Does God love single people? Judging from what we hear we might wonder.
We hear about dating services and relationships. Singles are given the title "unmarried" and in this way they are defined by what they aren't rather than what they are as if they are somehow deficient and not whole or complete persons. The term "single" suggests that unmarried people are alone.
Do we have more to say to the widows, the unmarried, and the divorced than that their best years are either behind them, or else that the most they can hope for is someday to meet "Prince Charming?" Are single people second class citizens ... like people on the outside looking in?
It may appear that in the church that we also present these false ideas. We have weddings in the church, but no special celebration for single people. There are flowers on the altar for those celebrating wedding anniversaries, but I have never seen flowers on the altar for someone celebrating their singleness. Imagine the bulletin … "The flowers today on the altar are for Ms. Jennifer Smith who is thanking God for her 25 years of singleness." Even in his preaching, the pastor may use examples from married life. This, of course, is expected as he is married, but the question may be asked: With all this talk about marriage, does the Bible have anything to say about the state of singleness?
In fact … it does.
The Scriptures urge single people to conduct their vessel (let the reader understand) in all holiness and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:4). The Scriptures suggest that true religion before God is showing compassion to widows in their distress (James 1:27). The Bible even recounts the story of the woman at the well who was loved by Jesus even though she had a succession of divorces and improper relationships (John 4). Even more, however, the Bible speaks well of singleness and advocates it as a commendable and praiseworthy station in life before God and even a life to be imitated.
Solomon had 1,000 wives and yet said, "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases." (Song of Songs 3:5) Jesus spoke of the difficulty of the End Times and warned, "Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!" (Matthew 24:19) And in an extended section in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 (read the whole chapter for some important things!), the Apostle Paul said that while the family minded person has their family to tend to, the single person is uniquely fitted for attention to the kingdom of God. In the Scripture there are many examples of faithful single men and women who deserve our consideration and attention including Moses' sister Miriam, the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and Daniel, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Lydia, Barnabas, Anna, the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the Apostle Paul. All this is not to mention Jesus who is the most famous single person of all! While the Apostle Paul does state that it is better to marry than to burn with passion, Jesus states that some people are born into the state of singleness (Matthew 19:12).
We spend a great deal of time and energy mining the depths of the image of marriage as a picture of Christ and His bride the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33), and yet have we ever considered that single people, even more than married people, are a picture of the reality of what our lives will be like in the kingdom to come?
A group of religious leaders once presented Jesus a problem. "A woman had seven husbands in this life," they said. "Whose will she be in the resurrection?" "You are mistaken," Jesus said. "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven." (Matthew 22:30). Single people are a picture of the life to come where we are devoted exclusively to Christ alone.
A tired old black woman came up to me after hearing a wedding sermon I had preached. "Pastor," she said, "I liked what you said in your sermon about marriage." "The best part was about how in heaven we wouldn't be married." That sentiment was likely spoken by a woman who had some painful past relationships and didn't want to go to heaven only to find out she was stuck with that man again there too. That sentiment was also spoken by a woman who had come to understand the one relationship she had which would truly last forever. Being single is not easy and being married isn't without its challenges either, but each in different ways are blessed by God as good and pleasing in His sight.
The Bible says, "It is not good for man to be alone," (Gen 2:18), and yet it's not as if that discounts single people. For with Christ we are never alone. "'Return, O faithless child,' says the Lord, 'for I have married you!'" (Jeremiah 3:14) To be wedded to Christ by faith and to await that joyous day of Christ's return is more than enough for a full and complete life here in this life.
And so, Happy Valentine's Day to all of you. And God bless the single people out there too, single people who in their lives picture for us the life of the world to come.