1 Corinthians 7:25-31
Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin.
Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 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 possessions, 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.
Paul is addressing a faith community that has split itself between spiritual “haves” and “have-nots,” wherein some members of the community have twisted Paul’s guidelines for holy living, based on mutual respect and self-control, into strict ascetic rules whereby they judge others’ potential salvation. Paul was expecting Jesus’ second coming – “the impending crisis” – literally at any moment. He sees the expectation for individuals to achieve their salvation by drastically changing particular life statuses – which may be out of their control – as cruel and short-sighted. Paul is therefore clarifying his general guidelines for holy living by then making exceptions, illustrating that the most important rule in holy living is the critical underlying principle of agape and grace.
This chapter has been misused to justify keeping people in oppressive or abusive situations that are not good or healthy for them, such as slavery or abusive relationships. That is not what Paul means at all. Paul’s point is that we can live a holy life and act with loving-kindness towards others regardless of status-markers – ours or theirs. He is reminding the Corinthians to actively live into the divine quality of life that is grace and agape regardless of the circumstances where they may be.
We must apply this principle to our lives too. Whatever or wherever you are – employed, unemployed, banker, social worker, student, teacher, politician, priest, prisoner, single, married, divorced, etc. – you can live into God’s vision of a world full of mercy and loving-kindness. Spread grace wherever you are and do not fear losing God’s love.
Heavenly Father, you have graciously made us in your own image, yet that was not enough: so your Son took on our image that we may, in imitating him, grow in holy living. Give us the grace we need to walk in his way in every time and place, that setting aside judgment and self-righteousness, we may humbly grow day by day more and more in the likeness of Jesus Christ; to the glory of your name. Amen.