About the Guest
Sam Allberry reminds us to not make an idol of romantic love. Francis and Lisa Chan encourage us to look at married love in light of eternity.
Sam Allberry reminds us to not make an idol of romantic love. Francis and Lisa Chan encourage us to look at married love in light of eternity.
Michelle: It’s the season of romance. But maybe you’re feeling a little left out; maybe you’re in a single season of life, kind of like me. It can be tempting to think that you are less than or that you don’t measure up. You might be surprised to find out that you’re in some good company—like Jesus Christ, our Savior, who came to this earth to live a completely human life, romance free—now, does that thought surprise you? Here’s Sam Allberry.
Sam: Actually, if we think we have got to be romantically fulfilled in order to be a complete human being, we are denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; we are denying the full humanity of Jesus. We are saying our Savior was not a real, complete human being.
Michelle: We’re going to talk about satisfied singleness, the deeper meaning of marriage, and true love on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We are possibly two days out from either you basking in the most romantic dinner you’ve ever had. Or maybe, it was an evening with your two best friends—you know, Ben & Jerry®; like Moose Tracks®—or, I don’t know, double chocolate fudge. Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s season can be a wonderful time of the year. And it’s a way for Hallmark® to make tons of money! [Cash register sound effects]
It can also be a lonely time; you know, singles without a significant other feel this. So do some couples who are walking through struggles. We talked about that last week with Ron Deal, about just the struggle of loneliness during this time. We have a link for that show on our website if you didn’t get a chance to listen to that episode; that’s at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
This week, I want to take a look at what real love is—and not what Valentine’s Day or Hallmark has made it into—let’s look at the kind of love that gives and asks nothing in return, because we’re here on this earth for such a short time. Besides getting to know our Savior, we should be on a quest to help everyone around us get to heaven. We should be loving as we do that; right?
Since marriage doesn’t last forever—I mean, you remember your vows: “…’til death do us part,”—we’re starting with that premise, anyway, that marriage won’t last into heaven. According to Francis Chan and his wife Lisa, the way to having a great marriage is not to focus on the marriage. What?! I mean, that sounds like some anti-biblical rhetoric that FamilyLife® would not endorse; right?
Francis and Lisa Chan say that there is a way to satisfy the deepest parts and longings of our soul. The Chans live in northern California with their seven children. Francis is probably best known for his book, Crazy Love. The Chans say that we need to be loving our spouse in light of heaven. Here’s Francis.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Francis: It’s the same thing the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15; he said, “If there is no resurrection from the dead, then I am above all men most to be pitied,”—like: “I would live completely differently if there is no forever/if there is no eternity. Then let’s just enjoy, just eat, drink, be merry. Let’s just have a great little family, have a great time here on earth, and just think about us,”—but no; because there is a forever, “Now, how do I love her in the greatest way?”
Dennis: —and because you are accountable to the God who made us.
Francis: Yes, and made her for a reason!
Francis: And He made this marriage for a reason; it was for Him. Everything was created by Him and for Him. So we—I mean, this is what differentiates/is supposed to differentiate us from the rest of the world—is that we’re not living for this life.
It’s not about your best life right now. It’s about: “No, I’m thinking about the future. I’m storing up treasure in heaven.” Don’t waste your time just building up and storing up treasures on earth, where someone is going to steal it, or it’s going to fall apart, and you’ve got to insure it and everything else. Store up this treasure in heaven. Really believe that you are going to be rewarded a hundred times anything you sacrifice. So, if I am thinking about Lisa’s forever and her future, then I’m going to live a lot differently right here.
Bob: Lisa, I had the opportunity, a number of years ago, to go to a group of friends. I said, “If you were going to share a passage from the Bible about marriage with a couple just getting started—and it couldn’t be Ephesians 5, couldn’t be 1 Peter 3, couldn’t be Colossians 3—kind of the big ones that we all go to; couldn’t go there—what passage would you share with them?”
And two guys that I asked the question to—independently, gave me the same verse—it was one that really surprised me. It was out of Psalm 34; it was the verse that says, “O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together,”—“That’s the mission; that’s the purpose statement for our marriage.”
Lisa: Yes; you know, it’s interesting because I just spoke, last week, for a group with young moms. I was reminding them: “You are more than a mother; you are more than a wife. You are a child of God; you are here for Him.” I know we are talking about marriage right now; but I was trying to get them to think outside of even just in their everyday life: “You belong to God. You are here,” —like it says in Ephesians 2:10, I think it is—“You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works that He prepared in advance…”; right? Well, afterward, one of the moms comes up and she just says: “You know, my husband and I—we both work fulltime—we are kind of stuck. We have these jobs, and this house, and these cars. We want to serve the Lord, but…”—but—I’m thinking, “Wow.”
