Tuesday, February 3, 2009
1 Corinthians 7:32-40 Marriage? Not really.
Paul on marriage
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.
If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.
A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
Comments: First of all, despite the heading some editor has given this passage it is NOT about marriage, certainly not marriage as it is lived out in our society. It is about anxiety. Paul believed that the end time was coming soon, within his lifetime. He basically wanted the followers of the Way of Jesus to be content with what they were and what they had because he believed all was passing away. Marriage in Mediterranean society was based upon easing the male sex drive. Young men and women were seen as incapable of sexual discipline and were married soon after puberty to provide a proper outlet.
Paul’s advice for us today is still important, however. Because we have embraced a God who loves us and cares for us, the anxiety that permeates the get-ahead motivations of our present society should not direct our lives. I am not a pie-in-the-sky Christian. I believe that Christ has already come and that we are called to live out the security of Christ’s saving love in ours. This means that we neither have to worry about getting ahead, nor do we have to worry about the world coming to end. We can live in relationships that are based in love and not necessarily in sex. Over the past 100 years we in the Western culture have come to a new understanding of sex. However, we have not yet dealt with a new ethic of sexual behavior. The emerging Church is going to have to come to some important decisions about how humanity is to order our sexual feelings so that we can respect others.
Should we marry? Of course, if the relationship is one that is based in the love of God. Should we live alone? Of course, if that is how one can live out the love of God. Sexual promiscuity, inappropriate relations between adults and children and unequal power relationships do not proclaim God’s generosity and delight in the sexual relationship. Marriage is not about living out roles. It is the God-given ability to surrender to the partner at all levels of the relationship, while both surrender to God.