Summary: If a person's service to the Lord is a covenant with God, shouldn't it be a priority over everything else?
As Christians, we are called to live a very distinctive way. Being a Christian is a calling to the hard work of shaping the metal of our lives (our character) into a form that expresses God’s masterpiece within all of us. The whole letter focuses on Christian virtue and character and how transforming habits of our mind and heart will demonstrate the power and wisdom of Jesus Christ. A power and a wisdom that is often baffling to the rest of the world.
We opened the new series by reviewing our alternative worldview presented by Paul in the statement “we preach Christ crucified.” We moved on to does your life reflect the Christ in your heart? Then we began to explore “how?” How do we (you and I) act in ways that leave others in our society scratching their heads and saying, “What? Why would you do that?”
The topics of incest, lawlessness and even prostitution seem simpler to handle than the larger question of what does it mean to live as a Christian in a society that approves of anything as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. Paul had his work cut out for him as he struggled to teach this new group of believers to think differently about the more delicate issues of life where the metal of our lives is formed. It’s truly the place where theology meets real life. And there is no greater forging ground than that of our relationships with one another especially one we call marriage.
I’ll never forget a young man who was in Bible College coming home on break and asking me all kinds of questions about love, marriage and divorce. He pulled up all kinds of scripture about how divorce is wrong under any circumstances except in cases of infidelity. We discussed the topic in great length. I’ll never forget how he shared what he was going to say if someone came to him seeking a advice on a marriage issue that might lead to a divorce. Let’s just say, he was unrealistic. He’d never sat with man whose wife cheated, or woman whose husband was abusive, or a spouse with small children who was economically trapped in the legal nightmare of a separation. I shared with him the real world. We discussed real life situations and did some role plays. Marriage can be hard but it also can teach us quite a bit about what it means to be Christian in relationship.
Paul speaks to this in 1 Corinthians 7. However, Paul is not, and was not, trying to address marriage as a whole. Those who read these passages in this way do Paul and the other scriptures on this topic a great deal of dis-service. Paul was dealing with an issue of new believers and unbelieving spouses as well as what to do when one was single. He was confident in Jesus soon return so he wanted everyone to stay focused on the mission at hand. He wanted these new believers to put God first in all things in life and to consider the ramifications of marriage before consenting to move forward. Paul wants us to think before we commit. Listen to today’s scripture from 1 Cor 7:25-40:
Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.