There is a group of people present in every church that are often misunderstood. Viewed as strange and awkward, they are treated as almost pariahs within the congregation. If ever mentioned within the church, it is always to gather them together and put them in uncomfortable social situations all in the hopes of changing their unpleasant life situation.
Who are these poor unfortunate souls?
Church is awkward for single people. Often you attend church alone and have to sit through a sermon series about marriage. Also, church functions can be weird because you have well-meaning saints who want to play matchmaker.
Then to top it off, as you look around at all the families that surround you, you begin to doubt yourself and wonder if there is something wrong with you because God has yet to send you the “Boaz” of your dreams. I mean, after all, he did with Ruth, and according to the sweet blue-haired lady that sits in front of you during morning service, you are in just of a desperate situation as Ruth was.
As a pastor, I empathize with your struggle.
I know church can be awkward for many reasons (yet at the same time, wonderful and miraculous) and for single people it can be increasingly difficult to feel a part of the church community.
But I want to say, Singles are a gift to the church.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:7, he wishes all were single like him because then they can fully devote themselves to the Jesus, freeing themselves from worldly anxieties and be anxious about the things of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32).
What singleness provides, as opposed to marriage, are unique opportunities to serve the Lord which is aren’t practical for married couples. In marriage, you have to provide for another person and are tied down to the home. For instance, I can’t up and leave to spend an indefinite amount of time preaching the gospel on a dangerous foreign field. Why? Because I have a family to take care of.
Yet for the single person, nothing is stopping them from packing up and heading out to reach the lost for Christ. Nothing is hindering them from radically giving their lives for the sake of the gospel. It is the freedom that is afforded by singleness that can be (and has been) used as a dynamic force in Christian missions.
However, before we get swept away in naively aggrandizing being single, we have to remind ourselves that singleness is not for everyone. Certain people are gifted with singleness, while others not so much.
Going back to our passage in 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “If they [widows] cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:8). What 1 Corinthians 7 touches on is a struggle for those who are single: sexual purity.
Loneliness, boredom, isolation, are but some of the factors that can lead a single person astray and right into the clutches of sexual impurity. It is heartbreaking to hear but many single men and women who attend church regularly, struggle with pornography. Besides, the whole concept of the “dating culture” has led many Christian singles to forgo the Bible’s definition of abstinence and fall right in line with the world’s values on sexual relations.
So, the pastoral advice from the Apostle Paul is instead of falling victim to temptation and committing sexual sin (like fornication), find a spouse and enjoy that level of intimacy in a God-honoring relationship.
How long a person is to remain single, I have no idea. Yet, what I do know is that for however long you are single and up until the point when or if God graciously gives you a spouse, you should not waste your singleness.
Maximize every missionary opportunity you have. Take risks for Jesus and experience every adventure that Christ has for you during this season.
Lastly, in loneliness, press into prayer and devotion. Some of the most profound and meaningful times I have ever experienced as a Christian have been those moments where I was alone with Christ.
Singleness is not easy. It is full of numerous difficulties and pitfalls. Yet your singleness is not a curse rather it is a chance to demonstrate how radically one can live for Christ.