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So we can see from biblical passages that God would like singles and families to benefit from one another, especially within the broader spiritual family. But today's cultural gap between couples and singles prevents this from happening to the extent it could.
The church corporately and we as individuals are missing out on things God desires for us--married and single. Division means less effectiveness in extending the kingdom of God.
We Are One Body
Jesus prayed, "That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:21, NASB). The unity we have through our relationship to Jesus is enough of a common bond to do away with things that divide us (Gal. 3:28). Yet, currently, we don't seem like one whole family.
The church is fractured and thus weakened. Jesus said, "If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand" (Mark 3:25). According to Christian researcher George Barna and others, tragically, some "houses" (churches) have fallen, in part because of the loss of too many singles who either left or decided not to attend in the first place.
Despite this quiet exodus, I don't think Christians necessarily view the church as fractured by this issue because the division isn't intentional or malicious. However, compared to the way God wants things to be, we are fractured.
When you think about natural families, it is a bit easier to see how the church is fractured. In a family you have young, old, married, single, rich, poor. You are bound together because you are family, and that transcends the differences between you.
Unfortunately, we've probably all seen or heard what happens when family members get left out of the circle, right? Their feelings are hurt. And so it is with Christ's family.
We are a "many membered body," each with different gifts, talents and abilities. We've been given gifts that differ so that the body will be able to care for itself (Rom. 12:4-5).
We are part of one another. That's why it also says, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26).
Instead, some of us who are single can't rejoice with the new bride or the new mother, or we resent being asked to pray for the infertile couple. I also see married couples who are oblivious to the suffering endured by many singles who really want to get married and have children, or who are struggling after divorce.
Many families in the church tend to network well with one another, but networking between singles and couples is not strong. As long as this gap continues, the church will not be reflecting the body of Christ in the manner God intended.
The Church Must Model Unity
In some ways, the church is less supportive of singles than social circles outside the church. This is a liability when it comes to reaching out to those who don't know the Lord, especially those who are single.
On one occasion, the pastor of my church asked me to share a bit about my vision and hope that our church would build more bridges between couples and singles. The comments later made to me spoke volumes about this issue of division.
Some who had been divorced shared their pain with me. They explained that even though many friendships stayed intact at a heart level after their divorce, they were no longer included in typical social events. Younger singles talked of the pain of being left behind as their single friends married.
There were happy reports, too. One married woman told me she was sitting with a single friend at the service when I spoke. After my talk, the two friends made a commitment to keep working at their friendship despite the challenges presented by their different lifestyles.
Many couples said to me afterward, "We've needed to hear this for a long time." The positive response was overwhelming! People's hearts are in the right place; we just need our eyes to be opened.
Over time, as God does His work in this area, I believe we will watch Him bring conviction, which will lead to repentance on the part of both couples and singles over the hurt that has come through this unfortunate division. I also believe that from that repentance, God will bring about much deep healing.
The more you understand about this issue and God's view of it, the better equipped you will be for God to use you as a change agent in His church! Extend a hand of friendship.
Start bulding bridges between couples and singles, and watch what God can do through your life! By every effort you make to bridge the gap, you please and glorify God, and the church is blessed and strengthened.
Virginia McInerney is the author of Single, Not Separate, from which this article is adapted.
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