If you’ve come to my site by way of Twitter, the greatest social network ever, you may be aware of the fact that I use the service a lot and I follow an awful lot of people. I’ll be the first to admit that there is no way I can possibly stay up on every thing that every person I follow posts, but I do pay attention on a regular basis. Now in doing that, I’ve recently become much more cognizant of what I find to be a rather disturbing sentiment widely held among a particular group of people. Quite frankly, I find it so disturbing that it down right pisses me off. What is it that agitates me so much you ask? It’s this: the careless, beneath-the-surface message married Christians send about being single through their beliefs about relationships.
Sounds like a mouthful right? Let me provide you some examples. I saw both of these tweets you see below this week (I’ve blacked out who sent them because that’s not important).
As a single Christian guy, I have a BIG problem with insinuating that there is a great woman behind every good man. I consider myself to be a good man (by human standards anyway), but I’ve never been married or engaged. Yes, my mother has, and continues to play a critical role in shaping the man I’ve become, but I’m on my own now. There’s no one I go home to supporting my efforts to make a positive impact in the world. It’s just me and my desire to do something of significance with my life.
Now I’m sure the author of this tweet probably didn’t mean to exclude single men from being labeled good, however, using that as an excuse is rather passive. This may sound obvious, but that’s because inadvertently excluding someone isn’t the same thing as including them. This is a classic characteristic of what I would call the “War on Single Christians.” In this particular tweet we see a healthy marriage relationship communicated as the sole indicator of a man’s goodness (or woman’s, if you want to flip the table). That simply isn’t true. There’s nothing in God’s word that says being married makes you good. Married Christians HAVE TO BE INTENTIONAL about acknowledging that a person’s singleness has no bearing on goodness! A great marriage is not the pinnacle of God’s plans for each and every person’s relational life as that would be idolatry. A great relationship between God and that person is! Let’s move on.
One of the things all Christians have bought or are buying into at a given point of time is the belief that another person will a crisis or major need in your life. While I believe that God can certainly use people to have a life-changing impact on another, they themselves are not gods. Looking to another person to be the “answer” not only idolizes human relationships, but it also places unfair expectations on other people. Quite frankly the answer to our needs is not another person, it’s God. So when this particular twitter user insinuated that man needs a woman to protect him when his life is a mess, I FREAKING LOST IT. The thing every person, man or woman, needs when life is a perfect savior, that’s it. Who did the Apostle Paul look to for comfort and protection when he was imprisoned or shipwrecked or chased out-of-town? Was it another person? No! It was God.
So here we see the other aspect to the “War on Single Christians.” That being the attitude that a marriage relationship is what saves us from hardship or difficulty. Pastors and other church leaders are particularly bad at this. When they start communicating, unintentionally or otherwise, that marriage is the pinnacle of relationships, they essentially say that marriage is the antidote to any relational ill. If that were true, would we really have a divorce rate exceeding 50%?
Now I realize that pastors would push back on that saying that’s not what they mean to communicate. So let me speak to them directly: ANY time you publicly place a greater importance on marriage than singleness, you’re establishing a hierarchy. The problem is that there is NOTHING biblical about a relational hierarchy other than that which says the ultimate relationship is one with Christ. When highly impressionable single people see church leaders placing a greater emphasis, they’re going to think that there is something wrong with them for being single! If marriage was of greater importance than singleness why were the New Testament’s two greatest men, Jesus and the Apostle Paul, single?
In the case of both of these tweets (and many others like them), a healthy relationship with another person of character is essentially identified as the thing that justifies someone. This is false theology! The truth is there is NOTHING that qualifies us, man or woman, as good and there is nothing than saves other than what Christ did on the cross! When we establish relational hierarchies or idolize the marriage relationship, we take our eyes of what’s really important, a relationship with Christ. So married Christians, end this unintentional war you wage on your single brothers and sisters and instead proactively emphasize that which has eternal significance. Single people, don’t let yourselves grow weary as you navigate this war. Instead, look to a relationship with Christ as the source of an identity and a fulfillment of the innate relational needs you have.