Tag Archives: church

Reclaiming Friendship Love

13 Jan

Meerkat09 left a great comment on my last post–in fact, Single People Are Not the Enemy received a LOT of thoughtful comments; it’s obviously a hot topic! But I want to talk about Meerkat’s comment today.

Meerkat pointed out that married Christians might not realize what they’re doing when they deny us friendship, because “Singles don’t get to be friends with Christians of the opposite gender.”

It’s a sad but true phenomenon in many Christian circles that friendship between a man and a woman is seen as something dangerous. I don’t know if it’s just a case of too many Christians having seen When Harry Met Sally a few too many times or what, but right up there with belief in the triune nature of God and the resurrection of Jesus seems to be the “fact” that women and men can’t be friends without sex getting in the way.

What drives me crazy about this idea is that it isn’t an honest reflection of the Bible. Men and women in the Bible are friends and counselors to each other in many situations without sex getting in the way. Let’s look at a few:

Deborah and Barak (Judges 4 & 5)

Deborah was a prophetess, one of Israel’s judges. She passed along God’s order for Barak son of Abinoam to wage war on Sisera. What was Barak’s response? “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” Incidentally, this has always been one of my favorite stories in the First Testament, not only because a woman was judge, but also because of the gruesomely awesome way in which Sisera was defeated: while he was running from Barak, a woman gave him shelter in her tent. Sisera fell asleep, and the woman drove a tent stake through his head. Pretty badass.

In any event, Barak thought highly enough of Deborah that he wouldn’t go to war without her advice. When they won, they sang a long victory song together. Then Deborah went back to her husband Lappidoth and Israel “had rest for forty years.”

Paul and Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:1-3, Romans 16:3-5)

Paul met Priscilla and her husband Aquila in Corinth. They were tentmakers like Paul, so he stayed at their home and they worked together. Priscilla and Aquila were such good friends and helpers to Paul that when he left Corinth for Syria, they went with him. Later, when Paul is sending his greetings to them in Romans, he writes, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life…” That’s a pretty strong friendship!

Paul and Lydia (Acts 14: 14-15, 40)

Lydia was probably a wealthy woman, because she was a dealer of purple cloth, and purple was the color of royalty in those days, a very expensive dye. When Paul’s little band of missionaries got to Philippi, Lydia heard Paul’s preaching and was baptized. She invited Paul’s group to come and stay at her home. While they were there, Paul (that rabble-rouser) drove a demon out of a slave girl and got himself arrested. Lydia could have turned away from these dangerous missionaries, but she was a true friend to them. When Paul was released from prison, he went back to Lydia’s home to encourage them before he left town.

Jesus and Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-45)

Let’s not leave out our Savior when talking about friendships between men and women! Jesus was incredibly liberal when it came to attitudes towards women at that time. He allowed Mary to sit at his feet and learn, which was a role usually reserved for men. We know Jesus was also friends with Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus, but look at how Luke 10:38 puts it: “he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.” It doesn’t say Jesus stayed with Lazarus, but with Martha. Maybe Lazarus lived with Martha, but that isn’t indicated.

Later, when Lazarus was sick, John says, “though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”, which I find telling–it lists Martha first. Maybe Martha was the head of that family, or perhaps her friendship with Jesus was stronger than the others. Martha’s faith in Jesus was so strong that, even when Jesus let Lazarus die, she knew said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Then she went on to confess she believed Jesus was the Messiah.

So often all we remember about Martha is that she was too busy to sit and listen to Jesus during one of his visits. But I think the evidence is there that she had a strong relationship with Jesus, both as a friend and as her Savior.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-3, John 20:11-18)

If we listen to Andrew Lloyd Webber or Dan Brown, Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus. But what the Bible shows us is a relationship far more complicated and inspiring. Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary, and she believed in him and followed him. Mary is one of several women who are referenced multiple times in the Gospels as being active in Jesus’ ministry. In fact, her friendship with Jesus was so important that she was one of the first to see him after his resurrection.

