My previous post on the subject of dating raised a number of questions, but I felt this one from Hayley merited a separate post:

What is your opinion on remaining single for all of this life? It seems to me that most evangelicals assume marriage to be a prerequisite to real life. As if remaining unmarried is miserable. As the single life is a sub-par life, an un-alive life.
However, the New Testament seems to encourage Christians to remain single. But either way, God is supposed to be our fulfillment (and indeed is the only One Who can fulfill); and yet, we concentrate so much more on finding a spouse. I have a theory that we think singleness is miserable only because we do not seek God half as much as we wish for a mate.

The New Testament passage Hayley refers to isĀ 1 Corinthians 7, particularly verses 25-38. Paul is answering a question from his readers in Corinth about whether it is better for an unmarried woman to stay single or to get married. He acknowledges that the Lord doesn’t command one way or the other, but his personal opinion is that the unmarried are better able to direct their attention to God. Married people are naturally concerned with the needs and desires of their spouses and children, and so they have a tendency to be distracted from God. On the other hand, he acknowledges that it is better for a person to marry than to “burn” (v. 9), presumably with sexual passion and lust.

Other passages in the Bible, however, seem to praise marriage as a wonderful relationship created by God. This is certainly the case in Genesis 2:18-25, in which God creates the woman to alleviate the man’s loneliness. In addition, Ephesians 5:21-33 discusses the beauty of a marriage that reflects the relationship between Christ and the church.

So what’s going on? Does the Bible encourage marriage or singleness?

The answer is both and neither. With regard to singleness, Paul encourages those who are able to remain single and avoid lust to do so in order to better focus on the Lord. But marriage is not a sin, and for many it is the better option because it allows them to avoid “burning with passion” and gives them an opportunity to reflect the unselfish love of Christ. Each person is called to determine before God which state He wants them in, and to remain content in that state. Single people aren’t better or worse than married people. Married people aren’t better or worse than single people. Both have a critical role in the Church and in the fulfillment of God’s purposes.

Here are a couple of questions for those trying to sort it all out:

Is my decision to marry or remain single motivated by fear or discontent? Some people (not all) stay single because they fear commitment or intimacy. Some people get married because they fear loneliness. None of those are good reasons for such a critical choice.

Will marriage or singleness better allow me to glorify the Lord? If I remain unmarried, will I truly focus my energy and attention on the things of God, or will my passions run out of control? If I get married, will I unselfishly express the love of Christ or will I lose my focus on Christ and His kingdom? Every decision should be processed through the grid of God’s Word and our responsibility to obey and proclaim Him.

Question for you: If you are a person who plans to stay single, are you willing to share with us how you arrived at that decision and why it was the best choice for you to pursue the Lord? If you are married (or hope to be), can you share why you chose marriage and why you feel it is the best choice for you to pursue the Lord?

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