What did John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul - three of the greatest men in the New Testament - have in common? We've printed many articles for married people. Here is a straight-from-the-shoulder article for unmarrieds.
No exact statistics exist, but many people in God's Church are single. They are the never married, the divorced and the widowed. They are a cross section of humanity representing every personality type and ability level. Perhaps you are one of them. I am. There's nothing abnormal about being single. But oftentimes there is a feeling in society that an unmarried person is somehow less of a human being. There is a notion that you graduate from singledom by becoming married. But nowhere does the Bible tell you to get married as soon as you can. Nowhere does the Bible say a single person is a failure. Just as there are many reasons for being married, so there are many for being single. We are all individuals. Some singles are creating a secure financial base before they begin to be concerned with marriage. Others may have been hurt by a relationship that didn't work and at least for the time being aren't interested in having anything more than just friendships. Others may have had a mate taken by death and choose not to remarry. Some, for various reasons, are happy to remain single indefinitely. They might consider marriage if someone really special comes along, but they are in no rush. Others would like to be married now but selection is the difficulty. Many singles in the Church fall into this category. Especially outside America, area congregations are small and scattered, and transportation is a problem. There may be and often are only a few single people in an area. Perhaps none of them are compatible. What do you do if there is nobody to date? For example, I spent more than two years in a country where there were zero girls to date. So I know whereof I speak.
Learning to love your dandelions
I have talked to numerous single members who would love to have a family someday. But in the meantime they have to make the most of their present state. It is like the story of the gardening fanatic who was having trouble with dandelions growing on his prize lawn. Eventually he wrote to the department of agriculture. "Dear sirs," he began. "During the past few years I have had a prolific outbreak of dandelions all over my bluegrass lawn. I have tried everything. I have cut them, sprayed them and weeded them. I even tried letting my mother loose on them (she likes to make dandelion tea). All of this has been in vain. You are my last hope. Will you please help me?" In a couple of weeks he received a surprisingly brief reply. "Dear sir: Seeing as you have tried everything in an attempt to obliterate your dandelions, you have only one alternative left. We suggest that you learn to love them." We have to learn to love our dandelions. We should learn to be content in whatever state we find ourselves in. The apostle Paul did (Phil. 4:11). We can do the same. If we make the most of whatever we have in this life, one day soon God will give us a lawn without dandelions. Let's call a spade a spade. Two main problems that singles have to face are a sense of aloneness and unfulfilled sex needs. It's not that single people are the only ones who have to face these problems. Some married folk also have difficulties in these areas. But for singles these trials can be that much more acute.
Some singles are plain old-fashioned lonely. Loneliness is a major problem for many people in our 20th century world. Isn't it ironic that at a time when we have wall-to-wall people, individuals experience a sense of isolation? Loneliness is one of the most difficult problems for a person to face, because by its very nature it's a problem you have to face on your own. Every other problem can be shared. But, conversely, when you are able to share the problem of loneliness it is no longer a problem. I spent more than two years in a nation where there was no one to date. I don't mind admitting that there were times when I was lonely. At times the loneliness almost drove me insane. Sundays were especially difficult. They were deep holes of isolation. After all the warmth and companionship of the Sabbath what do you do on Sunday? It was a real difficulty. Sundays hurt. I felt like some pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of life were missing. Something was eluding me. Sometimes just the idea of being single was the most aggravating element. I don't always have a perfect attitude and during periods of isolation it was sometimes a struggle to keep a positive frame of mind. Every human being has a deep-rooted need for human contact. A person rarely feels like laughing alone. We like to share our thoughts and feelings with significant others. And we like to have others on our team pulling for us. Some singles go through excruciating bouts of loneliness. These can lead to depression. But others, perhaps with stronger psyches, do not experience such a deep sense of loneliness. This can particularly be the case with unmarrieds who live in large Church areas where there are many activities. Some of these do not like inferences that they are lonely, as the word carries negative connotations. And understandably so, but many admit to a sense of "aloneness. " Aloneness implies being on one's own but it does not necessarily have a negative meaning. Aloneness well describes the state of being single. You can be alone and happy. But it's difficult to be lonely and happy. But we all need friends. It's not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So a person without a spouse especially needs to develop strong friendships with other brethren. An unmarried individual needs to firmly tie himself into the Church. When you don't have a family the Church becomes your family (Matt. 19:29).
