There are only two states in which a Christian can be, either single and celibate or married. Those are the only two in which a Christian is allowed to live and be without sin. The idea of cohabitation and casual sex is increasingly becoming a popular option in our culture and unfortunately even among Christians. The Bible makes it clear that there are only two options, to be single or to be married. Trying to have the benefits of married life with the lack of commitment that comes with singleness is a sinful immoral idea and not permissible for the one purchased and saved by the blood of Jesus. So lets briefly explore in detail the first of these two lifestyles that the Bible permits, singleness.
The Gift of Singleness
So when we approach the idea of dating, the motivation for many people is to simply not be single. In fact, in our world being single seems makes you feel as if something is wrong with you. There is so much pressure from Hollywood and culture to be in a relationship with someone that the end goal of dating is to just not be alone. As a result, many Christians begin to think of singleness as a reflection of their own defunctness. Many think, "Is there something wrong with me? Why is God cursing me with singleness?". Yes, many think of singleness as a curse, but according to the Bible singleness is a great gift.
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul actually recommends the single life to the church. Paul, a single guys himself, saw the incredible benefits of being single. Paul says in verse 6, "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." Paul recommends and even encourages the single life style to Christians but never commands it. Indeed for the great majority of us, marriage is the option God has allotted for us. Many of us as Paul puts it in verse 8, "cannot exercise self-control" in our sexuality and he tells us that it is better "to marry than to burn with passion". For those who have been given the incredible gift of abstaining from sexuality, God has given them the gift of singleness.
Singleness does have its advantages to married life. Paul says that those who are married "will have worldly troubles" (v 28) while the single person is able to able to be "anxious about the things of the Lord" (v 32). The great thing about being single is that you are free to live every moment for the sake of the Kingdom of God. As a husband I have responsibilities at home to which I need to be concerned. I have to make sure I provide for my wife, take care of her, and disciple her. I can't just pack my bags and leave for Africa tomorrow morning to preach the Gospel, I have a family that I am responsible for. In some ways I am slightly restricted in my married life. Now I love being married and clearly this is the route God had in store for me, but don't disregard the gift of your own singleness. Those who are single are not restrained and are able to "secure your undivided devotion to the Lord" (v 35)
For a few, you will be given the gift and privilege of living life as a single celibate person for the glory of God for your entire life just like the apostle Paul. For the majority of us we will enter into the gift of marriage. No one is better than the other, just the lot God has gifted us with (6b). For those of you who are single, please do not despise your singleness. It is a precious gift of the Lord. Even you teenagers and 20 somethings who plan on getting married one day, don't waste your single years mopping around waiting for God to bring you your spouse, but use your singleness to be able to have undivided devotion to your God and King! Singleness, even temporary singleness, is a precious gift, use if for the glory of God and for your good to make much of Jesus!
Now as I've discussed this issue with a variety of Christians, I've seen some who have no desire for marriage because of sinful motivation. Their reasoning goes like this, "I don't want to get married because I want to do what I want to do. If I get married I can't stay up late and play Xbox all night" or whatever other boyish thing they'd like to do. Even girls tend to think this way as I've noticed that many girls don't want marriage simply because they distrust and do not like men, often times for good reason because of abuse or horrible divorces. The irony is that many of these individuals are out there casually dating regularly, but have no interest in marriage. I suggest to you that this is a sinful motivation for singleness and a misunderstanding on what the Bible teaches about singleness.
As you read 1 Corinthians 7 you see that the reason Paul recommends singleness is not for selfish purposes but for the advancement of the Gospel. The reason God gifts people in singleness isn't so that you can avoid responsibility and live like a child for the rest of your life, but rather so that you can make much of Jesus. If you decide to live your life unmarried and single, check your heart and make sure you are doing this for the glory of God and not for your own selfish ego. In the free time you have as a single person, use that time to provide undivided attention to the Lord, not for your personal recreation and entertainment. As always, check your motivation in every decision you make.
Singleness is an incredible gift of the Lord. We need to redeem singleness from being thought of as weird, bizarre, or uncanny in the life of our Churches. We need to think of those gifted with singleness as praise worthy, not the subject of gossip. However for the majority of us, singleness is a temporary span in our life and the majority of Christ followers will one day enter into marriage. In the next post, we will look at and observe God's gift of marriage.