To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. ESV 1 Corinthians 7:8
I grew up idolizing marriage. Actually I probably was more idolizing sex, and marriage was the ticket to sex (at least in conservative Christianity). Marriage and children was the expected outcome of all good Christians. Save yourself for marriage. Marry the person God has for you. Be fruitful and multiply. Live happily ever after. Could there be any other possible outcome in life?
I’m reading a book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes (by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien), and in the first chapter they debunk this glorification of marriage. To be sure, the Bible does hold marriage in high regard. And sexual relations should only take place in a committed marriage. But the Bible also glorifies singleness. Paul argues people should consider it a calling. Jesus (who lived single!) also indicated some are called by God to be eunuchs and taught that in the resurrection, none of us will be married. Perhaps in Christians circles, perhaps in our fear of divorce, immorality and the like, marriage has become the panacea for all problems. Unfortunately, this view ignores the strain marriage brings. Any couple that is happily married will tell you marriage takes tremendous work–work that sometimes diverts our focus from the kingdom, just as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 7. So does the Bible make marriage out to be a bad thing? Not at all. We just need to have a balanced approach to life as the Bible does. God considers both marriage and singleness to be equally honorable calls. Many of my single friends really want to be married and many of my married friends desperately want to be single. In this conundrum, we first need to realize both callings are good. Then we can begin to discern God’s calling on our particular situation.
Are you single? Have you embraced this calling (at least for this season)? God may lead you to be married in the future, or He may lead you to remain single for a season, or lifetime. All are good options. Are you married? Why did you get married? Had you idolized marriage? What troubles has that caused for you? Once married we stay married, but we need to identify and repent of the idolization that led us to marriage. Ask God to open your eyes to these things so that you might fully embrace the lifestyle to which He has called you.