I do not understand why some Christians think that the married life is inferior and less glorious than certain other vocations. I do not understand why some Christians think any life without marriage is, well, inferior to marriage, less happy than marriage, less fulfilling than marriage, and so forth.
Marriage is – like martyrdom – a glory, a blessing, and a privilege of which no one is worthy except through the merits of Christ. It is ordained by God and cannot be broken or dissolved. It is one of God’s illustrations of the love of Christ for His bride, the Church, all of God’s people, and His union with her. No higher glory can be imagined, no greater calling, than that of being a living, breathing illustration of the love of Christ for His bride. The “marriage” portrayed in certain cultures as a path to self-fulfillment, satisfaction, and a cure to loneliness is not Christian marriage at all (if you want to marry so you can be less lonely, you do not want to marry!). The comparison to martyrdom is, I think, quite appropriate – if you see the purpose of your life and what it means to be fulfilled, in such a way that you could speak of martyrdom, should it be God’s chosen death for you, as a fulfillment of your life, then you may also speak of marriage in this way, provided marriage is one of God’s gifts to you. Otherwise – if seeing martyrdom in that light, as fulfillment, is inconceivable to you or absurd – then you cannot speak of Christian marriage that way either. Marriage contains the call to lay down one’s life daily for one’s spouse and children. Marriage, like the rest of life, is about beholding the glory of Christ and being transformed into His image from glory to glory – a very happy and fulfilling thing, the satisfaction of every desire, for we are, after all, created in the image and likeness of God. More could be said of marriage, but this is enough for me to say here.
Thus, let no one look down on marriage. Let no one think it a lesser vocation, a less glorious one, or a less fulfilling – in the Christian sense of the word – one. For true fulfillment is to see the face of God and live. True fulfillment is to be like Christ. True fulfillment is to have no life of one’s own, but to share in the life of God the Son made Man. True fulfillment is to die with Christ and be raised with Him in glory.
I hate the term ‘single life.’ It seems to place emphasis where it does not belong. ‘Unmarried’ is just as bad. The stress or implication is negative, rather than positive. For this reason, I am going to use the words ‘virgin’ and ‘celibate life’ in the remainder of this article for those whose lives are dedicated to God in a way which does involve marriage, as of the present. It is not, for me, a technical term. By it, I do not even exclude all who have been guilty of sins such as fornication (whatever God has cleansed, no one may call unclean, and all who come to Christ are cleansed by God). In the case of this article, however, I intend to use it only to denote a particular circumstance (or circumstances) in which many Christians find themselves for at least some of their lives, and in which some of us live our entire lives, with particular opportunities and responsibilities associated, as well as the acceptance of that circumstance (though I might sometime use it with a somewhat different sense in another article).
I don’t know how to say this. I do not want the things I am going to say to encourage fear or worry in married people. I do not want the things I am going to say to encourage married people to idolize their relationship and responsibility to their spouses or children – a relationship and responsibility which comes from God. I do not want married people to see themselves as primarily responsible for the welfare of their families – it is God who is responsible for such things, and if He asks them to do something which places themselves or their families – or both, the two rather go together – in greater danger, they should obey Him and trust Him to do good to everyone involved with whatever consequences result. In fact, whether you realize it or not, whether it seems this way or not, your disobedience would really be far more harmful than your obedience; but God is merciful.
That said, we who are celibate have a wonderful blessing and wonderful opportunities. It is natural for us to do things and go places for the love of God that would usually not be suitable for married people, going into which would probably be irresponsible for most married people. The time and energy which married people should spend – in the love of God – on each other and their children, we can spend in other ways for the glory of the love of God. We do not have to think about how to please our spouses – since we do not have spouses – or how to be available to care for and point our children to the love of God – since we do not have children. We can spend time in prayer and evangelism that married people spend on their spouses and children (this is not to imply that married people do not need to spend time alone before God in prayer, waiting on Him, or that they have any less need of this than we do, or that God does not provide for them to have it). Being Christians, we have the privilege of pouring all the resources of our lives into seeing God and reflecting Him to everyone around us, everyone whom He brings into our lives, everyone to whom He sends us. We should be sensitive to what it is God wants of us, not spending our lives on our own idea of what life should be, but following His lead – even if it is to a thousand deaths, so to speak. To die with Christ is to find life more abundant; that’s what it means. We can know, in a special way, what it means that Jesus is the Bridegroom. We have the amazing privilege of focusing all the energies and desires that go into marriage and raising a family into loving and serving God both in solitude – privacy, loneliness (I mean the word entirely positively!) stillness, silence – and in the midst of the world.
People whose lives are different from yours will know the love and beauty of God differently than you do. God is infinite. None of us comprehends and grasps Him. He makes each of us unique. Each of us experiences His love for us differently.
Copyright 2019 Raina Nightingale