I was not always a Christian. When I became one, there was something that shocked me about the Church : the importance of marriage; the pressure for people to get married.
It is, to a certain extent, similar in the world. Getting married, having a few kids a dog and a house is, according to the world, the fulfillment of life, but how to explain that it is also a life goal praised in the Church when Jesus barely speaks about marriage and himself never married?
I’d say that, from what I could witness as a non-Christian, in the world, there are two ways of being single. One: you look for someone. Blind dates, dating websites, night clubs and so on… and you are working hard on meeting someone so you can finally stop this self-inflicted torture. Option two: live life to the full, for what it means in the world, taking what life has to offer, maybe sleeping around, partying too much, travelling everywhere, focusing on money and career… These are the two options. And in the Christian life there are two options as well. One: looking for someone, pursuing a wife or a husband and living life as if being in a waiting room, waiting for God to answer you prayers: giving you a spouse so life can finally start. Second option: living whole-heartedly for Christ, being fully devoted to God and giving all of yourselves, all of your time and all of your dreams to God and to the coming of the Kingdom. But why is this second option less advertised than the first? Whereas in the world, the second option is very well advertised, to the point that people who are married will want to go back to single life and see what the world has to offer.
I have been to many Churches and that second option is not what I hear most. In some Churches the married people are the winners, they have fought the fight of loneliness and won. Won by getting married. Is that what the Bible say about singleness?
Paul says clearly -so clearly that it is shocking- that it is better to stay single than to marry. (1 Corinthians 7 see below) He says that if you really can’t control yourself you should get married. But married people will have divided devotion and will worry for their families whereas single people will be able to live out their faith undistracted by the affairs of the world.
1 Corinthians 7 :7-39
“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.(…)
But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband.I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.(…)
So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.”
So why do we have marriage-centered churches? Singleness is, according to the Bible, a gift from God, a gift that we can either work on getting rid of as soon as possible or a gift we can use for the glory of God.
What I find interesting, is that this passage we’ve seen, from the first letter to the Corinthians, is on of the verses that justifies celibacy of priests in the Catholic Church, whereas in some branches of Protestantism 1 Timothy 3:1-7 for example, also from Paul, will be used to justify that Church leaders must only be family men.
Whatever our opinion is on the subject, if we are Christians we acknowledge that both passage are God-breathed Scriptures, and we shouldn’t try to sweep one under the carpet, or to give more authority to one than the other. Those verses are not direct commands from Jesus, they are to be read within context, Paul addresses specific churches and are part of the living Word of God for a reason.
If that’s something you want to know more about I recommend those two sermons online:
The Porch Dallas : The reason you’re single
The Porch Dallas : Singleness is a gift from God