Okay, this is getting long, so I’ll stop here, but I think my point is made. The Bible provides models of friendships between the sexes, and the church is remiss in ignoring this important type of relationship. The fact is, men and women think in different ways, and both perspectives are important when you’re trying to achieve wisdom. After all, God created humankind in His image–“male and female He created them”–so both perspectives are necessary.

As Meerkat said, “I really think that Christians need to reclaim friendship love. Love does not always equal romance/sex. Friendship love exists.”

I’m pretty sure I’ll be returning to this topic in future posts, but for now, what do you think? Can men and women be friends? How do we reclaim friendship love?

I’m Infectious

22 Jul

Apparently my vocal attitude about being a single adult in the church has started infecting other people. Earlier this week I was talking to my mom, and she said she was depressed about church lately. When I asked why, she said it was the whole “Gold Medal Families” topic.

I admit, I cackled with laughter.

Her complaint was that the preacher said, in essence, “This sermon is applicable to everyone! Married people, single people, empty nesters…” Then he went on to talk about five reasons God created families.

Reason number one? Companionship. Reason number two? Procreation.

Yeah, because those two totally apply to me. I get my companionship from two cats and my friends, who live in various places across the globe. And I’ve never procreated in my life and don’t want to.

Yup, that sermon was totally applicable to me. And honestly, I don’t think the empty nesters are out there wanting to procreate all over again, now that they’ve finally got the house to themselves for the first time in 18 or 30 years.

And the best part of all this is that the above reaction wasn’t mine. Well, it was, but only after my mom related the story to me. The above reaction was hers, because she is the parent of a single adult.

Here is where I have to thank God, loudly and often, for a mother who understands that I’m happy as a single adult and that I have never wanted children. Thank God my mother comes from a family full of bachelor uncles and spinster aunts and doesn’t see my unmarried status as a flaw in me. Thank God my mother takes my side.

But yeah, anyway. I think I must be infectious.

Or just really loud.

Love and Salvation

6 Jun

A while back I posted about my Christian Facebook friends making me cringe. I have to say, they haven’t really stopped…but a comment to that blog post has made me really think deeply about the situation. I am reevaluating how I respond to these people, and in the meantime, I have to confess…taking a look in the mirror at that point wasn’t very much fun.

Edarnut pointed out something that had never occurred to me before. She said, “If love for others is is the mark of a disciple, then to call a professed believer unloving is to call that person unsaved”.

Wow!

I had never made that connection before. I certainly never meant to accuse someone of not being saved. My intent was to point out an attitude we’re supposed to have–an action we’re supposed to take–and not to call someone’s salvation into question. And suddenly I’ve discovered that wasn’t how I was coming across at all.

And as I often tell my fellow Christians, perception is sometimes the most important thing. If people perceive Christians as hateful, judgmental bigots, they aren’t going to be interested in what we have to say. And by that logic, if I call out a brother in Christ for not loving, and he thinks I’ve just accused him of not being saved…well, he isn’t really going to be interested in what I have to say, either, is he?

In fact, Edarnut’s comment has given me a lot more than that to think about, but right now, this is what I’m focusing on. I need to learn to approach this conversation about love with a different attitude and a whole truckload of grace. I need to remember to spend more time trying to learn where that other person is coming from, instead of trying to tell her where she should be going. And above all, I need to remember that we’re supposed to love everyone…including the Christians we don’t always agree with.

What do you think? What do you guys do to show love to people when you don’t agree? I’d love to hear from you!

I’m Pretty Sure I Have a Gold Medal in Singleness

9 May

Just when I was trying to recommit myself to attending church on a regular basis…

I got my quarterly church newsletter in the mail this week. The front page is covered in words, but the biggest one on it is FAMILY.

Okay, I’ll see what they actually have to say… Turn the page…

The preaching minister’s column is about how to have a “gold medal family”–and he talks about your marriage and children. Parents and grandparents get a separate mention. And then he says the family is more under attack today than ever before. Hmm. I disagree, but that’s a post for a different day.