The best way to find a friend is to be one. When you are a friend others will seek you out. Putting it another way, the best way to mitigate feelings of aloneness is to take aloneness away from somebody else. You'll find that a person caught up in acts of giving will not be so aware of his own problems. Giving friendship is like the story of the two men who trudged a long distance through the blizzard. Exhausted, they had only one mile to go when they came across an injured man lying in the snow. One of the travelers refused to help and pressed on. The other stopped, put the hurt man over his shoulder and staggered forward. Half a mile later they found the man who refused to help. He was lying in the snow, dead from the cold. The traveler who stopped to help, by taking on an additional load, had raised his body temperature. It kept both him and the man he was carrying alive. They made it to the shelter. But if one hadn't stopped to help the other they would have both been overcome by the cold. I t was the giving that kept the rescuer going. It can be the same for you. Giving means being willing to listen to others. Don't get your watch out to claim your fair share of speaking time. "Blessed are the meek" - the ones willing to drink in of other people's ideas and feelings, to listen to others' stories rather then always wanting to tell their own - "for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). These are the people God wants governing.
What about sex?
Sex is not just a problem for single folk, but also for many married people. The principles here apply to us all. Sex is a raw physical drive. It is also an emotional and psychological want. So, if you were Satan, what would you use to lure single brethren in God's Church? What would you use to try to entice them into the world where you could finish them off? You guessed it - sex with a capital S. You'd have it thrust at people from all quarters. You'd display it on every street corner. You'd saturate society with every form of cheap and perverted sex - anything but wholesome sex. Well, Satan has done the same. Make no mistake, Satan is at war with us. Probably the only more intense emotion than the devil's hatred of us is God's love for us. Satan knows what you could accomplish in God's Kingdom and he despises you for it. He will use every dirty trick in the book - and some that aren't in the book - to drag us down. Just look at how our enemy tried to get Joseph through Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:7-20). But he failed. Joseph was man enough not to cave in. To stand up for what's right - to demonstrate character - takes backbone, not wishbone. God gives simple instructions. There's a simple formula for staying out of this kind of trouble. Everyone, whether married or single, should memorize it. It's not long. Just two words. "Flee fornication" (I Cor. 6:18). Notice God does not say to get as close as you can but don't take part in it. God says to flee - as fast as your little legs will move you. If faced with temptation, retreat at the speed of light. Fleeing fornication means staying away from singles bars. Their plastic, artificial environment is not the answer. These meat markets are not a suitable place for brethren. They provide no solution or fulfillment. Fleeing fornication means avoiding red-light districts. If they are between you and where you are going, drive or walk, as the case may be, around them (Prov. 9:13-18). Fleeing fornication means not being alone with members of the opposite sex whom you know are promiscuous. Avoid compromising situations. Choose carefully the people you spend time with (Prov. 13:20). Fleeing fornication means being careful about what you watch on the movie or television screen. Think about what letting your mind dwell on it may lead to. Be the prudent man who foresees evil and hides himself (Prov. 22:3). Fleeing fornication means that you women reading this article should not be naive. Understand the way some men think. Don't dress to provoke them. And don't be deceived by what some men say to you. It is natural for a woman to want to be cherished, but frankly, face the facts. Many men in the world will be loving and gentle, but their hidden motive is to wear down a woman's principles so they can experience her body. Don't be one of those seduced by smooth words (Eph. 5:5-6). Illicit sex is habit forming. It's best not to get the hook in your mouth. A fish has to put up a fierce fight to break from a hook. Of course, it can be done, but it's far better not to take the bait in the first place. The more the body is fed, the more gratification is required. And whoremongers, unless they repent, will not be in God's Kingdom (I Cor. 6:9) - and such were some of you (verse II), but you were washed clean. Your sins were thrown to the other side of the universe. But you must be determined not to sin again.
Playing a winning game
With God's help we can beat Satan at his own game. We can turn it all to our advantage. How? If we want to build physical muscle we need some resistance - for example, a heavy weight to lift against. Then when it hurts, muscle is built. The same is true spiritually. Suffering is the origin of growth. Fighting against the pulls of the world will help us build character. And it is character, not our physical comfort, with which God is most concerned. A single person who can control his sex drive is a person who can control every major area of his life. Singledom is a chance to develop character. Hot fires can burn and consume or give energy for growth. The same furnace can make or break you. Which will it be? Obedience to God is largely a matter of habit. If one leads a full, giving and sharing life there is not much time for idle daydreams that can lead to disaster. But to bring every thought into captivity (II Cor. 10:5) is not easy. It requires persistence and courage. We may have a hard time of it now (Acts 14:22), but when we look back from the perspective of being in God's Kingdom then it will all be worth it (Rom. 8:18).
