Today’s blog is a guest post by Justin Campbell. Justin is a 39 year old single guy living and working in St. Louis. You can read more by him at his blog More Than Don’t Have Sex, where he writes about singleness, Jesus, the church, and how we can all be in it together.
One of my favorite movies is Good Will Hunting and my favorite scene comes toward the end. Will (played by Matt Damon) is meeting with his counselor (played by Robin Williams). Williams pulls out Damon’s file and talks about all the abuse he has faced in his life. He then says, “Will, I don’t know a lot, but this, all of it, it’s not your fault.” Will says, “I know” very nonchalantly. Williams then says it again, and again, and again until finally Will, after getting very agitated, falls into his arms. You see Will knew intellectually that it wasn’t his fault, but until that moment he didn’t KNOW that it wasn’t.
I think we do this with forgiveness. Around a year ago I was having a cigar with a good friend. This guy is one of the best guys I know – smart, fun, talented and a good friend to people. Without going much into his story he has some issues with religion. As we were sitting there discussing this I said, “You know that you’re forgiven right?” He stopped in his tracks. He kind of tried to skirt the issue but I just kept hammering it. A month later we met up and he said, “Thanks for screwing up my life – I mean that.” He knew it intellectually but he just then began to KNOW it.
I bring this up because I think it relates to thoughts we can have as a single person. We watch marriages around us and we think about all the reasons we are not married. One of the things that can creep in is “It’s because I sinned.” It’s as if we think somehow we have disqualified ourselves before God. Now we probably wouldn’t ever say this but if we are honest many of us have had the thought. God is not punishing your sin with singleness.
Now if you have unrepentant sin, that could certainly get in the way of getting married, among other things. Let’s say for example you are sleeping around, that might not be the best time to say to God, “Will you just bring me a spouse.” It’s important to understand that how we are living affects our situation. But that is not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m saying is that you are not disqualified from marriage because of sin. God is not holding out on you or punishing you because of it. It’s not a marriage qualifier. If it was, no one, and I mean no one, would be married. All the people you see married – they have sinned too. You say, “Well Justin, you don’t get it, I’ve done really bad in this area of life.” You’ve slept with 100 people, dated the wrong people, had an abortion, looked at porn, or masturbated a river. . . I do get it. God’s grace is bigger. You are forgiven. God is not holding it against you and keeping you from having a spouse because of it.
I think we kind of understand forgiveness as a means to salvation – which is mainly an intellectual exercise. I don’t think we get it as a means to freedom in life – we don’t live out of it.
This is extremely dangerous as a single when we assign it to dating. First of all as I mentioned earlier, you don’t earn a spouse. Secondly, it can lead us to very bad choices because we have a bad view of ourselves. We can decide that we have to marry someone who has sinned the same way as us, which can lead us to bad situations and rule out people. We can think, well I’ve had sex so I have to marry someone who has, I’m divorced so I have to marry someone else who is. The list goes on. That’s not a very good approach. It also leads to the idea that singleness is a punishment from God. But worst of all, it short changes God’s grace. It basically says that God’s grace is good enough for salvation (a ticket to heaven) but it can’t free me from much here. That is a lie straight from hell.
If you are in Christ, your sin is forgiven and you’re not disqualified from Heaven. You are a new creation. Jesus has paid for it. Which do you think is easier, getting you into heaven or getting you married?
You know you are forgiven right? How would you date different if you knew you were free?