You don’t have to get married. As in, ever.

I just read an article about how the World Health Organization made being single a disability. (OK, they technically made infertility a disability and decided to count all single people and gay couples as infertile.)

I obviously clicked on the article for the same reason everyone else did, which is the implication that if you don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, there was something wrong with you. Hilarious, and very incorrect.

I’ve got mixed thoughts on being single.

On one hand, it’s a time of life that should not be traded away or devalued as a time in-between “real” life. That’s just dumb. Your current life is your real life. Your value as a person does not come from being in a relationship. But honestly, I do look forward to marriage because there’s a unique kind of connection that can only exist after years of sharing difficulty and victory with someone. It’s something God designed, and it’s honorable.

It seems like most messages, movies, and music are all about forming romantic relationships. Church attitudes towards single people follow this trend, assuming the best way to serve single people is getting them hitched. But that is dead wrong.

My experience with church and Christian culture (or maybe it’s Midwestern and American culture) is that if you’re single and not dating, there’s something wrong with you. This is definitely something single Christian women have encountered, but plenty of men feel this as well. First, let me doubleback by saying of course there is something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with all of us (and I wholeheartedly include myself), all the way back to Eden. But that reality has stopped exactly zero people from getting married and keeping the whole system going!

If that’s our attitude, we’re missing a huge opportunity. So, can I dip a toe into controversy?

The Bible clearly says you can serve God better by remaining single forever.

Not just by serving Him “in this season of singleness” or while you “work on yourself.” Those can both be good attitudes to have, but they are not the ideal. The apostle Paul says the ideal is to stay single forever. That means forget about having romantic or sexual relationships, and focus on loving God with everything you have.

This verse can make people feel uncomfortable.

In this context, staying single doesn’t mean serial dating or sleeping around. It’s not having the equivalent of a romantic relationship without making it official. It’s not a lack of commitment at all. It’s a serious commitment both to God and the community you serve.

It means someone is making the deliberate choice to stay single and devote their entire life, energy, and being into seeking God and doing what he wants. This is what Roman Catholic priests do, as well as nuns and monks. But you don’t need to have a church job (or join an order and wear a habit) to have this kind of calling on your own life.

Is marriage bad? Of course not. The very next verse after Paul says to remain single, he says it’s OK to get married (as a second-best option). I wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my parents’ marriage.

American church culture is often guilty of demoting singleness. I have never heard a sermon promoting singleness. Probably because most pastors are married, and they would get in trouble at home if they did (kidding, kidding).

Paul advocates for and models lifelong singleness. (It’s funny — writing the phrase “lifelong singleness” feels like a lame thing to say. I guess I have plenty of American culture in me.) Paul took the uncommon path of deliberate lifelong singleness, and every Christian for the last couple millennia has benefited from his choice.

If you are able to make a similar choice, more power to you.

If you’re part of a church or other faith community, let’s give high honor to the people who choose lifelong singleness or are single indefinitely. They can be pillars of your biological families. They want to be. Extending your definition of family to include these people makes everyone stronger.

Whether you decide to remain single forever or just for a short time, live well. Live your fullest life now. Don’t wait for the golden goose of marriage. If you think that’s what marriage is, you’ll be disappointed anyway. Start changing the world right now. And if you are looking to get married, that’s going to be the best way to meet someone worthwhile anyway.


Originally published at media.crossroads.net.