Okay, let’s skip the Preschool Ministry and Children’s Ministry pages, because none of that applies to me. Oh, wait, the page after that is Student Ministry, so I can skip another whole page. Where does that get me?

Worship Ministry. Okay, he doesn’t write about family. He’s writing about…um, Eddie Rickenbacher. Okay. Interesting connection to worship, but moving on…

Next page is Discipleship, where the discipleship minister encourages families to take their family vacation to the North American Christian Convention. There’s even a teen convention! Okay, I don’t have the money or inclination to travel to Orlando, and that’s all he has to say on his page, so moving on…

Oh boy. WOMEN’S MINISTRY. I cringe every time I think of the Women’s Ministry, because, well… You’ll see. What is the Women’s Ministry doing this summer? They’re reading books. The Vow, which might be based on a true story, but looks like a sappy romance. And another sappy romance with a local link. Oh, or you could read about how to raise children who are survivors. Yeah, okay, so the Women’s Ministry is really the Wives’ and Moms’ Ministry. Good to know, I’ll skip that page too, from now on.

What do I have left? Missions, which actually is interesting to me, but then part of that page is devoted to a visiting children’s choir. Note to self: skip church that day for sure. The page after that is about the Family Picnic.

…Aaaaand that pretty much exhausts the quarterly newsletter. On the one hand, there are some interesting figures that tell me how much the church is getting in offerings and how much is being spent on missions. But the figures also get my back up, because the church is also averaging over 600 attendees per week to Sunday morning services. Really? Over 600 people a week and you don’t have a Singles’ Ministry? Nothing? Nada? And all you can do is make me feel, once again, like I’m not welcome at your church because I don’t have a husband or kids clinging to my skirts?

I’m not anti-family. I like family. But my church seems to forget that, as a single, I don’t have what you would call a traditional family. Sure, my parents attend the same church I do, but I’m basically a never-married person whose definition of family is not the same as Mom, Dad, two-point-five kids, and a dog. (For one thing, I hate dogs. Sorry, but I’m a crazy cat lady.)

For singles, the entire church is our family. Our friends are our family. And you’re not doing us any favors by making us feel like we’re not welcome unless we come as a package deal with someone of the opposite sex and a couple of rugrats.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing. I’m pretty sure, church, that you did this whole “Gold Medal Families” things four years ago with the last Olympics. Get some new material.

Single White Heathen?

8 May

Tonight I was talking on the phone to a close friend of mine. She is also single, also Christian, and someone whose opinion I respect a great deal. Over the course of our three-hour conversation, we covered a lot of ground. One of the things I confessed to her was that I haven’t been going to church much lately.

Yeah, I admit it, except for a couple of Sundays during Lent, I haven’t been to church since Christmas.

I have a lot of reasons for not going to church. At least, I call them reasons. You might (rightly) call them excuses.

  • God made me a night person, and when you’re not going to bed until 3 or even 5 in the morning, it’s not easy to get up for 10:30 church.
  • My church doesn’t have Saturday night services.
  • I’ve never felt very connected, despite being a member for 5 years, because there’s a definite emphasis on family and parenting.
  • There is no singles ministry.
Despite all this, I am feeling pretty good about my relationship with God. I honestly believe iit’s better to be in community with other Christians, but I also feel I have that community—online. I have Christian friends I email or phone. I have a Christian discussion group online. I have been doing a better job of almost-daily Bible reading and much more consistent prayer.

But I feel guilty for not going to church. I feel guilty complaining about my church instead of trying to help make things better. In a congregation of 600+ people, I can’t be the only single thirtysomething trying to find my niche. I could talk to one of the ministers about the gap I sense in services. i could try to find a toddler-free small group.

