A new  research study released this past August discovered that for the first time since the 70’s the percentage of singles has surpassed the 50% mark of the adult population in the U.S. 124.6 million people age 16 and older are single. This number has some staggering consequences to the economy, the dating scene, and obviously the church.

You would think that by now people would be okay with the idea that a large swath of the population will be single and we just have to let it be – let’s stop pretend that this is the abnormal state of affairs. Let’s stop asking singles why they are not married, and let’s have them come into our churches, have their voices be heard, and make a significant impact for the Kingdom of God.

The picture I find in 1 Corinthians 7, the primary text dealing with this subject, is one of praise and even preference for the single lifestyle. Now, before we go making unwarranted conclusions, it is important for us to understand the context.

First, Paul was dealing with a culture that from antiquity considered asceticism something to be desired. Celibacy was considered a most admirable attribute. Paul gives the folks from the church at Corinth, who had written him to ask some questions , every concession about the single life – calling it good and desirable. But he does not condemn or diminish marriage, as some no doubt had wished he would. In fact, he strongly encourages marriage for those who are not cut out to live alone.

Secondly, there were some exceptional circumstances going on among the Christians in Corinth that Paul refers to as “present distress” in this passage. In other words, he is talking about a time when the normal state of affairs appears to be suspended, like when nations go to war, for example.

I believe that Paul had in mind severe persecution against the believers, which may have already started and Paul knew was going to intensify. At such a time, one would hardly be deemed wise if he encourages people to close their eyes to their surroundings, marry and be given in marriage as if nothing unusual was happening. At the same time, Paul says that if one still decides to go on and marry under the circumstances, s/he is not doing a bad thing.

When it is all said and done, the main lesson you learn from this passage is that your outward state matters little to God. What matters the most is how you will live your life in light of how He made you. The text clearly says that we each have a calling – first to salvation, then to a life of devotion to Christ, whether married or single.

For my part, I will issue a sincere apology this Sunday to all singles who feel somewhat left out of church because of the way we do ministry. At the same time, I will issue a challenge for all singles to come to the table and be proactive about making a tremendous contribution to the Lord’s work. No more delay, no more excuses. God wants you now!

“But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA