy wants us to squander our resources and limit our use of the talents God has given us. Be aware of what distracts you. Be disciplined. Set limits for mindless activities and scrolling in your day. Intentionality is the key to undivided devotion.

How our society (especially the church) idolizes marriage and family

In her new book, Gay Girl, Good God, Jackie Hill Perry elaborates on what she refers to as the heterosexual gospel. This idea “tends to put more emphasis on marriage as the goal of the Christian life than on knowing Jesus.” God’s plan for the world was not to make single people married; it was to reconcile a people and bring glory to himself.

God’s plan for the world was not to make single people married; it was to reconcile a people and bring glory to himself.

Churches need to be intentional to offer opportunities for community and discipleship for all of their members at various life stages. Singleness has a way of making you feel hidden in plain sight. Married friends, how much of your identity revolves around the other people who live under your roof? How do you introduce yourself? Do you seek your spouse’s opinion, approval, encouragement and validation more than your heavenly Father’s? It may be worth consideration: has your family become an idol?

Social media has spotlighted the widening gap between married and single people, and it depicts what people value and seek. Your social media feed and your bank statement are good indicators of potential idols in your life. We must constantly evaluate our hearts. What is most important to us? Where can we release our grip on things? Who gets our best each day?

There are times for a marriage sermon series, marriage retreats, and date night babysitting events within our churches. Still, the rate of singleness is on the rise and should not be disregarded or ignored by the church. A 2017 study from Pew Research showed that 42 percent of American adults do not live with a spouse. This number continues to grow each year. Our churches must stay relevant to all members. Are single people an integral part of your plan to push your church’s mission forward? If not, you must evaluate possible reasons why.

Welcome and embrace the single life across different ages

Few people would come out and say that singleness is a second-rate life compared to married life. However, as believers, we must consider what we are unintentionally communicating. Does your church encourage and invite multi-generational friendships? I know more than one church that has a Sunday School class named “Pairs and Spares.” This may seem like a silly example, but when I visited one class, I couldn’t help but notice that I was considered a spare. What does this terminology communicate to the widow or single dad who is visiting the church?

Does your church provide opportunities for single people to build community after the age of 30 and before the age of 70? Basically, there are 40 years of life when they don’t quite fit into the “college and career” class, but they aren’t quite ready for the “olden golden class” either. Even if your church places less emphasis on programs, do single people know where to find community, help for projects around the house, or a little league baseball game to go to with a family on a Saturday?

Warren Wiersbe explains, “Some have been called to a life of singleness for one reason or another. Their singleness is not sub-spiritual. It all depends on the will of God.” Churches must be intentional to make sure that singles feel welcomed, included, and valued every day of the week, including Sundays. Sundays should not be a single person’s loneliest day of the week.

Sidenote to singles: We are not exempt from needing community. It is still not good for man, or woman, to be alone (Gen. 2:18). You will have to work harder to create this because community is more than likely not under your roof or committed to you through a covenant. Or is it? As believers in Christ, we all have entered into an even more permanent and serious covenant than marriage. Don’t think you are free from covenantal commitment because you don’t have a ring on your left hand. Our salvation is sealed with a greater covenant.

Brothers, mentor young men in your church

Admittedly, my opinion is biased, and my perspective is skewed. I know a plethora of God-honoring, gospel-motivated, ambitious, mature, stellar, single women consistently serving in churches and ministries. In contrast, many single men my age are not faithfully committed to a church body. Most of my rockstar single lady friends still very much desire to be married. Do you see the dilemma? “Where else would we go, Lord?”

Married men, will you do your sisters in Christ a favor and mentor young men to be God-honoring, gospel-motivated, ambitious, and mature? Disciple them, teach them how to pursue women in a godly way, and invite them into your home to see a healthy family unit. Model to them how to be a good husband, father, and brother in Christ.

With the rise of prolonged singleness in our churches, we must clearly understand what the Bible says about marriage and singleness. Our churches should strive to include, value, and welcome the input of single saints and provide them with the family that is already theirs in Christ.  

This article originally appeared here.

By / Feb 14

The vast majority of young people today want to get married. The most rigorous and reliable surveys available today put the number in the high 90th percentile. Yet they are waiting longer today to get married than any other generation in recorded history. There are multiple cultural factors influencing this trend, some good and some bad. Yet in this moment, I would like to focus less on social trends and more on the reasons why God might be extending your season of singleness. They may not be what you expect.

