Jesus Was Single, Celibate and had Lots of Women Friends

By Jim Henderson

An article in today’s Chicago Tribune contrasts the growing number of young singles in the Chicago area with the lack of opportunities for them to meet. Their conclusion? Not enough fitness clubs and brutally cold winters. Apparently, once the temperature drops your chances of meeting someone follows suit.

I live in Seattle where pastors like Mark Driscoll take this problem seriously. His hipster looks and take-no-prisoners talk attracts many young men with many young women following them in the door. This church is a magnet for young people looking for place to meet potential partners. Unlike a health club there are no monthly dues but there is a price. Women are encouraged to stay home and have babies. For many people this is a price they’re willing to pay in exchange for the possibility of meeting Mr. Right.

This church’s laser focus on single men sets it apart from the majority of churches who spend their time focusing on the family. It’s shrewd, pragmatic and it works. Get the men and you get the women. Get the babies and you get the money. Get the money and you get the loyalty. Get the loyalty and you get ten years to brainwash people into your image.

In some ways they really get this right. In one of the one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated, Christians have become convinced that focusing on the family is the one Big Idea God is really into. Apart from outliers like Driscoll, this focus on the family group (a.k.a. the majority of Christians) would appear to be completely blind to the fact that a single person founded their movement!

The question the famous movie, When Harry Met Sally attempts to answer is, can men and women be friends without it leading to sex? Perhaps a more genteel way of putting it is, are cross gender non-romantic friendships possible? Apparently Harry and Sally were Christians because they didn’t think so.

In his groundbreaking book Sacred Unions Sacred Passions Dan Brennan turns this assumption on its head by exploring Jesus friendships with women. In his book Dan uncovers the fact that followers of Jesus would have to come to a very different conclusion than both Harry or Sally.

Here’s why, Jesus was not only single, he was celibate and had lots of women friends. Apparently for men and women who choose to follow Jesus it’s not only possible but normative to experience relational nearness without things becoming sexualized.

What if those of us who call ourselves Christians also became followers of Jesus? What if the church stopped focusing on the family and started focusing on the compelling life of Jesus? What if singles came to our churches and met men or women with whom they could experience non-romantic friendship? What if we didn’t rush or pressure people into marriage as if it was the cure all? What if we embraced Jesus’ radicalized vision of how men and women relate to each other? Maybe we’d put fitness clubs, bars and baby making churches out of business.

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