Affinity is a strong power. And I think that the temptation is always there to draw closer to those who are like myself and further away from those who are not.
Just yesterday, I was visited by a good friend and realized that we now occupy distant places in life. And it made me realize that while many of my friends are lonely, anxious, and disillusioned with life, I am filled with vigor and hope. I think this is part of the reason why married couples, and especially those who have children, tend to withdraw from young adult groups at church. Certainly, none of them can understand the sleepless nights or a reversal of priorities. But more than that, who can stand the constant complaining and bad decision making?
But with each passing day, I am growing of the conviction that when we give in to the power of affinity, we rob others of God’s grace. Marriage is a beautiful thing and it is the gift of the wed to include the community of God in their marriage to experience love, stability, hospitality, and the godly interplay of masculinity and femininity. Singleness is a gift in its own right, but it is also a gift to the rest of the church when they invigorate the body with their reckless abandon, tireless vision, and late night fellowships (that is, when those who are single can be secure in their singleness). And what of age and youth? What of white collar and blue collar? What of men and women? I have seen the powerful effect of affinity ministries. But after reading Revelation, I cannot shake off the vision of a family of God from every tongue, tribe, and nation–intergenerational, intercultural, international. There is a place for affinity; it is God-given. But I believe that in every Christian, there must be another impulse to reach beyond self to the other. How can we lack such an impulse if we abide in a God who did that very thing for us?
I am married and most of my friends are not. I have a child and most of my friends do not. And I don’t think the answer is for them to pretend that they are not bothered by what I have nor that I pretend that I have their freedom. Rather, we re-enter into friendship bearing gifts for one another, where giving and receiving are equally blessed.
Friends, let us not give up on each other. And “let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Maranatha. Maranatha. Maranatha.