Our Calling in Singleness

Calling in Singleness

Purpose. Calling. Mission. These words get thrown around and we don’t always know what they mean or how to differentiate between them.

When God created us He designed us for a unique purpose – one that is different from anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. It is part of who we are – who He created us to be. It is something we can fulfill no matter our age or physical ability. As long as we have breath in these earthly bodies, we can be living our purpose. I’ve observed that when people know their life purpose and consciously live it, they experience freedom, fulfillment, and contentment. And that feelings of loneliness, defeat, and discouragement make only fleeting appearances, and usually only when one loses sight of their God-given purpose.

So what, then, is a Calling?

While our purpose has more to do with who we are, our calling or mission has more to do with what we do. Our purpose is lifelong and doesn’t change, from the time we take our first breath until we take our last. A calling or mission is God’s assignment for a specific period of time or to a certain group of people.

Lately, as I’ve written about before, I’ve become aware through reading Barry Danylak’s excellent book, Redeeming Singleness, that single Christians have a unique testimony to give the world: that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying.

After reading Redeeming Singleness, I knew this intellectually and it excited me. But I didn’t actually own it until one night I woke with a jolt and a feeling of aloneness overwhelming me. I hadn’t felt that in a long time. Immediately I asked the Lord, “Why this feeling now, and why DID You choose singleness for me when I would have enjoyed the companionship of marriage?”

Immediately He replied, “So you could demonstrate to others that I am all-sufficient. That I am enough.” His presence was so real, and the feeling of aloneness disappeared. I was satisfied with His answer, and soon fell contentedly back to sleep.

Sometime soon after I wrote this in my journal:

My calling in singleness is to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine!

 In reality, this is God’s calling to every Christian, single and married alike. Expecting anyone or anything else to provide what we need, rather than God alone, is idolatry. God alone is our Provider. Sometimes – in fact, often – He uses another person as His instrument to meet our needs. But our needs being fulfilled isn’t dependent on the person God is using as His instrument, but rather on God Himself. If that person would disappear for whatever reason, God is still our Provider and will provide our needs by some other means.

But while all Christians are called to rely on God alone, single Christians have an especially effective testimony when they demonstrate that Jesus truly is all-sufficient in the absence of what most of the world considers to be a necessity for a satisfying life: a romantic or sexual relationship. When Christians remain celibate without a spouse or family and live joyful and purposeful lives sold out to Jesus, they give witness that Jesus is truly is all-sufficient and all-satisfying. Those who have lost spouses by death or divorce have incredibly powerful testimonies to Jesus’ all-sufficiency when they continue joyfully onward with the life purpose God has given them.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t grieve, or that never-married singles shouldn’t grieve over what never was. Grief is a God-given process for healing and it’s important we walk through it when we lose someone or something significant to us, including dreams that never come true.

Does Jesus Being All-sufficient Mean We Don’t Need People?

I know this can be a bit confusing, because we do need people! We don’t need marriage, but we do need relationships with others. After all, God said in Genesis 2:18 that it’s not good for man to be alone. At the time Adam had a face-to-face relationship with God, so he truly was experiencing God’s all-sufficiency, but God said he also needed other humans. Some think God meant it wasn’t good for Adam to not have a spouse, and if that were true for Adam in a perfect relationship with God, it’s true for all the rest of us, too.

But that’s not what God said. Adam was the only human being on the planet at the time. He needed another human to converse with and relate to in ways he couldn’t with the other creatures God had already created.

In Redeeming Singleness, Danylak writes:

Paul is not affirming [in 1 Corinthians 7] that it is good to be alone but only that, in appropriate circumstances, it is good not to marry. Conversely, when Genesis 2: 18 affirms that it is not good to live alone, marriage is given as a provision. But this does not imply that marriage was designed to be the sole provision for one’s aloneness. We recall that Jesus was a single man but not a man alone, one devoid of family and relationships. Although Paul may have had some extended time of solitude immediately after his conversion, he, like Jesus, was a man immersed in new family relationships. We are struck by how many different companions, partners, co-laborers, and underlings are mentioned from the period of his Gentile ministry. His use of family language is robust as he addresses those in his church constantly as “brothers” (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 4:12; Phil. 1:12; 1 Thess. 1:4), and “sisters” (Philem. 2), “children” (Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor. 4:14), “legitimate sons” (1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4), and “kinsmen” (Rom. 16:7)…. Though Paul did not have his own wife and family, he experienced profound familial intimacy within the spiritual family of God in which he had utterly invested himself. [1]

