Wednesday, October 3, 2012

1st Corinthians 7: The single's least-favorite Scripture?

I know it used to be one of my least favourite passages.  But that was because I didn't understand it and I didn't understand my position before God.  I hadn't truly been humbled before Him.  I hadn't yet said, "Not my will, but Thy will be done."

You may remember Chapter 7 of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians.  It's the chapter in which he states, among other things:

"...I wish that all men were even as I myself [that is, unmarried]." - v7a

"But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am..." - v8

"Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called." - v20

"Are you bound to a wife?  Do not seek to be loosed.  Are you loosed from a wife?  Do not seek a wife." - v27

"There is a difference between a wife and a virgin.  The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.  But she who is married cares about the things of the world--how she may please her husband." - v34

Now, while many will point out the historical significance of the text--how there was terrible persecution coming against the Church and so it was very wise counsel to the unmarried people in this church not to get married--in an effort to explain Paul's words in an historical context, rather than as having significance for us at this time, this tends to ignore his very clear statement that unmarried people are free to care completely about the things of the Lord.  They can give themselves without reserve in a way that married people cannot.

This is not in any way to condemn marriage or those who choose to marry.  As a very wise pastor once said: Singleness is not more spiritual than marriage and marriage is not more spiritual than singleness.  Rather, it is an encouragement to the single Christian.  Why the melancholy?  Why the long, sad face?  Have you not been given all things in Christ?  You are free!  Free to serve and live for Christ!  And what else is the reason for your life but to live for and serve Him?

You see, when we get the focus off of ourselves and thoughts of: When will I get married?  I'd sure like to be married.  Is Paul saying that I shouldn't ever get married?  What if my future husband reads this chapter?  When we stop thinking that way and start thinking: How may I serve God?  How may I know Him better?  How may I love others and show them Christ?  When shall I get to Heaven?  Lord, will You please save the lost?  When we get the focus off of ourselves and onto God and His agenda, then we will truly be content and at peace with Scripture--even 1 Corinthians 7--and we will be useful for God's work.

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