August 22, 2013
I’ve made it past business attire, invitations and how to secure a job. But as I started reading Emily Post’s Etiquette on interrelationships, things started to get a little bit sad. There is etiquette in place for the things that are common issues. Things like chewing gum loudly and how to respond to letters. But these days, relationships are changing and the standards for them are starting to change as well. This chapter gave me insight into the most common relational issues, and as someone who thinks a great deal about the community in which I find myself, I couldn’t help but let it sink in: This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
We shouldn’t have to have so many chapters on how to end a marriage well or how to explain to your children that, “Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore.” We shouldn’t have to navigate the areas of broken relationships. But the reality is: We live in a fallen world in which our relationships with one another unravel.
As I found the section on singleness, it only really covered one topic: How to live with a significant other. I once asked a friend when it was that they would consider dating for the sake of finding a future spouse and he said, “Maybe 29 or 30 years old.” The idea of committing to relationships in a biblical way is something that is harder and harder to do when the world just keeps telling us that dating in your 20’s is about having fun.
So how do we navigate the life that we’ve found ourselves in? Whether we are single or married, our lives ought to reflect the gospel and our relationships with one another need to be patterned after Scripture—not society.
In the same way that Post writes about addressing various relationships, we as the church need to be careful to do the same. The reality of the situation is that there are divorced people that we will do ministry to. There are wounded, broken families that we will come into contact with. There are single people in our communities that need to be affirmed in their singleness.
We live in a world that values our own comfort more than sacrificing for the sake of saving our relationships. Society says that at the end of the day, it’s all about compromise. It’s about just doing what is easier. And when we start to give into that mentality, we end up with a whole culture of people who are broken because no one is there to serve the church anymore. We come to serve ourselves.
Post wants to make the best out of a bad situation, but Paul reminds us that our perspectives must change in the here-and-now to avoid those bad situations. “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
When we view one another as family, our treatment of each other changes. When I see someone not as married, divorced, single or otherwise, I’m not seeing them through the right lens. But when I see a sister in Christ who is struggling with feeling like God has left her out of marriage because she’s somehow less valuable, or when I see a brother aching because of the break-up that he’s gone through, I can minister to him better.
Post shouldn’t be the only one who tells us how to react to harder realities. Instead, we should be learning to respond in love, extending grace and carrying out the gospel in whatever marital status, past brokenness or current struggle we find ourselves in. We live in a broken world, but our God redeems.
Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
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