Advice for confused single Christian men, part 1

This is the first part of a series offering some advice to Christian men who are looking to get married. It hopes not to be too patronising, and it certainly isn’t a complete guide because that’s an impossible undertaking. With those disclaimers, here goes...

There are a number of ways to confuse a single Christian man who wants to get married but perhaps none is more effective than giving them at least one of these two pieces of advice:
1. Aside from deciding to follow Jesus, who you marry is the most important decision you ever  make, so don’t mess it up.
2. Just get on with it: find a girl, ask her to marry you, live happily ever after.
I’ve heard both comments made repeatedly by (married) church leaders and whilst I understand the sentiments, I can appreciate why single guys say to me, ‘Well, which of those two is right?’ I puzzled over this when I was single and I still don’t have a definitive answer because I don’t think there is one. But I do think it’s helpful to wrestle with what seem to be contradictory assertions, for more than just romantic reasons.

The first thing to say is that those two statements are obviously addressed to different guys. Guy 1 doesn’t think very much and is therefore in danger of heading for mismatched disaster. Guy 2 thinks far too much and risks getting caught in the paralysis of analysis. But before we look at this any further, I want us to think much deeper than you might consider necessary, in order that we understand something important about God and truth.

Here are some of the great truths of Christianity:
- God is three persons, each is fully God, there is one God.
- Jesus is fully God and fully man.
- God is sovereign over all things; human beings are responsible for their actions.
Now these are very different propositions to the pair we started with, but they seem to share that sense of wilful contradiction. They’re illogical, some would say. When you reach that point of frustration with any of them and ask, ‘Which is it?’ I believe God would reply, ‘Wrong question.’ We need to stop thinking in such a limited way if we’re to appreciate the full extent of God’s truth.

Christian thinkers have always had to wrestle with this. John Calvin, according to Alister E. McGrath in A Life of John Calvin, saw the incarnation of Jesus as a way to understand how massive, seemingly contradictory truths could be held together. Just as Jesus is fully God and fully man, distinct but not separate, so two ideas can be distinguished from each other without cancelling each other out. G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy wrote about how Christianity combines “furious opposites by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious.” He also used the image of someone riding a chariot with skill and precision, “seeming to stoop this way and to sway that” to retain their balance as they race along with enemies attacking them from both sides. These are thrilling metaphors for how we should behold and believe truth, so much better than merely talking about being careful to get the balance right, which seems far too small a thing when eternal truth, and our hearts, are at stake.

The posts that follow in this series will continue to use seemingly paradoxical statements, like pairs of mighty horses pulling a chariot. You will need skill and discipline to handle them, wisdom to know yourself and the terrain you are in, and grace to realise that however lonely you may feel you are not alone.

So now we’ve started. A convoluted start, admittedly, and it’s seemingly a long way off from asking a girl out on a date, but I wanted to begin here to remind you that God loves teaching us loads of different things at the same time. Furthermore, the sooner you realise that you can’t always set the agenda and that your understanding of truth may be imperfect, the better prepared for Christian discipleship and married life you will be.

Next: expectations.