Singleness: A Reflection of the Love of God
- Wednesday, August 10, 2005
One of the pervasive themes of Scripture is God’s love for His chosen people, the Israelites. He selected them from among all the nations of the world to be His own, established a covenant with them, and vowed His faithfulness to them.
Throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets, this relationship between God and His people is expressed in the metaphor of marriage. Israel, the bride, spurned God and prostituted herself with other gods, and yet because of His covenant, God’s love for her endured. In the New Testament, marriage images the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Marriage provides a beautiful reflection of some of our most treasured spiritual truths. It pictures genuine commitment and unconditional love in a world of no-fault divorce, and it provides the framework for our concepts of spiritual birth and the Family of God.
What could singleness possibly add, if anything, to this array of rich images? What can a life devoid of lasting romance contribute to an understanding of holy love? Perhaps it merely serves to amplify the beauty of marital love, much like a dark sky enhances the splendor of a rainbow or a Hollywood villain magnifies the goodness of the hero. Or maybe it’s a grand test that, if we pass, we get to move on to the higher ground of wedded life.
Or maybe it’s none of these. When understood properly, the picture of singleness can help round out our concept of the love of God. While marriage illustrates what we can call the exclusive nature of God’s love, singleness allows us to better understand the inclusive nature of God’s love.7
Generally speaking, singles have a freedom in relationships that married people don’t have. They are free to befriend and love many people without being unfaithful to any of them. I can be friends with men and women alike and not worry about being disloyal to my spouse — although I must always be careful not to give someone else’s spouse the opportunity to be disloyal. I am able to invest in a wide variety of relationships without cheating a husband out of the time that is rightfully his. It is this freedom that portrays the inclusive dynamic of God’s love — the fact that the gospel message is open to all who will receive it.
While marriage is designed to illustrate the restrictive nature of God’s covenant love for His people, singleness can beautifully display the treasured truth that God’s love is open to all. His relationship quotient is never filled —there’s always room for one more. Because the friendships that singles form are not restricted in the same way that those of married people are, singles “reflect the openness of God’s love that seeks to include within the circle of fellowship those yet outside its boundaries.”1
We must never forget that the message of love in the gospel has two sides. God jealously guards and provides for His own. He chastens us as children. He reserves space for us in His everlasting kingdom. We are precious in His sight. However, if we overemphasize His exclusive love we start to think like elitists in a special Christian club.
God is also always seeking the outsiders so that they, too, can be enveloped by the fellowship of the Christian community. If, however, we overemphasize God’s inclusive love, we start to think that God is just a nice guy who will accept everyone, whether or not they believe in Him. Both sides of this mysterious love must be kept in balance, even tension. The complementary natures of marriage and singleness can help the church picture this difficult task.
By Wendy Widder, featured on "FamilyLife Today" and author of "A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles & the Church Can Live Happily Ever After" (Kregel Publications, 2003).
The wearer of six bridesmaid dresses, Wendy Widder knows the single life. She also knows the church after spending a lifetime there in both volunteer and paid positions. She believes more than ever that the two go together. Wendy is a graduate of Cedarville University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and she is currently working on a doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is the author of "Living Whole Without a Better Half" and "A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After."
1 Stanley Grenz and Roy Bell, "Betrayal of Trust: Sexual Misconduct in the Pastorate" (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1995), 71.
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