Love is in the air. Or at least in the media. It’s that (somewhat unfortunate!) time of year when we are told to express our love for those in our lives via the act of conspicuous consumption. Despite the dubious origins of the modern holiday, Valentine’s Day, it is well established in our cultural lexicon that February 14th is the day to celebrate LOVE. And chocolate.
Okay, so I’m being cynical about market culture. In all seriousness, I think it’s GREAT to celebrate love and take a day to think about making my spouse feel special. But I can’t help wondering where all this elevation of romantic love leaves my single brothers and sisters…
For too long singleness in the church has been viewed with something ranging from pity to suspicion. Christian culture often elevates marriage to “God’s plan” for everyone, or at least the mark of a true adult. Many of my single friends complain that they feel relegated in small groups to the “singles ministry” which can feel like a glorified speed-dating episode. How can we as Christians think differently about singleness, and love all our neighbors, married and single alike?
“The church has a deep heritage of honoring singleness. For centuries, monasticism was one of the deepest ways a believer could express devotion to God. A person would devote their life to celibacy, serving the poor, praying, studying the scriptures, teaching, making “darkness into light.” If believers were serious about their commitment to God, they had an option to remain single for the rest of their lives in worship of God. It was an honorable way to live, and many in society chose it.”
What a refreshing reminder that singleness is not merely the absence of marriage, but often a calling that people choose! Teryn goes on to remind us that in denigrating singleness we are also putting too much pressure on marriage:
“We must offer people an alternative to the idolatry of marriage. We must teach everyone that singles are whole in and of themselves because God made each individual in His image. A man does not complete a woman, and neither does a woman complete a man. Each person, not just each couple, is a vital part of the church. God has a plan for each person, single or married.
God completes us when we find our identity and our worth in Him.
Real life comes when we embrace the here and now and serve God with joy and passion.
We should be pursuing Christ, not marriage. We should allow people to be who God made them to be, not pressure them to conform to our definition of what a “mature adult” does. We should be pursuing His love that can change each one of us in profound ways—single or married.”
Preach it! I love how she reminds us of the need to shift our focus from human relationships to our relationship with God. When this happens, our human relationships can grow and flourish without the pressure to fulfill all our needs.
If you are single, what can the church do to make you feel more valued? How does being single impact your work as a pastor? What is your church already doing to include all people in fellowship? United Methodist Communications published an insightful list of ideas for starting a singles ministry at your church, including the most important point to balance your church’s activities–offering special activities for single folks while also incorporating them in the fellowship of the whole church. The needs of single people may be different than those of married couple or families, but above all we have more in common than that which distinguishes us.
This Valentines day, let’s celebrate LOVE, not only of the romantic variety, but the Christian love of neighbor, the love between friends, the love we experience in our families of origin and our “chosen families.” It is time for Christians to recognize the gifts and worthiness of all of God’s children, regardless of their relationship status.