Title
Celebrating Singleness
Date
May 27, 2018
Authors
David Eiffert
Topics
Bible References
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Celebrating Singleness

We’re in a series called ‘There’s no place like home.’

I heard a pastor say this past week that your family is that group of people that you do life with most closely that you’d probably never choose to be friends with.

I’m sure that’s true for some of us and not true for others, but one thing is for certain for some of us, our family is a place of great pain, and for some of us are places of great encouragement. And most families are a mix of both.

And so in this series, we’re talking about doing family the right way helps us become all we were created to be.

The idea: We were never designed to do life alone. The quality of our lives is often directly connected to the quality of our relationships. We are created for a relationship with God, and He has a plan for how we should relate to our spouses, children, families, co-workers and friends. In this series, we’re learning how to enjoy relationships God’s way, and how those relationships help us become all God created us to be.


Celebrating Singleness.

This morning my title is Celebrating Singleness.

Singleness is something the church by and large does not talk about enough and we need to talk about more.

The church is not a social club for married people. Just like earthly families, the family of God is comprised of all different types of people in all different stages of life with all different kinds of callings.

Me & Jordan - 50/50 My wife Jordan and I are celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary this year. We dated for 6 years before that. So my life up to this point is just about 50/50 being a single person and being in a relationship.

As a pastor at this church and someone who is married I want to say that something that is very important to us here at this church is that we would never treat single people as second class citizens. In either the life they live or in their ability to serve the church.


(Lady - Letter)

Recently a church that I really like in Canada put it out on social media asking single people what their experience was at church. And there was one response to that question that really stuck out to me and I’d like to read it to you. This woman is writing from an interesting perspective. She was married for a number of years and then because of catastrophic circumstances that were outside of her control, she found herself once again single in the church in her 40’s. And she’s writing from this perspective of ‘what was it like to be single at church, what was it like to be married at church, and what was it like to be single AGAIN at church.

I found a great home church and learned ‘how’ to be single from young and old. Here’s something I found out, married people haven’t a clue what it’s like to be single. They say horrible things like, ‘When you stop looking, that’s when it’ll happen’, and ‘God’s getting that special one ready for you.’ I saw these things happening to the singles in their 30s who are facing the prospect that marriage may not happen and are trying to come to terms with that realization.

As a married person, I never said anything like that, but I realized that I was definitely guilty of not including singles. I had gone tribal and singles were not part of the tribe. They had their own tribe right? But that is just so far from the truth and so far from what God intended community to be. So all this to say, church can be a very lonely place. One friend said, ‘It’s so lonely sometimes, I sit there with a stomach-ache through the whole service.’ But I remember loneliness like that when I was married.

No one is exempt from loneliness… it’s the human condition. My version of singleness is not the norm. I have had the joy of marriage and family. And though what I went through was awful, I’m now at the stage where I feel lucky to have the opportunity to experience singleness. But my church single friends, not all but most, who have never been married really feel cheated. They just don’t understand why God would hardwire us this way and then not allow it to be realized.

So how do we help them see that this isn’t second best, that they didn’t lose and that nothing is wrong with them and that the church can be a real family for them? We are all hardwired for relationship but we are lacking that in our communities. We are just not counter-cultural enough when it comes to this.


That’s a great snapshot into one sisters experience at church.

This doesn’t describe everyone who’s single at church, but it does describe some.

This past week as I was preparing for this message, I made a point to sit down and talk with some of my single adult friends. And I quickly found out that for a lot of people, their singleness and how that relates to church, for many of them, is a very tender subject. And I learned they also have a tendency to feel left out and excluded from the activities of married people.

That even single people who feel very at home fellowshipping with married couples, they don’t expect to be invited when married people get together.

And then I learned something else: That my single friends are guilty too. That when they want to get together, they tend to invite their single friends and not couples.

So the pattern is married people only getting together with other married people and single people only getting together with other single people.

And that’s a problem for lots of different reasons.

I talked to some people that feel like because they’re single, they have a lid placed on their lives when it comes to ministry, and involvement in church leadership. And it’s really true, that by and large, single people can absolutely be overlooked when it comes to church leadership.

And that’s a problem for lots of different reasons.


Expected to get married and have kids. Many of us have grown up in a culture where getting married and having kids is expected and the norm. And if you stay single, that something is the matter with you. If you want to be all God made you to be, you need to be working toward marriage and having kids.

And if that’s your opinion, then you haven’t paid enough attention to what Jesus and the rest of the New Testament writers have to say about what’s ‘normal’ for the Christian life.

Jesus Christ - never married.