…Instead, I’m starting with a baby step. I’m thinking about Wednesday night services. Despite growing up Christian, I’ve never been a Wednesday night kind of person, so I have no idea what to expect. But maybe I’ll see someone else sitting by herself. Maybe I’ll have the guts to introduce myself.
Maybe not. But I’m going to try.

Stop Focusing on the Family and Start Serving the Singles

17 Apr

Every Christian in the U.S., and probably most non-Christians as well, has heard of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. After all, they are actively anti-abortion, want abstinence-only education, and are vocal in speaking out against homosexuality–all political hot-buttons these days, for Christians and non-Christians alike.

My issues with Focus on the Family are numerous, but I’m going to focus on a single issue today: singleness.

You see what I did there?

Focus on the Family is, by definition, a family-oriented organization. That’s great, but what I object to is their treatment of singles. Rather than ignoring singles altogether, they seem to view singleness as a condition to be cured or, at best, grown out of.

Scanning their Boundless website

  • I see articles with titles like: “In the Meantime”, “Addicted to Adultescence”, “Powerful Attraction”, “How to Relate to Men”, “He’s Not My Type”, and “Prep for the Wedding Night”.
  • I see advertisements for books like Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, The Ring Makes All the Difference, and I Kissed Dating Goodbye (ugh).
  • I see the tagline of their Boundlessline blog: “Bringing focus to the single years”.

Do you see a trend here? Everything on the website and blog, all the resources recommended and articles written, tell singles we need to grow up and get married.

Okay, there are a few articles that acknowledge that some people may be “called to singleness”. Frankly, I loathe that phrase. Whether or not I am called to singleness, I am content being single, and that is as Paul has commanded. But apparently, according to articles like “A Balanced View on Singleness” by Alex Chediak, I just have “too little desire for marriage”. Chediak’s solution? I apparently need a “kick in the pants”.

Never mind that I don’t feel that labels such as “extended adolescence” or “fear of commitment” are applicable to me. (In fact, in that same article, Chediak advocates that pastors should interfere if they think a single person is stuck in neutral and needs to get married. I can’t think of anything that would make me leave a church faster than if my minister got up in my grill about being single.)

I could keep going. I actually printed off several articles I wanted to respond to when I started this post. I’m angry and feeling alienated by Boundless’ attitude towards people like me — people who are single and content to remain so.

But frankly, I’m not sure there’s much point in railing against Boundless and its parent organization, Focus on the Family. After all, they are self-admittedly focused on the family.

I think, rather, it’s time for singles to start focusing on ourselves. After all, if singleness was good enough for Jesus and Paul, who are married people to tell us it’s a bad thing?

So how about it? Anyone want to help me start an organization called Serve the Singles?

Why I’m starting this blog

26 Mar

Tonight, my church held a Passover Seder meal, led by the lovely Fiona Sorbala of Chosen People Ministries. The organization exists to bring the good news of Jesus the Messiah to Jewish people everywhere. It’s a great idea, and the meal was informative and moving.

I started thinking about questions I wanted to ask my Jewish friend, and I wondered if she would be offended that my Christian church celebrated her Jewish holiday. Would she consider it cultural appropriation, or would she acknowledge the logic of Christians celebrating a meal that our Messiah also celebrated the night he was betrayed? I don’t know. I haven’t asked her yet. To be honest, I’m still trying to muster the courage. It’s so easy to offend people, even when it isn’t intended.

I attended the meal with my parents. I love my parents, but I have yet to meet a single person over the age of 23 at my church. Part of that is my fault. I enjoy working with teenagers, so the sum of my involvement at church so far has been helping out with the high school youth. But to be honest, I don’t see a lot of opportunities for me to meet singles at my church.

I have nothing against married people, and have lots of married friends. But I want to have friends who can relate to my every-day living situation. I have some single friends I keep in touch with via online channels, and that’s great. But I want to have friends I can go out to dinner with or hang out with on a Friday night.

Gandhi exhorted us to be the change we want to see in the world. I need to step up my game, no question.

This blog is me, starting out to do just that.

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