Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 7
The second most-important decision we can make is deciding with whom we want to spend the rest of our lives in marriage. The first is with whom we want to spend eternity. Because these decisions are important, God guides us through His Word to help us.
Good news. If you’re single, today’s chapter is especially for you. What makes this chapter so important is that it doesn’t tell us what kind of person to look for, but what kind of person we are to be while we wait. God takes this season of waiting seriously and wants you to do that too. And He knows we have questions during this season:
Will I be alone forever?
I am so lonely, is there something wrong with me?
Why does everyone else seem to have someone and I don’t?
What’s crazy is that the early church had questions on the same topics. Paul provides answers here in 1 Corinthians 7. Look at these words in verse 1: “Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me” (MSG).
Because of that verse we know chapter 7 will provide answers to their questions. I find it hilarious that their first question is the sex question: “First,” Paul continues in verse 1 (MSG), “Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?”
Paul’s answer comes in verse 2: “Certainly—but only within a certain context” (MSG).
Here is a huge point for us to be clear on, especially in today’s culture: sex has a context. Listen closely to the rest of verse 2: “It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder” (MSG).
Lust is often compared to fire. In the New Testament the apostle Paul encourages men to get married if they’re burning with lust or desire. The fire analogy is throughout the Bible.
Fire is incredibly powerful, not to mention fun and useful. The problem is, it’s also difficult to contain and enormously destructive if it isn’t kept where it belongs. Sex is like that. Wonderful and powerful, but it will destroy everything in its path if it’s used out of place.
Fire in a fireplace? Awesome! Fire in your garage? Big problem! This context is God’s design. God designed sex to be expressed in the correct context. That context is within the covenant of marriage. You can choose to express yourself outside of those parameters and covenant, but you can’t choose the outcome and the consequences when you do.
Here is Paul’s sex-out-of-context verse: “This is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Let me be clear: sexual immorality is having sex with someone you have not married. If you are doing that right now, if you are living with them right now, it is not God’s will. It is immorality. It is sin.
“I love them” does not change the parameters of what the Bible says. Marry them then, because you love what Jesus says more. If you love that person, sex is not the next step, marriage is.
Every couple I meet with for premarital counseling, I always ask this one question, “Have you had sex?” Why? Premarital sex sabotages the relationship. This is going to get people mad but it needs to be said very clearly. This shows whether they love them or not: the chapter that defines real Bible love is 1 Corinthians 13, and the first characteristic of love is patience.
Why is this important? Listen to what Paul said in the chapter from yesterday’s reading:
Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (1 Corinthians 6:17-20, msg)
Sex is not just physical, it’s connected to the soul. It cuts deep and it scars the soul. Sexual sin is not unforgivable, but it can make life unbearable. Sex is like glue. You shouldn’t apply it until you’re absolutely sure you’re ready to stick two things together permanently. Apply it too soon, and you’ll have a mess and you will realize too late the mistake you made.
This is difficult, I know. But in the midst of that we need to remember that singleness is a gift, not a curse. The gift of singleness is that you get time and less distractions to focus on becoming a better you. You can become the person God wants you to be so you can be ready for the second most-important relationship you will ever have.
Couples generally don’t have relationship problems. They have problems they bring to the relationship. The better you that you bring, the fewer problems you bring with you:
When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the master without a lot of distractions. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35, MSG)
You have to deal with the right questions. When you look in the Bible for “how do I find the right person?” It isn’t there. But once you ask, “How do I become the right person?” The Bible comes alive. If you are as intentional about becoming the right person as you are about meeting the right person, you will position yourself to bypass a boatload of unnecessary pain, regret, and wasted time. Spend your energy becoming the right person, not looking for the right person.