Last week, I was delighted to share Sam Allberry’s two messages from the Cedarville University chapel. This week, I offer to you a review of his book 7 Myths about Singleness published in February 2019 by Crossway.
If you are not familiar with Sam Allberry, he is a pastor from England as well as a speaker and writer. You can also find him on Twitter, The Gospel Coalition blog, Desiring God, and at the organization he co-leads, Living Out, a UK nonprofit that provides resources for the church to think carefully and Biblically about issues of sexual identity. For the members of my audience who are ready to quit reading, hold on a minute. I heard Mr. Allberry speak first at a conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Yes, ACBC. So, please, keep reading.
First let me say, this is the book about singleness that I have been waiting for someone to write. It is relatable, clear, compassionate, and best of all, Biblical. And the cover doesn’t have a stiletto or a daisy anywhere on it. Thank YOU, THANK You, THANK YOU, Sam Allberry!
His introduction is significant, recognizing that the church primarily treats singleness as negative. “Marriage,” he illustrates, “is a conversational intersection with all sorts of interesting avenues of discussion. Singleness is more of a conversation cul-de-sac, requiring an awkward maneuver to exit” (p. 12).
Uh huh! Just this weekend, I spent some time encouraging women at a local seminary to stop asking, “What does your husband do?” (a conversational dead-end) and instead ask, “Tell me about your family.”
Mr. Allberry writes of the importance for all believers to care and think carefully about singleness. After all, most people who are currently married will one day be single again (and I would add, start out single). Singleness directly affects the whole church (Romans 12:4-5). We are one body, and therefore belong to one another. If I struggle, we all weak. If someone’s marriage is a mess, we all hurt.
Mr. Allberry’s framework for this text examines seven myths or misconceptions that people, whether single or married, often have about singleness. Each chapter addresses one of the following perceptions: the difficulty and ease of singleness, lack of intimacy and family, special calling, waste of sexuality, and the hindrance to ministry. His careful Scriptural support challenges the current pendular swing of promoting marriage to the exclusion of recognizing God’s call of holiness and service for all believers, regardless of marital status. Both can honor the Lord: “If marriage shows us the shape of the Gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency” (p.120).
This book does a great job describing the necessity and intricacies of friendship, including a poignant chapter on the myth of lacking family. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have multiple families who have adopted me, but its not always simple, especially as “Singles need their married friends more than their married friends need them” (p.132). I’ll be chewing on this chapter for a long time.
I do wish that Mr. Allberry had addressed the Church more in this text, but perhaps he is leaving room for volume 2?
I have not voluntarily chosen singleness, but it is apparently the will of the Lord for my life, at least for today. I am thankful for a resource like Mr. Allberry’s that points me to the truth of Scripture that the grace of God equips me to honor Him in every area and detail of life.
“His [Jesus’] singleness on earth bore witness to this ultimate marriage [with His bride, the Church] that he had come to establish. 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. It is a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy that these things are not ultimate and that in Christ we posses what is” (p.120).
This is why the church needs single people. Not as a supposedly endless source of free babysitting, but to remind us that the joy and fulfillment of marriage in this life is partial and can only be temporal. The presence of singles who find their fullest meaning and satisfaction in Christ is a visible, physical testimony to the fact that the end of all of our longings comes in Jesus” (pp.120-121).