It often seems like there is a great divide between those who are single and married.
Singles are searching; couples have found their partner. Singles are alone; couples are together. Singles have more time; couples have more responsibilities. The single college girl can stay all night at her friends if she wants and can leave at anytime. The married man ought to consider his spouse at all times.
Are the two groups so different? Is marriage actually the ideal for everyone to reach?
The Bible gives few instructions that are specific to singles and couples. Instead, aside from a few specific passages (1 Cor 7; Eph 5; Col 3), singles and couples receive the same general instructions on Christian living.
If our lives feel so different, why does the Bible not give each group more pointed directions?
There may be more similarities than we often realize:
- Singleness and marriage are for our growth and sanctification.
- Singles and married couples display different aspects of life in the new creation.
The goal of both singleness and marriage is conformity to Christ.
In the Old Testament, it wasn’t sinful not to marry, but it was the general expectation. Marriage meant being fruitful and multiplying (Gen 1:28), but this changed in the New Testament.
John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul were all single. Jesus refers to himself as the “bridegroom” (Mark 2:20). Paul proclaims that God’s people are the bride of Christ gloriously proclaimed through marriage (Eph 5:25-27; see 2 Cor 11:2)! Yet Paul also encouraged singleness (1 Cor 7:7–8)! Why the change from the Old Testament?
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that all authority had been given to him. Because of that, all believers are to go and make disciples of all nations; both singles and married couples are to carry on his work.
In Colossians 1, Paul wrote that the gospel was bearing fruit and increasing in the whole world (vv. 5–6). With the coming of Christ, married couples and singles can bear fruit through sharing the gospel.
The Apostle Paul encouraged both singleness and marriage. He tells the Corinthians to remain in the situation “in which they were called” (1 Cor 7:20).
Both the single person and the married couples should not think they could do more for God if their situations were reversed. Both have received God’s blessings, and both are to serve God where they are at.
In their longings for a spouse, singles must rest in their perfect Bridegroom who died for them and said he is always with them (Matt 28:20). God’s peace, which surpasses all understanding, comes from the God of peace who is always with you (Phil 4:7, 9).
Be content with what you have and with where you are in life, because God will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). To the single Christian: you are never alone. God is with you.
Perhaps you have heard a husband refer to his wife as his “better half.” Though cute, it carries the idea that you aren’t complete until you’ve found your other half.
But marriage can’t complete you.
When two people marry become one flesh, “but he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:16–17). Married couples can and are to share all things with each other, but without Christ they are not complete. Christ makes us whole—not friends, children, or even a spouse.
Each God-ordained marriage consists of two broken sinners who will hurt each other. The pressure of marriage brings sin to the surface so it can be dealt with. Spouses have been brought together by God to minister to each other throughout their whole life.
Because singles don’t need to confer with a spouse over the day’s plans, you can, at a moment’s notice, stop what you are doing to help a friend. In his book 7 Myths About Singleness, Sam Allberry notes that while you don’t have the depth of intimacy that comes in a marriage, your breadth of intimacy is spread through your friendships.
Spouses image eternity by being a picture of Christ and his marriage to the church. Husbands are to lay down their lives daily for their wives, digging in to love and cherish them, even in the midst of bills, children, and work. Wives are to trust their imperfect husbands, seeking ways to encourage them in their leadership while pointing them to the perfect Bridegroom.
They make better disciples of each other, they disciple their children, and they join together to disciple others and to be discipled.
Singles image eternity too.
In Matthew 22:30, Jesus said that there would be no marriage in the new creation. Singles live now as they will in the future. Their life is hidden with Christ who will return for us (Col 3:1–4). They are able to reach people in a way married couples cannot.
They can enter into people’s lives for longer without having to remember to bring along food for the kids or that their spouse will come home from work at 5:00.
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It’s easy to read this and think, “But who will care for me?” If your church followed Paul’s instructions, they will care for you too. Jesus calls singles and couples to serve others and each other.
The Christian life is one of laying down your life, taking up your cross, and serving others (Mark 8:34-35). No matter if you are single or married, you can do this because Christ is your treasure (Matt 6:21), and he gives you the grace to serve others because you are filled with his Spirit (Rom 8:9).