Danylak goes on to explain the difference between these intimate relationships and the intimacy of marriage:

As men free to invest all their time and energy in advancing the kingdom of God, neither Paul nor Jesus lived a life alone. This is not to suggest that the relationships that come through the new family of God are a substitute for a spouse, a way to fill the relational gap of not having a spouse and family. There is something unique in God’s joining man and wife in “one flesh” that is never replicated in other types of human relationships. In remaining single, one sacrifices such physical intimacy.

But intimacy has other dimensions, beyond the physical. A bond of spiritual unity as brothers and sisters in Christ can emerge through a oneness of mind in corporate prayer and worship, a shared eternal hope, and a common mission of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples that also powerfully transcends human day-to-day experience. The freedom and flexibility of the single life will often open access to levels and opportunities of spiritual intimacy with other believers that those who are married do not have available in the same way and to the same degree.[2]

This, I believe, is part of the “immeasurably more” part of the singles’ calling (to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine). It is in reference to Ephesians 3:20-21 that says,

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Of course it means so much more, too! “Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” means it’s not definable, predictable, or measurable. After all, the Sovereign God is our Provider, who has the resources of the universe and beyond at His disposal to provide all that we need – in abundance!

How to Experience the All-sufficiency of Jesus

You may be wondering, “This all sounds wonderful, but I’m not feeling it. How do I make it a reality in my life?”

I totally get that! We often understand things in our heads, but can’t feel them in our hearts. Faith, after all, is not knowing things intellectually but experiencing them.

The key to experiencing the all-sufficiency of Jesus is simple, but it may be one of the most difficult things ever: full surrender to God – your will, your plans, your desires given in exchange for His. We can’t experience Jesus to be all-satisfying until we relinquish our goals and dreams in exchange for His for us. The incredible thing is, no matter how wonderful we think our goals and dreams are, His goals and dreams for us are incredibly more wonderful – immeasurably more, in fact!

Oswald Chambers says it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:

‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.’ The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, my self with His rest at the heart of it. ‘If you would be My disciple, give up your right to yourself to Me.’ Then the remainder of the life is nothing but the manifestation of this surrender. When once the surrender has taken place we never need ‘suppose’ anything. We do not need to care what our circumstances are, Jesus is amply sufficient.[3]

Amply sufficient. Can you give witness that Jesus is amply sufficient and more? That He is all-satisfying? If you haven’t yet experienced this abundant life in Jesus, take a look at what you might be holding back. Are you hanging onto a specific dream or goal? Perhaps one you’ve had since childhood? I know I was! The abundant life is found in relinquishing those dreams and saying, “God, I don’t know what You have planned for me, but I KNOW that it is good, and that it is ‘immeasurably more than all I could ever ask or imagine!’”

[1] Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (pp. 201-202). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[2] Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life(pp. 202-203). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[3] Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition (Kindle Locations 4142-4145). Discovery House. Kindle Edition.

 

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No Greater Joy Than This

Love and fullness

I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” [1] was penned by the Apostle John who, far as we know, wasn’t married and had no biological children. He was writing this particular letter to Gaius, one of his spiritual children, commending him for his faithfulness to the truth. He then went on to comment about all his spiritual children, that he has no greater joy than hearing they are walking in the truth.

Many Christian parents through the years have quoted this verse referring to their biological or adopted children, which is fitting considering that parents do find great joy when their children follow after truth. But considering that it was originally written by a spiritual parent, it is even more fitting to claim this quote in reference to one’s spiritual children.

