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Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2016

Well, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day which is widely celebrated to honor a third century Roman saint, although there are at least two more saints carrying that name.  Nowadays of course it is a time to give your wife, sweetheart, and/or most other women in your life something to remind them how much you love them.  As the day happens to fall on a Sunday this year I suspect not a few mentions, reminders or even comments will come from the pulpits of American churches.

As with other manufactured holidays, like Mother’s Day, it will also be a day or sorrow or even shame for many in our churches.  For those who are single it is a day that reminds them that they are not “normal.”  In an age where churches “focus on the family” singles are generally regarded as people who have not yet married, have been unable to marry, or (gasp) don’t want to marry.  Reactions to them range from pity to outright disapproval.

As a result there are such things as Christian Mingle where people are exhorted to “find God’s match for you.”  Their web page starts with Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” which pretty much says that if your don’t have marriage on your desire list there is something wrong with you.

This is really rather odd when you consider that in both the New Testament and church history there is an honored place for singleness.  In Matthew 19 Jesus talked about the dangers of marriage in such strong terms that the disciples responded that “maybe it is better not to marry.”  Jesus did not correct them, indicating his high value for singleness.  Paul too seemed to value singleness highly.

This is in stark contrast to the culture around them.  First century Judaism did not even have a word for bachelor, so shameful was the idea of being single.  Caesar Augustus ruled that widows could be fined if they did not marry again within two years but the early church valued widows and even mildly encouraged that state.  Indeed, the church began to so value singleness that it launched the monastic movement; even going overboard on celebrating singleness.  That attitude is all but gone in today’s church.

So we can go ahead and celebrate Valentine’s Day if we want to.  But it also might be a great time to honor and bless the singles in our congregations.  If you watch a movie or read a book about singles you will almost always see single status as a problem to be solved.  How wrong it would be if our churches bought into that cultural stereotype.

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From → Christianity

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