Jesus and Paul on marriage, remaining single

The Standard June 24, 2021

At a recent wedding, a grandmother of the bride commented on how pleased she was that the officiant gave a realistic picture of marriage, including that almost half of them currently end in divorce. Within the church it is crucial that we not elevate marriage over singleness and are sensitive to those singles longing to be married and others who are struggling in a difficult union or with guilt due to divorce. Not everyone should get married or even wants to. Young people must hear more than a fairy tale version of romance and be taught that it takes real commitment from both husband and wife. Fortunately, more and more ministers are requiring premarital counseling for couples. Both Jesus and Paul, single men, had important things to say about marriage.

“Some Pharisees came to him [Jesus] to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’ The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’ Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.’” (Matthew 19:3-11)
“That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’ Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.’” (Matthew 22:23-30)

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, explaining that those who could remain chaste in singleness were better able to give their undivided devotion to the things of God.

“Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.’” (1 Corinthians 7:1-3) “I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.’” (1 Corinthians 7:6-9) “Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.’” (1 Corinthians 7:26-28)

How often have we mistakenly treated single Christians as missing out on something? As a church, we must actively support our singles, couples and divorcees.

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