I frequently come across articles related to singles written from a Christian perspective for the purpose of giving advice to young single ladies about a host of issues related to singleness. Topics range from waiting for the right person, to being single and satisfied, avoiding sexual immorality, characteristics of a godly marriage, and so on. The thrusts of these articles point to one thing – make the right choices so you don’t end up being like ‘those singles’. You know, the ones that didn’t wait, had sex outside of marriage, maybe even had babies out of wedlock. Do the right thing so you can have the right kind of life.
But what happens to those other singles that didn’t do the right thing? What if they are in the church as single parents (notice this same standard does not apply to single fathers)? What if they made they’re mistakes then came to Christ or even made mistakes while in Christ? Newsflash – it happens.
Not only that but there are other kinds of singles in the church aside from young, never been married, virgin single woman who wants to be married. There are older men or women who have longed for marriage but it just hasn’t happened. There are those who are quite content to be single. There are those who have been divorced (either before they became a Christian or after). There are widows (like myself). There are those whose spouse abandoned them or even those who had to escape from domestic violent situations. Some may have done all the right things but ended up with bad results. But all are single!
So it kind of bothers me that whenever the issue of singles comes up, it is centered on one particular kind of single. What this communicates is that these other singles don’t matter so much in dealing with their singleness, especially if they want to marry. But the reality is that it may be harder in these cases, especially if there are more burdening factors (like shame from bad choices or sexual immorality, single parenting, loss of spouse, past abuse). And by way of observation, there does tend to be a generalized perception that the ‘other singles’ had their chance, don’t value marriage, embraced immorality, and generally contributes to decline of family values in the church especially if they are single parents. That is usually reinforced by articles like this link moral decline and single parenting. While this is factual, meaning that sexual immorality leads to an increase in single parents, the result of such articles have the impact of casting a disapproving eye on all single parents.
I have felt this at times, especially as an African-american. Oh look, another unwed, single mother and fatherless black boy. And I hate it! Lord knows that I would love to have a two-parent, godly family but it just hasn’t worked out that way. Right, wrong or indifferent, I typically quickly clarify that I’m a widow so at least I don’t get lumped in with those others who had babies out of wedlock. I want it to be known that I value marriage, even though I did not experience a good or godly marriage. But then I realize, they are in the church too and don’t have the defense of a previous marriage. How dare I? There have been mistakes or abandonment but they are there, in Christ, repentant and seeking to live for Him…and most likely valuing marriage, too.
So what are we doing, Church, about the other single? Do we just brush them aside as has beens? Do we highlight them all as detrimental to family values? Do we care about the burdens of their situations, which is infinitely more difficult than that young never been married virgin? Do we sympathize with the shame that the repentant deal with from past relational failures?
Because the reality is when we put the ideal model up and only address those who haven’t encountered failure of that (for the variety of aforementioned reasons), we tell the ‘other single’ that they don’t really matter, or worse, that they are a problem. And I can’t find that neglect anywhere in scripture.