Singleness. That word is viewed by many as a curse and to others a blessing. I have seen so many different attitudes on singleness in the North American Church that I think it's time to address how those of us that are single in the Church can live hopeful and hope-filled lives. In addressing this topic for the North American and universal Church, we need to understand that singleness is not a state that believers need to get out of, but it's a gift that needs to be appreciated.
I think often singles are characterized as desperate for a relationship that leads to marriage when in reality, most of us who are single are really not. Most, if not all singles I know are not chomping at the bit looking to get married, but rather are hopeful that, as the famous hymn “It Is Well” states, whatever their lot, “God has taught me to say it is well with my soul.” Do we see Jesus desperate to seek marriage in Scripture? We don’t, but I’m sure Jesus faced the many temptations that all singles do, yet He never acted on those temptations. I find it ironic that our Lord and Savior was single His entire life, yet no one talks about that in many church communities. We must not forget that some may be purposed with the gift of singleness to show how it is just as glorifying to God to live a life of singleness, just as in a covenant marriage, and even martyrdom.
Learning from History
What is so interesting to me throughout my studies of church history is that some, if not a majority of early church leaders and preachers where single. We only know of Tertullian that was married and have reports that John Chrysostom had a wife, but the majority of leaders glorified God in their singleness by serving the Church. Obviously, we have seen the pendulum swing now that marriage is favored highly, rather than singleness. But is one season of life better than the other? I would emphatically say no. God gives us the gifts of singleness, marriage, and even martyrdom to display His glory, not to shame believers who “haven’t made it yet.”
We see this played out in early church history as the Donatists said that martyrdom was the ultimate life stage. If you know anything about church history you know this doesn’t go well. The Donatist views have led to bad theological conclusions, such as sinless perfection and a particular way believers need to repent. Have some of us become modern-day Donatists regarding a particular life stage such as singleness or marriage? We must examine ourselves to see that we are being changed by the Holy Spirit using God’s Word to change how we think about our single brothers and sisters in Christ.
If there is any person we should listen to on this matter of singleness and marriage, it is the Lord Jesus Himself. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus interacts with the Pharisees and disciples on marriage and singleness:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, a“Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 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.”
The point of this interaction is this: some are given the gift of singleness and some are given the gift of marriage. Go to the Lord Jesus with your frustrations in your singleness. I desire marriage as well, but I am not promised it by the Lord. What I take solace in these words declared by the prophet Isaiah:
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
Find your comfort in the Lord’s Word to you in your singleness and delight in Him.
Jack serves as a men’s discipleship group leader at Resurrection Church in Tacooma, WA, as well as helps military service members at Joint Base Lewis McChord attain degrees and certificates from local community colleges to help in their transition to the civilian sector.