Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Gift? For Me?

1 Corinthians 7:7-9 I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one this and another that. 8 I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. 9 But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

Paul now speaks to the fact that everyone has been placed exactly where they are meant to be. Paul obviously sees the benefit of his own gift, celibacy, clearer than he sees the benefits of the gifts given to others. There is a great benefit to celibacy, if one is gifted in it. Celibacy allows a person to concern him or herself to the things of God completely. Any married person will tell you, marriage is work. When one is celibate, and therefore single (remember that refraining from sex inside of marriage is not a good thing), that person is able to put all of the energy that they would put toward a marriage into their personal ministry. By ministry, I do not mean paid work for a local church. Every Christian is meant to be a minister. We are supposed to be evangelizing the lost, encouraging other Christians, and discipling young Christians to grow into mature Christians.

1 Corinthians 7:7 But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. But God gives to some the gift of marriage, and to others the gift of singleness.

I can imagine Paul's thought process as he looked at all of the internal struggles that plagued the Corinthian church. I wonder how many of the problems he saw could have been resolved through celibacy. At least the issue with the man sleeping with his step-mom could have been avoided. He admits, though, that celibacy is not something that everyone can pull off. Few can in this culture. Sex is everywhere!

Marriage or singleness are both meant for the purpose of glorifying God. Married Christians should work to make their marriages an example to those around them. Wives should respectfully submit when no other solution exists. Men should be willing to die for their wives.

Singles, too, should use their lives with the same purpose. They are going to have some additional resources (if they don't have any children), such as time and money, that can be used for building up the church.

No matter where you are, what job you have, or the relationships that fill your time, you should be working everyday to use your life for God's glory and the expansion of His Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 So I say to those who aren't married and to widows -- it's better to stay unmarried, just as I am. 9 But if they can't control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It's better to marry than to burn with lust.

Paul is reminding the Corinthians that the single life isn't a lesser life. It's a great thing, if you can live the single life righteously. Most people can't. I can't.

I know, it sounds like Paul is snubbing those of us who enjoy the benefits of marriage. It sounds like the marriages he is describing are purely based on a desire for sex. I didn't marry Edwin just so we could have sex. We wanted to build our lives together, as a team.

All that being said, let's look at the Catholic church for a moment. I'm not insulting Catholics, but I do have a serious problem with forced celibacy. It hasn't ended well in many cases. There have been many children that have had to pay the price for this man-made rule. The men who committed such atrocities were told that celibacy was required in order to live a truly holy life. Most of them probably became priests because of a desire that they had to minister to people. It didn't end well, though. Lives were ruined!

Let's not pretend that the desire for sex is a non-issue. People were created with an intense desire for sex, but some were also given super-natural self-control. When Paul says that those who cannot control themselves should carry, he isn't saying that we are hugely weak when we recognize that a desire for sex is an issue for us. He's saying that there are some people that God has enabled to live their lives without sex. Celibacy is a great gift, if it's the one you have received, and it can be received at an older age. For older widows, it may be easier than for a twenty-something to remain single.

We can't allow personal pride or a desire to appear holy to dictate our lives. Not everyone can go overseas and do mission work. Not everyone can be a pastor. Not everyone can speak to hundreds of people about God's Word. But everyone can do something, and every Christian is expected to use the resources God has given them to benefit His Church. Everyone can give (some) money to mission work. Everyone can support their pastor and look for ways to serve his/her church. Everyone can tell their friends and co-workers about a God who loves them so much that He was willing to give His Son. You can... because of what He has done for us.

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