Sometimes, it feels like the church throws her hands in the air, unsure what to do about singles. I don’t think it’s intentional. It’s just easier on everyone if single men and women fall through the cracks. There are less interruptions to the family routine, less “intentionality,” easy discipleship, and so on. After all, our small groups can meet our singles’ needs for companionship, accountability, and love, right? Isn’t a single’s need to be known met in those settings?
I'm not convinced it is. No matter how honest our small groups get, they often miss the deeper sense of intimacy that exists within marriage and the family. Though the church cannot alleviate it entirely, I think the best response is intentional friendship with the singles in your small group. Have them over to your home for meals, allow them to be "part of the family," and so on. These kinds of solutions have helped me, at least.
Still, the constant feeling of being removed from others can be disheartening. Harmful, even. I’m not neglecting all of the good things about being single, like the free time, the flexibility, or the fact that I can down an entire bag of chips and a bowl of queso without anyone knowing. Singleness has a place, and the freedom it offers demands responsibility. Singles should serve God faithfully in their singleness.
But as our churches recover what it means to be wholly pro-life (meaning pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-adoption, etc.), I sometimes get the sense marriage could offer me more—the thought that marriage begins an infinite influx of more companionship, more satisfaction, and more accountability.
Frequently, I think marriage could offer me more gospel.
Maybe that’s an indication of my short-sightedness (or my youth). But don’t count me out. It’s easy to buy in to the thought that being married would somehow fix all my problems or that I’m not complete until I find a wife.
It’s a misguided notion, but I don’t think that it’s entirely misguided. Scripture portrays marriage as a picture of Christ’s gospel message (Eph. 5:31-32), teaches that sexual intimacy is a profound, God-glorifying display of a healthy marriage (1 Cor. 7:3-5), and calls children valuable rewards from God (Ps. 127:3-5). The family is foundational for society—for humanness. We were hard-wired to be with (Gen. 2:18). The problem is that I often act as if marriage was designed to complete the gospel in my life.
The gospel is not founded on the marriage covenant. In other words, marriage is not the means to a better or truer gospel. Our gospel is unchanging, enclosed in three words: “It is finished.” Instead, singles need to be reminded that marriage finds its roots in the gospel. This means the gospel is our means to a better and truer marriage, not the other way around.
Reflect on the words of the angel in Revelation 19:9: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
God shows no partiality: both the single and married in this world have reservations at the marriage supper in heaven. And we aren’t merely attending this ceremony; we are participants in it. The Church is Christ’s bride, and she is faithfully received.
For the single believer, finding one’s place in the eternal marriage between Christ and his Church drives out feelings of marginalization or complacency. Puritan preacher John Flavel writes:
A king from heaven makes suit for your love; if he espouse your soul now he will fetch it home to himself at death in his chariot of salvation; and great shall be your joy, when the marriage of the Lamb is come. Look often upon Christ in this glass; he is fairer than the children of men. View him believingly, and you cannot but like and love him.
When we gaze on Jesus believingly, we cannot help but like and love him. He is the one through whom all things were created, and he is the end for which all things were created. He makes suit for your love. Single brothers and sisters, you are part of a wedding bigger than the ones of this life—the gospel. Your processional has spanned eternity past, and your vows will be celebrated for all of eternity to come. The Father officiates the marriage ceremony that surpasses all others: the marriage that offers more.
To the singles reading this, take heart. You are part of a grander marriage than those of this earth. Your impulse toward marriage is good and right because it's the direction your heart is inclined in eternity. To those married, do not be too busy for or neglectful toward the singles in your church. Their desires for companionship are often deep, and you can help with their longing.
And no matter if you're married or single, remember that our earthly marriages do not comprise the gospel message, but rather are a reminder of it.
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as Content Manager at Am I Called and has written for sites such as Canon & Culture, For the Church, and Gospel Centered Discipleship.