We were just talking about how we need to back things up and get people like that—who think, beforehand, who/young people, who will say: “You know what? Our marriage is going to be about a mission. Our marriage is going to be about the fact that we are here for God. So we are going to make different choices. We are going to set our life up in a way that gives us total freedom to do whatever God asks of us,”—and that is a message I long to get out to people, who haven’t done it yet/who aren’t stuck right now.
Dennis: There are a lot of couples who are trapped.
Dennis: They are ensnared.
Lisa: Yes; and there is nothing worse than not being able to do the Lord—“I will do anything or go anywhere for You,”—that should be true of each of us, scary as it is. I’m not saying it’s not; I’m fearful, sometimes, of what the Lord will ask me to do; but I’m more afraid of not being able to do what He asks me to do. Who are we here for?
Francis: Because we’ve both been on this mission together, that’s taken us all around the world now. It hasn’t just been about: “Hey, you and me—you’re not making me feel good; I’m not making you feel good,”—it’s about: “We’re here for a purpose.” As we’ve pursued that, it’s caused us to be so in love with each other.
Dennis: Francis, you believe that there is a transcendent purpose for marriage that is God created/God embedded; that if we miss this, we miss life.
Francis: Absolutely; we tend to focus on certain passages in Scripture and not others. When you look at what the Bible says about marriage—yes, Paul wrote Ephesians 5; but even that was really about Christ and the church. Paul, who wrote that, also wrote
1 Corinthians 7, who says: “This is what I mean, brothers. The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they have none. And those who mourn as though they were not mourning; those who rejoice as those who were not rejoicing. Those who buy as though they had no goods.” He goes on: “For the present form of this world is passing away.” He’s saying, “Those who have wives, just live like you’re not; because there’s something bigger here. There’s this mission; we’ve got this brief time here on earth, and this is what we’ve got to be about.”
If we just sat and wrote down everything Jesus said—every time He [spoke about] “husband,” or “wife,” or “family,” just write down all those verses—we’d be shocked! The way He speaks about family is: “I am so far beyond that. Yes, I created marriage; yes, I created man and woman—I want you to live this way—but the point of that is so the world has a picture of this beautiful marriage that’s going to happen one day and this picture of this beautiful Father that we have in heaven.” We’re just that shadow; we’re just that glimpse. But, too often, in the church we make it all about us; and it’s killing our marriages.
Bob: In fact, you say in the book that couples, who say they have marriage problems, they need to recognize it’s not a marriage problem; it’s a God problem.
Francis: Amen. Lisa and I have both made a commitment, individually, to God. She knows I’m not going to leave her—I can’t—before the Lord, we’re going to work everything out. In the same way, she has that same mindset. We have this understanding before the Lord, where He fills my every need, like Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” I’m not desperately needing Lisa to fill all of these holes in my life because I’m such a needy person. The Lord is wonderful! I know the Creator of the universe! I’m going to be with Him forever! I’ve got everything in my possession.
He’s given me so much life—life to the full—that I have life to give, and give, and give. So I don’t wake up in the morning, going, “I need so much from Lisa.” I’m filled in the Lord, and I have life to give to her. The same is true for her. When people understand that, then they’re not sucking the life out of one another and needing so much from one another. They’re getting their water from this fountain of life, which is God Himself.
Lisa: That’s why it’s so important, too—for those in a marriage, where only one is spiritually-minded, and they do not have a believing husband or wife—to say: “You know what? It is still very possible for you to display the gospel alone.” There is some loneliness involved in that, and that’s not something we make light of. But it is still very, very possible for you to receive what you need from Christ; and to love this other person; and to display to the world, to your children, to the people around you what it means to follow Christ and display the gospel, even on your own.
Michelle: Lisa Chan reminding us how important it is to display the gospel in our marriages and in our life! Francis and Lisa are a really neat couple; they live in northern California, as I said. They wrote a book, You and Me Forever. They also came up with a song to go with the book; it’s called Riding It Out Together. You’ll want to check out that fun video—we have it linked on our website—go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, we need to take a quick break; but I’ll be back, talking with Sam Allberry, right after this.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I am joined in the studio today with Sam Allberry. He’s one of the editors for The Gospel Coalition, global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He’s the author of numerous books, including Is God Anti-Gay? He’s a pastor in the UK. So you’re not from around here; are you?
