SINGLE ADULTS IN THE CHURCH
Recently, a young single adult in one of the corporate groups expressed her frustration regarding the way she and other singles are sometimes treated relative to those who happen to be married. Perhaps you too have noticed how single adults are occasionally left to fend for themselves in social settings. This is not a new phenomenon, and not likely unique to the Church. In addition, singles are often bombarded with challenges from well meaning individuals as to prospective mates, children and family. Sometimes a married couple will intentionally pass up the opportunity to include a single adult in an activity, so as to avoid any possible issues of jealousy in the couple if the single adult is particularly attractive. That is understandable, but in a healthy marriage, there should never be jealousy in the first place, as it may be a sign of immature love, or worse, incompatibility in the couple.
The Church at large has traditionally looked upon single adults as being in a state that seems somewhat less honorable than that of those who are married. Why has this been the popular outlook and more importantly, why are singles at times considered as outcasts that just will never be complete unless they find a marriage partner? One only needs to consider an important point about our Savior. Jesus Christ, the most Honorable man who ever lived, was also never married, and remained a single adult until he died. This is even more amazing when we realize that He did not even begin a Ministry until He was 30 years old! Our Savior would have had at least a decade to have enjoyed the benefits of a human marriage and family before He began His mission to Preach the Gospel and raise up the modern Church. This would lead me to believe that our Savior suffered the same kind of inequitable treatment that our modern adult singles suffer today. If being married makes a person complete or whole, then our Savior was incomplete, and therefore failed to set an important example for us in this regard. On a legal level, apparently, Christ was free to marry if he so chose. No one believes our Savior was incomplete, so the clear answer is that it is not a disgrace to remain single in the Church, for whatever reason, by choice or by chance.
It is often assumed that a person is to marry as soon as possible and have children to be considered part of the social fabric of Church life. To this author, much of the problem is that few seem to believe that God may have created a specific type of mate for each person. All too often, a person will marry the first available candidate to come along, rather than do the work to find that perfect match that was seemingly made in Heaven. The Church has been largely successful in causing unhappy marriages to appear successful by virtue of the principle of asking the wife to be submissive to her husband’s decisions. As long as a wife is willing to simply submit, everything looks great from the outside. Often, however, the woman is fearful of her husband and therefore, unhappy. This cannot be the will of our Creator, first because it flies in the face of the Biblical definition of perfect love, which casts out fear, and second because the woman is not equally yoked to her husband.
This leads to my own definition of the ideal marriage, the kind every single adult aspires to. In my experience, marriage ought to be between two equal partners where each is able to make decisions in the best interest of the couple, without fear. This is dramatically demonstrated in one of my favorite examples of a bad marriage in the Bible. Abigail is no stranger to members of the Church. She was able to think and act in the best interest of her selfish, foolish husband, without his consent and at the risk and fear of her life on several levels. I am also reminded of the Virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 whose husband safely trusts that she always acts in his, and the families best interest.
Some people also tend to believe that there is no such thing as incompatibility, and erroneously think that any person can have a happy relationship with any other, if they are just Christian enough. Was Christ unchristian because He could not get along with the Pharisees? What about Paul and Barnabas?
One likely problem is the false notion that marriage ought to be hard work. Does anyone believe that friendship ought to be hard work? Just think about that for a moment.
I only have to realize that no one I know continues a friendship that is hard work. A friendship is a natural outgrowth of two people on a common wavelength. Nobody needs a friend that is always at odds with one’s natural way of living, so we generally keep friends with a common outlook. “A friend loves at all times”. This is also the inspiring example set by the relationship between Christ and God the Father. Can anyone imagine the chaos if they argued about every aspect of their work?
Consider the weight of Proverbs 18 that describes a friend that sticks closer than a brother. How about a friend that sticks closer than a marriage partner? Truly a good marriage is one of two people who not only love each other, but have proven to be compatible and thus become best friends over time.
Many adult singles are merely victims of unfortunate circumstances, such as the continuing breakup of the Church. Others are just not willing to settle for an unhappy marriage like those they see all around them.
Single men and woman of the scattered Church can take heart in the Apostle Paul’s words regarding the end time, which we all believe is our time. Paul pointed out that it may be the better part of wisdom for a person to remain single and draw closer to God. Some have chosen this path which is perhaps prophesied in Christ’s own words: “And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life.” Some singles have forsaken a marriage to the first person to come along, in the noble pursuit of finding a truly compatible partner. A happy marriage may be just around the corner because of their patience. If not, they have the promise of God that will not fail, even if that means waiting for a resurrection.