Joining a gym won’t instantly transform your physique. Starting a blog won’t immediately make you a good writer. Purchasing a piano won’t make you a musician. The same principle is true for marriage. Getting married will not make you a good spouse or a better person.
When I was single, I thought marriage might be the magic bullet. I believed that it would miraculously transform me. I assumed I would suddenly possess a new measure of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that I had not yet known or experienced as a single man. I believed that once I said, “I do,” I would see the world through a different lens and become a responsible and loving man — a responsible and loving husband.
I probably would have denied believing any of the above if you’d asked me before marriage. Privately, though, I believed that marriage was the missing link on my journey to Christlikeness. I could not have been more wrong.
Marriage will not instantly change you. It will only expose what was already inside of you.
Killing Sin While You’re Single
Some Christian singles live lives of passivity. Often there is little to no accountability in their lives. Therefore, secret sins survive and corrupt. Singles indulge in different kinds of sexual immorality, give little to nothing of themselves to the church, scarcely attend Sunday worship, spend their free time idly, rarely read the Bible or pray, and pay little attention to the sin that still abounds in their heart. Much of this was true for me in my singleness.
But as newlyweds, an uncomfortable truth is discovered: The single you still resides inside of the married you. If you’re lazy, irresponsible, selfish, prideful, greedy, and/or lustful when you’re single, you will be just as (or more) lazy, irresponsible, selfish, prideful, greedy, and/or lustful after you say I do.
It is essential that we not put off the practice of watching and killing sin in our lives. The sins that entangle you, as a single, will inevitably continue to entangle you in marriage. Nevertheless, singles shouldn’t kill sin simply because you want to be good spouses; you should kill it because you want to live happy and holy lives, whatever your marital status.
Paul warns everyone that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and that we should be about the business of putting to death “what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5). This command is not simply for the married, but for the unmarried as well. If you don’t kill sin now, it will kill you later, unless you repent.
Don’t Put Off the Killing of Sin
Paul also uncovers the great danger in putting off the practice of killing known sin in our lives:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. . . .
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. . . .
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness. . . . Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:24–32)
God gave them up because “they knew God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die” but continued in these things instead of repenting. While this passage addresses sexual immorality, it clearly also includes gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.
This passage is a warning to us all, especially to single people, of the risk in putting off (for whatever reason) the killing of sin. I say especially to single people because you’re living without the day-in, day-out accountability of a spouse. It is a dangerous thing to be given over to your sin. It is frightening to know that we can one day reach a point where we’re unable to see the suicidal foolishness of our transgressions.
The Grass Is Truly Greener in Jesus
We’ve all heard the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” The saying is meant to address mankind’s discontentment with his or her current position or plight. We all think that we’d be happier if we were in a different set of circumstances. The same is true for our marital status. Most of us know singles who want to be married or married people who want to be single again. Why? We think our current state of discontentment is external rather than internal.
Discontentment with present circumstances is near the root of every single person’s expectation that marriage will instantly change them. Marriage has gradually become their Holy Spirit and the wedding day has become their Pentecost. But after the wedding day has passed and the honeymoon phase fades — they discover the ceremony lacks the saving and sanctifying power they need, and they’re still the same sinful person they were when they were single.
It is spiritually and eternally irresponsible to put off the business of killing sin as a single — in hopes that a different life (marriage) will make one holier and happier. Only Jesus can make us happy. Regardless of our current circumstances, the grass can be greener with Jesus. Run to him. Repent of your sins. Drink from the only fountain that can quench the thirst that is inside of us all.
No, marriage will not instantly change you. God, because of Christ and through his Holy Spirit, will change you when you’ve surrendered yourself to him, whether married or unmarried.
Phillip Holmes is a staff writer and content strategist at desiringGod.org. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife Jasmine.