Where did you get your dishes from?

Where did you get your dishes from?
June 24, 2024

By Louis Phillips. Louis is Director of Church Relations at The Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender.


A few weeks ago, I went to a friend’s thirtieth birthday party in Austin. It was probably my favorite birthday party I’ve ever attended, because it was much more than just an event celebrating another year of life. The real reason for this gathering was to honor our friend, stand beside him, and assure him that as a celibate gay Christian he will not “miss out” by never getting married. We gathered, we ate and drank, some of us even danced, and then we showered him with gifts… much like a wedding. 


As Christians, our wedding gatherings are signposts to Christ’s ultimate marriage with the Church. And though this party for my celibate friend wasn’t a wedding, it was also a signpost. It was a poignant reminder that fulfillment is found in Christ, not in marriage, and that we all (married or single) long for the day we will be eternally united with Christ as His bride. At one point in the night, I found myself as a married man thinking about how my marriage is so good—better than I ever thought it could be—and yet Jesus is still better. What a beautiful reality that is, that I was created for Him first and foremost!  It was a stunning night. I was inspired by my friend’s love of our savior and reminded of where we are all going: a cosmic wedding!


On that same trip, my wife and I were staying with dear friends of ours who had been married for over thirty years. As we were having dinner at their house and I was admiring their dishware, I asked them, “Where did you get your dishes from?” They nonchalantly said, “This set was a gift we received at our wedding.”


We as Christians celebrate marriage well. We gather to honor the couple, we eat and drink, some of us even dance, and then we shower the bride and groom with gifts to say, “Here is a jumpstart to your adult life.” Wedding gifts can be ongoing reminders of love and support; many of those gifts, like my friends’ dishes, can last for a lifetime. 


When I speak to churches and Christian groups about how we can love and minister to LGBTQ/SSA folks, I always make this point: Our entire conversation hinges on singleness. If we handle singleness well (that is, biblically) as Christians and celebrate it, many of our questions would be answered. I am convinced that our idolatry of marriage and our diminishment of singleness lie at the root of so many of the heartaches and tensions we face regarding questions of sexuality and gender. These might be the biggest reason some LGBTQ/SSA folks have a hard time believing Christianity is even a liveable option for them. 


As Christians, we know that God’s design for marriage is for one man and one woman. Those who aren’t called into such a marriage—including many of our LGBTQ/SSA friends, as well as some straight Christians—are called to remain single. And people who never marry will never get a wedding celebration. Except in a few rare cases, they never get a party celebrating their commitment or hundreds of gifts to “jumpstart” their adult lives. But what if these cases weren’t so rare? What if celebrating singleness could be as normal as celebrating marriage? 


I am so grateful my thirty-year-old friend has a community to celebrate him and point him to Christ, not in spite of his singleness but within his singleness. I’d love to see more of my single sisters and brothers in Christ get celebrated like him. 


Here is my challenge to you all. Throw a party for your celibate friends, LGBTQ/SSA or otherwise, who are following Jesus. Celebrate them. Love them through actions and not just words. Maybe they won’t want something grand like a party (not everyone is as bougie as my friend)—but even if they don’t, you could still give them a high-quality gift like you would at a wedding. Maybe you can give them the dishes they’ll have for the rest of their lives.