Yesterday I asked a friend if he and his wife had plans for Valentine’s Day. He responded by saying, “I don’t know, when is it?” We chucked over this because he and his wife have been married for a handful of years and now have two young children. I know this man loves his wife dearly and cherishes her above all else. Needless to say, they are a very busy couple and a simple Valentine’s date in is probably nice.
Some of my single friends might hear this story and feel jealous or angry. They may feel a lot of discontentment in their singleness, and they may be bothered to hear of a married couple possibly taking Valentine’s Day “for granted.” For many singles, this dreaded holiday comes around every year and reminds them of their singleness. “Thanks grandma, I hope I meet a nice girl too” may be a familiar response.
I do not have much experience being single. I dated (probably too often) throughout high school, met my wife at 19, and we married at 22. I do, however, spend a significant amount of time with single people at our church, so I get to hear their struggles. I have also talked with older single women in our church, who are either divorced or widowed, about how this day reminds them of romances that once were.
The Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth, which was located at the epicenter of all kinds of sexual immorality. The tone of his letter is direct and tough; but Paul does not waste words with these people. In a culture where all things were sexually acceptable, Paul describes a marvelous value for single Christians:
“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” 1 Corinthians 7:8
He goes on to describe how single people can have a great impact for the ministry of the gospel. Paul is saying to the Corinthian people, “There is something much greater than sex.”[i] When we consider the context Corinth, we begin to understand how radical this notion was. Paul even gives major instruction to married Christians:
“…the appointed time has grown very short…let those who have wives live as though they had none.” 1 Corinthians 7:29
To be clear, Paul is not devaluing marriage, he is, however, advocating for the urgency of gospel advancement compared to the cares of this world; even a good care like marriage.
In This Momentary Marriage, John Piper quotes Isaiah 56:4-5
“For thus says the Lord: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters…”
Piper says, “To be single in Christ is, therefore, not a falling short of God’s best, but a path of Christ-exalting, covenant-keeping obedience…”
On this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to display Christ as Lord by recognizing that being part of the bride of Christ is much better than being in a relationship. In a society that worships sex and devalues marriage, your deep understanding of God’s grace testifies to the satisfaction you have in Christ alone. Whether you are young, old, divorced, or widowed please know that you have great value to God and can have a huge impact for his mission.
[i] I am not trying to suggest that single people only want to get married to have sex. Paul does, however, argue if one cannot exercise sexual self-control they should marry (1 Cor. 7:9).