In this sermon, Greg challenges the modern myth of romantic love, providing three reasons why it derails us from entering into a biblical view of marriage. Also, Emily Morrison provides a reframe for understanding how singleness plays a part in God’s family.
To understand what Jesus was saying in this passage, it is helpful to know a bit about the history of how marriage has worked. Traditionally, people didn’t get married because they “fell in love.” In most ancient cultures, including ancient Jewish culture, marriage covenants were not just covenants that two people entered into for life, but covenants that two families entered into for life. They entered into it not because their two children fell in love, but because their marriage was mutually beneficial to the two families. Therefore, they were generally expected to learn how to love their spouse after they were married.
The romantic concept of “falling in love” wasn’t invented until late middle ages, and it didn’t work its way into mainstream western culture until the 19th century. Before this time, people didn’t speak of things like, “finding their one true love,” marrying their “soul mate,” or identifying the one who “completes me.”
There are three things that are problematic with this relatively new view of romantic love. First, the “buzz” of feelings for the other person wears off. The “honeymoon” comes to an end because the dopamine dissipates.
Secondly, no husband or wife can be “everything” to their spouse. The romantic myth is about identifying the one and only person who can fulfill their every need. It makes some spouses feel inadequate if their spouse looks to others to get any significant needs met. No one person can meet the needs of any other person. In the biblical view, marriage is deeply imbedded in community and in friendships. While their sexual intimacy needs are only met by their spouse, each spouse’s friendship needs are met in part by the spouse in the midst of other friends in their social networks.
The third problem is that this myth of romantic love marginalizes single people. Supposedly, a single person is only complete if they have found their “soul mate” and since that has not occurred, they are less than who God intended them to be. This is troubling.
To offer an alternative on singleness, Greg invited Emily Morrison, a single woman who serves on the Woodland staff to share. She challenges the notion that singleness is merely a time of waiting in order to enter into a real-life experience. Instead, she observes that as a single person, her life is interruptible, as illustrated by the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. Singles are not those who wait to get married, but singles are members of the church who have gifts to offer to the Kingdom. At the same time, single-hood can result in isolation and loneliness. Just as married people need community so do singles.
Both married people and those who are single are part of God’s family. In fact, family language pervades the way the New Testament talks about how the church operates. We are meant to be a literal family. God is father/mother, Jesus is our older brother. Our identity is shaped by inclusion in God’s family. As Hebrews 2:11 says, “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” The way the church will thrive for both singles and couples is in the context of family and friendship. We are sisters and brothers. Family is the starting point, and marriage is an add-on.
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