Life is not meant to be journeyed alone. I do not believe God intends for any of us to be isolated, no matter what our relationship status is. As human beings we need each other. Therefore, a call to singleness could not possibly mean a call to being alone. This call to togetherness, I would suggest, is not limited to romantic unions.
My dear friend Dr. Jamie Noling-Auth wrote in her essay, “Singleness: More Than a Holding Pattern,” that “within true Christian community, there are no singles. As 1 Corinthians 12 describes, we are the body. We are a family.” She goes on to say, “To assume that all singles should be relegated into a group where they should remain until they meet someone to legitimize their participation in the life of the congregation shows disregard for an important theological premise: God is the one who legitimizes our participation in the congregation, not a spouse or anyone else.” Our community of friendships, faith community, and other relationships are supposed to have a significant role in our lives.
When I first moved to California to accept a new job, I was a single woman in my late twenties, who’s entire community of relationships and comfort was on the opposite side of the country. I was so afraid. I knew no one on the West Coast with the exception of a friend and her husband. Although it took me some time to trust the new space I found myself in, God illustrated his love for me. What I originally thought would be only a job, transformed into this community of family that cared for me in ways where I never felt diminished or alone. As a matter of fact, it was through this community of women and men, young and old, married and single, that I felt more valued as a human being than I had ever experienced in my life. I was single in relationship status, yes, but I was betrothed to this collective group of God’s people. It was then that I began to understand Mark 12: 29–30 when Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment of all. He responded;
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.
Some of the synonyms for the word community are words like association, nation, company, and neighborhood. Our community is merely a collective group of our neighbors. The love that emanates through us should be such that we are caring for one another as we would care for ourselves. And if this is true, then no one within our family should ever feel alone, regardless of relationship status. As single and as married people, we are called to both seek and live out this community. In my book The Misinterpreted Gospel of Singleness, I highlight Matthew 12:46–50 as a theological framework for Jesus re-defining traditional family.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Here Jesus challenges the crowd by implying that his priority is with the entire body of believers. Within that entirety is his family. This was and still is a radical way of thinking. Regrettably, the majority of Jesus’ followers in contemporary Christian culture have yet to catch on. Jesus is redefining community. We have a responsibility to seek out and engage the community around us. We are called to re-define family, which includes learning how to love and live with one another. I once heard someone say, “If we’re not fulfilling our callings, then the community suffers.” A mutual dependence exists when it comes to community: community needs us as much as we need the community.
Poet William Blake famously wrote, “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.” I believe the point he was trying to make is that we can discover so much about ourselves and about God within the beauty of seeking intentional community. Journeying through life within singleness does not mean the journey should be done in isolation, but the contrary.