(1 Corinthians 7:8-16)
This section of scripture gives some great advice to those who are married or contemplating marriage. It also talks to issues of divorce, and unlike the views of some churches, divorce and separation are permitted. They are not steps a married couple should take lightly, but there is a reason why in some circumstances it may be the best option.
This section also provides advice to Christian couples as to courses of action in their marriage under different situations, and it looks at situations where both partners in the marriage are not Christians.
Paul's advice to those who are single or widowed is that if they are able, they should remain single rather than seeking to be married.
He does not say this because he is anti-marriage. Far from it! But what Paul is seeking is that the people are not distracted from a full and complete devotion to the Lord.
There is one priority that exists for all people and that is to find and follow Jesus Christ. It is only be giving ourselves completely to Jesus that we can receive all the promises of God and find the fullness of what He offered us.
A person who is single is not going to be distracted by a marriage partner who will at times make claims on their time, devotion and needs. This then enables them to better serve the Lord because they will not be in a position where their attentions are divided.
However Paul also makes the concession that not everyone is able to live the single life. It is a natural thing for a man or a woman to be attracted to each other. And this is also the will of God, for it was God who established marriage and that a man should be joined to a wife and so the two become one.
Paul knew well that there is nothing wrong with marriage, and he was not suggesting that to be the case. He specifically said that anyone who was single and felt strongly towards someone else, then they should enter into marriage. The man and woman should get married for it would be better than to be tempted to sexual immorality an dot have their minds distracted through being aflame with passion.
His suggestion for singles was that if they were in control of their passions and their natural desires were not distracting them, then they would do better by remaining single.
As for those who are married, Paul's advice was that if at all possible they should remain married and not seek separation or divorce.
Paul knew, as all of us who are married know, that in a marriage there are rocky times. There are times when the partners do not agree about some things and there are arguments. And sometimes these issues may reach a point where one or the other of the two in the marriage may consider separation and divorce.
Such things do not promote the love of the Lord and distract the husband and wife in the marriage from walking properly with the Lord.
Married couples were permitted to divorce under the laws of Moses. But in Christ Jesus where both partners are Christians it would be better if they can seek to find solutions to their differences. Christians in a marriage should be seeking to walk in the spirit, walking in love with one another and being sensitive to the needs of their partner. They need to be Good Samaritans within the marriage to each other, bearing one another up and helping the other when one is down.
This is the hope of a Christian marriage; that the marriage will be a three way partnership that includes husband, wife and Jesus Christ.
That is why Paul recommends married Christians to not seek separation or divorce but rather seek to resolve their differences through seeking the insight and wisdom of the Lord and by looking to Him for help.
If for some reason they cannot make it work though, the option of separation or divorce is still available. But he recommends that if they do separate they should not seek another partner, which may lead to the same or other problems, but rather seek to reconcile with their partner if possible or remain single. It may be they just need some breathing space to work things out.
Finally we see the last category of marriage where the marriage is one that is mixed. That is, one partner is a Christian but the other partner is not.
This is more difficult because when or if issues arise the husband and wife cannot come together to the Lord to seek the resolutions. The Christian partner can certainly pray over the matter but if the other partner is the problem they may be hard pressed to realise where the issue lies.
Paul's advice is that they should not separate or divorce provided that the unbelieving partner consents to living with the believing partner. If the unbelieving partner is prepared to accept the faith of the other partner, then they should try to make a go of the marriage. But if the unbelieving partner cannot accept this and they wish to separate or divorce, then do it. Let them divorce or separate.
In the long run if the unbelieving partner cannot or will not accept the faith stand of the Christian partner, it will create issues in the marriage and it is better that there be no worldly distractions, arguments and fighting for the sake of the marriage as well as the individuals in the marriage.
While these two are married the unbelieving partner is consecrated for the sake of the children for the children of Christians are deemed holy until the time they are able to make up their own minds to follow the Lord or not. Thus to enable them to be holy as children the Lord allows for the unbelieving partner to be covered by the faith of the Christian partner for the sake of the children.
But for the sake of peace for the Christian partner, if the unbeliever chooses to separate and divorce, the let it so be.
In all of these situations what Paul is showing us is that we need to focus our attentions on our first priority, which is to serve the Lord. Marriage is a big distraction and it can get in the way of our walk with the Lord if we let it.
We have been called to peace in Jesus Christ and if we marry or are married there will be times when our peace is disrupted by our marriage partner. And I am not just talking about fight, disagreements or arguments. We will be disrupted when they take ill and are sick. We will feel disruption when their work or hobbies get in the way. We will be disrupted when they need our attention and time for things that may not be high priorities for us but are for them. We will be disrupted by the need to care and provide for our partners and children at times.
There are many ways that married life and family life can get in the way of a pure and complete devotion to the Lord. Thus Paul says if you are able to avoid it by remaining single, then that is the best thing to do. But if you can't remain single, be aware of these issues and know that they will happen. And if the issues are so devastating or debilitating that the marriage breaks down, then be separated or get divorced because in the end we have been called to peace and there is no peace in a contentious, argumentative or even violent marriage. There is no sin in separating and divorcing.
This is good advice from Paul that we need to be aware of. Ensure at all times that you walk with the Lord and seek peace with your partner as well as peace with Jesus Christ.
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