1 Corinthians 7:6-7. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
The implications of our union with Christ are not just for the married. Every Christian is equally united to Christ, and every Christian has all of Christ. Therefore both marriage and singleness are a gift (charisma or grace) from God (v.7).
Singleness is a freely bestowed gift from Christ? Yes. Therefore it is to be honored as much as marriage. I wish that all the married Christians could embrace this truth. Singleness is good and honorable. Is it stressful and strained? Yes. But so is marriage. And Christ sustains every believer. The idolatry of marriage must be cast down by the church. We must stop seeing marriage as a higher good than singleness. Stop setting up your single friends. Stop praying for them to get married. Stop looking down on them as “out of God’s will” or having some sort of social disease.
Gifts from God are special means of grace that allow us to serve the church body. Gifts are always for the building up of the church. If you are single then you have the gift of singleness at least for this season of your life. The question you must ask is “how can I uniquely serve Christ’s church during this season?”
If you are thinking, “I’m lonely so I don’t have the gift.” No. If you are single you have the gift. It is a grace from God that sustains you in singleness. If you feel like a failure because you are not married, then you have given in to the idolatry of marriage. If you are having sex without marriage, you are giving in to the idolatry of self. God’s grace can overcome both of these idols.
Any relationship can become an idol, but in marriage it is far easier for the spouse to become an idol. Marriage is meant to be both possession and service, but it easily becomes predominately possessive and the spouse can quickly replace Jesus. Or if the marriage is bad we tend to think “my life would be better if my marriage was better.” The single person is able to have a greater number of relationships and thus avoid some of the pitfalls of relational idolatry that come with marriage.
Our culture honors “expressive individualism.” That is, determining who you are and then learning to actualize that version of your “best self.” For some this means staying single in order to achieve complete independence and self actualization. For others marriage is the path to this self actualization, but only as long as your spouse doesn’t get in the way of your self expression. Both of these are actually self destructive and not what “to live is Christ” is all about.
The indwelling life of Christ allows the single person to see spiritual formation and growing into the likeness of Christ as the greatest personal good. Rather than self expression we desire the expression of Christ through the self. And singleness uniquely expresses Christ (as does marriage of course). But how?
Singleness expresses the open love of Christ. The Christian single is free to form all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people. In so doing they can spread the love of Christ in a broader way.
Singleness expresses the beauty and glory of Christ. Christian singleness and sexual purity is only possible when Christ becomes the most glorious and beautiful thing in a persons’s life. The faithful and celibate Christian single has declared that Christ is their greatest love. Without this belief they may be single and celibate, but they will also be miserable.
Singleness expresses faith in a future with Christ. The faithful and joyful Christian single must believe that their greatest pleasure lies in the future in the presence of Christ himself.
Singleness expresses the necessity and commitment of the body of Christ. In fact, I would go so far as to say without the church faithful and joyful Christian singleness would be an impossible fantasy. But through the church the single believer can find love, acceptance, honor, dependency and interdependency. They can find a family.
“To live is Christ” makes singleness not just bearable but purposeful. Christ in you means that you are on a mission of love, and singleness opens up the possibilities to truly love others through the giving of the self, not in sexual intimacy, but in spiritual intimacy. Beyond this, Christ in you, empowers this self giving love as a single Christian by making Christ your lover, family, and savior. Take heart, for this is what he truly is, and he will be faithful to you ’til the end.
Do you see your singleness as a curse or a gift? How can union with Christ change your perspective on singleness? How can you begin to use your singleness to bless and grow the church? Have you unwittingly embraced the idolatry of marriage? Do you see your single friends as lacking? Do you uphold singleness as being as honorable as marriage? What attitudes about singleness and marriage do you need to confess and change?