Bible major follows instructions: life of singleness

We love marriage at JBU. We love dating, DTRs – all things relationships. If someone is single, it’s usually that they are “not ready for that yet” or they “haven’t found the right one.” But one thing is for sure; everybody’s going to get married someday. Just maybe not now. Everybody that is, except for me. I plan on never marrying.

Now, when I tell people this, it usually freaks them out. You do not want to get married? Why? Do you not like girls or something? Yes, I like girls. The reason I intend on lifelong singleness is because of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7.

Frankly, I do not think that most of us ever really consider lifelong singleness as a viable option. From an early age, we are taught that marriage is just what we do. Around middle or high school, we usually start dating, with the understanding that we will probably get married in our 20’s. It is a normal and important part of every good Christian’s life. But should it be?

So in the spirit of asking “why?” let’s examine this: why get married?

1 Corinthians 7 is Paul’s main exposition on marriage. He writes in verses 8-9, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Paul instructs us that we should remain single as he was. But, if we cannot exercise self-control, we should marry. Paul seems to teach that the Christian’s default should be singleness, and we should marry only if we cannot control our passions.

In verses 32-34, he says “the unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” If someone is married, they must think of their family before the work of God. But the Christian who is single is free to think only of the cause of Christ. If a single man is called to minister in the slums of India, he does not have to think of his children’s education or his wife’s happiness. He simply goes. Paul says that marriage complicates and hinders the work of God.

Now, Paul tells us that the above is not a direct revelation from God. In verse 25, he claims he has “no command from the Lord” about this, but gives his “judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” So singleness teaching is not the direct word of God. However, in view of Paul’s wisdom and superior sanctification – not to mention that he is an apostle – I think we should trust his advice.

Paul, however, is clear that singleness is not for everyone. In verse 36, he writes that if a man’s “passions are strong and it has to be, let him do as he wishes (marry) – it is not sin.” Clearly, it is not sin for the Christian to marry. He also seems to think of lifelong singleness as a “gift” in verse 7, indicating a limited rather than general participation in lifelong singleness. However, Paul is clear in verse 38 that singleness for the sake of Christ is better than marriage: “He who marries his betrothed does well, but he who refrains from marriage will do even better.”

So, what am I saying? That we should take the “married to Jesus” jokes to a more serious level? I am saying that Paul urges us to consider singleness. While he is clear that we have the freedom to marry, he urges us to remain single for the sake of Christ.

I intend on never marrying. I want to be able to place the “things of the Lord” first, and not have to include a family in the considerations. If I am called to some dangerous place for the sake of the Gospel, I won’t have to worry about who is going to raise Jr. I can simply go. Yet, I may find that I cannot “exercise self-control” and need to marry. And that will be fine. But for now, I’m planning on lifelong singleness for the sake of Christ.

That is just me, though. I am not saying you should go end your relationship or break off your engagement. And Paul is clear that it is not sinful to be married. But it seems to me that we assume marriage as default and never give lifelong singleness any thought. Paul, though, seems to recommend the opposite, that we assume singleness as default and marry only if we can’t control our passions. My question is this: why do we not follow Paul’s advice for Christian living?

Now, there is more to this passage, and there are lots of verses I could not address in this little column. But my purpose here is not to convince you to dump your girlfriend. My purpose is to ask why our Christian norm doesn’t line up with the Bible. Read 1 Corinthians 7 and study it for yourself – do not just take my word for it. It could be that our marriage-as-default norm is right. But it could also be wrong. We will never know unless we ask “why?”