Married or Single: For Better or Worse

Following this weekend’s sermon entitled “Single in Christ: A Better Name Than Sons and Daughters,” Pastor John received a letter asking, “If what you say about the blessing of singleness is true, then why would one even want to be married?” Here is his response.

Dear Friend,

You ask: “What is at all compelling about marriage? Why would we even want to be married?”

The “compelling” comes only from the right combination of internal realities and objective truths about God’s design for marriage. When the right combination is not there, marriage is not compelling and should not be. I would say the same thing about singleness.

The objective truths about marriage are primarily God’s design:

  1. To display his covenant keeping love between Christ and the church,
  2. To sanctify the couple with the peculiar pains and pleasures of marriage,
  3. To beget and rear a generation of white-hot worshippers, and
  4. And to channel good sexual desire into holy paths and transpose it into worshipful foretastes of heaven’s pleasures.

That is a high calling, but it is only compelling if it meets with internal longings for God that lean strongly into these designs.

The objective truths about singleness are also primarily God’s design:

  1. To display the spiritual nature of God’s family that grows from regeneration and faith, not procreation and sex,
  2. To sanctify the single with the peculiar pains and pleasures of singleness,
  3. To capture more of the single’s life for non-domestic ministry that is so desperately needed in the world,
  4. And to magnify the all-satisfying worth of Christ that sustains life-long chastity.

That is a high calling, but it is only compelling if it meets with internal longings for God that lean strongly into these designs.

There is more to marriage and singleness than I have mentioned. But the point is to show that neither I nor the Bible means to say that either is compelling in and of themselves. That is why Paul says, “One has one gift and one another” (1 Corinthians 7:7). I think he means: The internal reality of one person finds one of these powerfully compelling and the internal reality of another finds another powerfully compelling. And I would add: This can change from one season to another.

I don’t know which holds out more joys and more hardships. There is no way to know ahead of time, it seems to me. We Christians don’t make our choices that way anyway. This would be clear if all singles not only heard the wedding vows, “For better or for worse,” but also heard the same words written over singleness: “For better or for worse.” Marriage may prove to be gloriously happy, or painfully disappointing. Singleness may prove to be gloriously satisfying or painfully disappointing. Only God knows which it will be for you.

So in the end, your heart really matters. Objectively, we cannot know ahead of time whether marriage or singleness will sanctify us more or honor God more. Does the internal reality of our heart lean us into the designs of marriage or the designs of singleness? That is a huge question and one that only the heart can answer. But it should be a heart well-formed with much Bible and much prayer and much maturity through life and counsel of friends and family.

That’s my best effort. Thanks for caring about being devoted to Christ above all.

Pastor John

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