While many people enjoy Valentine’s Day, it is also a notoriously fraught holiday. It can be high pressure if you’re in a relationship and depressing if you’re not. And, says Pastor Rich Villodas, it can reveal the very unbiblical way some of us perceive singleness.
“Valentine’s Day is always a good day to examine our often deficient theology of singleness,” tweeted Rich Villodas, pastor of New Life Fellowship church in New York City. “Jesus was single and lived the fullest human life imaginable.”
Happy Valentine’s Day to all my incredible, smart, precious, single friends who have chosen to be true to themselves & have refused to settle for anything less than they deserve!
— Heather Thompson Day (@HeatherTDay) February 14, 2022
Rich Villodas’ Tweet Resonates
Several people retweeted Pastor Rich Villodas’ statement, expressing their appreciation for the reminder that the Son of God was never married and the affirmation of the pain they had encountered from a poor theology of singleness. Said one, “The unfathomable pressure to couple up, and the pain of being widowed are both deeply exacerbated by a lot of deficient theology.”
“I’ve been reading with an eye and ear to developing a more robust theology of singleness for myself,” said another. “I’ve grown weary of seeing a church that only has good news for folks in comfortable nuclear families (even though I’m part of one). The family of faith must be broader than that!”
User Scott Hunt wrote, “Being single until called into marriage at 37, there were many, many Valentine’s Days I would’ve benefited deeply from this message. Marriage is a dim picture of the incredible, vibrant, glorious love story all of us are welcomed into for all the ages to come in Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Christopher Yuan, author of “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel,” has voiced a similar point as Pastor Rich Villodas. In an interview with ChurchLeaders in December 2019, Yuan addressed the assumption that singless is a sign of immaturity, saying, “The church has treated marriage as better than singleness, and yet we forget that our perfect Savior, Jesus, was single, and he was not an immature man, he was not trying to shed responsibility…We shouldn’t think that marriage is what provides a person to be mature or whole.”
But even what was no doubt meant to be an encouraging statement from Villodas was difficult for one user, who said, “I really don’t want to be a hater…but I see this pop up every year around [Valentine’s Day] and…circulate among many in my circles and it’s just one of my least favorite quick takes on singleness.” The user explained,
I would never want to say Jesus’s life wasn’t full. He was the Son of God after all. he had a community around him that today’s church would greatly benefit from modeling, for singles and everyone. But saying Jesus had “the fullest life imaginable” as a comfort for singles on a romantic holiday? From where I sit, Jesus’ life was marked by extreme loneliness. The Bible tells us he was mocked, scorned, despised, rejected, a stranger in his own hometown. And of course, tortured crucified and died at only age 33. So I think we miss the mark when we try to comfort singles on Valentine’s by pointing to the Man of Sorrows as an example of a flourishing single life. That’s my take.
In an interview with ChurchLeaders in June 2021, Laurence Koo, who is the director of The Navigators’ iEdge program and who was born and raised in the Netherlands, shared his perspective on being a single person in the American church.
One of the challenges Koo faced upon arriving in the U.S. was figuring out how to “fit into a community that’s so based on only families and married people…My first year in the U.S., I worked in a department [where people have] lived abroad too, but I was not invited to someone’s home, a married home or a family’s home, for dinner.”