But tragically, church became known for the opposite, an institution so focused on marriage that singleness became a curse in comparison.
I know this is true because this is the story of a very close friend of mine. This person is not a mental construct that I created for the sake of argument, but someone very real, and very dear to me. Although she dated a few Christian men, she never found anyone with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. This was difficult enough given the pressure she felt from her parents to get married, but what made this infinitely worse was the fact that the church didn’t seem to have a place for her either. No one ever spoke about singleness, and the value that it held in the Christian experience, despite the many passages that spoke to that effect. There were numerous sermons and small groups that focused on marriage, but none on singleness, or our
All I know is that if the church had played its proper role in valuing that sister as a full person, whatever her marital status, she would have had one less reason to leave those doors. And that breaks my heart.
What could have the church shared with her instead? Well, they could have told her the words of Paul, and how he says in 1 Corinthians 7 that if possible, it is better for someone to remain unmarried and be completely focused on the things of God. They could have shared the words of Jesus in Mark 12, that in heaven, there won’t be the same concept of “marriage” as we know now because we will share that type of relationship with Christ, and with all Believers. They could have told her about Acts 2, and the joyful community of the early church, one that started not with a wedding but a baptism, a family of faith. They could have shared the words of Revelation, and how virgins and unmarried people are given a high place of honor. They could have shared the stories of monks and nuns and ascetics, all ridiculously godly people who devoted their lives to both total community and total celibacy.
Or conversely, they could have shared more soberly and honestly about marriage, how marriage is hellishly difficult. In addition to talking about the inherent wonders of marriage, they could have included its inherent difficulties, that there are depths of pain and hardship that are reserved only for married couples. They could have said that even though marriage is good, it is not perfect. Instead of hiding the difficulties of marriage behind the curtains of euphemism and propriety, they could have been honest and open, and in so doing, revealed to single people that marriage is not at all a haven from sin, hurt, loss, loneliness, or pain, not in the least.
Or they could have simply said, “You know, it’s totally okay to be single.”