Please keep in mind that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself was never married. And he was sandwiched between John the Baptist before him and the apostle Paul after him which are these huge icons of leadership for the Christian faith. Again, all single and changed the world.

Here’s the idea for this morning:

Though the Bible begins by making marriage and procreation the standard, in the new covenant, Jesus and Paul bring a new paradigm that elevates singleness to the same status as marriage.

Now, in Jesus, being single is not a lesser, less significant calling. It’s an equally powerful and equally dignified life of faithfulness.

In fact, if I was to sum up the New Testament writings on marriage and singleness I would say it like this:

“Marriage and singleness are two different versions of awesome, and two different versions of very hard.”

The grass is always greener.

All the pastors and counselors in the room know that you can have a full days worth of counseling lined up and half the people are single saying ‘Why can’t I just be married?!’ And the other half are married people saying ‘Why can’t I be single?!'

The New Testament though comes against that thinking and says ‘Where you are, right now, is not something to fight against, but rather, it’s a place to celebrate and it’s a platform for you to serve God and those around you.

You’re not waiting for life to start when DOT DOT DOT happens, no right here, right now this is your life, so serve God now.

If that’s the case, then that means that many people in the church will not have a strong biological family, and the church will need to be that family for them. - Which the church is supposed to be anyway.

So singleness and the church as the family of God are very closely related.


Old vs. New

First, Old Testament: The idea in the Old Testament is : Make Babies.

What’s the first command God’s gives humanity?

Be fruitful and multiply." (Gen 1)

Jesus - new understanding:

But then Jesus comes and gives us a new understanding of what family is, and he gives us a new way to make babies, when he gives us the new command of:

"Go and make Disciples." (Matt 28)

Jesus will talk about being born, like a baby, born again.

Then the NT writers pick up on this and begin to talk about Jesus’s new babies. And they call these new believes their children. And they talk about themselves and spiritual fathers. And they describe us all together as family.

There’s not diminishing earthly families, but they’re teaching us about this new thing that’s happening a the same time which is our spiritual family.

Adam - not good to be alone New Covenant is NOT changing it’s mind on whether or not being alone is a good thing. It’s still not good to be alone. But the answer to the problem of being alone has changed.

1 Corinthians 7

Context: Paul has been talking about marriage, but at the same time he’s been celebrating singleness. He even says at one point: “I wish you were all single like I am. If you can be, you should be.”

He goes on to talk about both singleness and marriage as a gift. Not a gift from God to you, but your gift to those around you. That in both cases, single or married, that can be used as a beautiful platform to serve other people.

1 Corinthians 7:25-28 / 32-35 / 38

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. (1 Corinthians 7:25)

IOW: I’m not speaking for Jesus here, but I’m giving you wise counsel.

Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. (1 Corinthians 7:26)

We don’t know what this crisis is. PROBABLY the possibility of persecution and their time being short.

Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. (1 Corinthians 7:27)

But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. (1 Corinthians 7:28)

This is NOT a popular scripture for weddings. “Well it’s not a SIN, but besides that, I got nothing for ya.”

Jump - V32

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. (1 Corinthians 7:32)

But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— (1 Corinthians 7:33)

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 7:34)

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:35)

Look how he ends in v38

So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. (1 Corinthians 7:38)

I love his honesty.

For some of us married folk in the room, we might think, ‘Gosh, he’s being maybe a little too strong.’ I believe what he’s doing is balancing the scales in a marriage saturated culture by showing us that being serving the Lord as a single person is not second best. If anything, you have MORE time to serve God. Which all the married people in the room would quickly admit is TRUE.

We all serve the Lord with our whole heart, but it is absolutely true to say that single people do have a wonderfully unique opportunity to devote themselves 100% to ministry in a way that if a married person with kids were to do it would be dishonoring to their spouse and their kids.

Not same velocity. And that’s a great for me too now that I have a wife and a child, that I don’t have to, nor am I expected work at the same velocity as I did when I was single, while I leave my wife and daughter on the sidelines.

My life : Bible 4 hours.

There were seasons in my life as a single person where I would study the bible for 4 hours a day, every day. And then I'd go to my friends houses where we would discuss the bible till the wee hours of the morning. And that's so amazing. But now? Now that I'm married and have a daughter. Now there's bottles and baby food, and bath night, and explosive pooping. Not to mention fostering this relationship with my wife.

There were seasons in my life as a single person where I would study the bible for 4 hours a day, every day. And then I'd go to my friends houses where we would discuss the bible till the wee hours of the morning. And that's so amazing. But now? Now that I'm married and have a daughter. Now there's bottles and baby food, and bath night, and explosive pooping. Not to mention fostering this relationship with my wife.

