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  • Answering the Questions

    Up to this point, Paul has been delivering a (well deserved) butt chewing on the Corinthians for their backsliding and deference to public pressure to conform to the old ways of paganism in Corinth. Now he sort of shifts gears, answering some questions concerning marriage and interaction between the men and women of the church.

    Now, about the questions you sent to me.

    I believe there is nothing wrong with remaining celibate. But if you cannot control your physical urges, then take a spouse rather than engage in sinful behaviors. Husbands should satisfy the desires of their wives, and wives the desires of their husbands.

    God meant for man and woman to compliment one another, to be together so they could keep each other from sin. If you satisfy one another, Satan cannot tempt your flesh with sinful lust. So come together and do not withhold yourselves from one another.

    To be honest, I am giving you my opinion on this, not a commandment from God.

    Part of me thinks all men should remain celibate, as I am, and not surrender to the urges of the flesh. But the other part knows God has given every man a particular calling, and not everyone is meant to be like I am.

    So if you are unmarried or a widower, you should consider a life devoted to God and not take a spouse. But if you cannot control your urges, take a wife and be faithful, for it is better to marry than to sin.

    If you are married, the Lord has already spoken on this matter. Married people are to remain married, to work things out between them with the help of the Lord.

    If a wife moves out of her husband's home, she can live apart in celibacy while they try to make things right, but she is not to be unfaithful. The same goes for the husband. They are to maintain their vows of fidelity, because those vows were made before God.

    Now in my opinion, if a man has a wife who is not a believer, but she is willing to remain with him and follow a Christian lifestyle, their marriage is as sanctified as the marriage of two believers. This is also true for the wife whose husband does not believe. The unbelieving spouse is sanctified by their partner, and therefore their children are also sanctified.

    If the unbeliever decides they cannot stay, let them go. The believer is not under the law when this is the case, for God has called us apart from the laws of man.

    You do not know if your witness to your partner will lead them to salvation. So follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and follow the gifts you have been given. This is my ruling to all the peoples of all the churches.

    If a man is called to follow Christ, what does it matter if he was a Jew or a Gentile? The old life is passed away. Let every man who is called follow Christ, and leave his past behind him.

    If you are a servant to a household, you are no longer bound to the master, but to Christ, who willingly became a servant to us all. Do your job diligently and with humility, and by your example show others the person and sacrifice of Christ. If you are called as a freeman, you are now the bound servant of Jesus, and again, your witness is not of yourself, but of Christ.

    You have been bought with a price, the most precious price ever. Therefore, you are no longer servants of men, but of the Holy Spirit. Follow the example of Jesus faithfully, without balking or objecting to the tasks you are asked to do. Trust in the Holy Spirit.

    God has given no commandment concerning virgins, so I can only give my opinion. But I think I can speak with the judgment of the Holy Spirit on this matter.

    I believe it is a good thing for a man to be a virgin. Now, if you are already married, don't try to find a way out of your marriage. But if you are still unmarried, you might want to consider remaining single and devoting yourself to a life of service to God.

    When you marry, you have not sinned. You will have temptations of the flesh, but as a couple, you will lean on one another to keep you from sin and to remind one another to follow the Spirit.

    But the time is upon us, brethren, because we do not know when the Lord will return. So it is necessary for all of us to remain focused and listen to the Holy Spirit. We must turn away from earthly concerns and focus on the things of God.

    A married man or woman considers the needs of their spouse first and others afterward. But an unmarried man or woman considers the calling of the Holy Spirit before all other things. This is the way we should all think.

    Now, if you are a father with daughters, and the daughter wants to marry, let them follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and do not forbid them to marry. If they prefer to remain unmarried, this is also a good thing. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide.

    Remember, the wife is bound to her husband as long as they both shall live, but if one spouse or the other dies, they are free to remarry as long as they do so with the consecration of the Lord. But I believe they will be happier if they remain single, and I believe I speak with the consent and blessing of the Holy Spirit.

    Choosing his battles carefully

    After all the harsh language Paul used in the previous chapters, it may seem a little odd he has chosen to dial it back a notch on the question of divorce and remarriage. And it must seem particularly odd that he would chose to defend celibacy over procreation. After all, wasn't it God who told man to be fruitful and multiply?

    In the prior chapters, Paul is speaking with the authority of the scriptures, which he occasionally quotes in order to make his point. Here, he is speaking with ambiguity since, as he states, there are no rules contained in the commandments or scriptures to cover these particular subjects. With the exception of divorce, and that is a subject I am just as hesitant to jump into as Paul.

    So let me lay this out before I continue. I have been divorced twice. I am not proud of it, but it is a part of my past and therefore something I need to be honest about. And while I am being honest, I should also say I can see now how wrong I was in both cases. I certainly wish I had known then what I know now. Believe me, my life would have been very different than it is now.

    That being said, according to Jesus, divorce is not an option for a Christian. Separation without infidelity is within the rules, and I think we can all agree there are times in the lives of many couples when a separation can give the two individuals the time and distance to find a solution to their problem. But a solution has to be found, or the two of them are bound to remain faithful to the other even if they are apart. And we all know how difficult that can be these days.

    Paul is right about that, isn't he? Sex is a powerful force in the human body. Once you have begun, the pleasures and temptations of sex can be so powerful as to cause an addiction for the person. And that need, that urge that builds up when an individual is deprived of sex can certainly lead to temptation and sin.

    Now Paul is speaking from his own experiences as well, which leads me to believe that he and his wife had gotten the age when sex is more optional than obligatory. Yep. Paul was married. Obviously his wife did not accompany him on his journeys, and we hear very little at all about her. But Paul was a Pharisee, ergo a Rabbi, and therefore by definition, married.

    Now you noticed that Paul did relieve the believing spouse of his or her obligation to a non-believing spouse if the latter chose to leave the marriage. However, he does not relieve them of their obligation of fidelity unless the spouse dies. So I am thinking what he meant was if the non-believer divorces the believer, the believer is not free to remarry.

    As to the comment about the children being sanctified, I really believe that was an add in to accommodate local customs. I think what Paul was talking about was the children being raised in the faith, which is something the Catholic Church insists on even today when a Catholic marries outside the church in order for the marriage to be recognized.

    Paul does make an impassioned plea for men and women to remain celibate so they will concentrate more on spiritual things, but he also acknowledges from the get go that not everyone is able to do so.

    Overall, I think what Paul is trying to do here is be a good spiritual adviser to his flock.

    I hope you are all having a blessed and contemplative day.

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