But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. But God gives to some the gift of marriage and to others the gift of singleness.
1 Corinthians 7:7
A great place to start a discussion on relationships begins in 1 Corinthians 7, but to understand the directions that Paul gives in this chapter, we need to understand the larger context of Christianity and the message of Paul’s letters.
We started off with this verse that talks about Paul’s desire that everyone remain single, and that can make a lot of us uncomfortable. Not many of us hope to remain single. This coupled with some of the things that Paul talks about later in that chapter can make us squirm. We would like to avoid the things associated with singleness, things like loneliness.
So, let’s throw out another passage: Colossians 3:16-17
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
Focus on verse seventeen for a minute. “Whatever you do or say” is to be a representation, a reflection of Jesus, and you are supposed to always be thankful. This verse sums up our existence in this: everything is to be about and for Christ.
Whatever you do, of course, includes relationships. Our relationships must be representative of Christ.
Ephesians 5:21-33 gives us guidance on how a relationship serves as a representation of Jesus Christ. In marriage, men and women are supposed to submit their lives to one another. A marriage relationship is designed to be like Christ’s relationship with the church; He gave up His life, and we, in turn, follow Him. We can go deeper into how this actually plays out in marriage, but it is necessary to start at the beginning — before marriage.
Paul lays out this pretty intense explanation of what marriage is. By his representation, marriage seems like an incredible thing. I think that it begs the question, why did Paul ever say that he wishes that other people would become single?
It is best to understand 1 Corinthians 7 as Paul intended. It is a warning. Verse 35, “I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”
Look at verses 29-34 which precede that. The danger of anything in this world is that they become something that we cling to and become absorbed in. Marriage, especially, can be such a snare that prevents us from living our lives on this world as God would intend. A relationship can bog us down (v. 32). That is why singleness is a gift as Paul describes in verse 7. From Ephesians 5:21-22, however, we see how marriage is a gift as well. It provides us the opportunity to live out the love that Christ has called us toward.
Tying back in the verses in Colossians, every relationship that you have should have representing Christ as its target. As a unit, the two must be moving toward Christ and learning to live as Christ both individually and as “one flesh.”
If you’re in a relationship that does not have this as its goal, work toward fixing it. Or, if you’re not married, discuss it with the other half in the relationship and end it if that’s what’s best for both of you.