Singleness and Marriage: A Christian Perspective
Marriage is a great blessing from God. It is only natural that many of us have a strong desire to be united in holy matrimony with a spouse, because that is how God created us. We long for intimacy. Yes, we also desire sexual union, because that is the highest earthly expression of intimacy, and it is one of creation’s great mysteries that also produces life from between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24). Marriage also creates the family, beginning with the husband and wife partnering together to establish a household, to bring up their children and teach them the fear of the Lord and how to live in the world (Gen. 1:28; Proverbs; Eph. 6:1-4).
Singleness is a blessing from God too. Some of us do not have a strong desire to be married, and some of us have more important things we need to do than be married. It all depends on the station that God has placed us in. Marriage should be pressured upon everyone; those who are single and delight in it need to be affirmed in their singleness and should not need to hear well-meant but misguided comments about when they’ll “find someone.” And it is also true that for all of us who are single, it is providentially meant to be by God, since His perfect plan is being fulfilled through our present singleness, as long as it lasts. Paul definitely had an important point to make when he showed the advantages of the single state in 1 Corinthians 7 - the work of single people is an integral part of how God advances His Kingdom. So we do need to extol singleness in its proper place and make an honored place for it in the Christian sphere. It is true that some Christian traditions, such as the Reformed tradition which this church holds to, have a very high view of the family due to their theological emphasis on a covenantal framework, yet it is an unfortunate mistake of omission to consequently minimize single people in these traditions. They are also brothers and sisters, part of the body of Christ in the Church - let us honor them too!
But the great majority of humans, and the majority of Christians, will desire to be united to their spouse. This desire constantly burns within us, a flame that can never be quenched but which must be continually limited to glowing embers, lest it break out into scandalous lust and fornication. And yet from the outset, we must recognize this fire as good, instituted by God from the beginning. Our desire for a husband, for a wife, is inherently good. For God created all things good (Gen. 1:31; note that this is after He created man and gave him the command to be fruitful and multiply). If we acknowledge this, we have already avoided a great snare which has trapped untold millions of young men and women, enslaved to asceticism and unnecessary mortification of a desire that God created good. The presence of sin does not nullify what was originally created, and it is our duty to find a proper way to cultivate this desire in this present world, as long as it lasts.
Here are a couple basic principles of expectation when it comes to having a healthy outlook on marriage. First, I believe there is a truly unfortunate perception that so many Christians tend to fall into. That perception is the one of “waiting” for the “right person” to come along, “as God wills.” I do acknowledge that part of the idea behind this is right - that God’s sovereignty is key here and that marriage can happen in His own timing. But I believe this has dulled our understanding of how we should act. I believe that when it comes to seeking marriage, our primary attitude should be that of expectant searching, not that of passive waiting. This whole general idea of “waiting” passively on God practically denies the use of means. Many of us have thus needlessly suffered for years “waiting” for the “right one” to somehow come along. It is true, yes, that God in His providence allows this situation to happen, but does that mean we need to totally depend on Him working this way? True waiting should not be like this. Yes, some of us wait for years, and it hurts! But if we have to wait, it should be an active waiting, not a passive waiting. It is not wrong to be actively looking. Looking and waiting are not incompatible. At least even as we wait we have the solace of knowing that we are using the means at our disposal in the best way we can. Biblical examples of finding a spouse relied heavily on the use of means, especially since that was more in line with the culture of these times - such as Isaac & Rebekah (Gen. 24), Jacob & Leah/Rachel (Gen. 28-29), Ruth & Boaz (Ruth), and others.
Also, it is inaccurate to think of finding a “soul mate” or some other ideal of the perfect spouse, for he or she does not exist. Whoever we find will be a fellow sinner and life will be difficult bearing up with him or her - yet our desire for our spouse will still flame up periodically, and our covenantal commitment to each other will hold the bonds of marriage together during times when the flame is low. So we must realize that looking for the “perfect one” is not the way to go. There is a very earthly and common aspect of marriage, one in which all dreamy expectations are shattered. Life becomes all too regular, fights happen, emotions grow cold, routine takes over. Yet God is still at work in all this - and that is such a profound truth. All the dirty diapers that we have to change are a tiny, yet integral part of God’s plan, and should not be dismissed in favor of the “higher,” “essential” aspects that we tend to think are only part of God’s plan. Thus, any attitude we have towards marriage needs to include looking upon our spouse as a fellow sinner and saint who accompanies us on this long and difficult pilgrimage towards the Celestial City, “till death do us part.” Yet the rewards of faithfully enduring are great! See Eph. 5:22-6:4, Col. 3:18-21, and 1 Pet. 3:1-7 for some foundational examples of how Christian husbands, wives, and children are to relate to each other.
I do want to highlight one practical dilemma: some Christian singles in certain traditions face a difficult situation in looking for a potential spouse. They may be located in areas where the nearest church of like faith could be a hundred miles away or more. Thus, it makes the predicament of these single men and women much more acute, since the relationship must start off long-distance. One possible suggestion I might give is to encourage pastors, elders, and good friends in different churches to network together with their singles to inform them of potential opportunities, connect them together, and build wise, trusty safeguards around the relationships so that marriages which honor God, preserve the faith, and raise up godly children can happen. The process of creating a marriage takes more than just two people, so this makes perfect sense. Perhaps “matchmaking” is not as old-fashioned or outdated as some may think…….I would greatly encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to think over this type of situation so that we can all be a blessing to one another and ultimately benefit the Church of Christ!
Having a proper perspective and overview on singleness and marriage is very much a part of cultivating a healthy Christian theology and life. There is so much more I could write about this, and I certainly do not mean these thoughts to be exhaustive, but I believe this standpoint is a good way to begin looking upon this pressing issue which confronts so many Christian singles.
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