I want to do it by looking at your love life through the lens of the Israelites’ journey out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land. Why? Because God will deliberately keep from them what they want for an extended period of time. And, by his grace, he reveals to us his motivations for doing so. I believe if we can understand why God seemingly complicated their lives, we will gain insight into the way he works in ours.

The first reason God may be keeping that relationship from you is, quite simply, you are not ready.

We see this idea in Exodus 13:17. Moses states, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near.” Don’t miss that. There was a short, direct route to the land of promise that involved traveling alongside the gorgeous Mediterranean coast. And God did not take them that way. Actually, he took them South to eventually go North! Why? “For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’” God did not fast-track their journey because he knew there were challenges ahead they were not prepared to handle. So he took them the long way because of his mercy, not his cruelty.

The same may be true of you. There are challenges ahead that you are not equipped to handle. When I was in my early 20s, I longed for a romantic relationship with a woman. But every dating relationship I entered quickly became a dumpster fire of confusion and pain. I realized over time that I had some unresolved emotional pain from my childhood that I needed to deal with. I also realized that I had a selfish and simplistic view of what it was to truly, sacrificially love and care for a woman. In short, I wasn’t ready. And the most loving thing God could do for me (and for all women everywhere) was to keep me away from what I desired.

Through the course of their journey through the wilderness, the people of God learned a lot about him, about themselves, and about their purpose in the world. God used the heat of the desert to forge character in his people. He may well be doing the same with you. David spent a decade in the wilderness before he was ready to become king. Your extended stay in what you may consider to be the wilderness of singleness may be God’s great act of mercy in your life.

The second reason why God may purpose for you to linger in this current season is for his glory.

In Exodus 14:1-4, God instructs Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp . . . between Migdol and the sea . . . for Pharaoh will say of the people . . . ‘They are wandering in the land’ . . . and he will pursue them.” God purposefully put his people in a situation where they would be trapped and attacked. Will God lead you into stressful, uncomfortable situations? Yes! Why? He continues, “And I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his hosts, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” Notice that the people of God were put in an uncomfortable situation for the sake of the Egyptians—that they might come to know the Lord. God put them in the middle of an impassable sea and an attacking army, not to punish them, but to position them to be of greatest use in his campaign of making himself known to a world that desperately needs him.

Your extended season of singleness may have nothing to do with whether or not you are ready for a relationship. It might be that God wants you to remain in this position for the sake of his glory in the life of someone else. Rhena Taylor, a single missionary in Kenya, believed this about her own life, saying, “Being single has meant that I am free to take risks that I might not take were I a mother of a family dependent upon me.” Often, singleness affords a flexibility of time and discretion of finances that can uniquely position you to help others know God. Paul declares that singleness exists in order “to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord.” God may have every intent of introducing you to your future spouse soon, but not before he leverages your current station for his fame in the life of someone else.

The final reason you may be single right now is to deepen your trust in God.

As many of you know, the Egyptians did attack the Israelites. And, in the midst of their crisis, God did show up miraculously, parting the Red Sea so that his people could cross, then closing it on the enemy troops behind them. This portion of the narrative concludes with the verse, “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” Though they had seen many miracles in the preceding days, they still had much to learn about the character of God. Thus the Lord put them in a situation where they had to depend on him for everything. And when he came through, their faith grew.

He will often do the same with us. When we lift weights, we place our muscles under duress because doing so forces them to grow. In the same way, this uncomfortable season may be God’s way of forcing your faith to grow. God may be extending this time when you are not in a covenant relationship with someone else because he wants to strengthen the bond you have with him. He wants you to trust him more. Cry out to him, and watch him provide for you in unexpected ways.

In no way do I want to minimize the pain you may feel as you grapple with singleness. And I want to encourage you: when the people of God cry out to him, he listens, and he cares. Do not be afraid to trust him with your heart. And don’t mistake his tarrying as indifference to your current state. Fight to believe what our Bible declares to be true: that God works all things (even singleness) for our good and for his glory.

By / Dec 13

This is the latest ERLC End-of-Year update as part of our RISE Campaign.

Singleness is the norm for an increasing number of people in our society. And if marriage is in the future, people across various demographics are usually single for a longer period of time. I was one of them. Though I desired marriage and prayed for it, my prospects were dwindling, and the years were passing me by. But the Lord, in his kindness, answered my heart’s desire at 34 years old when I walked down the aisle to the man I had been waiting for.

