I have a history of feeling guilty for things I don’t really need to.
I have been known to stress about how I prioritize my life. I worry that I spend too much time working or with Patrick or with friends or with family and not enough time with God or any other permutation of combinations of those things.
Yesterday, in church, we were continuing to study 1 Corinthians and we are currently on chapter 7, which is quintessentially the sex and relationships chapter. There is a lot of good stuff in the chapter (in fact, we only covered about half of it and will finish the rest next week), but the things that struck me weren’t the ones that you often hear quoted or misquoted.
Lots of people quote Paul saying the whole “I wish all of you were as I am” spiel, where he refers to his current unmarried state. I kind of always assumed he was just being all Sheldon Cooper-esque and pointing out for whatever reason he felt compelled that he wasn’t really that interested in those sorts of relationships.
Interestingly, the bit I never really noticed or paid attention to before comes a bit later (this is where my mind blowing started).
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. -1 Corinthians 7:32-35
This actually works with what Paul was saying earlier on.
He was saying (1 Corinthians 7:7) he wishes everyone was single. Not because he wants everyone to be alone or what have you, but because of the impact of a marriage relationship on ministry and service.
This isn’t saying married people don’t serve God. Or that marriage is dishonouring to God.
All you have to do is look back to Genesis and see that God put the whole thing together pretty intentionally. And really, God is the original writer who started with the use of all kinds of literary tools, metaphors and the like to paint a pictures. Marriage is an illustration of the union of Christ and the church, a loving relationship that can help us to understand God’s love for us. All that good stuff.
But, when God puts us in a marriage relationship, there is a oneness, a dependence. As stated earlier in this passage, the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa. They are to please and love one another above others.
Makes sense. But, do we really do that? Have you hurt or left out your spouse? Have you put your needs above his or her’s? I sure have.
We aren’t perfect. Our spouses aren’t perfect. And God knows that. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive.
This is where the statements I quoted come in.
When we are married, we are supposed to have a strong focus on our spouses, on our families. God set things up in that way. We can minister together. We still focus on God. But clearly, family is important.
Our attentions are divided.
And that is a fact.
I have never really processed that this is acknowledged in the Bible before. I know that marriage is a tool in ministry and such, but I was under the impression that focusing on caring for my spouse was taking the place of God. And it can if that is an idol. But really, caring for one’s spouse is God-honouring. And it is expected.
The thing Paul is pointing out here is that people who are single can focus solely on God. They don’t have to worry about a spouse and the concerns that come from raising a family (theoretically, though this is not always true). Thus, for Paul, this is better because that means more people fully devoted to Kingdom purposes.
It was the first time that I realized that Paul wasn’t necessarily saying marriage is just for the weak. Or that being single is really the best way to go. I always found it contradictory. When really, marriage is sacred.
It is okay to focus on your family. So long as it is in a God-honouring way. And so long as God still gets your attention too. But, it doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war.
Some good food for thought.