Paul says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 7:27
Do not seek a wife. (NASB)
What if, like, Paul meant this.
I kind of tend to think that he did, which puts Paul a bit at odds with the view of most religious communities in our day. Typically, religious-minded folk tend to desire the reproduction of their species; that is, Evangelicals want to perpetuate the Evangelical race, Mormons want more Mormon babies, Muslims want to see more young Muslims, Patriotic Americans want to see their offspring multiply, etc., etc., etc. We like to see fresh young faces come in to the religious fold because it gives us a sense of security that our religious tradition/institution will continue after we are gone. Our lives and meaning and purpose will thus continue after death and this helps to satisfy our desire for immortality: to leave something behind that lasts.
Marriage in most religious communities is encouraged as the norm: Find a like-minded believer and settle down for a good life and make babies and train (brainwash) them in the ways of the faithful.
But, like, what if Paul meant it? What if it is truly better to be unmarried? This puts him at odds with those who peddle religion to the masses. However, it is more in line with the spirit of the prophets (including Christ), who did not see religiosity as the primary objective; they always were digging for something deeper and more pure.
Here is some of what else Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:
"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." (TNIV)
The last phrase is interesting: that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. I think this "undivided devotion" is the key to Paul's thought here: renouncing the hassle of married life for sake of devotion to the kingdom. Paul says this is the "right way," which flips the paradigm on its head. It is no longer a matter of perpetuating a religious tradition or institution; instead, the Christian life is about seizing every moment in our fleeting lives and putting it to use for Christ. This is 100% Pearl-of-Great-Price type devotion. It is rare. It is dangerous. It is risky. Paul's life was about the now. He lived this stuff and that's why he preached it.
It is far safer to make babies and pay dues to the institution than it is to renounce the things that drive us. There are many fundamental drives that marriage seems to satisfy, and this is why most get married. It is not for "love" or "friendship," etc. It is to satisfy our drives and desires: Sex, Companionship, Sex, Friendship, Sex, Security, Sex, Happiness, and Sex. This, of course, is fine for the masses. It is fine for the religious majority. I don't want to be overly critical here; I just don't want to soften what Paul says. It is clear: If you want to live undivided for the Lord then being single is the best option.
My mother, of course, would respond with something like the following:
"A Christian couple gets married because they can better serve God together than they can apart."
That's cool. And, I'm sure that this was probably true for my parents and other couples. But, let's be honest here. For most of the religious faithful, the statement my mother made is merely a cliche and an excuse to satisfy our human drives and desires. Again, that's fine for the majority. I don't mean to step on any toes. But what does irritate me a bit is when the religious mass either forgets these verses from 1 Corinthians 7 or else goes through an exegetical gymnastics routine to soften the blow. This is typical of the religious masses because they always want to be "giving their best to God." But when desires/drives come in to conflict with "giving their best to God" as defined by the scriptures, then they need to tweak their interpretation of scripture a bit so that they can fulfill their desires/drives, while still believing in their hearts and minds that they are "giving their best to God." But Christ was not blooded upon a cross so that we can have our cake and eat it to, as the saying goes.
Most of our lives are compromises made to satisfy our desires and still retain God as our number one. Mostly, we play politics with God: we give a little and God gives a little. In the end we can reach an agreement.
All I'm calling for here is a bit of honesty. There is a reckless, single-minded devotion to Christ. But it hurts. And you aren't going to find it in the cozy suburbs of the United States. Pure devotion is sacrificial. Mass religiosity is designed to soften the blow. We accept Christ's sacrifice as sufficient for our sins, but we maintain the right to withhold any similar suffering.
He was despised and rejected, and we esteemed him not.
A LOVE SUPREME
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Saturday, January 12, 2008
Paul says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 7:27