Marriage, hospitality, and what about singles?

As part of our series on sexuality and intimacy, I noted last week that we’d be talking about marriage this week. One of the single females in the group asked if there’d be some way that the discussion might be relevant to the singles present, as opposed to simply being another presentation of all the things she has to look forward to when she finally gets married. Her question and implicit complaint of how marriage is often seen and taught resonated with me. But how does one talk about the good of marriage without making it exclusive to the married folks or, worse yet, making singleness seem bad?

Hospitality is the angle we’ll be using to talk about marriage. The focus of the discussion then turns from being about how great it is to be married to being about how marriage is a gift, including being a means for learning, showing and receiving hospitality. Furthermore, it is a discussion where singleness can also be seen as a gift: not only as understanding the need for hospitality (singles having more experience with being less welcomed in the church and elsewhere) but also in the ability of singles to share hospitality and love in a more extravagant* way than marrieds (and those with children) can, as no one has an exclusive claim on their time and love.

When marriage is often insular, even and sometimes especially in Christian circles, a conversation about hospitality raises questions about whether we’ve misunderstood something. As many Christian groups tend also to be insular (and condemning of outsiders), I’d argue that something has definitely gone wrong in our understanding of what Christian love, including love in the form of hospitality, ought to look like.

* I’d attribute my thoughts on singles being able to have more extravagant love to Richard Foster. Growing up in a Chritian subculture where marriage and family was seen as by far the best option, he was one of the first who helped me see some of the blessings of singleness.

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