Matins Devotion: August 14, 2023
When I was a student at Indiana University, I took a few religious studies courses where I learned very little about religion but a lot more about the way people who teach religious studies classes in state universities think about religion. For example, in one of my classes, my professor told us that St. Paul was entirely convinced Jesus was going to return any moment as he was writing his epistles. And, as evidence for this view, he referenced the words we had in our reading from 1 Corinthians this morning–where Paul tells us that it’s better for the unmarried to remain unmarried because “the present form of this world is passing away.”
In all of this, my professor thought he was teaching us about Paul’s mindset but he really taught us about his own. His view was “the only reason Paul would tell us to live our lives with unwavering focus on the return of Jesus was if he thought Jesus was returning at any moment, which is just another way of saying, “the only reason I would live my life with unwavering focus on the return of Jesus was if I thought Jesus was returning in the next few years.”
This is very much the way our world thinks. Why would you overhaul the plan you have for your life unless you were certain that this life was almost done? Why would you give up partying and start frantically cleaning up the house you’d trashed while your parents were out of town unless you were convinced they were returning at any moment? Why would you give Jesus so much control over your existence unless you thought it would be seconds until His return?
In all of this, the discomfort we feel with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 highlights the idolatry of self that slithers in our heart, just as it very much misses the point that Paul is making. Whether you are unmarried or married, Christ is reigning on high and invites you to enter the kingdom where the anxieties of this life can never harm you. Christ invites you to look out at your world of sin and recognize that it cannot claim you or corrupt you anymore because Satan has been thrown down and the present form of this world is passing away, revealing that Christ is victorious.
So you don’t need to change your marital status in order to possess the gifts of God. If you’re unmarried, stay unmarried and serve the church in ways that those who have the anxiety of families can’t. If you are married, stay married and serve the church with your family. Either way, you don’t need to change your station in life to be pleasing to God. The Lord who already loves you is ruling over you now and will reveal that love in its fullness on the day of His great and glorious return. So right now, live like you already have it. Because you do.