Still, in those single years, I didn’t know if or when the Lord would grant my request. I spent many nights alone, navigated difficult circumstances on my own, and constantly wrestled with my discontentment.

Many men and women find themselves in a season of unwanted singleness. With this season comes unique challenges and temptations that require specific equipping. For myself, if I didn’t have a a sound theology of the Lord, his Word, sexuality, sin, and community, I’m not sure I would have had the resources—spiritual and physical—to walk faithfully as a Christian.

That’s where the ERLC comes in. Working with and for the church, we provide resources to educate and equip Christian men and women, from young to old, to walk in spirit and in truth in whatever circumstances they experience, whether now or in the future. We provide free videos and articles that deal with the topics of singleness, marriage, and sexuality from a Biblical perspective. And we have hosted several National Conferences focused on similar subjects, including how to answer these questions in the task of parenting.

Supporting the ERLC enables us to continue to present what the Bible teaches about the issues of singleness and marriage.

We believe the Word is living and active, giving us what we need for life and godliness. Supporting the ERLC enables us to continue to present what the Bible teaches about these issues, thus, we hope, enabling the church and her members to be a faithful witness of the worthiness of Jesus Christ in such dark and confusing days.

2018 is poised to present more challenges for anyone wishing to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, especially when it comes to issues of sexuality. Singleness and marriage as presented by the Bible are not favored or looked well upon by our increasingly secularized society—nor will those who follow Christ and build their lives upon this solid foundation. Please help us continue to expand our educating and equipping ministry so that the body of Christ can rise up and put the glory of God on display to a watching and hurting world.

Help us multiply our efforts in the public square. Consider making a tax-deductible end-of-year gift to the ERLC today.

By / Nov 27

We live in a world where issues arise in the news and culture daily. Behind every issue, however, is a person—a person made in the image of God. This new ERLC Podcast series, “How to Handle,” will tackle tough issues for today with the hopes of equipping the church on how to handle the topic, care for those struggling with sin and temptation, and care for those who have been hurt. 

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By / Jun 20

Marriage is a good gift from God. Yet, it’s often elevated to the point that singles are left out. At the ERLC National Conference, Jennifer Marshall, in her talk "How Singles Can Contribute to a Marriage Culture," points out that single have a valuable role to play. We hope you’re encouraged by this message.

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By / Aug 12

Extended years of singleness seems to be a growing trend in our culture, whether we like it or not. Due to a variety of reasons, most young men and women aren’t getting married as soon as they’d like to.

As a 27-year-old single girl myself, I can relate to the struggles, sorrows and difficulties that accompany those extra “unwanted” single years. Although I haven’t lived these years out perfectly, I’ve learned a few things that have been extremely beneficial to me during this time.

Whether you are single or married, I hope these tips will encourage you—or help you encourage the singles you know—to live with intention and purpose during this time.

1. Don’t view singleness as an “in-between” stage

There have definitely been times in my own life that I’ve viewed these single years as a season to be “endured.” I viewed marriage as the good stuff and singleness as the bad stuff. I wanted the single season to end as quickly as possible so that I could move on in life and be a real and purposeful adult. Thankfully, God has helped me to see that singleness isn’t an “in-between” season that I should endure, but an important and valuable season of life.

I want to encourage you, as a single, to embrace this season of life. God has you in this season for a reason. Don’t waste these valuable years waiting for marriage to come your way. Take advantage of the time God has given you. and make the most of this season.

2. Get out of your bubble of single friends

In our society, there is a huge push to stick with our own group of people. Teens hang with teens. College kids hang with college kids. Singles hang with singles. Married people hang with married people. Older people hang with older people. There isn’t a whole lot of encouragement to mix up the groups and spend time with people in different seasons of life.

I personally think this is a terrible mindset and one I hope never to embrace. Instead of restricting your friends and groups to “singles only,” try mixing it up a bit. Spend time investing in those younger than yourself. Spend time with your grandparents or the elderly couples in your church. Spend time with young families or couples who have been married for several decades. Get outside of your normal friend groups, and start investing in and benefiting from those in different seasons.

3. Choose gratitude during this season

Nowhere in Scripture do we see singles given a special “pass” to live in discontentment and ingratitude. God commands us to give thanks in all things, despite our circumstances. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Gratitude is a choice. It’s something that you have to choose to do, despite how you feel.

