FOOD FOR THOUGHT: ……. in your ‘singleness’ God can use you!

BreakPoint
May 16, 2014
Single Christians Inquire Within
Attitude Check for the Church
John Stonestreet

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One of the church’s best resources is often left out looking in. I’m talking about singles and why we should rethink their place in our congregations.

Here at BreakPoint, we love, and I mean really love, to talk about the family. And there are good reasons for that: Marriage and family are not only a beautiful gift from God, they’re essential to the health of our society.

So the Church, as Eric Metaxas and I have said time and again, must defend and promote healthy marriages. It’s why we both supported Focus on the Family’s new project Irreplaceable.

In our zeal to promote a strong marriage culture, however, we often neglect to mention that married life is not the only path to a happy Christian life—or to fulfill God’s call on our lives. (And I’m thankful for the BreakPoint listeners who remind us of this).

Writing in the excellent journal Public Discourse, Carissa Mulder explains, “Marriage can be a path to holiness, but so can the single life. St. Paul himself writes that it is easier for a single person to focus on the affairs of God, because he does not have to worry about his spouse.”

“Freedom from the duties of family life,” she continues, “can permit us to spend more time developing our relationship with God and serving the church. It also frees us from falling into the trap of relying on a [spouse] to fulfill our deepest needs. Only God can do that, and when we are single, we are faced with that reality. There is no hiding behind a marriage. There is only God.”

My good friend and former BreakPoint editor Jim Tonkowich eulogized his recently deceased brother this way: “Greg, who never married, was always willing to spend himself for others—looking after them when they were sick, spending hours encouraging them when they felt helpless, giving rides, sharing what he knew and had . . . making phone calls, house and dog sitting. If friends or family had needs that he could meet, he was more than willing to step up.”

The point is that the singles are a vital part of the Church. And the completeness and health of the church, Paul says, requires the involvement and participation of all of its members, married or not.

And yet, visit any website where people are talking about singleness and faith, and you’ll see far too many stories from singles who feel inferior, even shunned in the church; who, whether explicitly or implicitly, have gotten the message that marriage is a requirement for full participation in the life of the Church.

Not only does this attitude do damage to Paul’s understanding of the body of Christ, it’s blind to reality. The rates of singleness and delayed marriage are rising inside and outside the Church. And when we tell singles “just go out and get married,” we ignore the fact that it’s not that easy. Again, as Carissa Mulder explains, “People have free will, and actualizing the vocation to marriage depends on someone else’s choice to do the same.”

In other words, we just can’t get married because we want it—someone else has to want it too.

And Mulder reminds us that single Christians are in much the same position as Christians with same-sex attraction who are called to lifelong celibacy. They need strong, healthy Christian relationships to sustain them in their often-difficult walk.

Eric Metaxas mentioned recently on BreakPoint that 63 percent of single Christians in one survey said they would have sex before marriage. I wonder how that statistic could change by Christ’s church reaching out and caring for single Christians? If the problem is relational, it’s likely the solution is relational as well.

I’ve said before on BreakPoint, and I’ll say it again, Christians have a responsibility to care for, encourage, and support each other in whatever station of life we’re in. And that support should be in place before, not when or if, someone heads to the altar.

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