We are familiar with the “I Do” at a marriage ceremony,
but are there other “I Do’s” that we should be equally attending to?

“He’s discerning religious life.” I had no idea what that had to do with their dating relationship, but I nodded my head politely and smiled at the young couple I had come to know and love.

As we continued to talk, I learned that in addition to typical pre-marital considerations such as compatibility and timing, they were seriously asking Jesus if He was calling either of them to celibacy.

I was stunned. Here were two young people who loved each other deeply. Their relationship was marked by genuine connection and purity. Yet their love and commitment to God held a deeper grasp on their hearts than their attraction to each other. They longed to know whether their call to Christ was to be best lived out through marriage or singleness.

In the ensuing years, I have had many similar conversations with students attending a Catholic university near my home. My guess is that this is in part because their tradition not only celebrates the sanctity of marriage, but also prizes the unique intimacy with Christ and opportunities for service afforded through vowed celibacy.

These experiences (and a long history of single heroes of the faith) have raised a question in my own mind: Could it be that evangelicals have emphasized marriage over singleness as the preferred pathway to personal and ministry fulfillment?

The apostle Paul explicitly brings this subject to the forefront in 1 Corinthians 7. While clearly stating that both marriage and singleness are God-glorifying, his preference is clear:

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. . . . I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. . . . The person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better (1 Corinthians 7:32-35, 38).

The logic of this passage is compelling. A life of fulfillment, of pleasing the Lord and serving Him, is not dependent on marriage. Soul-satisfying intimacy with Christ can be fully experienced by singles. And the mandate to complete the Great Commission is the priority of every Christian, regardless of marital status. Therefore, singleness stands as a full and rich way to live in deep communion with Jesus and build His kingdom.

The Bible teaches us that not everyone will be married, and sociology reveals that there is a dramatic gender gap in the numbers of Christians in the world today. The fact that men are “failing to thrive,” in church and otherwise, is undoubtedly another issue the church must engage. But if the church is blind to this reality and celebrates marriage over singleness, we will only produce discouragement and pain.

However, if we recapture a vibrant, biblical understanding that intimacy is richly available in Christ, we can encourage an army of single Christians toward radical life with and service to God. The faith gender gap could be viewed less as a graveyard of unfulfilled longings, and more truthfully as a springboard for millions of singles giving their lives in undivided attention to rich relationship and work with Christ around the world.

It’s time to elevate a biblical vision of singleness. Let’s recognize, honor, and celebrate the unique position and effectiveness of singles at every level of church and missionary endeavors.

When it comes to a joy-filled life with Christ and the spread of the gospel, saying “I do” to singleness can be the best choice of all.


Del Fehsenfeld III is the Senior Editor of Revive magazine.