It is springtime at Covenant and we all know what that means: students are gearing up for wedding season. Whether it be for engagements or wedding receptions, we can expect a plethora of photos on our Facebook feeds featuring couples smiling into the eyes of their life partners. It’s a wonderful time here at Covenant where we celebrate those that have found the ones they wish to be with for life and are venturing out to start a family. However, for many, this time can also be a source of dread, sadness, and doubt.
It’s no secret that singleness can be difficult. Sometimes, necessary and natural struggles may come for those who are without a spouse or a family that can lead to resentment. However, I argue many of the struggles one may encounter in singleness, or otherwise, are unnecessary, causing stress merely because of the idolatry of marriage and families that plagues the American church.
It is frequent in the church that, at a certain age, people are bombarded with questions and comments: “When are you planning to get married?” “When are you and your husband having kids?” “I’m sure the right person will come along, just give it time.”
In our frenzy of a sex and romance-driven culture, it seems as though the priorities of the church body have become skewed. Why is it that if a man in ministry is single, he is urged to marry? Or why is any woman who reaches the age of thirty incomplete without a husband? Why do couples without children feel like outsiders to churches?
It is as if there is an unsaid requirement of the Christian to gain a family at some point in his or her life, where marriage and children are the goal to the purpose-filled life. I argue that this is a damaging mindset for Christians to have.
Family idolatry has a number of factors that create harmful situations for many people in the church, giving us cause to change this all-too-common attitude in the church. Anyone who remains single may feel pressured into marriage they are not called to or feel as if their singleness must be justified to others. Couples without children may feel as though they have failed in some way by being unable to give birth. To put these people in this position is inherently sinful.
Idolatry of marriage and family also creates a false image of family that damages Christ’s true intention for families. When the church places the concept of marriage and family on a pedestal it does not deserve, one is compelled to find their fulfillment in a narrow-minded view of family that does not align with the Bible’s view.
Who says that family has to be kids and a picket fence? If that is the case, what is family for the widow, for the infertile couple, or for the Christian who lives with same-sex attraction (or even no attraction at all)?
I argue that family should not automatically be assumed to be biological children with a spouse. Family should be thought of as deeper than mere biological connection or marriage, including the bonds one shares with one’s brothers and sisters in the church body, with neighborhoods, with adopted.
Corinthians 7 is the big chapter in the Bible about marriage, where Paul speaks to the church at Corinth about some basic principles of marriage and its role in the life of the Christian. He talks to them about his singleness in verse 6, saying, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”
He continues on to talk about identity in verse 17, saying, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”
Paul is saying that both those who are married and have families and those who are unmarried have been called by the Lord to live the life ahead of them and both of these are to be considered gifts. So why is it considered strange if someone remains unmarried? Why is it considered strange that a couple has children in their own timing?
To fix our issue, the church must widen its gaze to understand that the nuclear family does not happen for every person and that’s okay. We must consider the various ways that family can exist outside of the traditional concept of family and that everyone can have family—even singles. We need to think of the many unmarried men and women that God has worked especially through, including Paul, Jeremiah, Elijah, Miriam, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, and Lydia.
We must remember this marriage season that while marriage and family are wonderful blessings, they are not the goal—Christ is.