We’ve had a particularly nasty strain of the flu doing the rounds in our household these past few weeks. As I head down the road toward recovery, reclaiming things like the ability to breathe through my nose and the power of speech, I am grateful to be free of the plague.
This is, of course, merely one variant of plague. Other forms of plague exist in our society, many of them intangible. One such alleged plague is singledom. Single people are frequently treated as though they are a different type of species and as a result are often misunderstood, judged and avoided.
A recent conversation brought this reality home for me. A single Christian lady in her 40s was telling me how her group of female friends had deliberately excluded her. Apparently they went to see a movie together – without inviting her – and then afterwards they recommended the movie to her. What did this group of friends have in common? They were all married.
Oh, my heart went out to this single lady. She had been excluded from the original outing, only to be told to go and see the movie anyway – by herself. One wonders whether it would have been difficult to invite her to the movie in the first instance.
These, and other such stories of singledom, convince me of the reality of the plague. I’m not making this stuff up. There does appear to be a social perception of singles as being different, weird and inferior to those who are married. Even amongst Christians this prejudice thrives.
Perhaps this is why so many churches make efforts to address “the problem of singleness”. But let us be clear: the problem is not singleness. The problem lies in the perception of singleness being a problem. Perhaps there is a misconception that singleness occurs due to sin or lack of faith. In fact, this is a misconception I have encountered.
It is no wonder single people often feel misunderstood.
This is why it is so important to find others who understand. This is why it matters that we are valued for who we are, not our marital status. This is why intentional inclusion is so vital. And this is why the church needs to prioritise a culture of family, where all are accepted and all belong. We can help spread a positive kind of plague, a culture of unconditional love and acceptance, running epidemic through our communities like flowers covering the ground.
Otherwise, without valuing people’s inherent worth; without including singles and marrieds alike as part of God’s overarching family; without intentionally welcoming those who are different; church and soceity run the real risk of treating singles like social outcasts.
Next time you are snubbed by someone, try asking them if you have the plague. It might provoke some interesting conversations.
Have you, or someone you know, been excluded because of singleness? How did you or they respond? What can your church or circle of friends do to promote inclusivity?