Nearly 40 percent of singles in a 2013 study described feeling isolated in their churches. One researcher concluded, “[Singles] . . . feel invisible and think about leaving.” That statistic doesn’t surprise me. As a single person, I’ve experienced feelings of isolation in churches composed primarily of couples who socialize primarily with other couples. I’ve also experienced awkward silences when I reveal I’m not dating, married, or even actively seeking a spouse.

It can be easy for churches to embrace mainstream culture’s tendency to idolize romance while seeing friendships and community as optional, superficial, and non-committal. In that worldview, singles can be excluded from being known and loved at a deep level, while couples can sometimes enter marriage with unrealistic expectations.

The apostle Paul described the church, not as a collection of couples and singles, but as an interdependent body meant to share joy and suffering together (1 Corinthians 12:25-26), where each person is uniquely gifted and needed for the good of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:7,21-22). And when Paul described the “way of life that is best of all” (1 Corinthians 12:31), he didn’t describe marriage but the love the community of faith is called to embody (1 Corinthians 13:12-13), a love that “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

When believers deepen their experience of community and unity through the Spirit, we grow into a love deeper than our own individual needs, one where we’re invited into a calling much bigger than ourselves (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). And we also grow in our witness to the transforming power of Jesus’ love, the love that will last forever (1 Corinthians 13:13).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Mark 8:22–9:1