Written to the Church, the Bride of Christ,
Many would say that there are a lot of prejudices in our American church culture today. I so often see people speaking out against socio-economic divides in our churches, against racial divides, and even many against gender divides, but there is an interesting norm in our churches that many seem to take no notice of. A part of Christian culture that has changed drastically, even making, in many cases, a 180 degree turn from the early church. This is the Church’s view on marriage and singleness.
Most all Christians expect to someday get married. It has become an expectation of those growing up in our churches that someday it would be they who would be dressing their little children up in their adorable little Sunday attire and coming to church. And why would so many have that expectation? Because that is what they see at church. They have watched so many before them go through that experience of finding that person whom they can team up with as they chase after Jesus. What else plays into this mindset? The overwhelming thought in our churches that this is the normal next step in life. From youth group to college to marriage to children. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom These are the “natural” steps that are taken in the life of a normal Christian.
Just in the past week, I have read article after article about how to reach millennials. Why are our churches losing millennials? Why do some come back? Why do many not come back? I have no complete answer, but I can say that many millennials come back when they have someone to bring back with them. They come back when instead of hearing, “Still single? Oh well, you’ll find that person eventually,” they hear, “Congratulations! Do you guys need anything? I can help with the shower! When’s the wedding???”
There is a distinct difference in the responses I just mentioned. The first is derogatory, and the second is congratulatory. The first implies that this person in some way needs to have that relationship. That single people are in some way lacking or incomplete.
Being at a small Christian college in Nashville, I find myself in the hotbed of it all. The pressure that some feel to have that relationship is insane. There is a common phrase thrown around: “Ring by Spring!” Though in almost every case I have heard this used it has been in a joking matter, there is truth to it, or else it wouldn’t be a commonly used phrase. Every summer there are tons and tons of people who get married. This falls before the eyes of every single person via Facebook and Instagram (and those weird people who live Tweet weddings). For the record, I in no way want those getting married to feel as though they should not express happiness on social media. What I am saying is that if not for the pressure of getting to that point, single people would feel far more inclined to celebrate with those celebrating as opposed to stress eating in the corner. One is not in any way less because of their singleness.
Now I’ll tell you about myself.
I am a single, 21-year-old Christian. I someday think that I might be married, but who knows. I am loved by the Creator of the universe. I have awesome friends. Recently while hypnotized, I told hundreds of people that I am passionate about romance. Who knew? ANYWAYS, I think there are some things that we can do as Christians to better our culture and foster an atmosphere of encouragement for all. Here’s some things:
1. Change our attitude! If we find out someone is getting married, is in a new and exciting relationship, or is still happily married, let’s celebrate with them! This is a joyous occasion! God is doing awesome things! If we find that someone is single, let’s celebrate with them! Singleness is an awesome gift from God! God is doing awesome things!
2. Do singleness right! I have a friend who feels called to singleness. He does it right! God uses him in some really unique ways. Even those who may not feel a specific call to singleness, but find themselves in that category (me!) have something really awesome to offer in the kingdom of God. Do not be scared away from jumping into the family of God because you feel awkward or weirdly pressured. God has an incredible plan for you filled with opportunity to love and feel loved!
3. Integrate! In the Body of Christ we all have unique gifts and talents. How foolish have we been to so quickly divide ourselves into the “Singles,” the “Young Marrieds,” the “Marrieds with Children,” the “Parents of Adolescents,” and the “Seniors.” These categories alone leave so many people out! Of course there are great things that can come from spending quality time with those in similar walks of life, but aren’t we missing out on something??? I guess if Jesus came to many of our churches, He’d end up in the “Singles” class for the Sunday School hour. We each have so much to learn from each other, we cannot afford to be constantly divided.
Anyways, this has been a doozy of a letter for me to write, but nonetheless well worth it. I hope you have found my words encouraging.
God has an immeasurable amount of love for all of us. Let us take delight in it!