On day 17, we looked at Paul’s discussion of physical fasting from certain married privileges as an act of spiritual discipline. Today’s reading is a continuation of the same passage where Paul is pleading his case for the advantages of being single as opposed to being married. And while this may seem less than relevant to married believers, the last section of the text carries a lot of weight for all believers.
I Corinthians 7:25-31NIV
25 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. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 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.
29 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; 30 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; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
The “present crisis” of which Paul speaks in verse 26 is probably the rampant sexuality of the city of Corinth and its influence on the Corinthian church. He is reminding the believers that having a spouse creates additional responsibility and obligations that could hinder one’s ability to completely pursue Christ. And regardless of Paul’s personal views on marriage, verses 29-31 stand alone. Take a moment and re-read them.
When I was single, at one point, I was pretty rigorous about exercise. I was running several miles several times a week, and on the days I did not run I was doing push ups, sit ups, and other toning exercises. But when I became married, it wasn’t long before I was complacent and the additional responsibilities of married life made regular exercise more of a challenge.
I think that is essentially the point Paul is making here about how marriage can affect our faith. Regardless of our circumstances, whether we are married or single, happy or sad, wealthy or poor, we should not let our circumstances get in the way of the calling we have to follow Christ. We live in a culture that revels in taking breaks. We like to treat ourselves to this or that, and we even buy ourselves our own Christmas presents, don’t we? We find reasons to stop doing something, usually reasons that have to do with our circumstances or our “stuff”. We like to say, “I don’t need to do what is calling me to do today because I’m mourning a loss, or I just got a promotion, or my wife is ill, or I need to fix my car…”
So basically, Paul is saying, don’t let our stuff, even our marriages, get in the way of being the people Christ is calling us to be. In the season of Lent, hopefully, we’ve agreed to say “no” to certain worldly pleasures so that we can be more faithful to God. What has God been calling you to do that you’ve put on hold because the circumstances have not been right?