I moved to St. Louis just over eight years ago. It’s a great city and I have grown to love it. Just like any other city it has it’s own culture. I’ve learned there are a few really important things in St. Louis. The Cardinals, Budweiser, Ted Drewes, and where you went to high school. No lie this is one of the first things people ask a new person they’ve just met, “Where did you go to high school?” People identify certain areas of town and certain schools with particular stereotypes.
This search for identity is a constant in our culture. Where do you work? What church do you go to? Where do you live? And of course, are you married or single?
It is so easy to fall into this trap. We often identify ourselves as married or single first. Now to some degree this makes sense. The truth is that married people do deal with different things than single people. But it becomes a problem when it becomes our core identity. When our core identity is in anything other than Jesus we are heading towards trouble.
This is harmful for both marrieds and singles and it can be even worse for those who are parents. We become wrapped up in our context instead of our savior. We start hanging out with only the people who are in our same context. We start seeing our relationship with Jesus through the lens of our situation instead of the other way around.
I’ve seen this shine through in my prayer life. For a long time the number one thing I prayed about was my singleness. So much so that I struggled to pray without mentioning it. Whether it was asking God to bring me someone (or a particular someone), being mad at God for what was going on in that area of my life, or just generally complaining about it – a huge majority of my prayer life has centered on it. This doesn’t even get into my thought life and all that goes with that.
I would go so far as to say this even happens with the word Christian. We end up saying we want a “Christian marriage” or a we need to date in a “Christian” way. What does that even mean? The word Christian is one of the most confusing words in the world. It means so many different things to so many different people.
What we need to be is Christ centered. We need Jesus to be in the center of our marriages, singleness and yes if we are so blessed, even in our parenting. I see a lot of people raising “Christian” kids, but very few raising their kids to be Jesus followers.
You might say, “Well Justin that is all semantics,” but I’d submit that semantics matter, a lot actually. We need to stop trying to be Christian and start trying to walk with Jesus. I can do a lot of right Christian things without even involving Jesus.
If Jesus is our identity all of a sudden there is a whole lot less to be divided about. All of a sudden we can be in community with all sorts of different people, married, single and otherwise because now our common bond isn’t our situation but instead is Jesus. It means that we can learn from each other in the context of Him instead of our particular context.
Jesus wants to be in the middle of it with us. He wants to guide us in our own unique setting and He wants us to walk with all sorts of people regardless of theirs.
So let me ask you, how do you identify yourself? Do you have a Christian marriage or a marriage that Jesus is leading? Are you looking or a Christian relationship or a Christ centered one? If we are marrieds or singles we are always going to be divided. If on the other hand we are Jesus followers who happen to be married or single, then we’ve got a whole new ball game.