Today as we celebrate Father’s Day in the United States and elsewhere, I want to honor all fathers, but most of all those men who have “fathered” spiritual children, whether it is their own biological/ adopted child or someone else’s. Not only is there no greater joy than passing on one’s faith in Jesus to another, there is also no other lasting legacy.

For more encouragement and perspective, I offer these past articles to you today:

Better Than Sons And Daughters

Father’s Day? … Bah Humbug!

[1] 3 John 4, HCSB

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Better Than Sons And Daughters


Called to reproduce spiritually

 

I’ll never forget the tears that came to the eyes of a 90-year-old single woman as she mentioned the absence of grandchildren in her life. She had never married but had spent years on the mission field and as a mentor to many all her life, including me. She was highly respected in our church and by all who knew her. She was one of those people whose vitality made you forget her age, and we all marveled at her keen mind and interest in everyone around her. Knowing all this I was surprised by her tears, while also realizing the need at all stages of life to mourn the absence of that which never was.

Childlessness is an ache many singles and couples carry. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be especially challenging. While these days honor the men and women who have given of themselves to raise children, they often leave those who are childless wondering if their contribution in life has any similar merit. Sermons, books, and inspirational quotes meant to encourage parents sometimes inadvertently pass judgment on the childless.

A quote I read one Mother’s Day illustrates this well. As I opened the bulletin in church that morning, I was presented with this message in bold type: “The highest calling of womanhood is motherhood.” While intending to affirm and encourage mothers, the message conveyed judgment and condemnation to me that somehow, by no choice of my own, I had missed that highest calling. I’m grateful the Lord immediately whispered to me that the quote was not true, and was a human’s perspective, not His.

What God Says About Our Life’s Purpose

More important than what people think, though, is what God says. As we open the Bible and begin reading in Genesis, we see that God’s command to the first man and woman is to “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” [1]  After the world had been destroyed by the flood, God’s command to Noah and his sons was once again, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” [2] Further in Genesis we see that the great promise God gave to Abraham was that “I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you.” [3] This promise/command was passed down to Isaac, [4] and to Jacob. [5]

The emphasis of the Old Testament was the looking forward to a specific event: the coming of the Messiah. Every man and woman longed to be the parent or ancestor to this Promised One. To be denied a child was to be denied the possibility of this blessing.

As we turn the pages to the New Testament, we read that the Messiah was indeed born, grew to be a man, and through His death and resurrection became the Savior of the world. Before He went back to heaven He gave a new command, one which was to become the new focus and purpose of our lives as Christians:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [6]

Throughout the New Testament we no longer see the command to “multiply and replenish the earth,” nor do we see the lament of women who were barren.

Jesus had prepared His disciples for this new emphasis and purpose for our lives when He told them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be My disciple.” [7] He also drove this point home when his mother and brothers came to see Him and He said, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?” He looked around at His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.” [8]

We see this new focus in Paul’s writings as well:

“I want you to be without concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the things of the world—how he may please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. Now I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but because of what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.” [9]

So as we read through the New Testament we can see that the emphasis has shifted away from that of multiplying biologically as families, and has moved towards the importance of multiplying disciples for the Family of God. 

Biological families are still His design and plan for continuing the human race, and the intact family is the most ideal means of multiplying disciples for God’s Family when parents raise their little ones to serve Him. The purpose of having children should always primarily be to raise them to be disciples of Jesus, not for the fulfillment of human desires.

Our Desire to Have Children

We desire to have children for several reasons.

One is to experience the joys of having our own child. This seems to particularly affect women, perhaps because their bodies regularly remind them of their capacity for bearing a child. However, many men also have an innate desire to pass on their name, and traditionally children have been an indication of a man’s manhood and strength.

Another reason is because parenthood makes us “normal” and enables us to fit in with our peers who get married, have children and, in due time, have grandchildren as well. We seem to have this innate desire to be like everyone else.

A third reason is to pass on our values and beliefs to the next generation, leaving a heritage to our children and grandchildren. We all want our lives to matter, and to leave a contribution that long outlasts us.

Our Desires Fulfill God’s Purpose

As we take a closer look at these basic desires for wanting to be parents — to have the experience of reproducing biologically, to fit in and be normal, and to influence future generations — we should take note that the first two are basically for our own personal fulfillment (while also recognizing them as normal desires and part of how God designed us).

