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    cubist painting of a woman holding a clay jar with a green and yellow bird behind her

    Would Jesus Shame Single Christian Women?

    Unlike some pastors today, he never suggested that the single and childless are selfish.

    By Gina Dalfonzo

    May 9, 2022
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    • Michèle Gyselinck

      Fortunately, I have been spared from that sort of pastors. Since they have no idea what we’ve been through it would be a lot better if they shut up than load single women with undeserved guilt. There are plenty of reasons why people don’t get married, but selfish indulgence is probably the least likely.

    • Jill

      So well said. Thank you. You’ve encapsulated the experience of single moms/divorced parents. The part about women’s Bible studies being scheduled during work hours - so exactly the perfect example. It may not be a lack of care. It might be worse - a forgetfulness that single working moms even exist.

    • Bukeka Qasha

      Thankyou team for the articles of single Christians. Please forward others for Divorce and widowers experiences that they are facing from the church. I am ambassador of those single divorcees and widowers that are rejected by church, instead of supporting them.

    • Chris

      And then there are divorced women, also not marginalized by Jesus. The woman at the well had been married several times and the man she was currently with was not her husband. And yet Jesus wanted her to receive the living waters. The church often seeks to deny Jesus' living waters to divorced women, as if it were its job to save him from people. Jesus wasn't afraid of single women, divorced or otherwise. I think sometimes people are threatened by single women for various reasons. That, and most are married, so how to deal with these awkward outliers?

    • Aracelis

      Excellent commentary on women being treated with respectful caring and respect. We are All Beloved by our God; the criticism and put downs spoken by the cleric is so chauvinistic and patronizing… is it any wonder that single women are leaving their churches! It’s time for women to object being see as less than for not being male thus superior 🙁

    My friend Ruth Buchanan recounts in her recent book Socially Awkward: “I sat through a service in which the pastor characterized all single women in my current age bracket as those who, in their twenties and thirties, had not gotten married because we wanted to have fun, enjoy life, pursue careers, and ‘do our own thing’ – and in doing so, had turned our backs on God’s will for our lives, squandering our opportunities to marry and now reaping the fruit of our self-centered choices.”

    As a single Christian, I could tell a few stories myself. I’m thankful to have found a church with pastors and congregants who have gone out of their way to show support for me as a single woman. But I’ve also been on the receiving end of jokes, stereotypes, mean tweets, casual but stinging insults. And even more common is the unintentional overlooking of singles’ needs, our situations, and our limitations: the scheduling of women’s Bible studies during work hours, for example, or conversations that consistently leave no room for any topic but families and parenting.

    For readers of a Bible that goes out of its way to honor faithful single people – including its own central character! – or even to tell us that it is better to be single (1 Cor. 7:7), we single Christians seem to spend a lot of time reminding our churches that we are also part of the body of Christ. This can be exhausting and demoralizing. For some, it’s too exhausting and demoralizing to endure.

    Katie Gaddini recently wrote in Relevant: “In both [the United States and the United Kingdom], single Christian women are leaving churches at increasingly high rates. In the United Kingdom, one study showed that single women are the most likely group to leave Christianity. In the United States, the numbers tell a similar story.” She quotes one woman as saying, “‘I’m so tired of fighting Christian church leaders to be treated equally but I don’t want to leave the church. So, what do I do?’ She paused before reformulating her question: ‘How do I stay?’”

    Jesus approached people not to humiliate them, but because he loved them.

    Rather than focus on the obvious negatives, I prefer to notice the hope in that woman’s question. Because while it might not be apparent at first glance, there is hope there.

    This woman sounds like so many women I’ve known who do stay, who grit their teeth and gut it out. But here I will speak quite personally: I stay because I know that the church is supposed to be better than this, and I have a vested interest in making it that way. I stay because I know that there is something good underneath the imperfect practice of Christianity I keep running into. I stay because of Jesus.

    The Jesus we encounter in Scripture acknowledges marital or single status where relevant, but he doesn’t think it the most important thing about a person. It is not the standard by which one stands or falls. As I mentioned earlier, his own marital status suggests that he had no problem with singleness. But the larger point is that Jesus approached people not to humiliate them, but because he loved them.

    With the woman at the well, for instance, he brings up her marital status to make a point and steer the conversation in a particular direction. He knows everything about her already, without having to be told. His knowledge of her dubious status in her society informs her that he is a prophet and creates the opportunity for her to recognize his own status. But he does not use her status against her. And he doesn’t allow it to keep him from talking with her in the first place, to the surprise of his disciples. He is interested in who people are, the state of their hearts, the level of their need for him, and their willingness to receive what he offers. In this case, he keeps the main focus on what she needs: the living water that he has to give.

    In the Gospels, Jesus never chastises the single and childless for their selfishness. In fact, he never displays such an attitude toward anyone whom mainstream society has already shoved to the margins. If he ever takes such a tone, it is with those who do the shoving. He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly – so why would he ever treat people in a way that would hurt them, shame them, and drive them away from him instead of drawing them near?

    cubist painting of a woman holding a clay jar with a green and yellow bird behind her

    Diego Rivera, The Woman at the Well (Public domain)

    More than once, we hear Jesus telling others – including his own disciples – to stop bothering a woman who is following him faithfully, even if her way of following him appears extravagant or neglectful of her role or just somehow out of bounds. There’s Mary, who dared to sit at his feet and listen to his teachings when her sister felt she was supposed to be in the kitchen. Jesus stood up for her right to learn from him. More than that, he stated that she had made the right choice in staying there and learning.

    Consider another woman in the Gospels: the woman who broke the jar of perfume to anoint his head (Mark 14:3–9). Again, we have Jesus and the disciples at odds over his interaction with her. Of all the words he ever spoke, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?” are some of the most powerful. These words create room for the marginalized woman to step forward and serve Jesus in a way that is natural and faithful and right, however it may scandalize those mired in their own way of seeing and doing things. It is this Jesus who draws us back to church again and again, despite the pain that so many of his followers have caused us.

    What single Christians need from the church is a family who will love them and live with them, regardless of what the future might have in store. More than any specific singles’ ministry or program or agenda – before any such plan can even be formed – this has to be the groundwork of the church’s view of single people, the foundation without which nothing of substance can be built. Like Jesus, the church needs to be willing to meet us where we are, to make room for us to contribute, and to encourage and equip us to learn about God.

    So when people ask me what single women need from the church, again and again I take them back to basics. I believe that what we need goes beyond singles’ ministries, retreats, and small groups. These can be good and useful, but what we need goes so much deeper. We need the church to see us like Jesus saw the single women around him. We need the church to love us and welcome us and include us as he did. We need to be part of the church family, all the more because we are doing our best to get through life without families of our own (apart from our families of origin). And we need opportunities to make our own contributions to the church’s flourishing – to give as well as to receive.

    We need the church, in short, to imitate Christ.

    Contributed By Gina Dalfonzo Gina Dalfonzo

    Gina Dalfonzo is the author of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis and One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church, and editor of The Gospel in Dickens. She is also the editor of Dickensblog, a blog about all things Charles Dickens.

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