Often, it’s not.seen.that.way.
Instead, mid-20’s onward our culture tends to associate the following with singleness: “incomplete person”, “waiting”, “quiet suffering”, “selfish”, “caught in the elusive quest to find the one soulmate out there”, “guilty jealousy over friends who got out of it” or the dreaded “urgent/desperate”. Adele 25 and Taylor Swift 1989 resonates with so many for this reason.
But the real question for us here is:
“How is the church – as the salt and light of the world and the family of God – embracing and being the advocate of those who are single?”
Historically, the traditionally defined nuclear family has been the sociological foundation of culture. The spiritual health of the nuclear family is important to God. We need to minister to the nuclear family. This is biblical and given our current culture, urgent. But today we also have a record number of single people who are single longer. This is an enormous dilemma for the 21st century church because it is not clear that the church has made the latter a priority. Just look around on Sunday morning.
The Apostle Paul saw singleness as noble. Outside of Jesus himself, Paul was the most powerful evangelist of the New Testament and he was single (along with most likely Timothy and Barnabas and yes, Jesus was single too). While Jesus, Paul and the other apostles communicated the importance of the nuclear family, the sweep of the New Testament’s teaching is far more weighted on the church with all of her different people from all different life circumstances as the “new family of God” through Jesus Christ. That means single people are an equal part of the family of God, not just nuclear families.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that being single offered the greatest opportunity to serve God [1 Corinthians 7:7,8]. And though Paul does encourage people to get married if they are passionate for the other sex [1 Corinthians 7:9], he reminded the church at Corinth:
“I want you to be free from anxieties. 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. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.” [1 Corinthians 7:32-34]
Being single presents one of the best or one of the worst life scenarios. It can be an either noble or an ignoble time of life. At its best, singleness can be noble when we use our singleness to serve the Lord and his people wholeheartedly. There’s little doubt that the Apostle Paul would highly esteem this and would rebuke any church that did not similarly respect, embrace, support, prioritize and hold up those unattached by marriage who redeem their time for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. We in the church need to be careful that we don’t deprioritize faithful singles in the church until they are married or married with kids. On the other hand, our singleness can also represent something ignoble, when instead of unencumbered service to God, it can easily become a time of arrested development – a Cheers-Friends-90210-The Hills-Jersey Shore like 1/4 – 1/3 – 1/2 life crisis of a self-absorbed life.
The mission of the church today should be to not only equip people to have godly nuclear families, but also holding up a vision for godly singleness that the church actually sees and treats as equal, even noble.