A Biblical Introduction to Singleness

singlepeopleSo what exactly does the bible say about singleness? Should everybody yearn to be married? At times in the church it might seem like the answer to the latter question is a resounding, “Of course!” But, of course, it’s not that simple.

In fact according to Albert Hsu from the Discipleship Journal, in the United States the increasing percentage of single people is a relatively new phenomenon:

At the beginning of the 20th century, about 95 percent of the adult population in America was married. Life expectancy in 1900 was only 47 years, and most people married in their teens. Divorce was nearly unheard of, and those who were widowed remarried quickly. So for the most part, being an adult was synonymous with being married. Being single was by far the exception. As a result, most churches spent most of their time and resources ministering to the needs of married couples and families.

At this end of the century, however, the landscape is quite different. Now nearly half of the adult population is unmarried. About 45 percent of today’s adults have never married or are divorced, widowed, or separated. One in four adults has never married. People are staying single longer, no-fault divorce laws are available in every state, and rising life expectancies mean that widows and widowers often remain unmarried longer after the death of a spouse. Now, singleness is almost as likely to be the current status for American adults as marriage.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 talks about his own singleness as a gift:

I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his 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 am.

It’s always interesting to note that Jesus and his direct followers remained single their entire lives; a tradition which has continued in the clergy of some of the Church today. Luckily, churches are increasingly ministering to the single people in their congregation.

And this PDF titled, Singleness: The Misunderstood World of Single Adults from RBC talks talks about singleness in the church.

Again here’s Albert Hsu:

Today we need to rediscover the balance of valuing both marrieds and singles. Some of the greatest leaders of church history lived their whole lives as singles: Saint Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, Thomas À Kempis, Bernard of Clairvaux. More recently, Protestant leaders such as Methodist circuit rider Francis Asbury, missionaries Amy Carmichael and Helen Roseveare, and German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer were all single. C. S. Lewis was a bachelor for most of his life, married at age 57, was married for only four years, and remained a celibate widower after his wife’s death. British theologian John Stott, now in his 70s and never married, has had a significant worldwide ministry. Mother Teresa spent seven decades serving the poor in India as a single woman.

A truly Christian view of singleness and marriage will honor both without disparaging one or the other.

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