There are so many competing voices out there when it comes to relationships. We are told how to find the perfect partner, how to be single and happy, what your Mr or Mrs Right should look like, how there’s no such thing as a Mr or Mrs Right, how to have the perfect marriage, how not even bother with marriage… and so it goes on…
Whether we like it or not, one of the things that we can use to define ourselves, and get our identity from, is our relationship status. Just ask Facebook…
In the Jewish culture that Jesus was born into, Jews read the book of Genesis as the law. When they read Genesis 2:18, they read that being married was what God commanded. There was no room for anything else. There were even rabbis in Jesus’ time that went so far as to say that if you weren’t married by the time you were 20 you were cursed by God.
This is a pretty intense kind stigma to be living under as a Jewish single person, and Jesus wouldn’t have been exempt from that stigma or that pressure.
I love that Jesus knew what it was like to live in a culture that prioritised marriage and relationships, because when we realise and understand this, it’s a bit of a relief. Jesus gets what it’s like, He doesn’t just understand it as a theory, He’s lived it.
And Jesus sets about totally revolutionising this stigma and the cultural expectations. He shifts the emphasis and priority from the traditional nuclear family model, and expands it into something much bigger, fuller, and inclusive. (Mark 3: 31-35)
We often talk about the church being like a body, being made up of lots of parts, with each part being very different. Diversity is great; we need to be different from each other to be an effective kind of church body. I think this is true in where we’re all at with relationship stuff, as much as it is about our character, gifts, or anything else.
This is what Jesus says and models, Jesus upholds and exalts marriage as an institution, and also He does the same for being single. Both are good, and both are needed.
Being single in our culture today is tricky. Being single and not actively pursuing a relationship, is even trickier. Dating, sex, and the hope of finding ‘the one’ are all so hard to resist when everything, and pretty much everyone, around us is telling us that we should be buying into it all.
Being married is also tricky in our culture today. It’s probably not the perfect mix of best and perfectly matched friends living together, having fabulous and continuous sex, living happily ever after.
Maybe as church we don’t say this kind of thinking out loud, but I think we still put this thing out there that if you’re single you’re in some kind of holding area waiting for marriage to happen, that if you’re single you should be looking for a way to get out of it, and that being single is not the ‘normal’ thing to do as a Christian. We need to stop doing this because none of that is true. We need to break the expectation that if you’re 20-something and a Christian you need to be married, or at least heading in that direction.
And the same with being married, we need to be honest that marriage is not the answer to a perfect and totally fulfilled life, it takes huge amounts of commitment and some relentless, hard, graft to make a marriage work.
As a church family we need to be doing this together, respecting and appreciating our differences, and supporting each other as we go through whatever life situation we’re in at the time. We need each other to be real, to be able to talk about relationships and the highs and the lows, openly and honestly.
I think that’s the kind of family Jesus had in mind, I think it’s what we see in the early church in Acts 2, and that’s what I want to be a part of.
What do you think?
This blog is bits taken from a talk, listen to the whole thing here…