Summary: The major theme of social questions has always been, and will always be, how do I relate to the opposite sex. You cannot escape these issues, for they are like the air we breathe, and are everywhere present.
John Woolman, the Quaker, demonstrated the power of the
question to change lives. In the 18th century many of the
wealthy Quakers were slave holders. He was convinced this
was inconsistent with Christian compassion, and he vowed
he would rid the Quakers of this terrible blight. His strategy
was not to picket, or hold rallies. He did not publish
vindictive sermons against slavery, and those who practiced
it. Instead, he spent 30 years traveling up and down the
length of the land visiting the slave holders. He would
accept their hospitality, and ask them questions about how it
felt, as a child of God, to own slaves. He did not condemn,
but just kept asking disturbing questions.
What does owning slaves do to you as a moral
person? What kind of an institution are you passing on to
your children? These honestly asked questions sensitized the
conscience of the Quakers, and brought forth something
noble in their hearts. The result: One hundred years before
the Civil War not a single Quaker held slaves. By means of
questions Woolman changed the course of history for his
Robert Louis Stevenson was right when he said, "You
start a question and its like starting a stone from on top of a
hill; away the stone goes, starting others." Questions are the
key to education. Every student needs to ask questions to
learn. Every teacher needs to ask questions to teach
effectively. The Bible is full of questions that have changed
lives and history. Paul asked on the Damascus Road, "Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do?" The answer has changed the
entire world. The Philippian jailer asked, "What must I do
to be saved?" The answer of believing on the Lord Jesus
Christ led him and millions since into the kingdom of God.
Jesus was a Master at the art of using questions. To the
group of His disciples he would ask, "Who do men say that I
am?" Then He would draw from them what they had
heard, and by so doing keep His finger on the pulse of the
times. To Peter He asked, "Lovest thou me more than
these?" And by this got Peter's personal commitment.
After His parables, He would often ask the Pharisees
questions like, "Who then was truly a neighbor to the one
who fell among thieves?" Or, "Now which of them will love
Him more?" Jesus was using questions all the time.
The point is, questions are vital to growth. They get us
into new territory. This whole chapter of I Cor. 7 is the
result of questions the Corinthian Christians asked Paul.
Paul is here being the Ann Landers, and Dear Abby of the
early church. They are constantly being asked questions
about the male and female relationship. It just goes to show
you, no matter how much things change, they are still the
same. The questions asked of Paul 2000 years ago were the
same questions that are asked everyday in advice columns.
The reason for this is simple, no matter how much
technology changes human life, it does not change the basic
problems of the male-female relationship. The computer
does not change the fact that they still love each other, lust
for each other, and in varying degrees, hate each other.
Progress has not changed this one iota.
The major theme of social questions has always been,
and will always be, how do I relate to the opposite sex. You
cannot escape these issues, for they are like the air we
breathe, and are everywhere present. It is part of the human
environment, and even monks who live in the desert discover
that one of their biggest problems is the battle with the issue
of sex. Nobody escapes. I Cor. 7 leads us into the universal
topic man is capable of considering. It is the battle of the
sexes. This is one of the most complex battles of life, and the
result is, we see Paul being more flexible and more cautious
in this chapter than anywhere else in his epistles. He makes
clear the distinction between what is God's command, and
what is his own conviction.
Paul was an idealist, and he could conceive of ways that
life could be better, but he was also a realist who knew life
was not that way, and so we see him operating on two
different levels right from the start. His first piece of advice
sets the tone for the whole chapter. He starts off with this
lofty statement, "It is well for a man not to touch a woman."
He is not referring to Typhoid Mary either, but to all
women. But then, as if to say, I know that is like asking a
fish not to touch water, he goes on to deal with how men