August 25, 2010

Christian Singleness - Is it a curse or a blessing from God? (Part 4) ©

While struggling with the various issues that Christian singles face, many singles within the church, feel that nobody is really listening to what they’re saying. I think they may feel a bit like the former US President Franklin D Roosevelt. One morning, he greeted everyone with a smile and a handshake and said, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.”

Everyone responded with phrases like “How lovely,” and “Keep up the good work, Sir.” The only exception was a foreign diplomat who replied, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Singles may feel that the church responds in the same way. People smile and nod and shake our hand, but haven’t heard a word we’ve said.

Our church may even go so far as to mistrust its single members, especially those that have been through divorce.

Singles and divorced people can be seen as a threat to marriage, or as unstable people. Divorced singles may be judged by their fellow Christians as spiritually destitute and failures in their Christian walk.

This mistrust can encourage the church to overlook singles for positions of authority or trust within the church, and may lead to a level of inattention, disregard and sometimes hostility, that many Christian singles have no idea how to handle.

Sherman Nobles said, “"For too long, the church has been judge, jury, and persecutor of divorcés-the exact opposite of what Jesus and the Apostles taught and lived! … Jesus numbered Himself with sinners... The few people that He openly rebuked were the self-righteous, hypocritical religious leaders of His day! Sadly, the opposite is true in some churches, where "sinners" are made to feel like dirt.”

Chuck Swindoll once said, “The church is the only outfit I know that shoots its wounded.”

Is the church you’re attending listening to its singles? Certainly, the church can go on and pretend that its single members don’t exist or continue to neglect them, but with divorce on the increase, the numbers of singles in the church is going to grow.

If singles do not feel they are taken seriously, they will seek alternative churches until they find a family that will care for them, or they will stop attending church altogether.

Being judged by church members like that is grossly unfair isn't it?

Unpopular Statement Number Three 
We single Christians can be just as horrible to each other!  We judge, hurt, criticise, exclude and reject our own kind!  We judge some Christian singles as unworthy of our friendship or time because they are not potential partner material, or because they lack the "acceptable" social, emotional or intellectual skills.

There is something in human nature that encourages us to shy away from people who make us feel uncomfortable or seem to be too needy.  Sydney J Harris once said, "We evaluate others with a Godlike justice, but we want them to evaluate us with a Godlike compassion."

Christian singles groups, on average, last only eighteen months. After speaking with people involved in other singles groups, and from my own experiences, I believe that one of the main reasons that Christian singles groups fail is because its members judge others in the group as unworthy of their love, compassion and friendship.

You may think that this unloving attitude is unusual, let me assure you – it’s not that uncommon. I've was contacted by someone interested in joining the Christian singles group, and the caller asked me whether the people in the group were normal. The gist of the conversation was that they had no interest in joining our group if they had to "put up with misfits." They were not the first person to reject our group because of this.

While this may seem an extreme example, we all judge others and oftentimes discard potential friendships because a person does not fit into our own preset acceptable standards. We all are equally guilty of thinking ourselves superior to others. 

Our society pushes us to believe that outward appearance and possessions are the most important things. Very young or immature Christians can sometimes have difficulty shrugging off the values that the world has been shoving down their throat since they were born.

Now let’s be honest with ourselves – some people are difficult to love. Some people can be embarrassing, annoying and downright rude, or even a little weird. 

Within our own human nature, we lack the capacity to love everyone, but we can ask God to love others through us. The best example for us to follow in loving others is Jesus Christ. In his servanthood to us, He laid aside the glories of heaven to serve us – to serve you.  Do you think that you deserve that kind of compassion and commitment?

Let’s look at Romans 12:10 “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other." 

Note here that Paul is not saying, “Love only certain people who you can stand” but simply love each other. And while some people are easier to love than others, it is up to us to consciously seek to love all, which we can only do through God’s Holy Spirit and power.

Jesse Jackson once said, “Never look down on anybody unless you are helping him up.”

1 Pet 5:5b says “…And all of you, serve each other in humility, for ‘God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favour to the humble.’”

Humility is not a matter of seeing everyone else as superior or more talented than ourselves, but Christian love sees others as worthy of preferential treatment.

Gal 5:13 says “For you have been called to live in freedom – not freedom to satisfy your own sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.”

We no longer have to be under the old constraints of sin and pride that would encourage us judge others, but we now have the freedom to love one another more fully and without bias. Certainly, we can choose to hold onto our pride and our old thought patterns, or we can consciously seek God’s guidance and renewing of our heartsl. It's not going to be an instantaneous transformation, but a gradual process, one we need to continually seek and pray for.

What an amazing concept, that God is offering us something that we cannot possibly do in our sinful human nature, but something new: a liberating love that does not judge, but desires to treat others as one of God’s children. ©

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