Lots of people have lots of opinions of ‘singleness’ in the Christian life. Many of those opinions are helpful, but I would venture a guess that the large majority of them are not.
There are, generally, two kinds of single Christian adults. There are those who are eagerly (but hopefully patiently) waiting for the partner whom they will marry, and there are those who do not wish to venture into marriage at all. The latter idea of singleness has largely been particularly shunned by the contemporary church, despite the fact that it is acknowledged in the Bible.
It’s as though the church pretends that a whole chapter of the Bible just doesn’t exist. Very, very rarely is it preached on in our Sunday gatherings. When it is, it is often looked at in an attempt to sympathise with and console the single adults in the congregation.
When Paul talks about the benefits of being a single Christian in 1 Corinthians 7, it is not merely a consolation to those who can’t find the right partner. He is writing, albeit from his own Holy-Spirit-inspired opinions, to encourage and promote singleness.
While Biblical scholars may be quick to point out that these opinions related to Paul’s eschatological expectations or to the context of the church he was writing to, the raw truth of the matter is that a married man or woman must divide their attention between the things of the Lord and the things of their marriage and household, while those who are unmarried are not limited in this way (7:32—34).
Now, the Bible talks elsewhere of the blessings of marriage – and it is true that marriage is a good thing, ordained by God, and is blessed. Paul even affirms as much in his first letter to Timothy. Just because marriage is good and blessed, though, does not mean that the single life is not just as so. More than one friend has confided in me that, though they don’t regret being married, they now appreciate so much more the true and powerful blessing of being single, and of how they were more freely able to contribute in various ways to the kingdom of God before marriage.
Being single is a good thing. It is not more (nor less) good than being married, but we must begin to more publicly attest to the blessing of being a single Christian in today’s world. We must also begin to be much more accepting and encouraging of young Christians who say that they wish to remain single for the glory of God.
There are ways that a single woman or single man can serve others and the church which a married person may be unable to. There is a freedom to pray and fast for long periods of time, to pack up your life and move where the Spirit calls you, and to share life with other single Christians that can be severely limited once a person enters into marriage. Whether a Christian is to simply utilize their time of singleness before marriage to the best of their ability, or to continue loving and praising God with undivided attention for the rest of their lives, we need to recapture the beauty and power of the single Christian life.