This time of year, churches, banquet halls and barns get decked out in tulle and lights. Everyone seems to know someone who’s in a wedding, going to a wedding or having their own wedding.
And quietly, subtly, the chatter begins.
“They’re just so young. I mean, they’ll probably be OK, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
“It’s about time they got married. They’re not getting any younger.”
“So when’s your wedding going to be? Why don’t you have someone in your life yet?”
They’re common thoughts we’ve probably all had or even spoken. Yet between the words, it is easy to weave a gentle judgment; someone has done things differently than we have, and we think to ourselves that our way is slightly better, more correct and, perhaps, more godly.
Yet there’s often something large missing in these hastily drawn judgments: The acceptance that none of these paths, of marrying young, marrying older or not marrying at all, is objectively right or objectively wrong. More than that, these judgments miss the point that, as Christians, our ability to live out God’s call is not defined by our marital status.
Our Highest Calling
Most Christians look to The Ten Commandments, Jesus’ explanation of the greatest commandment and the Great Commission as a summary of Christian calling—none of which mention marriage directly.
Our highest calling as Christians can be simplified to loving God and loving our neighbor. There are many facets to this, including serving, generosity, compassion and ultimately making disciples—but all of these are built on loving God and neighbor.
During wedding season, though—and especially among the debates over the “proper” age to get married—it is easy for this ultimate Christian call to get lost.
There are, of course, many parts of the Bible that affirm the beauty and blessing of marriage, and there are examples of married couples who do great things in the name of God. Still, marriage is never a direct command.
Even Paul saw the benefits of remaining single. He told the church in Corinth, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
No Perfect Way
Arguments for marrying young, marrying older or staying single all have valid and perhaps even biblically-based points. Like many things in life though, there is not one way of approaching marriage that is always better, or more God-pleasing, than another.
For some, marrying young brings about the blessings of having someone to partner and grow with for years to come, to learn how to live life and better serve God together. Others may be single, by choice or not, but also growing, learning and having their faith stretched in unique ways.
Every age and life stage brings its own blessings and difficulties, no matter our relationship status—and along with the blessings and difficulties come multitudes of ways of loving God and our neighbor. This may mean serving as a missionary abroad, working at a coffee shop in Portland or doing taxes in Colorado Springs. These—and hundreds of other ways of loving and serving God and others—can be done whether we are married or not, and at whatever age that marriage may occur.
Once we realize the true focal point of the Christian life, the age at which we do or do not get married becomes a lot less important. So maybe instead of asking about someone’s upcoming wedding plans or lack thereof—and silently comparing how their ideas about marriage stack up against ours—we could ask about how well they’re doing at loving and serving God and others.
God has different ways of doing things that are good for different people. He works in ways we may not see and in situations we may not fully understand, both in our own lives and in those of the people around us.
Maybe your summer calendar is filled with weddings, or perhaps you won’t attend one for years. The couple may be your age, five years younger or 10 years older. It may not be easy, but whatever the circumstances of the next wedding you attend, consider the opportunity you have to appreciate the different ways in which God works in your life and in the lives of the couple getting married. Our calling as Christians is to love and serve God and our neighbor, and our capacity to do just that is far more important than our marital status.