Singleness is often overlooked in Christian culture. Think about it: When was the last time you heard a sermon in church on singleness? And when was the last time you heard one on marriage? Right…
But Jesus and Paul were both single for a purpose. So what would it mean for the church to view singleness the way God does?
Singleness is a good and beautiful way to follow Jesus
Every one of you reading this has been single at some point in your life. You didn’t come out of the womb engaged.
And if you’re married, you might even be single again at some point in the future. As tough as it is to think about, the death of a spouse can be a tragic reality that thrusts us into singleness once again. Having a good theology of singleness, even in the midst of marriage, will not only benefit others, but you as well.
Marriage is never guaranteed to us, nor is it essential in glorifying God. For many Christians, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to say “When you get married…” as opposed to “If you get married…” With language like this, we’re communicating to everyone around us that marriage is expected—or even the best option.
Often, we believe marriage is the better way. That somehow, being single makes you a second-class citizen. We think it’s lonely—as if we can’t be truly known without a significant other. That it’s empty—as if we can’t fulfill our purpose in life without a partner. That it limits our impact—as if we haven’t “arrived” or can’t be a leader without a spouse. Or, hardest of all, that there’s something wrong with us for being single.
From childhood, we might get the idea that singleness isn’t just option B, it’s option Z! We do everything in our power to avoid being single. Others do everything in their power to help us not be single.
And when we view singleness as a terrible way to live, it can launch us into an unhealthy marriage that wasn’t meant for us, all for the sake of fleeing singleness.
It can also lead us to give members of the LGBT+ community the narrative that they have to marry someone they’re not attracted to. Because if they choose to be celibate for the sake of the kingdom, they’re choosing an unfulfilled and second-class life.
I’m here to tell you: Particularly in light of the life of Jesus, single people being “second-class citizens” is a lie.
What does the Bible teach about singleness?
After Jesus’ teachings on divorce in Matthew 19, the disciples conclude that it’s better not to marry. Jesus responds with: “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
Jesus is explaining to His disciples the importance of staying married but understands that not everyone will get married. People can honor God through marriage, and people can honor God through singleness. I’m sad I feel the need to say it, but let me make this abundantly clear: Singleness isn’t a sin. Similar to marriage, it requires making sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus and Paul both understood the value and gift of singleness. In fact, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:38, said, “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” And earlier in that same chapter… “Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.” (verse 28).
Paul had the boldness to say that being single, like him, can be the better way to live. This is wildly countercultural to the way we often view (and talk about) singleness.
Single people are concerned about the Lord—pleasing God—so that they may be holy in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 7:32). While married people are concerned about the world—pleasing their spouse—and, Paul says, their interests are divided (1 Corinthians 7:33). Paul’s aim isn’t to restrain us from getting married, but to help us have “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35).
Celebrating a single life
Paul suggests singleness can actually lead to more freedom for a greater impact. Singleness isn’t a second option, it’s an equally valid way to live.
Even God’s reminder in Genesis that it’s not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18) can compel us into deep, authentic community with others.
We can stop making singleness the “wilderness” you or someone else has been stuck in for 40 years. Like Paul, could it be better to encourage people toward celebrating singleness and trust that God’s plan for them is beautiful, breathtaking, and perfectly intentional?
Singleness is a good and wonderful way to follow Jesus.
Jesus was single for a purpose
I like to imagine what it would be like if people back then talked to Jesus the way we talk to singles now. Jesus, at a wedding, having just turned water into wine, walks up to His parents’ table where someone looks at Him and says: “I can’t believe you’re still single. Aren’t you in your 30s?”
I’ve never met anyone who thinks Jesus’ ministry here on earth would have been better if He had been married. He was not excluded from God’s will or from spiritual maturity because of His marital status.
Sam Allberry, in his book 7 Myths about Singleness, said:
Jesus is the example of the perfect man. He is the humanity all of us are called to be but which none of us are. He is the most complete and fully human person who ever lived. So Jesus not marrying is not incidental. It shows us that none of these things—marriage, romantic fulfillment, sexual experience—is intrinsic to being a full human being. The moment we say otherwise, the moment we claim a life of celibacy to be dehumanizing, we are implying that Jesus himself is only subhuman.
The second we start to view singleness as sinful or shameful or less than, we view Jesus in the same way. And I don’t think any of us believe Jesus lived an unfulfilled or second-class life.
Embracing God’s view of singleness
There’s an eternity-sized hole in our hearts because of our separation from God. As Jesus’ and Paul’s lives show, there’s nothing unnatural about being single. And, as any married person will tell you, there’s nothing perfect about being married. We weren’t created to find our soulmates. Our souls were created to be with God.
In Matthew 22:30, Jesus says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage.” In eternity, it’s not your marital status that will count but what you did with the gift of singleness (or marriage) God gave you.
What matters most, though, is who hung in our place on the cross. The One who rose again, proving to us all that we are chosen, seen, and loved.
In our culture, we often view marriage as God’s favor. The ultimate end goal. A superior status. May it not be so with us. May we all view marriage and singleness on equal footing. Celebrating the joys of both. Grieving the hardships of both. Noticing and acknowledging the blessings of both.
And, in the end, may we not put our identity in these blessings, but in the One who gives them to us. Knowing that every good gift is from the Father (James 1:17). And singleness?
What a good gift it is indeed.
Copyright © 2023 by Logan Fry. All rights reserved.
Logan Fry is a lighting designer for the Campus ministry’s conference team at Cru headquarters in Orlando, Florida. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a major in Hospitality and Tourism and a minor in Theatre. Logan takes pride in helping to provide an environment where students and staff can meet with Jesus without distraction. She is also on staff at her church as the coordinator of the Local Outreach ministry. She is passionate about engaging in the conversation on singleness and helping Christian culture view it as something to be celebrated. Other passions include reading, ice cream, and Disney World (and her ideal day would have all three of those).