For centuries, Hollywood and outside culture has tried to define what love is and how to find “the one” for you. I remember in my later years of high school and early years of college, I had begun dating Jenn. Everybody would always ask, “How do you know if she’s ‘the one’?” To which I’d reply, “are you kidding me? I’m dating WAY UP out of my league here!”
But so often today, people struggle with this idea of knowing whether or not they are with “the one”. The truth is – people today aren’t the only ones wondering. Paul addresses some of these very concerns and questions when it comes to marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7.
The people in the Corinthian Church had given themselves over to sexual immorality. In verse 2 Paul says, “Because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband”. Now Paul wasn’t saying that if you aren’t married that you aren’t operating in the will of God. In fact, Paul later says in verse 28, “those who marry will face many troubles in this life”.
What Paul is describing throughout this chapter is a holy, undivided devotion to the Lord. Regardless of your marital status, God has called you to be holy. But holy is one of those Christian words that we throw around a lot without knowing what it really means. An easy definition for holy is to be dedicated or set apart to God. This means that we would be set apart, that we would be dedicated, when it comes to our devotion to the Lord. Charles Hodge, a famous theologian, puts it this way, “God desires that you would be devoted to Him without distraction”.
I’m reminded of the story in Luke 10 about Mary and Martha. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning from him when Martha becomes upset. Luke 10:40 says that she was distracted with much serving and confronted Jesus about Mary not helping to prepare the meal and house for their guests. Jesus responds by saying, “Martha, Martha you are anxious about many things.” That same word anxious is used in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 as Paul describes the balance of marriage and devotion to God.
This same principle applies to marriage. Both a man and a woman are called to be devoted to one another in marriage. Unfortunately, when two sinful, selfish people get together and try to get needs met from each other, the marriage is headed for disaster. But when two sinful, selfish people get together and put Jesus at the center of their marriage, it can become their greatest ministry. Because marriage is a responsibility in which each spouse should seek to serve the other.
But this principle also applies to a life of singleness. As it concerns those who are single, Paul says that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” in verses 8-9. One of the mistakes churches have made is not practicing continency, or the gift of containing their desires. We know that this isn’t done by our own strength or power, but by the Holy Spirit at work within us. We have to pray for the Holy Spirit to grant us patience when it comes to our desires. We must be willing to submit our desires to God’s will, and trust that He will work through us.
Jesus exemplified this by submitting Himself willingly to death on a cross. So often we think that this would’ve been an easy task knowing that it was this act that grants believers right-standing with God. When we do this, we neglect the pain and punishment that Jesus submitted Himself to for our sake. Now when you apply this to life today, the relationship between husbands and wives was designed to resemble this same sacrifice and submission that we’ve received.
I want to challenge both the single and the married with this today: Do you view marriage as a way to get something for yourself, or as a way for me to give something of myself? Because if we see marriage only as a way to get something for ourselves, we’re not ready for the sacrifice marriage requires. Jesus gave of Himself freely so that those who believe in Him could have relationship with God. Our lives, whether single or married, should model this same type of sacrifice as we live out a holy devotion to the Lord.