However, the third desire for having children — to influence future generations — is part of God’s New Testament command to “go and make disciples.” It is a desire we can fulfill whether married or single. In fact, as Christians, it is far more than a desire and a goal—it is a command which Jesus gave us.

Fulfilling this Command is Not Optional

Those who have children and raise them to be disciples of Christ are fulfilling this command. It involves much personal sacrifice and giving up of one’s own aspirations to achieve the goal of producing not only biological offspring, but spiritual offspring.

Those who don’t have biological children also have the responsibility of multiplying spiritually, and have the opportunity to do so in perhaps more far-reaching ways than having children, if they use their freedom to do so. Accomplishing this also involves much personal sacrifice and giving up of one’s own aspirations, just as parenthood does. Paul, a single spiritual “parent,” referred to this lifestyle as a sacrificial and yet joyous one: “Even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” [10]

Every Christian a Parent

Whether married or single, every Christian is called to reproduce and be a spiritual parent to spiritual children. The possibilities of ways to reproduce spiritually are endless, and God has given us the uniqueness of our own personalities and talents to creatively reproduce for the Family of God.

The Lord has often encouraged me with Isaiah 54 which uses the metaphor of a childless woman:

“Rejoice, childless one, who did not give birth; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the forsaken one will be more than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the site of your tent, and let your tent curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your ropes, and drive your pegs deep. For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will dispossess nations and inhabit the desolate cities. Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood. Indeed, your husband is your Maker —His name is Yahweh of Hosts — and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” [11]

Isaiah also uses the metaphor of a childless man in Isaiah 56:

“The eunuch should not say, “Look, I am a dried-up tree.” For the Lord says this: “For the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant, I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off..” [12]

The New Testament has several examples of spiritual parents. The Apostle John, a single man and most likely childless, wrote, “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” [13] Paul referred to Timothy as “my son”: “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” [14] He also said that he had “fathered” Onesimus: “I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains.” [15] We have no indication that either of these men had biological children, and yet their spiritual children were many. In fact, we today are spiritual descendants of Paul and John!

Parenthood — Our Highest Calling

Parenthood is part of our highest calling if we mean giving birth to spiritual children and nurturing disciples for Christ. Passing on our faith to future generations is God’s command to every Christian, not just to parents.

While it distressed me a bit to see my 90-year-old friend shed tears over the absence of biological grandchildren, it was also a joy to see her smile through those tears as I read Isaiah 54 to her. It was a joy to me to remind her that in the two letters she’d just read to me, both young people had mentioned she was like a grandmother to them. One was a young man from Honduras, the other a young woman from China; both she had mentored spiritually. She had indeed enlarged her tent throughout her life. Her spiritual children and grandchildren were not only many, but spread far and wide across the globe. I left her apartment that day humbled that I’d had a part in helping her see the far-reaching productiveness of her for God’s Kingdom, which was her greatest desire. She has since passed on to her Heavenly home, but she left a legacy that will live on through eternity!

The absence of children and grandchildren may always present a certain amount of emotional difficulty throughout our lives if we are childless. But if we are reproducing spiritually by encouraging others in a relationship with Jesus, we can be sure we will also leave a heritage for coming generations, even for eternity, that is “better than sons and daughters”!

[1] Genesis 1:28

[2] Genesis 9:1

[3] Genesis 17:6

[4] Genesis 28:3

[5] Genesis 35:11

[6] Matthew 28:19-20

[7] Luke 14:26

[8] Matthew 12:48-50

[9] 1 Corinthians 7:29-35

[10] Philippians 2:17

[11] Isaiah 54:1-5

[12] Isaiah 56:3-5

[13] 3 John 1:14

[14] 2 Timothy 2:1

[15] Philemon 1:9-10

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Marriage Good, Singleness Bad?

Completeness in Jesus

“Why is such a nice person like you still single?”

 “Once you learn to be content, God will bring you a spouse.”