Sam: [Using a Southern accent] Not from around these parts. [Laughter]
Michelle: Very good, very good with the Southern accent. [Laughter]
Sam: I’m from the South—but the south of England—so the other south.
Michelle: I wanted to talk with you a little bit about the sufficiency of Christ for singles in the church today. Help us understand just where their identity should be lying.
Sam: It’s difficult. I think we live in a Christian context, where it’s often presumed that, if you’re not married, you’re just this loose end that needs to be tied up somehow. I don’t think we do very good at honoring singleness in the evangelical world. We’re not very good at that in the UK; I think it’s even harder here, in many parts of the US, to be a single person in sort of an evangelical world.
I think one of the things we need to realize is that it means something quite significant when we say that Jesus was single, and we often lose sight of this. We forget that Jesus didn’t have a wife, and 2.5 children, and a dog, and a suburban house too.
Michelle: —and a white picket fence!
Sam: Exactly. So Jesus never married; he never had sex; he was never in a romantic relationship. The most complete human being who ever lived was celibate—Jesus Christ—and yet, was the most fully-human person who ever lived. So we cannot say that marriage, or sex, or romance are intrinsic for being a full and complete human being. Otherwise, we end up saying Jesus wasn’t a complete human being. We need to get our understanding of what makes a fulfilled human being in such a way that doesn’t imply that Jesus was subhuman; we’ve got to rethink what it means to be a complete human being.
One of the problems we’ve got is that, in our culture, intimacy and sex have been collapsed into each other. People assume today that sex and intimacy always go together; that there’s no kind of intimacy that is not essentially sexual. In the Bible, those two things are often distinct. I can live without sex; the Bible shows me how to live without sex. But I’m not designed to live without intimacy. All of us are designed, as a human being made in the image of a triune God, to be in close relationship.
One of the ways we experience that is in marriage, obviously. But marriage is not the only form of intimacy we experience. If you look at what Proverbs teaches about friendship, it’s deep; it’s soul-to-soul relationship. It’s not superficial; it’s not this silly, Facebook-y: “You’re a friend if I share my contact details with you.” [Laughter]
Friendship in the Bible is someone who knows your soul. That is intimate; that is intimacy. We need to recover the biblical vision for friendship and to be fostering that and promoting that in our churches—not just for the sake of the singles—but actually, married people too. I’ve seen marriages flounder because the couple did not have friends outside of the marriage.
Michelle: So how do we do that? How do we remap our minds to look at that deep friendship that we all need and long for?
Sam: We can certainly point to parts of the Bible that describe it. Proverbs is a great place for seeing what the Bible says about friendship. We can also notice the occurrences of it in the Bible. At the end of Romans—when Paul lists all his “Say hello to So-and-so,” moments—we tend to think that’s the end credits of the letter and skip over it. Actually, what you’re seeing there is how many people Paul was close to. He talks about someone who was “my mother in the Lord,”—I think he uses that phrase—he uses intimate and familiar language to describe a lot of his friendships. We see that intimacy. Paul was not this kind of rugged individualist—solo, pioneering apostle—he was someone who did his ministry within the matrix of close friendship. He had a big team around him.
We easily skip over those things and don’t notice them; but actually, the Bible shows us so many occurrences of good friendship. You think of Jesus having a close friendship with John; John referring to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved,”—not saying He didn’t love all the other disciples—but John was just so blown away by the fact that Jesus loved him that they had a very close relationship. We see that in John’s Gospel.
It’s all there in the Bible. Because we’ve approached the Bible with our own cultural grid of—“Intimacy equals marriage,”—we miss all the other ways we are able to experience healthy intimacy in ways that are outside of marriage.
Michelle: So help us understand how this plays out if we’re to start thinking this way. How is that going to play out in the church? What is that going to start looking like?
Sam: It will look like a number of things. I think it’s got to start with what is said in the pulpit. I think pastors have to take a lead in preaching up friendship. The church needs to think of ways of facilitating friendship: giving people a chance to know each other, encouraging that, delighting and reveling in that.
I think it means we don’t want it to feel like the basic unit in church life is the couple or the biological family. Sometimes, churches are very much built around that is the basic unit of church. If you don’t have a spouse, or a biological family, you don’t quite know where to fit in; and you do feel like bit of a loose end. I’ve heard of a church that had a ministry to people in their 20s and 30s that was called “Pairs and Spares,” which is just so appalling.
