The author defines “the church” as the congregation, i.e. individuals committed to their faith in Christ and regularly attend church services. Also, the context of these conversations is between individuals who are friendly acquaintances or new friends, not besties who share their deepest, darkest secrets to each other.
“So when you are going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend/get married?”
“When are you two going to start having kids?”
I’m guilty of it, it certainly is not just a church problem, and these two questions become expected fodder from relatives to near-strangers once one turns an age that doesn’t end in “teen” and just a few minutes after they’ve come back down the aisle.
So why should the church tone-down the not-so-subtle nudges? Because the church is a community intended to support, encourage, and edify—and those two questions don’t necessarily do that.
Now, before I go any further, I am not saying the church should stop supporting people marrying or having children (and in that order). As the institution of marriage and family continues to crumble in society, it is important that the church continues to foster healthy Biblical relationships, especially marital ones—but should be done in an manner that is loving, one that does not make singles or those who remain childless feel inferior to their married and parental counterparts.
Two Reasons for Why the Church should Stop Asking those Two Questions
One: Not all are called/made for/meant/desire to be married or become parents
Society perpetuates the idea that when you grow up you should get married. God made marriage, so that must mean that all Christians should par take in it. Right? That’s why young Christian girls pray for their future husband that they’ve never met—because they will meet and marry him some day. As for the guys, well it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife (no blog discussing marriage should lack a Jane Austen quote).
But what about Paul? He was a good Christian man and he didn’t get married, what did he think?
I say this as a concession, not as a command. But I wish everyone were single, just as I am.
1 Corin. 7:5-8
So Paul didn’t ask every young Christian college student when they would take inevitable walk down the aisle? I wonder if he would agree with me on that the name “Singles” Bible study sounds like “come meet all the Christians that you potentially date”?
Please Paul, continue.
So I say to those who aren’t married and to the widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
1 Corin. 7:11-13 (emphasis added)
So why does Paul think it’s best for you to remain single? Let’s look at one reason why he thinks you should marry, lust. Lust=sin. Sin=separated from God. One reason you should marry is so you don’t cause yourself to sin and become separated from God. So why does Paul prefer that we stay single if we can control our fleshly desires? Because remaining single lessens your distractions from following God and keeping Him Priority One in your life. What could be a distraction? How about another human being whom you care very strongly for and who has promised to care for you–forsaking all others? Yeah that kind. (I still have a reflexive wait-what?! face whenever my husband says that it’s God first, then me).
So Paul says marriage is optional so long as it does not inhibit your walk with God, what about those kiddos? Weren’t we told to be “fruitful” and “multiply”?
No. In Genesis 9:1 and 7 Noah and his family were. Why? Because God had just flooded the Earth and it was somewhat lacking in Homo sapiens, and in case you are wondering our populations have since recovered.
Children are a blessing, see Psalm 127:3-5, but not a requirement. Furthermore, if a spouse could be a distraction from serving God and the Church, imagine what kids can do? I only have one and the amount of activities I participate in have drastically decreased (or that could be my procrastination coming out).
So, one reason for why the church should chill out on the “when are you getting married/having kids?”—because for that individual or couple, it could lead them farther from God, not closer, and the Church should be all about bringing people closer to God right?
Two: Absent-mindedly asking these questions disrespects the recipients by disregarding the severity and difficulties of those institutions.
I could take the blunt and somewhat rude route and say that if you are not the person in question, whether regarding marriage or children, then it is none of your business.
But I’ll discuss a bit further.
By asking these questions you could be opening old and fresh wounds. Perhaps that nice young man in the worship band would really like to meet and settle down with a strong Christian woman, he’s been praying about it but God hasn’t shown him the woman, and all of his friends have girlfriends/wives—thanks for bringing it up and reminding him about it.
What about the woman who’s been married for five years and has been trying to have a baby for three of them? You just reminded her of that. The wife and husband who have decided they don’t want kids? Now you’ve put them in the awkward and lovely spot of not going along with convention.
See what I mean?
These two questions can put severe pressure on couples and individuals. What if the expectation that a good Christian should be married causes a couple to rush into a marriage only to discover after the wedding that it was not what God intended for them? An engagement is an exciting time full of celebration, but it should also be filled with reflection for the couple to ensure it is what God wants and something in which they are both ready. Marriage is a wonderful, holy institution but it is also one that requires commitment and dedication, even when it is easier and more desirable to call it quits.
The same goes for having children. When I discovered my very unplanned pregnancy, I was shocked by how so many around me who seemed to think little of the work and costs (more than just monetary) that a child would bring. Few seemed to share my concern about my inability to work with a baby, the fatigue and lack of sleep (I’ve had a max of 8 solid nights of sleep since Little Man was born–he’s 11 months). All seemed focused on the joy, not the work involved.
Marriage and parenthood are not the same as trying out a new workout class or book, along with the joys and happy moments come hardships, sacrifice, and stress of all kinds—shouldn’t the discussion of two individuals following along one or both of those paths deserve a little more respect than a cheeky grin and elbow nudge?
We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps