The other night, my best friend and I watched a show together from a thousand miles away. If I can’t fly to D.C. and she can’t come to Mississippi, at least we can fire up our laptops and enjoy Anne with an E at the same time, texting our commentary to each other throughout.
As a child, I was always enthralled with Anne’s relationship with her best friend, Diana. The two were kindred spirits, confidants through thick and thin, always advocating for one another. I always wanted a friend like Diana, and, by God’s grace, I’ve been given several friends who fit the bill.
I needed these friends as a single person, and I need them now as a wife.
When I was engaged, a friend of mine pulled me aside. “You are in a love haze right now, but don’t forget your friends. You still need them.” She was right. Marriage is not a self-sufficient island of Christian community. It’s one in a network of meaningful relationships that are in the business of conforming us to the image of Christ.
Made for Others
God made us for community.
It was not good for Adam to be alone, so God made Eve. And while the story of woman’s creation is the first love story, it’s also a story about community. Adam was not made to fulfill his mission on earth alone; he needed Eve to help him. When she did, they began populating the world and filling it with more people who were called to worship God in community with one another.
“Marriage is not a self-sufficient island of Christian community.”
Adam’s need for Eve is a bigger story than a man’s need for a wife. It’s the story of man’s need not to live in isolation. It’s the story of man’s need for community. We need the entire body to grow in the image of Christ — not just our spouses.
Ephesians 5 paints a beautiful picture of the intimate relationship between a husband and his wife, but that relationship is couched in the context of the previous chapter: we are a body of believers called to unity (Ephesians 4:1–3; 13). We are a family.
This view of community not only puts our marriages in perspective and takes undue pressure off our spouses to be everything we need all the time; it also knocks against our tendency to isolate singles from our understanding of community.
Intimacy Is More Than Sex
This is good news. It means that marriage is not the only biblical means for gaining intimacy.
Our society often equates intimacy with sex. We tease snidely that when people are tense, it must be because they need to “get laid.” We joke — with eyes bulging — about the woman who’s gone several months (or, God forbid, several years) without sex.
We are uncomfortable with the idea of friendships between men and women because friendship leads to intimacy and intimacy leads to sex. We are uncomfortable with close friendships between people of the same sex for the same reason. In fact, we side-eye David and Jonathan for loving each other a little more than we’re comfortable with men loving one another (1 Samuel 18:1).
“Marriage is not the only biblical means for gaining intimacy.”
In a culture that so often equates intimacy with sex, it makes sense that singles in our churches feel isolated from intimate relationships. If sex is the primary means for intimacy in a relationship, and if unmarried people in the church should not be having sex, then single folks are out of luck.
This is a hopeless position for people whom God made to long for fellowship with other human beings.
We All Need Each Other
In his message “Five Misconceptions About Singleness,” Sam Alberry said, “We just can’t imagine that there is a kind of real intimacy that is not ultimately sexual. . . . It’s a profoundly unhealthy way to think. We’ve downgraded other forms of intimacy because we’ve put all of our intimacy eggs in the sexual and romantic relationship basket.”
Marriage is not the only road towards intimacy because sexual intimacy is not the only kind of intimacy. Nor is it the most important form of intimacy. Biblical intimacy among siblings in Christ is rooted in God’s love towards us. It is rooted in the fact that we have been invited into an intimate relationship with the Son (John 10:29).
When we make marriage the primary means of intimacy in the church, we do a huge disservice to the singles in our fellowship and the idea of Christian community as a whole. Marriage is not an island that we move to in order to bring glory to God; it’s just one picture (and a very prominent one) in a gigantic network of human relationships meant to deepen our understanding of Christ.
We All Need Christ
When we understand this, we unflatten our definition of intimacy and realize that its purpose isn’t ultimately about our own sense of self-fulfillment, but about God’s glory. Our relationships are not in the business of completing us — from marriage to friendship to fellowship — but rather, they are a tool God uses to conform us to his image (Romans 12:1).
“Marriage isn’t the only road towards intimacy because sexual intimacy isn’t the only kind of intimacy.”
Ultimately, the person that we need is Christ. And every other relationship in our life is designed to point us back to our need for him.
Anne of Green Gables often called Diana her kindred spirit. I love that term. A kindred spirit is someone who understands you more deeply than any other person. And what better place to find those spirits than in the body of Christ, as siblings in him? What better people to remind us, single or married, that we were not made to live alone, but to partner together to spur one another on for God’s glory?