“Most people don’t know they have prejudices until they are forced to celebrate what they are prejudiced against.”
I wrote that thought this morning after listening to a call-in radio show talking about singles and the church. I had been interviewed by them a few weeks prior and was now at home listening to the follow-up conversation live on-air.
One woman (married woman) was asked if single people were considered to be of “lower status” in the church than married couples? After hemming and hawing for a bit, she was finally forced to put her cards on the table and answered …. yes.
I nearly spewed my coffee.
To be married is the ultimate relationship in God’s eyes?
Too bad Jesus missed out on the highest and best for His life …
Honestly, I could not believe the prejudice coming from a woman who was speaking about a ‘class system’ within the Christian church and how her standing was higher to those of us who are single.
What has the church done to purport a belief of marriage above singleness, and those in covenant relationship with a person above those in covenant relationship with God?
Yes, in God’s eyes He desires relationship for His people. It is clear throughout Scripture, not the least starting with Genesis 1:26, where He said to “make man in our own image” and in Genesis 2:18, where the Lord said “It is not good for man to be alone.” God is for marriage and for relationships, but — and this is key — He does not put married people on a higher plane than those who happen to be single.
For context, I believe we need to understand the difference between being lonely and being alone. I am not lonely; I am alone. Sort of.
In reality I am not truly alone because I have family and friends who surround my world and with whom I do life together. I love my time spent with them and the joy I get from being a godmother, sister, daughter, auntie and friend. My world is not small; on the contrary, it feels lovingly full.
So when I’m told that I am of a lower status, regardless of my full life, it is painful.
This is not an exercise in self-pity but rather a response to a feeling I have not, as a white middle-class woman, experienced many times before — a form of prejudice.
I am being (incorrectly) judged based on something over which I have no control; suddenly my voice feels faint and my worth in question.
Yet minutes before this radio broadcast, I felt great about who I am and my current status in life.
Prejudice will do that.
It can make you question what you never knew was in question.
And with prejudice comes confusion. It sows seeds of distrust, unrest, doubt, instability and human judgment. Read that list again and note that not one of those traits are biblical or from the heart of God.
He does not show favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11) and has clearly said that if we are in Christ, then we are heirs according to His promise (Galatians 3:29). And this is not based on being Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28) … and might I add married or single!
Let’s return to the sentence at the beginning of the article. Very few of us would say that we are prejudiced, but, in my opinion, I believe the majority of us carry a seed of intolerance and/or status in our hearts.
And it is only when we are called to celebrate a person or people group that we realize the seed is there. Hidden, quiet, deep … but ever-present.
Think of the homeless person you pass on the street, the murderer walking out of prison, the prostitute working all night or the drug addict stealing to feed his addiction. Are they any less of a person than you and I? Do they carry any less worth than someone of nobility or rank?
In the eyes of God – no.
Nor do I believe He looks at the single person and bemoans the fact they can’t quite fulfill their potential because their left ring finger is bare and their bed unoccupied by another. It is ludicrous to think God would look at His children that way.
Yet the Christian church celebrates and esteems those who get married and looks with hidden — or not so hidden — pity at the one yet to find a partner.
I cannot count the number of times I have been asked, “Why are you not married?” At times I want to answer them honestly and say, “If you really thought I knew the answer to that question, do you NOT think I would do something about it?”
But instead I politely smile and say, “I have no idea,” after which I quickly, and intentionally, remind myself that I am OK as I am. That marriage is not in itself an upgrade, it is simply a change in relational status.
Let me say that again: Marriage is not in itself an upgrade, it is simply a change in relational status.
The upgrade comes from being in the center of God’s will and walking in obedience to His calling. If He leads you toward marriage, then that’s an upgrade. If He leads you to a challenging new job, then that’s an upgrade. The job doesn’t upgrade you, God’s will does.
To those reading this who are married – and especially to pastors of churches – may I implore you to consider the prejudice held by members of your church toward those who are not yet married? And would you please seek to remove this higher/lower status in your own mindset, if there, and in your churches?
Come around the singles and celebrate them. Give leadership positions based on gifting and not on status. And finally, intentionally ensure they are accepted as part of the whole family of the church, on equal footing with those who are married, black, white, Asian, saved, unsaved, high earner, low earner, business owner, employee … you get the idea.
Because in Christ we are ONE.
A single unit … together.