My roommate Cloid and I had an incredible discussion tonight. Cloid is a man I respect so much and love as a brother in Christ.
Lets set the stage. I am considering considering dating/courting/whatever you want to call having a romantic relationship. I am reading my bible and have questions/thoughts/concerns. Cloid is engaged to Ashley. We are in Richards room. I like talking with Cloid. Cloid likes talking to me.
Enter 1 Corinthians 7.
The primary reason I was initially drawn to this passage is because I want to know how I should feel about believers marrying unbelievers (it is much more complicated than that, but that’s the foundation). I see the sections of verses 1-5 talking to married people, vv. 8-11 addressing singles and married folks, and vv. 12-16 speaking to those who were saved while married and their spouse is still an unbeliever. I see how 17-24 parallels 25-31 in the sense that we should remain as we are (“in view of the present distress”), though they address the issue with different reasons and implementation.
Verses 32-35 speak to how marriage divides our “interests”. This is where a large part of our discussion took place. Now having an interest in something implies more than just enjoying it. So if I say “I’m interested in politics”, Paul would be assuming you are involved in politics as well. Except for him (and for all believers), instead of politics, we should be interested in how to please the Lord. When you get married, however, your “interests are divided” and you become anxious about worldly things, how to please your wife/husband. This is right! Don’t think that we should feel ashamed of being married! There are so many reasons to get married, and in 1 Corinthians Paul highlights how it prevents your passions from becoming sin (v.9). In Ephesians he speaks to how marriage of a man and woman should reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). These are just what come to my mind immediately, but Jesus speaks to marriage also.
Verses 36-38 address whether two people who are “betrothed” should get married. Now I didn’t really know what it meant to be betrothed, but Cloid had heard somethings about it. The ESV note always read that “betrothed” could also mean “virgin”, but knowing the english language would tell us that this word implies a commitment. Cloid shed some light by explaining how in this culture, being betrothed meant that a woman was promised to a man, similar to engagement in our culture. However, the man would go and prepare for marriage by working toward some sort of financial situation or just accomplishing things that were “needed” before actually getting married. This makes the parables about the virgins waiting for their betrothed but running out of oil come even more alive. Those women didn’t actually know when he was coming! It could be months, years, or even weeks.
This is most likely why Paul speaks to those who are betrothed and tells them that “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.” (v.36) I read this and think of Paul saying “to avoid sinning because of your lack of self control, you should get married.” Now, being betrothed is not the same as being engaged, so it isn’t completely synonomous, but the principle is still good. Paul meant what he said in verse 9.
From that point we talked more about proper motivations for getting married (a rational founding in Biblical truths + romantic feelings + love of God) and how those things interact. I worry that any romantic feelings I may have would come from a place of selfishness, so we talked about the interaction between the ideal person we desire to be and the person we actually are. This was especially helpful in realizing that, in this life, I will never have completely pure motives in my actions (though I should strive for that). Romantic feelings must distinguish themselves from the love that we should already have for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Cloid thought pure and good romantic feelings might stem from a desire for oneness that goes beyond the normal bond between the children of God and that seems reasonable to me. For sure it’s not exclusive, but it was a satisfying thought.
This was not a rigorous regurgitation of our conversation, but I hope you get the gist. These thoughts have been mulling over in my mind for a while now, and while this is certainly not the whole of them, it is a nice long look. Thanks for reading!