I’d like to share my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7 (The famous Marriage chapter), everyone should read the chapter in its entirety. However for the purpose of space and time, I’m going to highlight certain parts of the passage and hopefully paint a broader picture. As a teenager, a bit after becoming a Christian by the grace of God, some guys I would sit at a coffee shop slaving over this passage. Really though, it was them slaving over what the implication of chapter 7 was and me just listening. The main argument was: “Does God want me to marry or stay single?” Some of the guys even seemed to be wrestling with whether Paul was implying that we should all be single, and whether marriage was a good idea.
This is where context matters greatly, it can’t be that God or Paul think that marriage is the worst of all things, because the scripture begins and ends within the context of a marriage. The first was Adam and Eve, and the second is more a metaphor between the true children of God and Christ. In EHP Paul tells us men-husbands to love our wives as Christ loves the church. So, again, Paul cannot be speaking ill of the idea as a whole. At the core of chapter seven, I believe that Paul is truly speaking to a life devoted to a life of serving God and others. Which is probably why he says that sexual relations should be avoided, but because of immorality a man must have a wife of his own and vice versa. Not that thinks that sex is evil or anything of the sort.
Hopping down to verse eight, Paul says 8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Paul says that it is good to stay as he is (single) why? Because he thinks marriage is wrong? No, otherwise he would be going against scripture its self. Rather (I believe) that he is in one way saying that it’s difficult, and that a person will be torn between serving God and their spouse. I like many other scholars probably think he (Paul) was married before and experienced his own hardship within a marriage, and when he first tasted the goodness and grace of God. From that that point on he was one hundred percent sold for the cause of Christ. Which is great! Furthermore, there might be lessons in this too, perhaps Paul found a peace and contentment with God and self that he could never find in a woman, no, Paul isn’t some bitter woman hater, but he found a mission and calling much bigger than anything else in his life. I also believe that he might be implying that human marriage is temporary and Christ is forever. Even though in my heart I long to be married and a father, the end for me is eternity with Christ. My future wife and I will fight, I’ll fail as a husband and father and my kids will not listen to me.
So is it still worth it? Or should I just become a monk? Yes its worth it! Become a monk? Maybe, if after a lot of prayer I realized that that’s where God had me headed. Looking back at the coffee shop scene from the beginning, people were really only making what the apostle Paul was saying more difficult than it had to be. Relationally speaking, we Christians can make the realm of relationships all the more difficult. In my junior year of college, I asked a young woman out for a simple cup of coffee, and her response was “I need to ask God about that first”. Now, there’s nothing wrong with seeking God on things in life, but at the same time, it wasn’t like I was going to ask the girl to marry me or anything, it was just a cup of coffee! Paul says in verse 8, that it is better to marry than to burn with passion. That’s one indication that you should thoughtfully and prayerfully peruse that avenue, if on the other hand you do not burn with passion. Then keeping being you, becoming more content, happier, healthier serving God and others.
Perhaps that burning passion will come later in life, none the less though, in verse seventeen Paul says: 17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. Live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them. In one sense, Paul might be making a subtle reference to the ever quoted Phil 4:13, which says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Paul wasn’t referring to be able to be Peter Pan and fly, but rather to be content and endure whatever context that he finds himself in. Secondly, Paul uses the word Assigned and my estimation this is a very big and crucial world, why? Because being the Calvinist that I am, I then believe that God has already laid everything out before us for our lives. I’m sure that some might argue with me on this point, and that’s fine. In that same vein of thought, The Lord knows whether one will stay single or Marry.
The best thing that we can do is to not only trust him, but seek him daily. It’s also a sobering reality, that even those of us who burn with passage, don’t always get the desires of our hearts granted always. This can also spill over into other areas of our lives as well. This is a profound mystery, that I will more than likely not understand this side of life. Yet, I will holdfast to the reality that God has loved us madly through his son Jesus. And that is far better and sweeter than anything in life. Simply, because you’re single, does not mean you are missing or lacking anything in life. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. So smile, be vibrant and enjoy your life. Keep working on yourself, readying oneself for the reality of maybe one day being a husband or wife. To the married (I’m saying this as a single man, having never been married- go figure). Marriage in the Christian sense, is a sanctifying experience, you will see each- others flaws in ways you never dreamt, and you will have to forgive each other the same way that Christ has forgiven us for our sins. But it is beautiful and worth it in the end.