Friday, March 1, 2013

Better to Be Single or Married? OR Why I Don't Believe Much of 1 Corinthians 7

Get ready to shoot me because in this post I criticize something written by Paul the Apostle & challenge the idea that everything in the NT is true. Time to crack the head of the whole 'Paul said it was better to be single' thing in 1 Corinthians 7. Several times Paul says he is only expressing his opinion on the matter.

V6 Paul said, "I say these things by permission" Meaning God gave him the freedom to say them but did not command him to say them.
V7 Paul says, "I wish that all men could be single as I myself am."
V12 Paul says, "I'm saying this, not the Lord.."
V25 Paul says, "I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion.."
V32 Paul says, "I want you to be free from concern.."
V40 Paul says, "In my opinion a woman is happier if she remains unmarried"

I'll be honest, in this chapter Paul uses some very non-relational language particularly in verses 23-25. Those of us who are happily married & have children may find what he says distasteful, upsetting, & sad. At the end Paul says, "this has been my opinion but I think that I also have the Spirit of God." You sure do Paul, that's why God had you make it clear that you were expressing your opinion rather than His. God loves marriages & children. He loves us through them & even pictures His relationship with us as both the Father's children & Jesus's bride.

In verse 7 Paul says His singleness is a "gift from God" & that other people have different gifts from God. Of course a good wife or a good husband is a gift from God as well (Proverbs 18:22). Romans 12:6 says, "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us." Grace means "favor." Grace is God's love for you. "We have gifts that differ according to the love given to us by God." This means God looks at who we are & what we like. As a lovingly wise Father He gives gifts to His children according to their personalities. Because God's children are not all the same He loves each one of us differently for our benefit & enjoyment. So it is not better to be single but neither is it better to be married. What is best is what is best for you & your Father knows what is best for you. Despite the insistence of religion God doesn't force you to be something you don't want to be. If you trust God you'll get what you want whether to stay single or get married..

If you're a romantic that wants to ruffle some one's feathers, next time someone asks you if you believe in the whole bible or that the whole bible is inerrant just say, "No. I don't believe in parts of 1 Corinthians 7." I sure don't. So while this is a portion of scripture not written by the Holy Spirit at the same time it, to me at least, verifies that the Spirit wrote through Paul at other times. Why do I think this? Because Paul on his own had a very low opinion of marriage making it sound as if loving your spouse was somehow not also loving God at the same time, or that it limited how much you could love God. Yet later on in Ephesians 5 Paul writes by the Spirit about the eternal parallel of marriage & the relationship & love Jesus has with His people. Regarding that relationship He speaks of self-giving love, seeing each other as perfect & pure, voluntary cooperation, healing, respect, regard, rejoicing in the truth together, caring for one another & cherishing one another.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35, "One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord."

Surprisingly Paul gets super religious here. Paul was wrong. He was short sighted, perhaps because he wasn't married at the time he wrote this. It DOES please the Lord for you to please your wife or your husband. Pleasing the Lord & pleasing your spouse aren't two separate things, they aren't divided into different categories. In chapter 13 Paul writes "love is not self-seeking." We know that God is love. Thus "things of the Lord" regard loving people. His #1 desire is that we trust Him & love one another. That is why Jesus repeatedly prayed for us in John 17 to be one as He & the Father are one. In marriage two become one. It is the ultimate relationship to accomplish the mutual love for one another that Jesus desired we have.

Paul makes it sound like it is impossible to be as "devoted to the Lord" while being married. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 gives us many reasons why "Two are better than one" & that "a cord of three strands is not quickly broken" referring to two people & the Lord. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). Marriage itself & loving your children are ways to be devoted to the Lord. Your family is not distractions to the Lord as Paul so inappropriately says they are. They are an avenue to His fatherly heart. I'm very surprised that, at this point in his life, Paul thought that people we love stand in the way of our devotion to the Lord. The fact is devotion to the Lord is devotion to people.

In V34 Paul even seems to suggest that a married woman's body is "less holy" than a virgin's. Wow.. Thankfully God only let Paul's opinions loose in this one place & by considering that fact we can learn a few things.

1 comment:

  1. I Sure felt Paul had a problem. The system of the Roman catholic church ordering obedience comes from Paul.