I have to admit up front: I’d never heard of Ben Witherington before, but from looking at his CV, he’s a widely-published and acknowledged Bible scholar and theologian. And last week, he rocked my world.
His blog post, “Family First!–Not a Biblical Viewpoint” called out the church for its emphasis on physical family over everything else. He pointed out that, while the family was created by God and is a good thing, it’s very clearly not supposed to be the most important thing. The article had a mixed reception, based on the comments to that page, but it really resonated with this single, never-married.
He discusses the Greatest Commandment as well as the Great Commission. He discusses Jesus’ instruction from the cross for his birth mother Mary to adopt the Apostle John as her spiritual son, thereby giving Christians a new definition of family. He also addresses that wonderful, validating scripture passage, 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul expresses a preference for singleness over marriage.
I would encourage everyone to take a look at his entire post. The comments are also worth your time. There are naysayers and those who agree with him, and those who seem unconvinced but willing to listen. But the comment that stuck with me the most was from a single woman who had a heartbreakingly sad experience as a lifelong single in her church.
Another article worth reading is by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large of Media Rostra webzine. Entitled “Idolatry of the Family“, it touches on some of the same points Ben Witherington makes, albeit with a slightly more convicting tone. His last paragraph struck me the most:
The world is a mess because we are a mess. We are a mess because I am a mess. I am a mess because my heart is a mess. And the heart condition of each of us is the heart of the issue. Any other agenda, any other moralistic totem or golden calf half-truth, any political platform or religious soapbox should receive our careful scrutiny. Because an idol carved in the shape of a smiling family is still an idol.
It reminds me that ultimately, married and single people are on an even footing when it comes to salvation. My married friends are no more saved than I am, because no one can save them but Jesus–just as no one can save me but Jesus. Your spouse can’t convert you. Your child can’t get you into heaven. Your parents can drag you kicking and screaming to church, but they can’t force you to list your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Family is important. I’m grateful for the amazing family I grew up in, and I’m also grateful for the amazing spiritual family I have created for myself online. But when it comes down to it, everything relies on my relationship to Jesus.