Do you remember that I have said repeatedly that Paul writes as if Jesus’ coming is imminent? He fully expects the coming of Jesus Christ to be any moment. As a result, what he writes in this chapter focuses on the importance of vs.26 where he tells the Corinthian church: “I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.” The entire chapter is written from a perspective that whatever reality in which you find yourself now, you should not change a thing because all of your focus and attention needs to be on Jesus. Nothing else matters at this point. Not your job, not your family, not your health. Nothing except the time and the energy that you put into preparing yourself for the coming of the Lord.
How many of us live in light of that perspective? I would argue that none of us, and I would potentially even argue that it might not be the best way to live if we want to contribute to the kingdom of God. Let me explain.
Chapter 7 begins with some real practical advice for husbands and wives. the primary reason for marriage, Paul describes in these verses, is to prevent each person from committing sexual immorality (vs.1). He goes on in vs.36 to give permission for marriage if “passions are strong”. Paul does not speak about the presence of love as the driving force for marriage. Ironic that this is the man who wrote the love chapter in I Corinthians 13. I can’t wait until we get to that chapter. But until then, Paul encourages marriage as a stop-gap to immorality. The ideal would be that a woman not touch a man and vice versa. This is not the advice or the approach that I would have. I do believe that God prepares our spouse from even before birth and we are brought together by a love that needs to be evident and the primary factor in our marriage. The presence of passion is important, but it is not what drives us to marriage. It is too fleeting.
So, let’s say that a man and a woman are married. This next piece of advice is actually quite good and can apply if Jesus comes back in an hour or not until the next century. He describes the man’s body and the woman’s body as belonging to each other. Please note that I am speaking in regards to spousal relationships where there is mutual love and affection and not a twisted understanding that the man has complete dominance and so skews the words of Scripture. In a mutual relationship it can be exciting and God driven to think that each other’s bodies were made for us. God formed and made our bodies for our spouse. This opens up endless possibilities in the spousal relationship that some may not think possible. There are no rules in the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. That might be hard to live by at first when we are used to living our lives, especially in that area, with rules of dos and donts. Not so, says Paul. The husband belongs to the wife and vice versa. That should be incredibly freeing.
He deals with divorce as well in this chapter. But here it is strictly from the perspective that Jesus is coming back today. He shuns divorce because, frankly you probably don’t have the time to get divorced and then try to find someone to marry again. Don’t get divorced because you don’t have the time to go through the whole process. Jesus will be coming back by then so it isn’t even worth the aggravation. Surely, as Paul states in vs.28 that “those who marry will experience distress”. But that distress is far less than the distress you would experience in divorce so you might as well stay as you are. I’m afraid that Paul’s words in this chapter might serve as good advice in the beginning of the chapter in dealing with husbands and wives and the joy that they can find in each other’s bodies, but not so good advice in dealing with marriage and divorce because it is so focused on the imminent coming of Christ.