Then Paul comes along in the New Testament and proclaims, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am” (I Corinthians 7:8).
So . . .
It is not good to be alone.
But . . .
It is good to stay unmarried.
What are we to make of this apparent contradiction?
I appreciate the way Gary Thomas spoke to this paradox. In his book, Sacred Marriage, he says:
If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question – stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise. (21)
Thomas makes a valid point. If we want to serve Jesus, then remaining single frees us to do so more than we could if we were married. But if we want to become more like Christ, transformed into His image, then marriage is a sacred, God-designed relationship to help accomplish this.
Of course, we can still serve in the kingdom as married folks. And, of course, unmarried folks can become transformed into the image of Christ.
The real point being made is the nature – the intended purpose – for the marriage relationship.
Throughout the Old Testament, the analogy of marriage depicts God’s relationship to the people of Israel. Then in the New Testament, the analogy of marriage depicts Christ’s relationship to the church, His bride.
The marriage relationship is how God describes His love for us. Thus, in our own marriages, we have the blessed opportunity to love God by loving our spouse. As Thomas explains:
The real transforming work of marriage is the twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment. This is the crucible that grinds and shapes us into the character of Jesus Christ. (22)
Perhaps thinking of marriage as a crucible sounds harsh. Or painful. That’s because it can be. But the beauty of marriage is what comes out of the crucible. A heart molded by God’s hand. A love shaped by Christ’s sacrifice.
To marry, or not to marry, is not the question. Rather, what do I envision the purpose of marriage to be? Do I see marriage as a means to my own happiness? Or do I see marriage as a way to love God and love another person and become transformed in the process?