Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, in the sight of Almighty God, and in the presence of these witnesses here assembled, to unite these single believers together in the bonds of Christ-honoring relationships as joint members of the Bride of Christ.
OK, so maybe there are no vows for single Christians, but does that mean we don't have relationship responsibilities to each other?
Might one of the reasons many churches consider us a ghost demographic be our reluctance to fellowship well within our faith communities? Do we use our singlehood as a relationship crutch, or as a holding pattern until we get married? How many of us impatiently ditch God's mandate for sexual purity?
Singlehood affords us unique opportunities to establish friendships with a variety of people. And yes, one of those friendships may, in fact, lead to marriage. But don't get ahead of yourself! What can single believers do to develop and maintain Christ-honoring relationships, and how can we help each other remain accountable to our Eternal Bridegroom, Christ himself?
Mature Beyond the Meat Market
God created diversity for a reason. Being involved in a community of faith involves cultivating genuine interpersonal connections, which in turn widen our perspectives and help us exercise our spiritual gifts. Singles who impulsively scan the Sunday school classroom for new spousal potential or hover within their own preferred cohort can miss participating in the broader body of believers, which is intended to be interdependent. If you feel isolated in your church, it may have little to do with your marital status.
Unless you're from a culture where your parents choose your spouse, it's only natural for singles to evaluate members of the opposite sex regarding their compatibility as a possible mate. Being biblically discriminating isn't itself a sin. Just don't view every friendship with the opposite sex as a pre-marriage interview.
But how many churches foster just such an environment with their singles programming? We all know which churches have the meat markets where we live. They're the ones relying more on popular culture for inspiration than the Gospel. They can be fun to attend, but be suspicious if your senses get more stimulated than your mind.
Think about it: Our culture strives to gratify lusts and crowns self as king. How can the fruits of the spirit flourish in that mindset? Don't forget that the very elements that characterize happily married people should also indwell singles: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control. God doesn't wrap up these gifts with a bow and give them to us on our wedding day. Why not start applying them now!
Brothers and Sisters
Can we discuss relationships among singles without admitting sexual purity is on life support, even among believers? Carnal perversions assault us and distort our ability to view each other as sisters and brothers in Christ.
Nevertheless, our sibling interconnectedness can't be denied. We're joint heirs (Romans 8:16-17), which puts us on an equal playing field in terms of the value Christ places on us. We're also children of God (1 John 3:1), which means we have the same father. Let that give you pause the next time you're tempted to look at a fellow believer lustfully.
We're also supposed to bear with one another in love, comfort one another, and look out for the welfare of one another (Ephesians 4:1-16). These are all mandates given to us by our Holy Father whether we're married or not. If we can't practice these while we're single, though, what's it going to be like if we get married?
Here again, those of us who place too great a value on our culture will find ourselves at a disadvantage, because few examples of such sibling responsibility manifest themselves in the world around us. For example:
- Movies: they intentionally portray a fantasy world, but how many of us subconsciously adopt their woefully deceptive interpretation of true love as our own?
- Music: we say we filter out lyrics describing lust, carnality, and debauchery, but do we really?
- Social Media: does gossip or suggestive texting somehow get filtered by Twitter and FaceBook?
- Women: how does what you wear incite sinful thoughts among your brothers in Christ?
- Men: how does looking at sexually suggestive imagery warp the ways in which we perceive and interact with our sisters in Christ?
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bride and Groom
Respecting our brothers and sisters in Christ takes on even greater significance when considering how we singles model the Bride of Christ through our interpersonal relationships. Granted, the entire Church as the body of believers constitutes the metaphoric object of Christ's eternal affection, in which our earthly marital status doesn't actually matter. So, let's participate in the marriage analogy as we live out our daily lives within our communities of faith!
Our groom is none other than Jesus Christ himself, holy and set apart for this eternal role. So should his bride be anything but virginal, set apart for him alone? Did you smirk when you read that? Virginity can seem archaic even among believers, but will God be mocked by the ways we trivialize chastity? True, our past sexual sins have been forgiven by our gracious Father. But that's not a license to keep pushing the fornication envelope, is it?
Brides hold their prospective groom with unrivaled adoration, and seek to honor him. Whereas a prospective bride might have been closely associated with other males before her engagement, as she moves towards marriage, she reframes the boundaries of those relationships into another context befitting her new status. Even her relationships with other women take on a different hue as she transitions into marriage.
And as the groom identifies the object of his desire, the surrounding community recognizes his prospective bride and confers upon her the respect of one who has been uniquely chosen for this new life. How well do other people identify us as "the bride of Christ?" Can they recognize that we are in a committed relationship with Jesus? Do we act as though we have been set apart for a greater purpose?
Indeed, brothers and sisters: What God has brought together for His glory, let no one put asunder.
Take heart: the reception comes after the recessional!
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
**This article first published on April 20, 2010.