I love how Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth puts it in her book, Choosing Gratitude,

I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can't worship without giving thanks. It just isn't possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance, that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.

4. Use these single years for God’s glory

Single people have so much potential to make an impact for the kingdom of God. We typically have energy, youthfulness, flexibility and the time to be used in ways that married people can’t. Instead of twiddling our thumbs waiting for “the one” to come our way, let’s live with purpose and intention. Let’s take advantage of this incredibly unique season and live with eternity in mind.

As I say in my new book, Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity and Identity, “When forever comes, only the things you did for Christ will truly matter.” Let’s choose to be single men and women who truly live with that in mind.

5. Actively look for opportunities to serve

There are so many needs in our churches and communities that desperately need to be met. There are young boys and girls that need godly role models. There are elderly people in need of love and companionship. There are single moms who could really use help in a million different ways. It doesn’t take long to find a need. We need to start actively looking for opportunities to serve. We need to stop waiting for God to bring opportunities to our doorsteps and start making big efforts to love and serve those God has placed around us.

By God’s grace, let’s live with purpose and intention during this season. Don’t wait for the “greener grass” to come your way. Choose to live out every day for the glory of God.

By / Sep 29

NOTE: Dean Inserra will be one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference is designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. This event will be held at the iconic Opryland Hotel on October 27-29, 2014. To learn more go here.

If there is an area of life where there isn’t enough distinction between Christians and non-Christians, I believe it is in the aspects of the relational category we call “exclusive dating.” By dating, I don’t mean the causal night out where you get to know someone of the opposite sex, but the exclusive serious relationships that individuals usually engage in with several different people in their lives before they get married.

In fact, prior to the sexual revolution, men would pursue a woman toward marriage. Nowadays a man pursues a woman to be in a dating relationship. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just makes things quite complicated for the Christian who is trying to live his or her life in holiness, because the category of dating is something we invented. The Bible doesn’t acknowledge this category that has become a central part of our society. Boyfriends and girlfriends and being “committed” to someone who is not your spouse are all foreign to God’s design. Paul wrote that we look like people who “do not know God,” (1 Thess. 4:5) when we are in sexual sin. Dating makes this complicated.

Dating is so much a part of our culture and a modern-day prerequisite for engagement that we must learn how to approach this as Christians. The answer is not to “kiss dating good-bye” or try to overhaul a central component of our society, but rather that following Jesus actually will interfere with our lives in the area of dating relationships and cause us to approach these relationships differently. Again, as Paul said to the Thessalonians, we should not act like those who do not know God.

Here are a few important steps:

1. Stop acting like you’re married when you are not.

We treat these relationships as though they were quasi-marriages, and give them a measure of security that God never intended and that isn’t really there. For the Christian, if the only thing that changes when you get married is that you start having sex, something is wrong with the picture. When we read the common thread of Scripture, from Genesis to Jesus to Paul, we read that, “a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh… so they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matt. 19:5-6). Should we really be giving ourselves away emotionally, romantically, and sexually to someone who is not our husband or wife? The one flesh union is not less than sex, but it is certainly more.

Not to be nitpicky, but when a dating couple functions as a package deal—when they give joint presents at parties, post the equivalent of engagement pictures on social media, and declare anniversaries of their “define the relationship” conversation—I think that mirrors the world’s idea of relationships, declaring a faux commitment that God does not recognize. There has to be a better way. This may even happen several times throughout one’s life with different people. Making out with, saying, “I love you” in a non-neighborly way, is not what we find in the Scriptures for the unmarried. I just can’t see how we, as Christians, can make the case that should happen with multiple partners in a lifetime.

Exclusive emotional and physical dating relationships that are not on the path toward marriage are foreign to the Christian understanding of male and female relationships. Which leads to the next point, emphasizing the need to…

2. Make intentions known in dating.

Now guys, don’t freak the girl out by talking about marriage during your first conversation. But you should exercise clarity and be intentional. Here is what that looks like:

Intentional: “I’d like to take you out on a date next Friday, are you free that evening?”

Unintentional: “Wanna hang out or get together sometime?”

As Christians, this allows the man and woman to know what is or is not happening. So if the guy you are dating says, “I don’t want to get engaged until after grad school,” and you aren’t planning on waiting that long for what could or could not happen, you can say “no thanks,” and nobody is mad or taken advantage of because intentions were made known. An awkward conversation about intentions is much better than heartbreak later.

