Tax Collectors and Singles

When it comes time to move, you find out who your friends are. Certainly, I don’t have very many, but I will take quality over quantity, any day. I was thinking during a recent sermon, how if “tax collectors and sinners” were outcasts of the Jewish population in Jesus time on earth, perhaps singles are among the pariahs of the modern American church. A single friend told me that she felt that people her age at her church viewed her as “gum to be scraped off the bottom of their shoes.” Well, surely I am short on friends my own age, especially ones of the male persuasion who are handy at lifting heavy objects. But “gum-on-the-shoe” seems a bit extreme. Neither are we outcast like the tax collectors of old. But it is true that most of my church friends are older than me. Further, this move caused me to realize that most people my age have become home owners and aren’t moving between apartments anymore. This makes it awkward to ask for help. It is easier to request help when you have had, or will have, the opportunity to return the favor.

So this experience has been a reminder of the challenges of being single. It shows that more than marital status separates me from my peers; I am living an entirely different lifestyle. What I really feel like at church is a foreigner. I just don’t quite belong. As I pondered all of this while planning the move, I came to the conclusion that I was simply going to have to trust God to provide the help that we needed. Then God sent a reminder to me that my perceptions are often just that: someone from church told us that he was going to get together a group to assist us.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more. . .”

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

There have been real examples of Christian love in this move. A dear friend took a week off just to visit and help us. She put on gloves and a mask and dove in to help us clean our old apartment. Another friend offered his help on not one, but two days of moving. And then there was the friend who showed up with half-a-dozen college guys from church, who along with a few of my friends, made quick work of loading and unloading a U-haul. I felt so blessed. God met my needs for this move in a bigger way than I could have anticipated.

Within the church, these times of “finding out who your friends are” have somehow always been an unexpected encouragement to me. For all my negativity about how the church treats those who don’t marry, when it has mattered most and I have needed help, there have always been brothers and sisters in Christ who have blessed me with love and support. In my Bible reading this week, I was in 1 Timothy. In chapter 5, Paul wrote to Timothy specific instructions regarding the care of widows within the body of believers. There was a time in my life when these passages of Scripture caused bitterness in my heart. I felt as though someday I would need help, but I might be excluded if I never married. I can’t believe I was so ridiculous! As I read it this week, I saw that the instructions that Paul gave were clearly oriented toward helping those who need it – those who don’t have anyone else to assist them. Believers are to care for their own family members, and the church body is to care for those who do not have family to help them.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:8-11

Scriptures combine with my recent experience to challenge me. How am I showing love and care to my brothers and sisters in Christ? I am certain that I should do more. God has shown me over the past few months that I can do more. I passed my exam (Praise God!), having done a significant portion of the studying at home on the weekends. And even though there was anxiety and worry over the move, everything that needed to be done was completed. My sister and I left behind a clean apartment and got everything moved within our anticipated time-frame. If I have accomplished all of this over the last couple of months while working full-time (and almost keeping up with blogging), any excuses I have for not helping others can’t possibly hold up!

So, alas, I am not being treated like a tax collector, unless you are referring to how Jesus treated them. I am being cared for as a sister and a daughter in the faith. As I reflect on what I do for others, I don’t like what I see. In the events of the past couple of weeks, I can already see that God is waging war on a new front against my sinful human nature. It is the end of one season and the beginning of another. God is always at work, and I suppose I shouldn’t want it any other way!

 

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