Having been pointed to an interesting article, and enjoying the conversation it led to, I thought I would share a few brief thoughts on being married and being single in Church. I am happily married in a Church community. I’ve also been single in Church too – albeit when I was in my twenties, which is a galaxy away from other single experiences. These thoughts of mine are attempting to be Biblical but in terms of experience, they can’t be all-encompassing. I could stand to learn a lot. But hey, that’s the point of what follows…
This image is filled with horrible assumptions and misrepresentations of singleness and coupling. But how often does this caricature affect us in the Church?
Many churches are filled with married families. Some are filled with single people, both young and mature. Often times married people get very focused on their own family unit and forget to see those who are, for whatever reason, single. Often times single people feel like a subclass in many churches. Conversely, sometimes single people forget to observe just how difficult marriage can be and also how important it is. Sometimes the assumed labels over married are “normal” or “happy”. Sometimes the assumed labels over singleness are “something’s wrong” or “must be unhappy”. We need to move past these assumptions. After all, we are taught about the glory of marriage by a single Man. (and another one too!) Both states must be okay and more than okay, they must be important.
What occurs to me is that Christ’s Church needs to be a community where people see one another whatever their state. And having seen can learn from one another. What does the presence of married people teach God’s community? What does the presence of single people teach that same community – even if and perhaps especially if most are married? These are important questions.
What Does Marriage Teach Us All? A community where marriage is valued, protected, lifted up as important, and perhaps counter-culturally defined teaches us. It teaches us all whether we are happily married, unhappily married, formerly married, will be married, or never will be married. It teaches us about our need as human beings for one another. It is not good for man to be alone. It teaches us about self-sacrifical love and service. It teaches us about covenant. As marriage is being redefined around us it teaches something of discipleship – what it means to follow Jesus even against the current. It teaches us about the Church and her future. But most importantly, it teaches us about Christ. You could read Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:1-10, Ephesians 5:22-32, Revelation 21 and learn the ideas. But seeing it, in the midst of a diverse community teaches us all something. As much as we value, lift up, explain, celebrate, real marriages – with all their struggles and glories – we learn. God teaches us whatever our relational state may be. But this is not all we have to learn…
What Does Singleness Teach Us All? This is likely the more neglected half of the equation. But the presence of single people – faithfully and obediently living it out – teaches a Church community valuable things as well, provided eyes are open and ears are listening. Faithful singleness teaches us that our primary relationship – the one that surpasses all others in importance – is with God. No wife, husband, or even children can satisfy what only God can. It teaches us that our first commitments are for the Kingdom and not this world. It teaches us something of our resurrected future where, apparently, marriage will not be a thing. … they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. It can challenge us about our idolatries. Idols are only made from good things and many make idols out of marriage or childrearing. But most importantly, it teaches us something about Jesus. In His humanity, He did not need to be married to fulfill God’s purposes. You could read Matthew 19:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7, or look to the examples of Christ or Paul and get the ideas. But by seeing faithful singleness lived out – with all its struggles and glories – we learn.
Both marrieds and singles are valuable persons in a community of grace. Both show us something of what a life of discipleship means. And both show us something of the Person of Our Lord – whose face we see in one another. We need one another to know Him. And we need to learn from one another with open eyes, listening ears, and glad hearts.
For more on this:
These are some good talks on singleness (good for both marrieds and singles to learn from):
Singleness -The Biblical Guidelines, Part 1 – Tim & Kathy Keller
Singleness -The Biblical Guidelines, Part 2 – Tim & Kathy Keller
And I can’t recommend this book enough (especially pages 133 to 147) If you’re part of The King’s Fellowship I’ve got a free copy for you. Ho Ho Ho. Merry Xmas.
Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity. Lauren Winner