Mockery is a vice that is fun to dish out but terrible to be a recipient of. The dictionary defines mockery as “teasing and contemptuous language or behaviour directed at a particular person or thing.” Granted there is a place for good old banter among friends, so that we can laugh at our folly and idiosyncrasies. There is however a rather unhealthy form of mockery that belittles others and is not in the spirit of love. Unloving mockery is common even among believers and is targeted at particular groups of people. I intend to show in the next three blogs how we who are in the church are guilty of being unloving by mocking particular groups of people. The first group of people who are victims of our mockery are singles.
In Zambian culture, marriage is sacred and highly honoured. Children are from birth raised with marriage as the ultimate goal and rightly so. Marriage is God ordained and is an honourable thing. In our culture however, we not only expect you to be married, we demand it! Marriage has social, economic and religious implications. The marriage of an individual brings honour to the entire family and the lack of it brings shame. We have no place for singles who want to remain single. If an individual becomes of age and they are not getting married, the conclusion is either they have serious problems, or they are promiscuous. There may be other conclusions, but whatever the case our conclusion is that something is wrong with that individual. Here are a few ways in which the church mocks single people.
We assume a single person is incomplete without marriage
One of the common phrases and misconceptions about marriage is that your spouse completes you. And therefore people who are single are incomplete. We quickly run to Genesis, where God says it is not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). The question we need to ask ourselves is was Adam incomplete before Eve? And the answer is a clear no; Adam was perfectly complete to live a joyful life that carries out God’s purposes. The Bible tells us that those who are in Christ are complete in Him (Col 2:8-10). The notion that married people are complete comes from the false premise that marriage will solve all your problems, make you a better person, and make you happy. Consequently, people go into marriage with all these false assumptions and end up with false expectations of their spouse. If a person is not happy, the problem is not their marital status, it’s their walk with God. Those who walk with the Lord learn to be joyfully content in whatever state they are in, be it single or married. It is because of such false notions about marriage that we expect our spouses to satisfy us in ways only God can.
We add marriage to the qualification of church officers
It is common for churches to demand that a person be married in order to be considered for a church office. Now there is obvious wisdom in preferring a married person to serve in the office of pastor or deacon, but it should be stated as exactly that, a preference! It is not a biblical requirement. Churches even place marital status before godly character and in the process many biblically qualified singles have been overlooked on account of their status. The qualifications to the offices of deacon and pastor (elder, bishop, these terms refer to the same office) are stated for us in the Bible and marriage is not one of them. Demanding marriage as a qualification is in fact adding to the Scriptures.
Many of us would clearly have issues with the Apostle Paul’s view of singles in the church and their service to God. He says singles are free from relational worries and distractions that marriage brings and have the gift and opportunity to spontaneously serve the Lord with undivided commitment (1 Cor. 7:32-35). Paul is no way suggests marriage is not honorable; he is simply acknowledging that while it is a good thing, a high calling ordained by God, it is also a demanding calling.
We assume married people are wiser and more responsible
When discussing matters of importance, it is a common consensus that singles must keep quiet and listen. When advice is sought on matters or responsibilities need to be taken up, the married almost always take first precedence. Now that in itself is not necessary wrong, and you cannot deny the fact that people who are married and manage homes have generally speaking picked up a level of know how that one who is single may not have. The problem comes in when there is a deliberate mockery of people and their ideas on account of their singleness, or sidelining them from roles of responsibility.
If we are all honest, some married people are not wise neither are they responsible. It is illogical to assume that a change in marital status will make a person wiser and more responsible. There are plenty of examples of people who have entered marriage and their irresponsibility and foolishness simply got worse after marriage. And yet there are quite a number of people who are single and yet are wise and responsible. The reason this is possible is because biblical wisdom comes from above and is evidenced by righteous living (James 3: 15-18, Psalm 1).
We need to remember that God designed the church so that every member may play their role to build up the body regardless of their marital status. Married people have a lot to teach single people, and at the same the married have a lot to learn from the singles as well.
This mockery of people who are in a different phase of life than us actually reveals a deep seated pride that refuses to acknowledge God’s grace for who we are and thank Him for what He is doing in other people’s lives. As a result, you will have married people in the church who fail to see the singles as fellow workers for the cause of the gospel and partner with them in discipleship relationships to the glory of God.
We should thank God for His wisdom in not making a church full of married people or full of single people. He instead made a diverse body with different parts in order for it to function effectively.