Being a single member of a church full of marriages and families isn’t easy. When God created Adam, he saw that it wasn’t good for people to be alone and created Eve. We have all had seasons of singleness where we have felt this same kind of loneliness. God provided his creation with the gift of marriage and family, and often it’s easy to fall into the trap of making relationships our entire focus. The Bible discusses the importance of appreciating every member of the church by using the illustration of a body and how all of its individual parts belong to the whole.
“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20 NIV).
God has made the body of Christ with many parts, and every single brother and sister in Christ is a valuable member of the body that should be honored and supported, no matter what season of life they are in.
In our church culture, we often struggle with pressuring those around us to be in a dating relationship. We might not feel like we are pressuring anyone because this pressure is often subtle. Nevertheless, every time we ask a single person if they are in a dating relationship, they may feel like we are equating their value to their relationship status. Instead it’s important to take a step back before we speak and consider what else we can ask them. Perhaps questions like, what interests or goals do you have? It’s important to ask them questions that display a genuine interest in them and and values them as an individual. Be careful to consider how our words could highlight insecurities they may already be wrestling with. Paul discusses this kind of humility when he writes:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:3 (NIV).
When we make every effort to respect the feelings and perspectives of others, our entire conversations will change and a unity will start to build.
Looking to the needs of others means asking our friends what support they need. Single individuals may lack a sense of community if they are not living with others. They may desire a sounding board or project help that they don't have readily available. Tune your ear to the concerns on their hearts so you can pray for and support them.
God is in control, and has great plans for all of his children. If a brother or sister in Christ is single, it's within God’s will. God has special purposes for them in the church just as they are. Paul talks about the value of singleness, and calls believers to see the beauty of the undivided time you have for God when you are single and encourages them to keep their focus on furthering God’s glory during this time.
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband” 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 (NIV).
In a season of singleness, one might be able to fully devote oneself to ministry in a way that those who are parents of young kids, for example, can not. As a church, we should value the undivided focus someone who is single has and encourage those who are single to use their gifts for God's kingdom. Perhaps diving into leadership and ministries in the church knowing that God can use them in a unique way.
As humans we tend to gravitate towards those who are similar to us and struggle not to show favoritism to those who are. God calls us to treat everyone the same, love our neighbor as ourselves, and even love our enemy. We are not to put others on a level based on status, similar interest, or personality.
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” James 2:8-9 (NIV).
At some point many of us have fallen into the temptation of only spending time with those in our same life stage. We lean into relationships with those who are most comfortable for us to be around. If we are aware of this tendency, we can reevaluate if our actions and motives are being inclusive to all of God’s children.
If we are married, make a special effort to invite those who are single into our home instead of just inviting those who are also married or have a family. We may struggle with worrying about others judging the complete mess our children have left in our houses if they don’t have children also. Yet we need to make an effort to let go of those worries instead of allowing them to be a deterrent. As a mom of three kids, I have seen the unique beauty of inviting those who are single to spend time with my kids and me. Many times I have felt overwhelmed by my kids' needs, and my single friends have been able to jump in and help in a way my married friends with kids are not able. There are unique blessings that come from welcoming others into our lives who are not in a similar season of life. Surrounding ourselves with a variety of different believers with different life perspectives can also help stretch us to grow in a way we wouldn’t be able to without them. The bible talks about iron sharpening iron, meaning having other Christians in your life will challenge you to grow.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17.
The times I often find myself “sharpened” the most is when I am around others who are different from me because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and helps expand my understanding of the different struggles others are facing.
There is something amazing about how God can take all of our different personalities, strengths, seasons of life, and create a melting pot of unity among His children. Only an all powerful and incredible God can make that happen. Just as there is unity in the trinity, He has made us to have unity and community with each other. The body of Christ finds its strength as we learn to appreciate, value, and support each other's differences and see all the ways God uses these differences to further His kingdom. As we work on focusing on how to self sacrifice, support, and love one another in unity and peace our light will continue to shine.
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra