One of the problems in our culture when it comes to singleness is that the word single is too broad. It means far too many things. As I’ve stated before here, this is especially a problem in Christian culture because there are varying scriptural instructions for different groups of unmarried people. There are at least the following biblical examples of marital status: The married, the divorced, the widowed, those not yet married, those celibate by birth, those celibate because of the fall of man and those who are called and choose Celibacy for the Kingdom. Needless to say, all of these are different.
But in our culture we have added a group that amazingly I’ve never directly addressed here at the blog. That is those couples that live in cohabitation.
Recently I’ve been thinking some about virtue. That is, what is virtuous and what isn’t. For example, I’ve written about how being “nice” is not a virtue while being good is. All of this may seem like semantics or splitting hairs but it’s more than that. How we view these things impacts how we live our lives. It impacts how we view ourselves and our context, including if our context happens to be singleness. I want to tackle a few more of these thoughts in the context of singleness.
Today I want to talk bout the idea of meekness. Meekness is indeed a virtue. So much so in fact that Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek shall inherit the earth. But we are very confused in our culture, even in our Christian culture, about what meekness is.
Many of you may remember the movie Jerry Maguire. In it Jerry is a sports agent and his assistant Dorothy falls in love with him. Jerry at first loves her but isn’t what one might call “in love” with her.** But at the end, Jerry realizes that he and Dorothy belong together. He goes to her and says, “You complete me.” They live happily ever after.
Now from a theological standpoint, there’s all sorts of things wrong here. As I’ve mentioned over and over here, what we often do in Christian culture is just take secular beliefs and dress them up into Christian ones. For example we take the romantic idea of the one, dress it up and turn it into the “one God has for us.” These examples go on and on.
But today I want to talk about the idea of two people completing each other. We talk about this all the time. Many times we hear how a person couldn’t be who they are without their spouse. We talk about how a person couldn’t do the ministry work they do without their spouse.
For the last several years we’ve been hearing from all sorts of places about how millennials are leaving or have left the church. In reality at some level church membership and attendance is down across all generations.
This gallup report shows a lot of interesting statistics about church membership. The bottom line however is that it has dropped significantly over the last 20 years. Not only that, but when we look at millennials (those born from 1980-2000 – those aged 19-39), they have lower numbers than previous generations had at their age. Only 42% of millennials are church members.
While the number of millennials who claim a religion at all is lower at 68% than the average of all Americans (77%) their church membership is even lower.
Now we could list a lot of reasons for the drop in church membership – not only for the millennials but for the country as a whole. But there is one reason that I’ve tried to hammer here over and over and yet no one seems to recognize it. That is, that single people, by and large, don’t go to church.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been reading some scripture is idea of choice in the face of different contexts. The particular scripture that started this thought was 1 Peter 2:13-20. Here Peter instructs even servants to submit to their masters. . . even the bad ones.
Now obviously our culture and history has a lot of impact on how we read that. But Peter’s point isn’t that slavery is good. Or that unreasonable masters are ok. The point is that regardless of my circumstances and context, I’m called to act as Christ would. Peter and the early Church Fathers backed this up with their lives. They actually did endure extreme injustice with joy. In reading their writings, and writings about them, you can’t really help but be amazed by it all.
This is true for every area of our lives of course. Our income level, our job, what country and situation we live in. But for the sake of this blog it also relates to singleness, dating and marriage.
When I was in high school and college, one of the things that I battled with constantly was the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”. I battled this in almost every area of my life. I saw myself as decent, but not great at pretty much everything. The things that I did care about (sports for example) I worked my tail off to become great. But I never saw myself as arriving at greatness.
Nowhere was this more true than with the opposite sex. I was constantly in the friend zone with the girls that I liked. I thought I was physically not attractive enough. Later I thought I wasn’t making enough money. The list goes on. One of my go to thoughts was, “I’m just not good enough.”
Today I want to revisit the idea of the “gift” of singleness. I was reminded of how messed up our theology of singleness seems to be by this post at Relevant.
Now to be fair, the author says some good things so I want to point those out. He rightly says that the Church is too focused on marriage as the only path. He also rightly implies that the Church is terrible at dealing with single people. And he even goes so far as to say that not everyone will or even should get married. Amen!
However, the problem here is that he links the gift of singleness to all people that are not married. This idea is rampant and it’s bad. It’s terrible theology, and it leads to confusion. Now I’ve written about this a ton, but like I said, we need to keep revisiting this.