Thursday of Epiphany III – I Corinthians 7:29-35

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 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 goods, 31 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.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

“If the dem’s win, it is the end!” my friend said to me.

That was in the last election cycle, when the heat of the elections was at its peak. Despite my friend’s prediction, I doubt the world has ended on this account. That said, my friend was clearly anxious about all this. He is not alone. Our world seems to be growing more anxious and polarized. The battle against the “other” seems so important that some will take up violence against them, look only to recent events in in our own nation and abroad.

In this passage, Paul says some very strange things about people getting married. Paul was not trying to set up a new sort of marriage-less society. He wants us to be free from worldly anxieties, so we can be anxious for the Lord, how to please him, how to be holy in body and spirit. Paul wants to secure our undivided devotion to the Lord. I find it helpful to put this into some context. Immediately before these words, Paul wrote:

26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.

Notice, he does not say that getting married is a sin. In the ancient world marriage was a very different thing, a contract arranged between families, often to meet economic concerns. To most of us it would be almost unrecognizable as a marriage. We would likely arrest a modern parent who subjected their daughter to an ancient marriage, calling them abusive. At the time, people were anxious about this. If you read elsewhere in Paul’s letters, he speaks favorably of marriage and its good. He reimagined what it could be. The Corinthians, however, were anxious about it.

What are we anxious about today? Are we upset about who is president? Do we get worried about who is marrying whom or what drug is legal or illegal? Are our worries more what is happening to the church, the world, or our nation? Paul would set us free from that anxiety in order that we be devoted to the Lord. I am not saying we do not vote or are not politically active. But the Christian asks a different set of questions than the world. How can I be holy in body and spirit? How does this allow me to serve God? The things of this world, including all the things we are so worried about will pass away, even categories like liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican. They will all pass away. God, your relationship with him, and you will not pass away.

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