A few years ago, I went viral with a post about singleness. It was a copy and paste sermon and not very well written, however it seemed to make a point. Since then I have thought of writing a more substantial work on the subject, but then I took over a church and I have not had the time. Still I keep an eye out for anything written on the subject and one day hope to produce my work!
One of the things I continue to notice is the viewpoint that single people are not missing out, but I contend that they are and that is kind of the point. Right at the heart of his chapter on singleness Paul says this:
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Paul may be referring to a specific trial the Corinthians were facing but even if that is so I think he is projecting that crisis to the eschatological crisis. That is Christ is coming soon. In the light of eternity this life is short. We can then acknowledge that we will miss out on things now, but that is fine because we await an eternal reality and not simply a temporal fulfilment.
Singles do miss out. I love my nieces and nephews but I do not have children of my own, I miss out on that ‘joy’ (I know my nieces and nephews well enough to know that it is not always joy!). I don’t have a wife and a family and as such I don’t put down such strong roots, I don’t quite feel at home in life. But that is point, it is a constant reminder that I am not at home, ‘the appointed time has grown very short’. I do miss out on things but since this world is not all there is, that missing out points me to the hope of resurrection life (1 Corinthians 15).
One of the roles that single people can play in the church is that as they realize what they do miss out on and yet continue in their faithful following of Christ. They can teach the whole church, fidelity to Christ in this situation points us to the fact that we can miss out, because our hope is not now, but to come.
It strikes me that this is all part of something far deeper that we need to grasp, of which I have written before. The desire to declare that singleness is not missing out, is a desire to explain how Paul can call something ‘good’. However, something can be good and hard. We would never deny that marriage can be hard, but that does not mean that it is not good. In this life suffering and hardship can be good, after all is that not the center of our faith? Do we not praise God for the suffering of Christ which brought us life?
This is not to say there aren’t great joys and benefits in the single life, as Paul goes on to explain. But singles do miss out, as do those who marry, they miss out on the benefits of singleness. But missing out combined with faithful endurance is good because it is life lived in hope and an implicit acknowledgement that “…the present form of this world is passing away.”