During those very long, uncomfortable years before the Lord blessed me with John as a husband, 1 Corinthians 7 gave me a sense that my singleness, as uncomfortable and undesired as it was, at least had a purpose. Although I confess to throwing way too many pity-parties about the matter (if I didn’t confess to it, many people who knew me back then would submit comments making sure my true attitude was known), I resolved to make my singleness count for God’s Kingdom by plunging into every ministry the church made available to me. Whether or not I always had pure motives or right doctrine in these endeavors, granted, is fodder for debate, and digresses from my point today.
This morning, in my search for something to share in today’s blog post, I came across an essay I wrote six years ago on 1 Corinthians 7:29-35. I thought it perfectly complemented the article I wrote yesterday! I’m revising it a little, hopefully giving it more clarity, but I believe the basic principles remain compelling and encouraging to all Christian wives. First, let me quote the passage:
29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (ESV)
Obviously the apostle Paul made the point in verses 32-35 that unmarried people don’t have the worldly distractions from serving the Lord that married people have. In one sense, that’s true. Both John and I were able to be much more active in our respective churches before we married.
As married people, however, we can cultivate the same dedication to the Lord as our single counterparts presumably have. The key is in verse 29. Living in attitude as if we were single, while not neglecting our spouses by any means, we are to regard our marriages as tools for advancing Christ’s Kingdom. Our marriages, though they indeed can produce the by-product of happiness, exist primarily as an example to a watching world.
To be specific, marriage is a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:22-33 is absolutely pivotal in how couples must model this relationship.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (ESV)
Okay, not politically correct. Get over it. I’m more interested in being obedient to God, as Scripture reveals His will, than in living in a way that appeals to popular trends. God has well-defined marital roles. Not that men work out in the field while women stay in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, but that men love their wives sacrificially while women choose to follow their husband’s leadership. In living out these roles in obedience to Scripture, we demonstrate Christ’s relationship with His Church.
John and I, because of our disabilities, have several people who see our marriage close up. I guess I could complain about the supposed pressures of living in a fishbowl (as celebrities often do in rationalizing their divorces), but really, I’m excited that God has entrusted us with such a beautiful responsibility! Our Personal Care Attendants see John helping them to dress me as a tender, daily expression of his love for me. They see my feeble efforts to follow John’s leadership, and hear my apologies when I fail to respect him. Hopefully, despite my shortcomings, we model a Christian marriage.
If we don’t set a good enough example now, we can make doing so the purpose of our marriage. As 1 Corinthians 7:29 says, time is too short for us to focus merely on enjoying our marriage. Yes, we should enjoy it, and I’m sure this blog reflects how thoroughly John and I delight in ours. But even our joy must have a greater purpose of showing people the grace and faithfulness of Jesus Christ.
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