I find it interesting that between Jesus’ teaching on marriage in Matthew 19 and Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7, each of them take a slightly different angle on it…
In Matthew 18, Jesus proclaims the utter difficulty of marriage (the requirement for hearts joined to one’s spouse that endure even the toughest situations) so much so that the disciples ask “Who in their right mind would get married if it’s that tough?” Jesus replied that some can’t, but rather dedicate themselves in a eunuch-like (read “Celibate”) devotion for the kingdom of God. Marriage is for the tough.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul approaches and proclaims his personal preference for single living. He says though, that it’s tough and temptation will arise, if you’re not tough enough for this, go ahead and marry rather than burn with passion. Celibacy is for the tough.
There are different kinds of toughness presented here, different objects of dedication. Often we in the Church tend to as married or celibate people to either proclaim our own toughness in our respective situation as a badge of honor over the other, or at best we give a kind of token pity to the other side. (I wonder how many terrible blind dates have been inflicted on Christians by well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ as a result of such pity.) We must remember, though, that Scripture declares both lifestyles as requiring toughness and dedication. They each bring their own challenges. Perhaps, rather than the pride that may come from our marital status or the pity for the other one (an alternate form of pride-“If they were only as I am”…implying my situation is better), we might embrace a heart of prayer, remembering not only the challenges the other faces but our own liabilities as well.