A young woman (well…my age) sits on our plastic church chairs every week. She serves with the youth. Her presence in community, accountability, giving, and missions work is consistent.
Another young person, a man, also chooses those plastic chairs every week. He’s up early hauling equipment in and out each Sunday, and the coffee plus his smile are what greet folks as they enter a church that meets on astroturf.
This young woman and young man are single. And they just sat through a fantastic marriage series in those plastic chairs, they heard and even possibly served at the marriage conference this spring, and they are constantly surrounded by married couples fighting for God-serving marriages.
And, no, I’m not trying to get them to date each other. In fact, these two are not even real people, but collections of the single men and women our church is blessed to have as members.
I myself teach on marriage every moment I can, partly because it’s where God is constantly growing me and partly because I believe we’re in a war where marriages can work for God’s kingdom.
Are singles left out of that?
Is a Christian single person’s purpose different from that of a married person?
Spoiler answer: absolutely not.
Note: I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be single in the church or in today’s culture. I certainly don’t want to downplay the hurt that some have from longing for marriage when God has not yet provided it. The last thing I want to do in this post is offend. So I’m asking God for help and humility. Thank you for hearing me. I also invite you to please share anything I’ve missed in the comments or on my Facebook page.
Jesus pointed out how all of the law falls into only two commandments, and I’m breaking those out into our two purposes, single or married.
Purpose 1: Pursue love of God before all else
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:29-30, NIV)
Being content in singleness is directly related to finding our identity in Christ and casting off anything that steals our affection for Him. (Psst… this is no different for marrieds.) Note that this is best accomplished via obedience to His word and Spirit.
For whatever time you are single, God has ordained it. I believe God is sovereign and in control of all of my circumstances, but in this particular one, Jesus specifically says it is given. In response to disciples claiming it is sometimes better to be single:
“Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” (Matthew 19:11, NIV)
Since Jesus is our true groom, why wouldn’t we want to pursue a loving and full relationship with him?
…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless….[Christ feeds and cares for the church.]… we are members of his body…the two will become one flesh…I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5, selections made to cut out the marriage parallels in the sentences.)
Reading how He loves us makes my heart burst! He loves me and cares for me! He proved it on the cross and proves it over and over again as I feed on his word. He unites me to Himself. These are all marital ideas, my friends, complete with lovey dovey feelings that might make us blush or roll our eyes if they were on public display. And to think that they are! Hallelujah!
Purpose 2: Make Disciples
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, NIV)
When God created the first man and woman in the garden, He told them to “fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). But He didn’t just want a full earth; He had put his own image in the man and woman and intended them to make more “image bearers” – more disciples! More people who will worship and glorify His name!
As a single, then, you’re not “left out” of this command. You might go the parental route and decide to become a single adoptive parent or mentor children and youth. Or, you might instead focus on those in your own stage of life who do not know Jesus. Either way, you are creating spiritual children.
I’ve said before that marriage is under attack because it is a primary relational illustration of God’s love for us.
God has given us another relationship that He intended for the world to marvel at and see His work: our relationship with other believers.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35, NIV)
Just being in unity with the body of believers God has called you to, single or not, is a primary way for people to identify the love of Christ! Wow!
A Final Note: Marriage will both end and begin in heaven
Just to state it explicitly: being a married Christian is not better than being a single Christian.
In fact, earthly marriage (intended as it was for earthly things) will end when our time on earth ends.
When the dead rise, they will neither marry not be given in marriage. (Mark 12:25, NIV)
But all the more, we will finally be glorified – ready for our wedding day with our true groom Jesus.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7, NIV)
All of our lives on earth are an offering to the Lord. Whatever relationship path he has us in currently- if you are trusting God in singleness, fighting for a struggling marriage, or mourning relational loss- I pray that we are willing to take a rest in those plastic chairs, settling into the goodness and trust of who He is and what purpose He has given us.
Resource: I gained more insight into this topic from The Gospel Coalition.