This might seem a funny topic to discuss while myself being less than two months from marriage, but it has been on my heart while living in a city which has a larger population of professional singles than most. It is a blindspot in the American church:
When God created the Heavens and the Earth, He created man and woman, named them Adam and Eve and put them in a garden to live as husband and wife and to procreate and fill the Earth. God created us for the marriage relationship, right? We are only fulfilled if we find our life partner! And if we live in the South we must have a litter of children and teach them to be good little Christians. We are to fill and to rule over the Earth! Yes, this is a dominant part of the American Christian dream. A godly spouse. Singles have little place in the church, unless the church is a niche contemporary church that is filled predominantly with single people and organizes social activities like sports, service projects and meal gatherings.
Why do singles not fit in to our churches? I once was told that married couples shy away from hanging out with singles because the same-gendered spouse subconsciously is hesitant to bring a competitor into the household. I, as a single thirty year old woman, would pose a threat to a wife, just by nature of being single and available. She might hang out with me one-on-one, but she would be hesitant or uncomfortable to bring her husband along. I am no psychologist, but I am not sure that I buy that logic.
I do think, however, that we have become so accustomed to segregating ourselves by age, gender and status that singles often get neglected. We split school children up by class, we divide college & career from young married, and then of course parents with children can only meet with other parents who have children. And the senior adults get locked away in a corner somewhere.
But did you know, you cannot learn an abundance of life experience from your peers?! Is it helpful to have a group of people sit around who are all wrestling with the same problem? Sure, it can be. Discussing problem solving tactics through faith with others in the same boat can be extremely encouraging. However. The picture we learn from Scripture is that it is more beneficial to learn from someone who has passed through the trials and succeeded. Someone who is on the other side with stronger faith because of it. A woman who has raised children and is now enjoying grandchildren, Paul says, should teach young mothers to love their children (Titus 2.4). Is it not natural to love our own children? Yes. But a grandmother can teach well a young mother that spoiling is detrimental and discipline helpful. And she can teach this because of her experience. Segregation not only alienates the minority groups in your community, but stunts the growth potential of people who are not learning from a legacy of faith.
My point, however, is not necessarily that singles do not have a place in the church, though often times they do not. My point is that Paul actually says it is better to not marry:
So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
– 1 Cor 7.38
The woman who does not marry will do better! Even in a society where women were always under the authority of a man, either their fathers or husbands, and a society where one needed children to ensure that she would be cared for in old age, Paul says it is better for her to not marry. Why?
But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
– 1 Cor 7.32-35
When we marry, we get concerned about houses, children, money, providing, educating, meals, toys, enough visits with grandparents, naps, etc. Our time gets absorbed and our energies focused. But the single person has less distraction. Yes, single people can and do get absorbed into the world. They can be just as focused on houses, cars, toys, and pleasure. But a person who is passionately in love with the Lord who does not have the distraction of a spouse and children can offer full time, total devotion to the Lord.
Yes, a spouse is a gift and is the picture of our relationship to Jesus Christ, but a spouse is also a distraction. Yes, children are a blessing and gift from the Lord. But they divert our devotion. Yes, when we have a family we have a live-in opportunity to put someone else above ourselves, and we learn just how selfish we are. But the point remains that Paul says even with the learning and sanctification potentials of marriage, it is better to not marry. It’s in the Bible.
Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
– 1 Cor 7.7-9
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
– 1 Cor 7.27-28
Marriage is not for everyone. It is for some. If one cannot control his sexual lust, it is better to marry. And Paul is clear that God gives callings, faith and mercies to each person individually. So for many of us, we are to marry. However, if we believe the Bible to be true and to be the highest authority, then we understand that singlehood is a blessing and not a curse. We should not feel badly for the single person in our midst and ask, “When are you going to find that special someone?” We also should not force them into a corner to only play with other single people. Single people make great friends. They make great aunts and uncles for children. They can serve when others cannot, and they have more time to invest in their walk with the Lord.
If someone is single there is a reason. It could be that they are socially awkward and have never found a mate. But it could also be that the Lord has called them to a life of service unto Him and without the distraction of a family. So let’s get them plugged into our lives. Let’s appoint them to positions of leadership in the Church. They have less distractions! Which would you prefer as your pastor? One whose interests are divided or one whose interests are fully set on the Lord?