Wisdom from John Stott

Andrew Bunt 1 week ago
Blog 2 mins

I love stumbling upon unexpected words of wisdom about singleness. Here’s a recent example I found in a Bible commentary by John Stott.

Stott is commenting on 1 Thessalonians 4:4, part of Paul’s call to the Thessalonians to please God through abstaining from sexual immorality (and part of a chapter I think is key for same-sex attracted Christians). It’s actually a slightly tricky verse and can be translated in two different ways. Some translate it as ‘that each of you know how to control his own body’ (ESV), while others propose the rendering ‘that each of you know how to take a wife for himself’ (e.g. see ESV footnote).1 Stott supports the second rendering, understanding Paul to be saying that marriage can be one of the things that can help us to avoid sexual sin.

However, as a single man himself, Stott recognised that this might raise some questions for those of us who are also single. Cue some wisdom on singleness: 

‘An additional paragraph is needed for those of us who are single and therefore lack the God-given context for sexual love. What about us? We too must accept this apostolic teaching, however hard it may seem, as God’s good purpose both for us and for society. We shall not become a bundle of frustrations and inhibitions if we embrace God’s standard, but only if we rebel against it. Christ’s yoke is easy, provided that we submit to it. It is possible for human sexual energy to be redirected (‘sublimated’ would be the Freudian word) both into affectionate relationships with friends of both sexes and into the loving service of others. Multitudes of Christian singles, both men and women, can testify to this. Alongside a natural loneliness, accompanied sometimes by acute pain, we can find joyful self-fulfilment in the self-giving service of God and other people.’2
  1. In support of the first translation, see Leon Morris, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC (IVP, 1984), pp.80–82 and Gary Steven Shogren, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, ZECNT (Zondervan, 2012), pp.162–164. In support of the second, see John Stott, The Message of Thessalonians: The Gospel & the End of Time, BST (IVP, 1994), pp.82–85.
  2. Stott, The Message of Thessalonians, pp.84–85.