3. Foreplay is not in play.

There is one purpose and one purpose only for what is known as “foreplay.” (I don’t even think anyone calls it that anymore but I’m going with it because it seems the most appropriate.) The purpose is that it prepares you for and leads you to sex. It was not designed to stop before a climax. It is absolutely what the Scriptures would designate as “sexual immorality.” You must put standards in place and my best advice is that when the date is over, the date is over. Walk her to the door, drop her off, and go home. If there are other people there, sure…go inside. If not, know yourself and where you are tempted, and be wise! Jesus said, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!” (Matt. 5:30). That idea applies completely here. Better to do something as non-sacrificial as cutting the night off early, than it is to sin.

We’ve got to get serious about sexual sin. Sex, foreplay, nakedness, etc., are not for dating people, in love people, or mature people, but for married people. We are called to recover and pursue God’s design for human sexuality which is that “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). This only exists in marriage.

I’m thankful that when God gave us marriage, He had the gospel in mind. Let us pursue purity from this moment on, as we recover in repentance, by believing the gospel, God’s purpose for marriage, and its public display of Christ and the Church.

God is not trying to keep you from something; he’s saving you from something. Let’s believe that He does truly know best.

This article was originally published here

By / Sep 5

It happened again. While engaged in a great conversation about life and ministry, one of my peers asked, “So, why are you single?”  

I suppose that question is a compliment. It seems that what the asker is really saying is, “Based on what I’ve seen and heard from you, I believe you’d make a good spouse, so what’s the hold up?” And it seems the further we progress through our twenties, thirties and beyond, the more curious people become about what’s “holding us up” from getting married.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that he is in complete control of my life. I believe he orders my steps and brings things to pass in my life in his perfect timing. (I do have to remind myself of these truths on occasion, though.) Thus, as I tried to conjure up a grand answer to why I’m single, I reached this simple reality: I’m single because God has not led me to marry anyone yet.

I know, I know, that sounds so spiritual. But as Christians, life works best for us when we allow God to take the lead, especially regarding marriage. In fact, after the decision to accept Christ as our Savior, I believe the marriage decision is the most important one. Trust me, my friend, it would behoove us to let God lead us into our marriages, not those other leaders. What other leaders? I’m so glad you asked!

The ticking-clock leader

I know that some people think they should be married by a certain age. I never thought I was one of those people, though, until two weeks before my 25th birthday. I took a mental inventory of all the single guys who had expressed an interest in me, and I realized something: I wasn’t willing to marry any of them. So, not only would I not be married by age 25, I wouldn’t even know anyone I would marry. I felt the panic rising within me, right up until God reminded me that our numerical ages mean very little to him.

The Bible tells us that our measure of time is not the same as God’s measure (2 Pet. 3:8). We are constricted by time and space, but he is not. He sees the end from the beginning and can easily move in, out and beyond our time. Therefore, if he has spouses for us, he will bring them at his appointed time. Yes, we can rush ahead of God and get married on our time, but we will also face the consequences. For instance, I could rush and get married at 25, but then I could also be perpetually miserable and possibly divorced by 28. My encouragement to you and myself is this: Let’s allow God to be our leader, not our perception of time.

The loneliness leader

Some people let loneliness lead them into relationships and marriage. But marriage is not a cure for loneliness. There are a number of married, lonely people. If we allow loneliness to be the impetus for entering a relationship, how will we know that we truly desire to be with that person? We won’t. I’m sure we all experience lonely moments, and I’m sure many of us desire companionship. It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings, but it’s not okay to follow them.

Although easier said than done, we singles must learn to practice the presence of God and allow him to satisfy our hearts. His Word promises that he will always be with us and that he is enough for us to be content (Heb. 13:5). Also, even if we do marry the people God ordained for us to be with, they will not be able to satisfy all our needs all the time. After all, they will be flawed, limited people, just like us.  So finding satisfaction in God alone will not only benefit our singleness, but it will also benefit our marriages (if marriage is in God’s will for our lives).

The lust leader

Most of us have sexual desires, and those desires aren’t inherently sinful. Sexual lust, on the other hand, is a problem. The Apostle Paul actually does advise singles that it’s better to marry than burn with lust (1 Cor. 7:9). However, if you read that entire Scripture, you’ll quickly discern that Paul did not think that was the best option. As usual, I agree with Paul for many reasons, but I’ll briefly share two.

