Working with singles has been one of my greatest joys and challenges in over ten years of pastoral ministry.

On this journey, I have often felt that the present, unfolding urban culture demands that we develop a robust theology of singleness. 

India is urbanising rapidly, with a distinct post-modern hue. This present cultural moment demands that we all understand our place at this intersection of singleness, the gospel, and Indian culture.

It is not only singles who need this theology. Married couples need it too. In fact, couples often underestimate how much they need a good theology of singleness.

Here are five reflections that may help you find your place.

1. Nearly Half of Us Will Experience Singleness for Extended Seasons in Life

We tend to think of singleness mostly as only a young person’s reality. This is short-sighted. 

If you are married, there is a 50 percent probability you will experience singleness towards the end of your life.

In every marriage, one spouse will leave his or her earthly home, to go be with the Lord first. This will leave the other person single—perhaps for a few short years, or maybe longer.

If we do not develop a biblical theology of singleness now, we may struggle later.

There is another reason the Indian church must apply herself more to understanding and ministering to singles.

India is becoming increasingly urban. One-third of India’s population lives in cities now. By 2050, half of India or about 800 million people will be in cities.

If we do not develop a biblical theology of singleness now, we may struggle later.

As India urbanises, singles will take longer to get married. Education is taking longer, careers are becoming more demanding, and real estate costs are rising. It will be so much harder to get married and set up a home in a city.

We must not underestimate the significant missional and pastoral care implications of this global urban reality.

2. The Indian Church Must Rediscover the Bible’s High View of Singleness

From the time of creation, the Bible celebrates marriage as a high calling. To be single in the Old Testament Jewish culture was to dishonour God’s command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:22).

But in the New Testament, with the establishment of the church as a spiritual family, singleness is also elevated to a high calling. The apostle Paul makes a strong case of why singles can be more devoted in their service to the Lord (1 Cor. 7).

In this chapter, Paul almost makes it seem that singleness is the preferred state for a Christian. Marriage is a concession only for those who are unable to remain single.

The early church’s high view of singleness is remarkable for many reasons.

In that Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures, producing an heir through marriage was of high importance. Without an heir, there was no honour, meaning, value, or purpose to life. 

Indian culture idolises marriage too. Even the church does this to some extent.

The only place Indian culture tolerates singleness is when a person withdraws from society and pursues an ascetic life. Singles have little to no value in mainstream society.

Singleness is a virtue only if we live it unselfishly—in devotion to God, and for the greater good of the church and society.

Only the Bible teaches us that you can be single, live in society, be joyful and fruitful, and have meaning, value, worth, and significance.

Moreover, only the Bible offers a spiritual family, even greater than the biological family, where singles can also find deep joy, comfort, and fulfilment.

From a missional perspective, we must celebrate this hope that singles have in Christ.

If urban India is going to have more and more singles, then single India needs the hope of the gospel more and more.

3. Singles Need to Reject the Culture’s Idea of Singleness and Embrace the Biblical Paradigm of It

Singleness, in itself, is not a virtue. Singleness is a virtue only if we live it unselfishly—in devotion to God, and for the greater good of the church and society.

On the other hand, if we see and enjoy singleness merely as freedom from commitment—as it often is in urban cultures—it is nothing but a cop-out.

Often, singleness is the direct fallout of a selfish and idolatrous pursuit of career success. There is no time for anything else.

Others slip into the hook-up culture, occasionally dipping into open-ended romantic and sexual flings without the covenantal commitment of marriage.

The other-minded singleness the Bible celebrates is very different from the self-centred singleness that is becoming popular in urban India.

There are two questions that every follower of Christ will do well to reflect on: “Why am I single?” and “What am I doing with my singleness?”

4. The Bible’s High View of Singleness Offers Great Hope in Christ for Those Who May Be Same-sex Attracted

Homosexuality is a departure from God’s creation design of a man and woman coming together in marriage. God only designed two diverse people—male and female—to come together in marriage. Homosexuality or same-sex people trying to become one, was a sin that came after the fall.

The root Hebrew word for iniquity is avah. It means ‘twisted out of shape.’ Sadly, sin and the fall have twisted all human beings such that all creation is out of shape.

All of us are sexual sinners and the fall has affected all our sexual desires, twisting them out of shape.

In humanity’s ongoing state of avah, we are all born sinful into a fallen world (Ps. 51:5). For some, this may manifest in same-sex attraction from birth.

There are some whose same-sex attraction is so strong and clear from birth that they may never be able to love, marry, and enjoy sexual intimacy with the opposite sex.

What hope does Jesus Christ offer for such same-sex attracted individuals?

Since the Bible upholds singleness as a high virtue and as a worthy, valuable, fruitful, and meaningful state of life, same-sex attracted Christians can honour Christ by choosing celibacy.

All of us are sexual sinners and the fall has affected all our sexual desires, twisting them out of shape.

In their singleness, they may never be able to experience biological family, but they can experience the love, joy, and comfort of the spiritual family of Christ, the church.

Every church should be a safe haven, a place of refuge, and a place of succour and strength for same-sex attracted men and women, helping them live a holy and celibate life sanctified to Jesus Christ.

For far too long, Christians have fallen into two opposite errors. The first error is of being harsh, condemning, judgmental and homophobic. The second and opposite error is being too liberal and joining urban culture in endorsing same-sex marriages.

Both are unbiblical. What we need is the fruit of the gospel, where grace and holiness, as well as truth and love are offered simultaneously and unwaveringly.

5. Christ was Single. He is Now Betrothed and Waiting.

In Christ, singles have a faithful and merciful high priest who can empathise with them.

When singles come to Christ with aching hearts, they are not coming to a cold and distant Saviour who has never experienced loneliness. They are coming to a Saviour who experienced far greater loneliness and alienation than they could ever imagine.

In Christ, grieving singles can find empathy and comfort

But that is not all. Christ also offers strength to those who are waiting.

Christ is waiting for us, his bride. So, we too can find the strength to wait for him, our bridegroom Messiah.

Till Christ comes again, singleness and marriage are both different and interdependent pathways that lead to the same ultimate goal—the creation of a Christ-displaying gospel community.

Singles and married couples will learn much from each other in every healthy gospel community.

When singles look at godly couples who prioritise both the biological family and the spiritual family well, they will learn to de-idolise both singleness and marriage.

When married couples look at godly singles who serve Christ devotedly and joyfully, they will de-idolise marriage.

But here is the beauty of both singles and married couples flourishing together in the local church.

When someone who is not a follower of Christ walks in to see both singles and married couples full of joy in Christ, and creating a new community of serving one another, they are also drawn to faith in Christ.