“She’s so pretty, I wonder why she’s not dating?”

“There’s no question why he’s not married!”

Have you heard some of these comments before, or perhaps even made them yourself? A subtle but clear message runs through them: marriage is for the worthy and deserving, and those who don’t make the cut will end up single. Behind such thinking is the assumption that marriage is better than singleness.

Much of the inner struggle for singles comes from these and other assumptions about marriage and singleness, which is why it’s important to discover if they are based on truth. If they’re not, perhaps the elevation of marriage and family over singleness is not biblical, and the stigma singles carry is needless. Let’s take a look at what the Bible really does have to say.

Is Marriage Better?

If we dig into the whole of Scripture, we discover that both marriage and singleness are equally good. One is not a blessing, and the other a curse. One is not a reward, and the other a punishment. And one is not more honorable than the other. Both are ordained of God for His purposes, and He chooses who He will for both roles.

The idea that marriage trumps singleness can be gleaned from the Bible, but only by cherry-picking here and there from the whole of Scripture, or by focusing mainly on the Old Testament which does support the belief that marriage is better than singleness. If we don’t step back and see the whole picture, and the transition that takes place from the Old Covenant to the New through Jesus,  we are bound to make wrong conclusions.

At the very beginning of creation God made a man and a woman and told them to “be fruitful and multiply.” God proceeded to build His earthly Kingdom through marriage and procreation. In His covenant with His people, God said He would bless them through prolific offspring, and would bring judgment through barrenness and childlessness. He also made it clear that the greatest of all His promises – a Messiah – would come through the marrying and procreating of couples, and would be a descendant of Adam, Abraham, and David.

God did indeed fulfill His promise of a Messiah and Jesus came, born of a woman, to live, die, and rise to life again. And here is where a radical shift takes place.

Jesus Shakes Things Up

Instead of following in His ancestors’ steps and marrying and having children, Jesus remained single and childless. He also spoke strange things to His followers, like, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.” [i]

Jesus also redefined familial terms. When someone told Him His mother and brothers wanted to see Him, He asked, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” Gesturing to His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.” [ii]

And, just before He went back to heaven, Jesus gave a new mandate as the focus and purpose of our lives as Christians. Instead of “Be fruitful and multiply,” He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” [iii] indicating a shift in priority from reproducing physically to reproducing spiritually.

Why Such a Major Shift?

Throughout the Old Testament, God made promises and covenants with His people. Among them were His promises to Adam, Abraham, and David:

To Adam and Eve, God promised a descendent who would defeat the serpent Satan who had deceived them. That descendent was Jesus.

To Abraham, God promised that through his offspring all the world would be blessed, hinting that Gentiles would be included in the promise. That offspring was Jesus.

To David, God promised to raise up offspring after him who would establish an eternal kingdom. That offspring was Jesus.

It wasn’t that Jesus shook things up; to be accurate, He fulfilled them. Through Jesus’ coming to earth and His death and resurrection, God fulfilled His promises to Adam, Abraham, and David, as well as His mandate to marry and procreate, as Jesus ushered in a heavenly kingdom in place of the earthly one. This heavenly kingdom is not dependent on physical procreation, but rather on spiritual procreation.

As we continue to read through the New Testament, however, we see that although Jesus removed the mandate to marry and have children, He did not eradicate them. Marriage and family continue to be ordained and blessed by God, and the New Testament mandate to “go and make disciples” includes parents who teach their children to follow Jesus. We also see in Ephesians 5 that marriage as God designed it is an example to the world of the faithful love Christ has for His bride, the church, in a covenant relationship.

But Jesus also made it clear that marriage and family relationships are temporary – for this world only. He said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.” [iv] The fact that Jesus did not need marriage to complete Him, and that in Heaven neither will we, indicate that marriage is not the essential or even ultimate experience God has for us. There is something greater awaiting us.

