Let’s say after a few visits to a church you decide to join a small group. You go to sign up and after taking down your general information the person running the sign up asks you, “How much money do you make?” After you recover from shock, you say, “Excuse me? Why does that matter?” The person warmly smiles (because that is what we do at church) and says, “Oh, this year we are going to be doing a couple of lessons on money, so we are setting up our small groups by income level – you know so that people are kind of in the same boat so to speak, and can identify with each other better.”
What would your reaction be to that? Or how about if you go to a church with Sunday School classes. What if there was a people with a lot of money class and a people with no money class. You know because people with different income have different needs, experience different struggles and of course like to hang out with people just like them.
Here’s the best part about this – if you get a big promotion – you get to move to a new group. Of course if you get demoted – well . . . .
In my opinion, one of the great problems in our Christian communities is that we have become all about affinity. We hang out with people like us. The problem is the kingdom doesn’t look like this.
Just look at Jesus’s disciples. I mean it was not very often in those days that you would have a fisherman, a zealot and a tax collector hanging out together. . . every day. . . for three years. Actually it doesn’t happen today either.
But they did. Why? Because they came together around Jesus. And a funny thing, it worked. In fact we are having this conversation because it worked. But this is not how we like it. We like comfort. We like the people who look, act, and think like us. There’s a lot wrong with this but for me the main problem is we are ripping each other off.
I bring all this up because there is often this weird divide between singles and marrieds in the church. In fact I would say that the divide is more apparent in Christians than non-Christians. There are a lot of reasons for it. We can make idols out of family, marriage, or even singleness. The Church in our current culture is pretty marriage centered and often treat marrieds and singles differently.
But a lot of it is that we are just so self focussed that we rule out anyone in a different context.
I see this all the time. Sometimes it’s the married peoples fault. They get married and just kind of abandon their single friends because somehow magically they now identify more with them than those they were friends with before. But then there are single people who give their newly married friends almost no choice because they start treating them as if now they have some sort of weird disease – “they’re married now so you know. . . ” To top it off, many churches (and ministries) are set up in such a way that when you get married you have to switch groups/classes/etc.
And of course no one who is in a different place could possibly be helpful. The married person doesn’t think the single person could possibly understand and speak into their married life, and the single person knows that married person just doesn’t get their plight.
Here’s what’s funny about this for me. I’m 40 years old. I’ve never been married – I’m about as single as you can get. And in six months I’ll be married. So can we still be friends?
All of my mentors are married. A whole lot of things on this blog come from conversations with them. At the same time a whole lot of people I mentor are married – will I now suddenly be a better mentor to them? Once I’m married do I still have stuff to say about being single or am I now clueless? Will more married people now trust me because I’m married? Really, if you want to be un-single should you listen to the person who is always single (I once told someone I could teach them how to not get married. Ha!) or the person who figured out how to get married? We could play this game all day.
The truth is we need each other. We singles need to learn how to love our married friends and vice versa. It can be complicated. It takes being intentional. It takes having a right theology of singleness and of marriage. It means not lifting one up over the other but lifting Jesus up over both. It probably means being uncomfortable.
Is your community divided? Whether you are single or married, are you willing to be intentional with those who aren’t?