By Cindy Koch –
What a question. It has been pondered throughout the ages, and the arguments go back and forth. God gives his man and woman companionship at the beginning of creation, but soon after, as a result of sin, both man and woman feel the pain of this union. In Scripture, St. Paul responds to the Corinthians about sexual immorality questions, personally judging that it is better to not be anxious about pleasing a wife. Early churches born of the Christian faith required that priests, monks, and nuns should not be married in this way, but rather be married to the cares of the church. On the other hand, Martin Luther expounded upon the blessings and necessity of marriage. So, today in our current world, it is incredibly common to encounter marital situations of every kind. So many options are available, and no one will bat an eye. In light of our inclusive and accepting culture, I wonder if anyone seriously asks this question anymore: Is it better to be married or single?
From a Christian perspective, we confess a few things foundationally. First, we have been created by God. Man and woman he created uniquely from the beginning. We believe the Genesis account that God saw his creation of man and woman, together in His image, and it was “good.” The first marriage, the first parents of all were created together for each other. Still participating in God’s creation of man and woman, we were also created for marriage. To help each other, to give our gifts to the other, to rejoice in God’s creation as He gifted it to us.
Although foundational, it is not the whole story of man and woman, nor our life together. Doubt and shame tore God’s creation from the blessed Garden of Eden. A severed trust in each other and a burning fear of our God push us further away from that now unattainable “goodness” being created in the image of God. But from a Christian perspective, we confess that a savior has entered into the story of man and woman. Through the promise of a blessed offspring who would crush the head of a serpent, to the long awaited promised seed through generations of sinful men and women, to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you. Here God has sent His son to conquer the evil words that man and woman first believed. Here God has sent His son to win forgiveness for their disobedience. Here God has sent his son to restore his “good” creation.
And this includes the good and incredible gift of marriage. Like the gift given to Adam and Eve, we speak God’s word of promise back and forth. We remind each other of Christ’s forgiveness, especially in this intimate and emotional relationship. We point each other back to the source of our hope and the goal of our endurance together. Challenging, yes, however your one-flesh partner in Christ walking beside you is the most powerful relationship to be found for man and woman. But the question is not completely answered yet: Is it better to be married or single?
Certainly, it is a blessing to be married, but St. Paul also makes a case that it is better to be single.
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Cor 7:32-34).
Truly, the married man and woman can be distracted by one another. Working to provide for the family, worrying that your gifts to each other are enough. This could easily enslave you to forgetting about the forgiveness and freedom found in Christ alone. The single person is free from these distractions, for sure. But they have dangers of their own: sexual immorality, burning with desire, and not a desire for the Lord.
So, is it better to be married or single? There is no black or white conclusion to this question because you have been placed in every corner of this world, in every imaginable situation that seeks to confess your undying love to the Lord. “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). Marriage is an excellent and helpful path, bestowed by the creation of our God, especially when your spouse confesses alongside of you, forgives you, and walks with you to everlasting life. Being single is a special and honored path when distracting passions will not lead you astray and when the God of all reconciliation is your undivided focus. But don’t take this lightly. This question absolutely matters personally for you. It is for your benefit, your faith, your freedom, and your focus that you are married or single, so that you will be nurtured in your undivided devotion to the Lord.