And I don't have a quarter of the time I used to have to do all this other stuff. And again, that's fine. That's beautiful. To quote Paul 'it's not a sin'.

So our time gets divided. And again, that’s not sin. But singleness should be celebrated.


So singleness is not a disease, rather it’s something to be celebrated in the family of God.

And so if that’s true, and it is, and if it’s also true that we’re all created for relationship, and it is. Then how does the church learn to support our single brothers and sisters?


Family.

Well it all comes back to this idea of family.

Here’s a question: If the pattern is couples only hanging out with couples and singles only hanging out with singles, where is the one place that’s not true?

The answer: FAMILY. When you get together as family it doesn’t matter who’s single, who’s married, b/c we’re all family.

Mark 10:28-30

Background: Rich Young Ruler

Here you have the story of the rich young ruler. He comes to Jesus, wants to follow him, he’s very rich, Jesus says sells what you have, give it to the poor, come follow me, he goes away sad.

Mark 10:28-30

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28)

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel (Mark 10:29)

will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:30)

He’s talking about the family of God. That the church, this community is called to be family. And that’s not some secondary, less important family. No it’s primary.

Jesus - Matthew 12 (48-50):

In fact, Jesus in Matthew 12 says:

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48)

Pointing to his disciples, (this is not just the 12, these were all the people who had devoted their life to Jesus) he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. (Matthew 12:49)

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

He’s not diminishing earthly family, he’s saying there’s an even tighter family than that. And that’s your spiritual family.

“Those who follow Jesus no longer have to marry to avoid being alone. The church is composed of the single and the married. Both are called to a life of faithfulness. All are called to be friends, defying the loneliness that threatens anyone not married.” (Stanley Hauerwas)

Friend Letters

In some of my discussions with friends this week I got a couple perspectives that I thought were so great when it comes to this that I wanted to share them with you.


The first one is from a married couple who I spoke to because I had seen them very deliberately and beautifully include single people into their life.

"We as a couple feel that most people are the same whether one is married, single, divorced or widowed. We are all learning how to walk this life exemplifying more of Jesus and His love for each of us. Everyone believes we are called to this House (Believers Center) therefore we are a family. Each one of us needs to be loved & appreciated. How do we do that? By getting to know each other and recognizing each of our gifts. It doesn't matter if you are married or single, you still have graces to bring to the Body.

We have always enjoyed our single friends and what they bring to our friendship.

People are just people no matter the marital status. We share many of the same desires, hopes and dreams.

We challenge you to get to know new people and especially singles. We have so much to learn from each other."


The next one is from a single lady with kids, who was married earlier in life.

"As a single person in the church, when I think about being part of this family, I don’t categorize myself as one of the single family members or feel any less a part because I’m single. I’m just part of the family.

In my natural family just about everyone is married. When I’m with them, I don't feel lonely or like the odd one out because I’m not married. I don’t stay home from family functions because most of them are married, and they don’t exclude me because I’m the single one in the family. We don’t feel awkward or uncomfortable, we just enjoy spending time together as a family.

My feeling is the same about my church family. Being single in the church doesn't make me feel lonely, awkward or uncomfortable. My church family IS family.

Sometimes we are not consciously aware that we are being exclusive instead of inclusive whether we are married or single. Married couples usually have other married couples as their closest friends and spend the majority of their time with other married couples. Single people usually have other single people as their closest friends and will shy away from spending time or attending functions with married couples because they feel awkward or lonely.

As a single person my life is still full and much better off because I’m part of this family called the church and I want to encourage both my married and single brothers and sister to be more consciously aware of being inclusive of each other."


Closing

Takeaway: What would your life look like if every morning you got up and said ‘Today, I am a gift that God wants to give to the church, that God want’s to give to the world, and my current marital status is a part of that. Jesus, I’m ready to serve.’

Challenge: Become intense and intentional about welcoming the whole family of God into your life. Not just the people with the same marital status as you. Don’t just make space for them in your heart, make space for them in your life.

Practical example: David Goldman holidays

I know for many single people, major holidays can be a very lonely time. I remember years ago, before David Goldman was married, he didn't have any family in town. So my mom and dad went out of their way to invite him to celebrate the holidays with our family. And we celebrated Christmas's and thanksgivings with David Goldman and he was just a part of the family. And still to this day, now that David Goldman has a family of his own, my aunt and uncle will ask about David Goldman on holidays and ask me to reach out to him and let him know how much we love him.

What does that look like for you?


Because we’re not called to be little tribes, not to be little cliques, but to be a big and open and diverse and beautiful family. The family of God.