The majority of my friends are married and have been for a long time. So, I have, for most of my life, been initiated into the world of marriage without actually being married. Yet, in a culture where marriage seems to be highly valued, Christian singles can feel ostracized and left out of the church community or treated as something to “teach” or “fix.”
Many well-intentioned married Christians may feel obligated to pass on their wisdom to singles as if the stage of singleness is just inevitable and doesn’t last — a stage that only needs to be endured until life becomes complete by another human being. They may even host small groups or “classes” with marriage as its main goal or “graduation.”
This can definitely create resentment on the side of Christian singles. Some singles do desire to be married but may feel that there is something wrong with them the longer they are single — that they have this godly desire, but don’t understand why they are not married yet.
There are also singles who are very happy with their current status and intentionally choose a life of singleness, but others assume that deep down they truly want to be married and only have this view to defend their own insecurity.
Is there a conversation that needs to be had within the church between Christian marrieds and Christian singles? How can both show respect and love for one another in their different life statuses?
What is the biblical view of marriage? What is the biblical view of singleness? And how do we sift through what is biblical and what are worldly constructs that have evolved around them?
Defining Biblical Marriage
We know that in the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, he also created a picture of biblical marriage. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18) and “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’” (Genesis 2:24).
When Adam and Eve sin, God describes what the relationship between a man and a woman will look like going forward, how it will be broken from what they knew in the Garden.
What we now have is a version of marriage that was first created by God but is now broken by Adam and Eve’s shared sin. “‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;’” (Genesis 3:15).
After the Fall, the definition of marriage goes through many cultural customs as based on man-made structures. Marriage was defined in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy for the Tribes of Israel to basically protect humans from themselves. It includes rules for marriage, divorce, widows and widowers, property, children, etc.
Polygamy is also a social construct that was deemed acceptable culturally [not by God] in many Old Testament marriages. For example, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel; Elkanah, Hannah, and Peninnah, and many more.
In the New Testament, the Sadducees try to capture Jesus in a lie by asking him about Old Testament Law in regard to whether or not multiple marriages will exist in heaven as they had been on earth, but Jesus, instead, redefines the purpose of marriage.
We know marriage is a sacrament only meant for this life. Jesus states that marriage will not exist, and no one will be given over to be married in eternity (Matthew 22:23-32).
Also, in the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce as based on the Law of Moses. Jesus reiterates what God created and what it had to be made due to humanity’s sin, “‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard’” (Matthew 19:8).
Paul also spends significant time on defining marriage in his epistles to the Church, but also does something radical — he brings singleness to the forefront of the Christian life, even elevating it above marriage. He understands why marriage exists and its creation for human beings, but also is careful to include those who are called and choose to remain single (1 Corinthians 7:6-7).
Neither one is a command or condemnation, but a blessing of free will. Paul, here, is more worried about the sexual immorality happening outside the sanctity of marriage, which is a biblical command.
Jesus, the Son of God, remained single throughout his earthly life.
Paul, the writer of over half the New Testament, spreading the gospel throughout the known world also remained single.
There are also many throughout history who chose to remain single for various reasons — but there is one who wrote and defined human behavior, love, and marriage, without being married herself, and that woman was Jane Austen.
Pictures of Worldly Marriage
Everyone has their own view of marriage that is definitely dependent on who they’re married to and what their marriage looks like between husband and wife.
The English novelist, Jane Austen, who is well-known for her six completed novels: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, never married, yet she had an uncanny sense of what a desired marriage should look like, but also knowing how some end up truly being.
Jane Austen was a faithful Christian; her father was a rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon and Deane. She grew up in the church. Her prayers give us extraordinary insight into her personal faith, as well.
There are three types of worldly marriages that Austen presents through three different couples in her most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice.
The first of these three marriages is the one between Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Marriage for Charlotte provides a way for her to leave her parents’ home and relieve herself as a burden on them. Mr. Collins, in turn, gains the approval of his patroness and his congregation through his marriage. This marriage is basically a business arrangement that can only offer support and comfort.
Elizabeth is the first to deny this offer from Mr. Collins as she will marry for only one reason: “I am determined that only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony.” Of course, she thinks this is terribly unlikely so she adds, “So, I shall end an old maid and teach your ten children to embroider cushions and play their instruments very ill.”
The second type of marriage is presented through Mr. Wickham and Lydia Bennet. The only thing that holds their marriage together is sexual attraction. Jane Austen, through this couple, reveals that physical attraction, and just pure lust, will not last as long as marriage is intended to be. Elizabeth too considers Mr. Wickham as a potential suitor but relents that there would only be passion and nothing more.
The third and final type of marriage — that Jane Austen consents is the best form of marriage — is the marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s marriage is the perfect combination of support and comfort and love and passion.
However, imagine if Elizabeth settled for Mr. Collins or if she settled for Mr. Wickham. Her marriage would be very unhappy, uncomfortable, and she would not be the most infamous heroine in literary history. Instead, she sticks to her conviction and waits for the best possible marriage.
For Austen, the type of marriage that she desired for herself never presented itself, which is realistic and does happen. However, instead of choosing to marry for any other reason (without love or support), she chose to stay single and become financially independent through her writing.
A Heart’s Desire
Throughout history and in our modern world, there are many who get married because of a worldly construct. The enemy feeds fear in a life lived alone, so entering any marriage becomes the only answer.
The enemy can also create marriage as an idol — that marriage is a sign of success, a goal to be achieved, and a structure that is widely accepted. And that’s when the brokenness of a fallen humanity enters: polygamy, divorce, abuse, etc.,
When the Lord is invited into our lives, marriage can be a beautiful picture — a blessing to find that one person you love and respect and to spend the rest of your life with. There are Christian marriages that reflect Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride.
There are many Christian singles who have a godly desire for that type of marriage and keep that in their prayer life with the Lord. There are also Christian singles who want to keep the Lord as the love of their life and serve him, alone.
In any instance, when the Lord is at the front and center of our lives, whether married or single, there will be joy everlasting because he is our identity, he is the reason we live this life, and with whom we will spend eternity.
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Molly Law is the Editor of Christianity.com. She has a Master of Arts in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling UK, where she studied and lived for a year in Scotland. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Professional Writing and a minor in Biblical Studies from Gardner-Webb University. Her editorial career includes Senior Editor of a bimonthly magazine for the American Correctional Association, Editorial Assistant at Luath Press in Edinburgh, and Freelance Journalist for the News Virginian. She enjoys reading 18th-century British Literature, creative writing, and traveling.