Jesus’ reflections on marriage and singleness from the Gospels
A lot of churches treat their singles ministries as little more than sanctified substitutes for singles bars. I know of one church that called its adult social group “Pairs and Spares,” leaving you to think the people who are single are the spares—not a great start to equipping people for mission and discipleship.
The assumption is that marriage is the only way to live a full and happy life, a myth that leads to a lot of confusion and pain. And Jesus, who was single himself, taught explicitly against this idea throughout the Gospels—so strongly, in fact, that if you didn’t know better, you’d be tempted to think he was disparaging marriage.
“And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’” —Mark 3:31–35
What is going on here? Did Jesus not love his mother and brothers? Did he not identify with them?
Of course he did. But he was using this opportunity to teach something very important: He had a family more important than even his biological one. In his death and resurrection, he was creating a forever family that would overshadow even the bonds of biology.
The nuclear family may be the building block of our society, but it is not the center of God’s kingdom:
“And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’” —Mark 12:18–25
In heaven, there will be no marriage or biological family. That’s not to say we will have lost our need for companionship or that it will then be OK to be alone; it’s that God will deal with our aloneness in a new and better way.
Marriage, you see, is not God’s ultimate plan for dealing with loneliness; and so, whomever we’re married to down here, we won’t be married to them up there. According to Jesus, we won’t be married at all.
Jesus asserts in Mark 12 the radical idea that marriage is not ultimate, proven by the fact we don’t take it with us in the resurrection. That means these relationships now—mother and brother and wife and husband—are only temporary. The relationships you form in the body of Christ, however, are permanent.
The Bible also says in Luke 11:27–28:
“As [Jesus] said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”
How awesome would it be to have Jesus in your ancestry tree? I’d be working that into any conversation I could: “My uncle, who is Jesus, by the way, once told me …”
Jesus says that being his brother or his mom is not that big of a deal, but being united to him by baptism and having his Spirit dwelling in you is a huge deal. Those who obey the Word of God are more blessed and precious to him than even his own biological mother!
Christopher Yuan, a Christian author who is single, says, “Our earthly families are temporarily bound by blood, but the family of God is eternally bound by the blood of the lamb.”
If you’re single, I know you often hear messages about how marriage completes people. I’m sure you’ve even heard it in the church. But that is a deeply-held myth that is dispelled throughout the Bible. Even in the Old Testament, Isaiah prophesied that in the coming kingdom of the Messiah, unmarried people would be blessed alongside those who are married. In the Messiah, they will be given an eternal inheritance independent of children or family.
In the Messiah, any curse is removed, and singleness is no longer a stigma. In Jesus, you may lack a physical family, but you are woven into God’s forever family.
This article originally appeared on JDGreear.com and is reposted here by permission.