First, marriage will not cure an overall issue with lust. If we frequently lust after people while we’re single, we’ll continue to lust after others when we’re married. That’s a heart issue, not a marital status issue. I strongly encourage that sexual strongholds—lust, porn addictions, etc.—get rectified during one’s singleness.  

Second, sex alone is a terrible reason to get married. Two of my dear friends recently got married, and they both told me they’re glad they didn’t expect sex to be like it’s portrayed in the movies. (Just so you know, it’s not like the movies.) Yet, sex within a marriage is beautiful, because that’s the context for which God designed it. But sex should not be what leads us into a marriage. God should lead.

God can handle your love life

If you and I are Christians, that means we believe God can handle our eternal souls. If we believe his Word, that means we believe he can handle creating the universe, parting seas, slaying giants, healing the blind and resurrecting the dead. If we believe he can handle all that, does it really make sense to believe he can’t handle our love lives? I don’t think so. So, in this dance of love and marriage, let’s allow God to take the lead, and let’s kiss those other leaders goodbye.

By / Jul 29

NOTE: Jennifer A. Marshall will be one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference is designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. This event will be held at the iconic Opryland Hotel on October 27-29, 2014. To learn more go here.

Alongside The Atlantic magazine’s November 2011 cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” ran a photograph of its then 39-year-old author. In a fawn-colored silk dress and up-do, Kate Bolick contemplatively sips champagne as a bridal bouquet flies over her head. 

Like many of her never-married peers, she’s scrupulously ignoring the traditional toss. Indeed, as the age of first marriage climbs higher, more single wedding-goers are evading the bouquet, having years ago disproved the catch confirms the next bride-to-be. 

The ritual is yet another reminder of an unrealized longing for marriage. 

Bolick, however, is not just escaping the reminder — she’s turning her back to it. It’s time, her piece argues, “to acknowledge the end of ‘traditional’ marriage as society’s highest ideal.” 

But should we give up on an ideal just because it hasn’t worked out for us personally? 

Bolick writes that she aspired to wed, though she “spent her early 30s actively putting off marriage” and is now ambivalent about having children. 

The quest for independence is no doubt a product of the prevailing feminist winds that carried along today’s 30-somethings as we grew up amid “The Girl Project.” 

That’s the moniker Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has given the “you-go-girl” era ushered in by the 1972 signing of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. 

By 1982 in the United States, women had outstripped men in the number of bachelor’s degrees earned each year; by 1986 the same was true for master’s degrees. 

While women have advanced, Bolick argues, men have declined. Outpacing their male counterparts in various education and employment indicators leaves women with fewer “marriageable” men, as they are traditionally defined: men with better education and better jobs. This “new scarcity,” she writes, “disrupts what economists call the ‘marriage market.’ ” 

If we’re concerned about the dip in the marriage market, we should be concerned about government policies that pick winners and losers. 

Official favoritism for females has taken its toll. In May 2000, the very same Atlantic ran a cover story titled “The War Against Boys.” “It’s a bad time to be a boy in America,” wrote author Christina Hoff Sommers. 

That girls languished was a myth. To the contrary, Sommers’ research showed girls outnumbering boys in student government, study abroad, honor societies, school newspapers and debate clubs. 

Even so, teachers and other observers tended “to reflexively dismiss any challenge to the myth, or any evidence pointing to the very real crisis among boys.” 

If you take “The Girl Project,” add “The War Against Boys,” and mix in some sexual revolution (“Dan Quayle Was Right,” after all, per The Atlantic’s April ’93 cover story), is it any surprise you’re left with “All the Single Ladies?” 

Our feminist forebears were frustrated by barriers to fulfilling work. Today, we’re frustrated by obstacles to lasting love. 

For too long, the dominant framework of male-female relations has been that storied battle between the sexes. Antagonism expressed in power struggle is the default perspective. 

Which brings us back to our views of marriage. Is marriage an ideal because the majority, the powerful or forces such as evolution or economics made it so? Or is marriage an ideal because it is rooted, timelessly, in the universal nature of man and woman? 

Many marriage-minded women struggle with the unexpected in-between of today’s prolonged singleness. That includes Bolick: “If I stopped seeing my present life as provisional,” she writes, “perhaps I’d be a little … happier.” 

