I’ve posted over on the Passing the Salt Shaker blog, giving some thoughts on the unmarried state, in the continuing discussion following Graham Ware’s introductory post:
The welcoming of the unmarried in the early Church was radical, but perhaps not in quite the same ways that it will be in our society. The radical step in the early Church was forgoing offspring and the social place accorded by family role. Those who took this step trusted that their posterity would be secured in the kingdom of God and that it was within that family that they found their place. In our society it will typically be sexual relations and personal lifestyle fulfilment that we forgo (both of which we idolize). Both steps can be practical declarations of eschatological imminence, that a new creation is at hand and that this creation and its orders will pass away. This has a lesson for the married among us too.
Read the whole post here.
Re: ‘Thoughts on the Unmarried State’ – really good points.
I just want to add this: While I think good Christian marriages are a good thing, I find it strange that married couples sometimes seem to be regarded as somehow ‘superior’ to ‘singles’. Being single is a matter of choice for some Christians – and why not?! For others it is not a matter of choice. For instance, I know elderly women who did not marry (much though they wanted to) because no man made a proposal of marriage to them. [They were of ‘marriageable age’ at a time when it was traditionally the man who ‘popped the question’] Then there are widows, widowers and divorce(e)s.There are men and women who became Christians after they married, and whose spouses are not Christians and don’t come to church.
We are all part of the Body of Christ.
I learnt an important lesson from a married couple at our church. I arrived a bit late for the service and I sat in a pew near the back alongside this couple. When it came to sharing the peace, I waited for them to share the peace with each other, but they had different ideas. The husband, who was next to me, offerred me the sign of the peace. Then his wife did likewise. After that, they shared the peace with each other. This was something they’d already agreed between themselves.They came to church primarily as members of the Body of Christ.
So much I could say! To limit to one point, I’d say that recognising that the church is family is crucial. The idolisation of the nuclear family causes, I believe, a great deal of loss both to families and to the church as a whole. A member of my worship team recently told me of their resentment that our church has an evening service as this meant that serving in the worship team was cutting into his ‘family time’ by an unacceptable amount. Now that I have a nuclear family (although not a traditional one admittedly!) I really do get the logistical difficulties involved in managing all the demands on one’s time, but I expect (and usually I’m not disappointed) the family of the church to take up a role in serving and supporting my family so that I can serve the church. I have no blood family living nearby. My son sees his grandparents a few times a year. My fostered children are separated from their families. In the church they have grandparents, aunties and uncles and father figures. And those who are separated from their own children and grandchildren, or who never had them, receive much from my children as we all muck in together. Interestingly, after years and years of conversations about when/whether I would find a husband, I now find that the topic never comes up. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve populated the house with children or whether I’ve turned 40 and apparently jumped irredeemably onto the shelf!
Thanks for sharing these thoughts. The narrow focus on the nuclear family causes so many problems, I believe. One of the things that I have appreciated in the past is witnessing infant baptisms or child dedications in which the whole congregation expressed its commitment to play its part in supporting the parents and raising the child in the love and knowledge of God. It would be great to see churches where such a commitment was taken with deep seriousness.
There is a renewed commitment to this kind of ecclesiastical childrearing in, of all places, 9Marks-influenced Baptistic churches. I think this is because, unlike some (though not all) churches that practice infant baptisms, profession of faith and discipleship is not assumed as an automatic part of being “in” the church. It comes through careful, deliberate cultivation,: the proclamation of the Gospel even to very young children, along with congregational rather than just familial care to bring the children up in the way of the Lord and eventually to ask them to take on those responsibilities themselves.
Yes, I’ve seen some healthy practice on that front in some Baptist congregations (not least the one that I grew up within on many fronts).