Many churches in America have become segregated societies. This likely comes as a surprise to those of you in the majority. But people who have never married know they are separated. The categorizing of people into groups seems to have been a response of larger churches to the need for people to connect with other believers in a smaller group setting. As a result, segregation isn’t a problem in many small churches. The problem begins to arise when there are no longer levels of schooling by which to divide people. At that point, there seem to be only two ways to divide: age or life stage. Many would consider age and life stage to be the same thing. After all, segregating people in this way requires some level of belief that every Christian’s life will follow the same pattern. I used to think that, too, until God led me down this strange path of singleness.
Singles’ groups may seem to give unmarried people a place to fit in. The inherent flaw of these groups, is that when people from the group marry, they “graduate” to a group for married people. As a result, singles’ groups tend to fizzle out after a couple of years. The single people who are left behind become church riffraff. When the next group gets going, the left-behind of the previous group will be awkwardly older than those in the new group. Meanwhile, the people they used to fellowship with, whom they counted as friends, have all but disappeared from their lives.
These manufactured divisions create an environment in which marriage is the only way to fit in with other believers. This places pressure on people to marry, which can lead to bad decisions. These decisions, in turn, lead to unhappy marriages and divorce. Whether intentional or not, the church shouldn’t be in the position of encouraging people to compromise. Further, when single and married people don’t fellowship together, neither side is able to see the challenges that the other side faces. Neither lifestyle is perfect or worry-free, though it is pointed out in 1 Corinthians 7 that a single person is more able to be devoted to the Lord. Even so, the church seems to place a higher value on being married.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus’ singleness an accepted fact that is rarely discussed. But one must conclude that marriage and family are not required in order to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus Himself told people that they would have to forsake their family to follow Him. The bottom line is that our Lord didn’t spend His time on earth separating people by marital status. The closest Jesus came to asking about someone’s marital status, was His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. He asked her to bring her husband because He knew she had a history of several husbands, and at that time, lived with a man she wasn’t married to. He asked to point out that she had been trying to satisfy the longing of her soul with human relationships. At the well, Jesus taught that marriage does not satisfy the longing soul; only He can fill. Still, many Christians promote the idea that marriage is the only way to be happy, though they would never say it in those words.
The effects of segregation along with the inferences that marriage is the only way to be happy, lead young people down the wrong path. Instead of seeking God’s will for their lives, they seek a spouse. It isn’t what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek, and you will find,” but too often it is true in these situations. Most people who want to be married, can be, if they are willing to compromise and settle for less than God’s best for their lives. Yet a person can “Seek first the kingdom of God” and still end up married. Putting God first would lead to a happier life, whether one married or not.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
When I was in my early twenties, I was like the woman at the well before she met Jesus. Though I was a Christian, I didn’t understand that I needed to seek Jesus to fill the desires of my heart. Instead, I sought to be loved by a man, and I wanted to be married more than anything else. God was gracious to me; He kept me single long enough to learn that my priorities were wrong. Some of the best lessons I ever learned about living as a single woman came from married women. These were married women who took the time to mentor and disciple young, single women. I couldn’t have been the only one who needed it.
I sometimes wonder if God kept me single so that I could share with younger women that it is better to be single than to marry out of desperation. I want every woman to know that God’s plan for her life will always be better and happier than the life she thinks she wants. Regardless of marital status, God has made each of us to be unique. Each journey of following Christ will look different. Perhaps if people fellowshipped with more diverse groups, we would all be more accepting of each other. Perhaps it wouldn’t feel so weird to be single on Sunday morning.