Those Who Can, Should

As we dig even deeper into New Testament texts, we notice that both Jesus and the Apostle Paul, who also remained single and childless, indicate there is rich benefit and purpose in singleness. Jesus in Matthew 19, and Paul in 1 Corinthains 7, both encourage those who are not married to remain single for the sake of being fully devoted without distraction to God and the work of His Kingdom. Both point to the concerns and troubles inherent in human and family relationships and the divided focus they cause. We tend to dance around the fact that both Jesus and Paul indicate that, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, singleness is better.

But neither Jesus nor Paul make singleness a mandate. They both acknowledge that singleness is not for everyone, only to whom it is given, and that marriage is God’s provision for maintaining sexual purity (among other things). They both also allude that singleness is a spiritual gift, given by God to whom He chooses.

Of course, the follow-up question to such a statement is, how do we know if we’ve been given the gift of singleness?

There is no clear answer to this in Scripture. My personal belief is that if you are single this moment, singleness is God’s gift and plan for you for today. It may be lifelong, but it may not. But for however long He gives you the gift of singleness, He will also give you the gift of grace to live without the physical intimacies and other benefits of marriage. Some teach that along with the gift of singleness God removes all desire for marriage and raising a family, and that if you still desire them, you don’t have the gift of singleness. I don’t see any support for this teaching in Scripture, or evidence of it in any single Christian I know. These desires are inherent in all normal, healthy human beings to some degree or another. But to the single Christian God gives grace to live a fulfilled life for Him even in the presence of those unfulfilled desires.

The Gif t of Singleness

If singleness is a gift, why doesn’t it seem like one? Probably because we haven’t yet learned to recognize the benefit and blessings in singleness, and because the stigma that surrounds singleness casts shadows on the benefits and blessings we do see and experience.

In his excellent book, Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life, Barry Danylak describes the gift of singleness as having three characteristics:

  1. A life of simplicity free from the stresses of spouse and family
  2. A life that finds sufficiency in the blessings of Christ alone apart from the experiences of sexual intimacy, marital companionship, and physical family
  3. A life ready and free for service to the King in whatever way he should call [v]

It is easy to see from this description that the gift of singleness truly is a gift, and not only an asset and blessing to the unmarried follower of Jesus, but ultimately to the church, both locally and globally. A person who does not need the roles of spouse and parent to feel complete, but rather finds that completeness in Christ alone, is free to serve God within and beyond the walls of the local church in ways those tied down with a family can’t. These blessings apply not only to the never-married single, but also to the widowed and divorced, especially those whose children are grown and on their own.

A Witness to the World

Marriage and family are often touted as the means for providing fulfillment and meaning in life, and for meeting one’s needs for significance, love, affection, and admiration, as well as the more practical needs for physical and domestic support. This is all true to the limited extent imperfect humans can provide them.

But the only relationship that can completely satisfy is a relationship with Jesus, and as singles, we play an important role in exemplifying this to the world.

A single who finds his or her completeness in God alone in the absence of all that marriage provides, exemplifies how all-sufficient and all-satisfying is a relationship with Jesus Christ. A single who trusts God to provide all his or her needs also exemplifies that He is trustworthy and a loving and faithful Provider.

Both marriage and singleness exemplify a greater spiritual concept beyond their earthly roles, and both are needed to form a complete testimony of Christ and His relationship with His people. Earthly marriage points us to a time when Jesus will be fully united with His Bride, the church. In that day earthly marriage will no longer be necessary as we, His bride, find our completeness in Him. And it is to that completeness in Christ that singleness points as we live as faithful witnesses to the all-sufficiency of Jesus!

Recommended Reading

A number of years ago I had done a study on the shift between the Old and New Testaments from reproducing physically to reproducing spiritually. The results of that you can read in the article I wrote then, Better Than Sons and Daughters.

Redeeming SinglenessMore recently, a good friend gave me the book Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life by Barry Danylak, which takes this study much further in depth and which I relied on heavily for writing this blog post. If you, too, would like to dig deeper, I highly recommend getting a copy and reading it.

 

[i] Luke 14:26 (HCSB)

[ii] Matthew 12:48-50 (HCSB)

[iii] Matthew 28:19 (HCSB)

[iv] Matthew 22:30 (HCSB)

[v] Danylak, Barry (2010-09-01). Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (p. 212). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

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