The Single's Singular Pursuit (Hint: It's Not Independence or Marriage)
Welcome back to this tug of war showdown between Team Culture and Team Church. If you’re just tuning into this match, check out this article for previous coverage.
The intensity is growing with every passing minute. You would think one side would tire, but no, each one just keeps pulling out new strategies. Oh, it looks like the flag on the rope (aka the single believer) is trying to get the umpire’s attention. They want to get off the rope! And who can blame them…motion sick and confused?
Single believer, is this you? Do you want to untie the flag and get yourself out of the game that’s taking place between the culture and the church? Wouldn’t it be great if you could instead stand on a more solid foundation that gives an equally hopeful view of singleness AND marriage?
Enter the gospel.
You might ask, “What does the gospel have to do with my singleness?” Everything.
A Renewed Perspective
In Philippians 3, Paul lists how he used to identify himself: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, persecutor of the church, blameless in obeying the Law (v. 4-6).
Then he came to know Christ.
After that, he says, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 7-8a). None of those earthly qualifications and definitions of success mattered. Now his sole goal was to press on toward the goal of Christlikeness (v. 10-14).
That truth applies to every believer, including the single. Before humbling themselves before Him, they were dead in their transgressions, lost, straying sheep, carrying out the deeds of the flesh, hostile toward God, separated from Him, and therefore, bound for eternal hell with no way of saving themselves (Eph. 2:1-3, Isa. 53:6, 59:2, Gal 5:19-21, Col. 3:5, Rom. 8:7, Rom. 3:10-18, 8:7, Rev. 21:8).
But now, through the saving power of the gospel, they have new life in Him, having been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (Rom. 6:4, 2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Pet 2:9). They have forgiveness of sins through the perfect atoning blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7, Heb 9:11-14). They hope for heaven where they will dwell in the Father’s presence and worship Him for all eternity (Phil 2:10-11, Rev. 19:6-7, John 14:2-3). And their lives are now to reflect that new life, becoming conformed to Christ’s image through daily sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18, 1 Pet. 1:17-19).
And just like Paul, their marital status, education, employment, and accomplishments do not matter anymore. Their life is all about Him. Every believer is one in Him and a uniquely vital part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:11-27, Gal. 3:28).
For singles, this means they need to stop seeing themselves as “single,” but as an adopted and redeemed child of a sovereign God who bestows them with every spiritual blessing and as a bondslave of the Father who ordains good works for them to accomplish (Eph. 1:3, 2:10).
How do they do that amidst the voices shouting at them on either side of rope? By renewing their minds with the truths found in Scripture. As they do so, they will find their way off the tug-of-war rope and standing on the solid foundation of the Word (Mt. 7:24-25). Then, they can grasp the rope squarely in the middle and start to yank back.
Turning toward Team Culture, they can begin to dismantle their agendas one by one as they gain a better understanding of God’s will (Rom. 12:2).
Regarding marriage and intimacy: Marriage is a good thing created by God, meant for one man and one woman committed to each other for life (Gen. 2:24-25, Mt. 19:3-6). It reflects Christ and the church and provides opportunity to serve Him and their spouse rather than their own self-fulfillment (1 Cor. 7:3-5, Eph. 5:22-33). That is the only context in which to practice sexual intimacy and it is totally fulfilling (Prov. 5:15-19, Heb. 13:4). Believers must pursue purity and flee any sexual immorality (1 Th. 4:3-8)
Regarding individualism: As wretched sinners, man will never be enough. That’s why they need Christ. He must be the One they love unconditionally (Mt. 22:37-38). They must adopt a low view of themselves and as someone crucified with the Son of God who loved them unconditionally and gave them new life through His death (Gal. 2:20, Phil. 2:3). As a result, believers no longer belong to themselves and must glorify Him in all things as His bondslave, using their time and gifts for His service (Eph. 5:15-16, 1 Cor. 6:19-20, 10:31, 12:4-11). Reflecting His example, they must humbly love and serve others (Phil. 2:3-8). In all this, they acquire eternal rewards in heaven, not the temporary praises of men (Mt. 6:19-21, Eph. 6:5-8).
In summary, the single believer does not live for themselves and their “happiness.” They live to reflect their Savior in all things.
And with these truths, the single believer gives a final yank and Team Culture falls on their face.
By examining the Scriptures like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11), the single believer can turn toward Team Church with a much more biblical and hopeful outlook on their current season.
Singleness is a gift that is not necessarily permanent. Yes, God has made marriage as a good thing to be desired. However, He does not promise marriage to every believer; therefore, they should not expect it. He does promise to complete the good work He began at salvation and make them more like Christ (Rom 8:29, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 1:6). That is the prize for which the single runs. It’s not that He cannot give marriage if He so chooses, for He does not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11). But in His perfect wisdom, that good gift can include both singleness and marriage (1 Cor. 7:7, 17). He changes the gift as He pleases, but we choose whether to respond with disdain or gratitude.
How is singleness a gift? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that those married concern themselves with the things of the world, specifically how they can please their spouse (v. 33-34). The single, however, can be solely concerned about using their life for the things of the Lord, how he may please Him, pursuing holiness in all things, and able to undistractedly devote themselves to the Lord (v. 32, 34-35).
Mornings spent caring for family and rushing out the door somewhat on time can instead be used for studying Scripture and prayer. Moments throughout the day filled with thoughts of the needs of spouse or children can instead be used to meditate on God’s Word and character. Evenings of preparing meals, doing homework, and going to sports practice can be spent with other brothers and sisters in Christ for discipleship and edification. A phone call can be answered in a moment, plans can change on a dime, service at church can happen at all hours.
Can married people do these things? Of course. But they have other priorities, things of the world as Paul calls them, and therefore they have much more limitations on their time.
Understanding what Scripture says, the single believer who longs for marriage begins to see their singleness as an opportunity rather than a curse.
And with these truths, the single believer yanks and Team Church humbly releases the rope.
A New Prize
Single believer, next time you start to find yourself back on the tug-of-war rope, remember the gospel - who God is, who you are, that you deserve nothing except hell, yet instead received the gracious and merciful gift of salvation in Christ, a rich inheritance, and the hope of eternal life. As a citizen of heaven, eagerly await the return of the Bridegroom Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20-21) and completely devote your life to Him with every breath as you run hard toward the finish line. As you do, you will transfer from a tug of war to a marathon.
But now that we are in a marathon, we need to know how to run it without becoming weary. So be sure to tune in next time for the training plan.
Madelyn Moses serves as the producer of Side by Side Productions, currently working on a docuseries on a biblical view of singleness, launching Fall 2023. She earned her MA in Biblical Studies from The Master’s University (Santa Clarita, CA). She resides in Bucks County, PA and attends The Master’s Church of Bucks County in Richboro, PA.