Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1 Corinthians 7 -- Marriage

I find it interesting that Paul would write about something like marriage. This is a passage where I think we need to have a pretty active filter toward Paul and his writing. So much so, that even Paul emphasizes some of the material is from him and not the Lord. Having said that, there are some things is this section of scripture that can be hard to get our minds around. To help generate some understanding there needs to be some background information.

The most important thing to remember has to do with belief about the return of Jesus. Paul and almost all followers of Christ believed Jesus would return in their lifetime. There was a heightened sense of being short-timers before the Kingdom of God would be fully realized. This informs the statements about staying in the situations you are in. Too, it informs the statements about issues of marriage, re-marriage, and other remaining single. To many in the time of Paul's writing there was no need to worry about such things because Christ was going to return any day now. Issues of marriage and life status just were unimportant.

We must also look at the bias Paul himself puts on the table. He is a single man, and thinks this is the preferable situation for a follower of Christ, to be single. It is clear Paul saw marriage as a distraction to following after God. No wonder he was not married. I think Paul's own feelings and context make it difficult for him to have a clear thought on the issue.

So what are we to do today? What about this issue of marriage, and remarriage, and staying single? What may seem like a non confrontation answer is, we must seek after God. The reality is just like in the first century Christ could return any day, we know not the hour or day. Yet, we must live our lives following after God, not matter our feelings about when Christ will return. Marriage is a great gift of God, and if I were single, I know I could not do what I do in ministry. It is clear God has given me a partner who completes some of the areas where I am lacking. There are others who are not any more or less complete, that God has called to be single.

The issue of divorce and remarriage is always a tricky one. Here in Corinthians Paul lays out some pieces, and Jesus himself addresses some of this. The common way of going about this issue is to look for the loopholes. How can I do this or that and still be okay with God. The way I see it, God would always have a bias toward those who are being married, staying married. However, I do think there are some times when exceptions are found, and there are times when things just do not work as the idea of God. The first goal is always to keep marriages together. In cases of abuse, things must change. In cases of infidelity, things must change. Change can be a healing reconciliation, change can be the end of a marriage.

All together it is important to be careful in such a discussion. Many people have been harmed greatly by a marriage relationship. Still others have walked away simply because it got difficult. Developing hard and fast rules is dangerous. Not because God is vague on the issues, our ability to understand is the challenge. Again, I think there is a bias toward marriage, yet there are times when that might not be the most honoring situation. Always, this area must be approached with great humility, caution, and a deep connection with God.

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