Bolick seems to have resolved her sense of being betwixt-and-between by demoting marriage. But must we abandon our unique esteem and deep desire for marriage to find fulfillment today without it? 

We need to restore cultural respect for the marriage ideal. In the meantime, the marriage aspiration is alive and well. 

Far from giving up on marriage, the single ladies — a la Beyonce — are looking for a man to “put a ring on it.” 

This commentary was originally published by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

By / Mar 14

Hello, this is Russell Moore, and this is Questions & Ethics, sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, broadcasting here from our studio in Nashville. And this is the program, of course, where every week we take your questions, whatever is going on in your life situation. Maybe it’s something you’ve come across reading the Bible or something that you are facing in your neighborhood or in your school or in your workplace. And we try to look at it and say what should we do? How should we figure this out?

And this is a question that is coming from Tracy. Tracy says, “Dear Dr. Moore, I read your book Adopted for Life, and I have become very convicted on the issue of orphan care. I am interested in adopting a child. The issue is, I am single, and there is nobody in the picture. Is it a wise thing for me to do, to go through the adoption process?”

Well, Tracy, that’s a really good question. I am glad that the Lord is starting to move in your heart toward caring for orphans and adoption. I think this is probably the most controversial issue that I ever speak to, and I speak to a lot of controversial issues all the time. But people tend to become very emotionally involved in this question.

I remember being at an adoption conference one time, and a woman in your situation stood up and said, “Should I adopt a child?” And I said to her, “I think in your case, adopting right now, as a single person, is probably not the best course of action for you to care for orphans.” And there was a lady in the room who just was very hurt by that, and she said, “Well, what you are saying is since I, as a single woman, adopted a child, that means that you are saying that my child would be better off back in the orphanage or back in the group home.” Of course, that’s not at all what I’m saying, anymore than if someone were to say should I have a baby biologically out of wedlock. I would say no. That doesn’t mean that I am saying that everyone who was born out of wedlock would be better off not existing. Of course not! What we are saying is what is the best course in the best interest of children in order to care for them.

Now, in your case, what you are wanting to do is a good thing and a good motive. And I know what you are thinking is to say look, I am single, and we have all of these children out there in foster care and in orphanages and in institutions all over the place. It would be better for them to be in the home of a good, loving single mom than to be in a group home or in foster care. We are agreed on that. However, I think the best case scenario for a child is to come into a family with a mother and a father.

Now, I think there are some exceptions to that. I think there are some situations in which it is unavoidable. So, for instance, there is a grandparent adopting a grandchild whose parents were killed. I’ve seen that situation many times. But I think it is generally best for a child to be adopted by both a father and a mother. Again, there are all sorts of people who are raised by single moms or by single dads. Those single parents often do a very good job raising those children. But I think that every one of those single moms or single dads would say we did this because it was necessary providentially. Somebody died or somebody left or something happened. But we would have preferred to have had both mother and father involved.

When we think about adoption, think about this for a minute. Adoption doesn’t create an entirely different sort of family. In the Bible, the biblical imagery of adoption is rooted in the natural family. Adoption is something that creates a family that we already see designed by God in the natural order, a family that has both mother and father. So I would say to you, again, with some exceptions—so I’m not speaking to you here with a “Thus sayeth the Lord;” I am speaking to you here with “Thus thinketh Moore;” Those are two very different things. If God is leading you to adopt, then I think God is probably preparing you for marriage as well as for motherhood. So I would say to God, lead me in that direction toward marriage and then open up those opportunities for me to adopt. It may be that what God is calling you toward is to care for orphans, which doesn’t necessarily mean adoption. There are all sorts of ways that you can be involved in caring for orphans without coming to the point of adoption: Doing many, many other things caring for orphans, including some orphans who cannot be adopted right now.

Now, again, your motive is in the right place. The scripture says in James 1:27 to “care for widows and orphans in their distress.” If you adopt, I am not saying you are an evil person. I am not saying you are in a state of sin toward God. I am just saying that it is the best scenario for a child to start out with both mother and father. So that would be my counsel to you.

What’s your question? Give me an email, [email protected], or on Twitter with hashtag #askrdm, and we will take up your question here on Questions & Ethics. In the meantime, check out our website, with lots of resources for you, for your family, for your church and following Christ. See you next time, this is Russell Moore.