"It's complicated"

They got married?”
“That person is divorced!”
“That person is still single?”
“They got married young!”
“They got married old!”
“Who would love him!?!”
“How does he stay married to her?”
That’s an unlikely match!”

Stigma. Judgement. Labels.

Stigma is a disapproval of, or discontent with, a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society. Stigma may attach to a person who differs from social or cultural norms.

When it comes to relationships, stigma abounds.

Just change your Facebook status to see what I mean!

So often our relationship status defines us.

And Christian approaches to relationships sometimes accept these stigmas. Books, events, websites, sermons create a compartmentalization of people in the church based on relationship status. While helpful to address specific needs of various life situations, such an approach is often all there is. The Bible is used as handbook on relationships; Jesus turns into the unrivaled relationship guru.

Yet reading passages like Matthew 10:34-39 and Matthew 19:1-12 the last thing we get is clear relationship advice. Instead, Jesus provokes, talking about family division and “hard hearts” in the complex world of relationships and faith. No easy answers here.

For Jesus-followers, it seems the only accurate relationship status is, “It’s complicated.”

Consistently in his teaching, instead of outlining how to be a good spouse, or how to live the single life, Jesus reiterates what it means to overcome our hardness of heart: follow, lose your life...identify with him.

The message is clear: identify your whole self with Jesus, not with your relationship status. Instead of giving relationship advice for his followers, Jesus gives following advice to people in relationships.

It may be complicated, yes, but such is the way of Jesus in the world.

**This post is adapted from one of my recent sermons**


David R said...

Came over here from The High Calling and I like what I read. "It's complicated. " Sheesh. How true! and it's not a 21st century thing. Relationships are rarely singular in their definition. I wish it werent so in my case, but it's true.

David Warkentin said...

Welcome here David! Thanks for the feedback - and yes, relational complexity goes across centuries and generations, often leaving us with mixed feelings of blessing and loss.

Doug Smith said...

I wouldn’t use the word ‘complicated’. Not because it is wrong but because it sounds like that is the way it should be. I would rather say ‘it’ should be different, varied or individual; even if not easy. Complicated reflects our weakness.

Complicated? – not in the big picture since an approach of love is always right.

Easy? – not in the details since we have difficulty knowing the specific loving action to take.

We choose to be disciples because we wish to love God. We cannot love God unless we love others. (1 John 4:20) His first and foremost work with us is to teach us how to love others.

There is no situation-response chart for us. There are no rules of performance. To know the specific loving action requires us to have a desire to love, to have insight into the other, to understand the relationship, to discern the situation and to make active effort. This takes learning and personal growth. It may never become easy but it should become natural.

David Warkentin said...

Thanks Doug - insightful comments

"It may never become easy but it should become natural."

How true!

I get what you mean by using a different word then "complicated." Jesus was honest - it is complicated! - but he never stayed there. You offer a necessary "yes but..." to the conversation.

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