In her article “Pursuing Singleness” Stacey Margarita Johnson talks about why she has chosen celibate singleness for the past six years. As part of her argument for her unorthodox lifestyle choice, she brings up some classic singleness passages:
While Jesus gave validity to the single life in this passage from Matthew 19:12, it was the apostle Paul who explained in detail why singleness can be such a productive lifestyle choice for those who serve God.
‘I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord’ (I Corinthians 7:32-35).
So, are singles part of God’s plan? Jesus indicates they are. Why is singleness useful in the Kingdom? Paul explains that following God with reckless abandon requires people to leave behind all earthly attachments that distract them from the Lord’s affairs.
I agree wholeheartedly with Johnson that singles are part of God’s plan. A few years ago, I wrote in “Vessel of Honor“:
God’s will for people isn’t dependent on marital status. Both faithful marriage and chaste singleness proclaim God. Marriage is an earthly reflection of the union with Christ and other believers awaiting us in heaven. Celibate singleness declares that ultimate union by forgoing sexual union on earth for a season — or, in special cases, for a lifetime.
I find it interesting that while this author’s premise is “choosing singleness,” she is not committing to it for a lifetime:
I love celibacy. It has been a profound experience of growth and worship. I would be honored if God saw fit to keep me single. On the other hand, I have taken no vow; I am not a nun. If it becomes clear than marriage is right for me, I can live with that too. No matter which path I follow, I will always be an advocate for singleness because I deeply believe that it is part of God’s plan.
Perhaps the purpose of this article then is to validate a season of celibacy of whatever length God chooses. I appreciated the words of one commenter:
The scriptures that you quoted balance singleness with a commitment to ministry. This lifestyle is only worthwhile if you are really investing in God’s kingdom in a significant way that you couldn’t if you had family commitments. Those who would quote these scriptures as a reason for their life choices need to back up that choice with some serious ministry, otherwise it is just a pointless attempt at martyrdom.
The choice to commit to singleness, like the choice to commit to marriage, should be made solemnly and produce good fruit.