Summary: The one thing that is clear in the Bible is that divorce is never the best way to go. Divorce is negative. Nobody ever rejoices that a divorce is a part of their life.
Dave Howell, The World Service Secretary Of The YMCA, was going to give a speech on his
experience in Liberia. There were three speakers before him, and the first mentioned that Howell
had come from Libya to be there, instead of Liberia. Howell whispered to the next speaker that he
would appreciate it if he could correct the mistake.
This second man rose to speak, and referred to Mr. Howell, there guest from Nigeria. Howell
nudged the speaker who was to officially introduce him, and reminded him to set the record straight.
The gentleman nodded, and rose to introduce him. He said, "Now it is my pleasure to present Dave
Howell from Siberia." There are some situations where it is so hard to set the record straight,
because you cannot get people to be accurate by focusing on details.
Agassiz, the Swiss Naturalist, was one of the world's best teachers, and many of his students
became famous, because his first lesson was on detail. New students would come to his study, and
he would give them a fish in a jar. He would tell them to observe it, and he would be back. He
would be gone for hours, and the student had nothing to do but watch that fish, and count the bones
in the fins, and the number of scales. They would get disgusted and discouraged, but when the
professor returned, he did not relieve them of their task of observing. For three days they spent
hours looking at that fish, and they learned the knack of careful observation of all detail, and the rest
of their lives were benefited, and they went on to become the best in their field.
If you want to be the best at anything, you have got to be an observer of detail. This is not the
same as being picky, and a person who is devoted to the trivial. Paul warned about getting all hung
up on foolish questions dealing with genealogies. There is also the folly of dwelling on detail. Like
the man who said, "My wife and I had an interesting fight last night. She said it was five days since
our last fight, and I said it was four." Detail is only crucial when our understanding of more major
issues depends on our grasp of detail. This is certainly the case with this complex chapter of I Cor.
7. Paul is making all kinds of distinctions in this chapter, and if you do not give heed to detail, you
will miss the essence of his whole approach, which is, a clear recognition of individual differences.
One of the first things you learn in counseling is that people who have the same problem are
radically different. You can not deal with people like barrels on an assembly line. You have to deal
with them as persons, and to do this, you have to reject legalism as your guide. If the church would
have followed Paul in rejecting legalism, and have dealt with people as individuals, there would
never have been the dark ages of the church, and the folly that has done so much harm to God's
Just one illustration out of many dozens reveals the point. St. Benedict, as a youth of 16, fought
off lust for a beautiful maiden. So determined was he, that he cast off his simply garment, and threw
himself into a thicket of brambles and nettles. He thrashed and rolled until his body was lacerated
from head to foot. This crude, but successful, method of conquering the flesh made him a hero, and
he founded a monastery, and gained a great following, and did great things for the kingdom of God.
So far so good, but the church officials said, "What is good for St. Benedict is good for everybody,"
and they passed a law that said all priests were to abstain from sex. They were not to marry, or if
they were married, they were to stop sleeping with their wives. All clergy were to be celibate, or
lose their office. Some actually were successful. One holy man kept his wife at a distance for years,
and when she approached him on his death bed to see if he was still breathing, he gathered up his
strength and said, "Woman depart! Take away the straw, for there is yet fire here."
The tragedy, however, is that this legalism forced the non-gifted to live a life they were not fit for.
The result was centuries of Christian scandal. By forcing everyone to be celibate, they made a
mockery of all the Bible teaches about sex. Sex starved priests, by the thousands, who could have
been happily married, were visiting prostitutes, sleeping with parishioners, making all kinds of
arrangements with nuns, and, at one point in the tenth century, the Archbishop of Sens had the entire