The Church & Single People (Or, The Wrong Way To Handle a Right Thing)
I read an article about how Jesus said that forced and natural eunuchs were blessed because they chose a life of celibacy, even if it wasn’t forced upon them. They shouldered the burden willingly at the expense of getting close to God and will be rewarded a hundredfold. (Matthew 19.) Now, the author was conflating being a eunuch with giving up everything to follow Jesus, even if it hurt, so I can’t really say I agree when looking at the chapter in full, but I get where he was coming from.
The author tied this to present-day gay people in the church – gay Christians. He seemed to suggest that the church needs to start placing celibate gays (and straights) in a position of honor in the body of Christ, much in the same way they will be honored in Heaven. The problem, he seems to say, is that churches aren’t willing to do this. Churches seem to celebrate being married because marriage should mirror Christ’s relationship with the church, and there is added benefit to being married for intimacy, companionship, kids, establishing a legacy, etc.
I think that we in American/Western Christianity have made an idol of marriage and family today, so there will be some work needed to understand that a life of celibacy in service to the Lord is just as commendable and honorable as the long-married couple. The author was saying that this corrected mindset can go a long way to having people feel desired and wanted in communities of Christian faith.
It’s something with which I struggle. I’ve dated, loved, had one or two brief relationships (back when I was young and dumb), and still remain single. At the same time, I’ve engaged in Christian fellowship and made some awesome friends. When I needed to be around people socially, God provided a nice release of some frustration I had in not having anyone at home. It was great to be with friends and that fulfilled a need for me at the time.
There have been times when friends just weren’t enough. Being on a date, being desired, being wanted, getting to know someone and their smile, ticks, quirks, humor, appreciating them, kissing (!), and maybe cuddling filled that need for me when the Rainbow Of The United Colors of Friendship Benetton Wasn’t Enuf. And as I type this, if you ask me what God wants out of me? I honestly can’t answer that right now. I could say, “He wants me to be celibate as a sacrifice to Him even though we both know that singleness is not something I view as a gift for my life.” Am I willing to make that sacrifice?
I don’t apologize for it. This might change, but for now, it’s a solid no. I really hope it doesn’t change because I don’t want to live alone. I like intimacy. I like cuddling. I like having someone else there. I know God can provide all of that – because He can do anything and has fulfilled needs for me when my desire for socialization got BAD. But I just don’t want to live that life.
(Sidenote: please explain to me why it’s always married people telling single people how to be holy and acceptable to God and live in a painfully sacrificial way, while they espouse the benefits of marriage to single people, then shame them if they made out on a date like they don’t understand what it’s like to be single and desire companionship. Maybe they don’t. Many of these people who counsel single people like that got married at 23 or so and don’t have to live as a single person who is 38 or 45.)
Anyway. I found the article interesting enough to write about it. I think there is room in the church to have a change around how we approach Godly singleness being as on-par with Godly marriage, but that also opens the door to create a holy litmus test in churches too. So…I don’t know. I guess just working on not having a messed up view of singleness is a necessary first step.
Your thoughts? Do churches not view singleness correctly? Do they stress benefits of marriage and have an unspoken disdain for singleness (especially when you’re over 30) with assumptions about how you’re living outside of church because you’re not married? What impacts for gay people could this have? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!