Some successful singles
We single folk in the Church have something that singles in the world do not have. We have the hope of God's Kingdom. Once a person has this, his perspective changes. It becomes his goal (Matt. 6:33). Everything else is a backdrop to that calling. One should not be preoccupied with one's state in life, but preoccupied in helping to do the Work. Backing up Christ's apostle should be the primary thing. The champion of singles is Jesus Christ. True, He was married in one sense to Israel. But He has not married in the usual sense of the word. He has not lived in wedlock with a woman. As a human He had to fly solo. Our Messiah learned what being single was about. Christ experienced everything a single person experiences. So we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with our infirmities; He was in all points tempted as we are (Heb. 4:15). He understands our situation and has compassion on us. That's why He's our Champion. His cousin John the Baptist was also single. Was John a failure in life? Was he in some way a lesser human being because he never married? Of him Christ said, "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11). John was a successful single. In New Testament times who was the apostle who labored more fervently than any of the others? It was Paul (I Cor. 15:10). Paul may have been married at one time, because there are indications that before conversion he was a member of the Sanhedrin, and you had to be married to be a part of that group. But he was not married during his time as an apostle (I Cor. 7:7-8). Did his wife die? Did she leave him? Anyway, Paul was another successful single. Thus three of the top men in the New Testament were single. This is not to imply that marriage isn't good. Of course it is. Marriage to the right person at the right time is a wonderful gift from God. But being single is also a gift from God (I Cor. 7:7). Singledom may be a gift you don't want, but God's gifts are good gifts (Matt. 7:11). We should relax and let God give His gifts as He sees fit. He knows us well enough to be able to determine what is best for us. Christ led a life free from sin. He was our perfect example. He did not marry in the normal sense of the word. Obviously then, it is not wrong not to marry. I realize that there are reasons why Christ did not marry, but maybe there are reasons why you also might not choose to marry just yet. Take a look at Luke 2 in terms of people who choose to be single. God does give us a choice in life. Notice the lifestyle that the person in Luke 2:36-37 chose. "One Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity." Read the account carefully. She was a widow for about 84 years. That's apparently what she chose. I imagine she may have had ample opportunities for remarriage, but she chose to remain single. It was not a sin. And she was not a failure. But since it is not good for a man or woman to be alone, she undoubtedly built strong friendships with other converted people. Some of the most serving women I know are single. They are beautiful on the inside and the outside. God appreciates them. They are not failures or in any way lesser human beings. They've either been widowed or haven't met someone (who is right for them. And they have the strength to remain single until they do. They aren't going to be pressurized into marriage. They realize that marriage is too wonderful and important to be foisted on them by the pressure of friends and relatives. It must come from the inside - from the head and heart as it is guided by God's Spirit and sound counsel. After all, God's will is that we first be godly people aiming for His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33), not first be married. Priorities have to be kept straight. There are no second-class citizens in God's Church. We are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26). God would not have called us if we didn't have an important part to play in finishing the Work. There is no room for division. Whatever state we are in, our main preoccupation is to put our shoulder to the wheel and push as hard as we can to help Herbert W. Armstrong finish the job of warning this world. That is our calling, and there isn't much time left now.
Righteousness the goal
Eternity is one long stretch of time. And it will be occupied by spirit beings. Spirit beings, like the angels, do not marry (Mark 12:25). For the future eons we will be single. I mean unmarried in the human, physical sense of the word. We will, of course, be married to Jesus Christ. But we will not be married in the usual sense of the word. In that sense, marriage is only for this time. The top two members of the Godhead never married in the physical sense of the word. So don't ever think that you can't qualify for a top position because you are unmarried. We don't have to be married to be balanced human beings in this life and spirit beings in the next. Obviously marriage is a wonderful institution and highly desirable. It pictures beautifully the God-plane relationships we will have in the next life. Nothing I am saying is meant to detract from the beauty of a marriage lived in accordance to God's laws. A good marriage is perhaps the nearest thing to complete happiness that a person can find in this world. To be married to the right person at the right time with a right attitude is a tremendous blessing. It is the ideal. But wedlock is not necessary for salvation. Marriage is not a qualification for God's Kingdom. Righteousness is. That's the point I am making. It doesn't matter what condition we are in, as long as we fully serve God in a righteous state. Whether married or single, we should glorify God in our lives. After Solomon tried everything (including 700 wives and 300 concubines), he summed it all up in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."