Michelle: I’ve heard of those. [Laughter]
Sam: We need to show that, actually, all of us within the church family need friendship—married or single, old or young—and the church should be the place where you find that; we’re family. We need to recover the biblical vision of the church as family. Our biological families are not designed to be self-sufficient. I think, too often in the Christian life, we think, “Well, I’ve got my spouse; I’ve got my 2.4 children. I pull up the drawbridge, and that’s the unit in which I do life; we are now self-contained.”
Actually, I think our doctrine of church shows us that our biological family, if we have one, is meant to interact with a wider spiritual family. The biological family needs the input of the wider church family. No two parents can be everything their child needs them to be; because they’re limited, and they’re sinful. So it is good—if you’re a parent—it’s good if you’re a child, actually, to have the input of other older people in the church family as well.
Would people know what I meant if I said I’m a godfather to someone?
Michelle: Yes; if you said you were a godfather, everybody would know. They’d be like, “Oh! He’s the favored uncle,” “He’s the trusted one to take care of the child.”
Sam: Okay; the first time I was asked to be a godfather—it was a good friend of mine—a couple I knew well.
Michelle: That’s a special thing.
Sam: It’s wonderful. They just had a daughter; and they said, “We’d like you to be the godfather.” I was kind of feeling, “Aw, shucks,” about the whole thing. They said, “We’re not interested in you remembering her birthday; we’re not interested in you buying her presents. We want you to be the kind of person she can talk to when she feels she can’t talk to us.” That showed enormous self-awareness for them, as a couple, to think, actually, there’s going to be times when they’re going to need to work something through with someone who isn’t us. Does that make sense?
Michelle: Oh, it makes total sense.
If I’m a single in a church, and getting really frustrated and almost ready to walk out the doors—because I’m either forgotten, or I’m set up every Sunday, or I can’t find a friend—how can I make who I am known to those around me?
Sam: I think there are a few things. One is, obviously, to pray against bitterness. That’s a huge temptation when you feel the church is letting you down—is just to pray for a very, very soft heart towards your own church—and to not just seeing the problem as being “them” and not “me.” If you walk out, that church won’t learn anything different; there may be other single people there, who are also struggling.
You could do a number of things. One is to have a conversation with the leadership of the church and to try to give voice to some of the ways in which you feel single people are being overlooked. At a personal level—it’s hard to do, but not impossible—is try to build friendships with the other people around you. It may well be most of them are married. It may well be you feel like you’re the one who’s making 90 percent of the effort here. It takes time for friendships to develop; it takes time for people to know how to be a friend to you.
It looks different, being a friend to a married person than it does being a friend to a single person. Pray for patience, and be patient with people. Give them time to know and to learn the ways in which they can love and support you, which may not be immediately apparent to them; because they’re in a different situation than you.
Again, looking at the kind of friend Proverbs commends to us: the way to have a friend is to be a friend. Be that kind of friend to other people. Be to the others what you would hope they would be to you. By being that to them, you may well be giving them a vision of friendship they haven’t seen before. You may be setting the bar high enough for them to think, “Actually, I want to reciprocate and be the kind of friend to you that you are being to me.”
But pray for patient hearts. You would hope, in time, that the teaching ministry of your church would get to places like 1 Corinthians 7, where singleness is really spoken about in depth. And train the church to think biblically and positively about singleness.
Michelle: Thank you, Sam, for joining us today.
Sam: Oh, it’s great to be with you!
Michelle: I think we need to remember that we need to have joy—joy in our single lives; joy in our married lives—because it’s about the mission we’re on, looking towards heaven. If you happen to be single, or if you happen to be married, Sam made reference to 1 Corinthians 7. Maybe that is a passage that you would want to read this weekend and meditate on, and find joy for where God has you/contentment for where God has you.
Sam recently joined Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today. You’ll want to check out that entire interview by going to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. We also have a link there on our website to a video with Sam talking about singleness in the church. Go to our website; again, that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, coming up next week on FamilyLife This Week, I’m going to have a special secret guest. I’m so excited about this; this is going to be a great show. In fact, I just finalized details on this show yesterday with this secret guest. I am looking forward to this, so please tune in.
Hey, I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our co-founder, Dennis Rainey; and our station partners around the country. Our engineer is Keith Lynch. Producers are Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Mastering engineer is Justin Adams, and production coordinator is Megan Martin.
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.
We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?
Copyright © 2022 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.