During those very long, uncomfortable years before the Lord blessed me with John as a husband, 1 Corinthians 7 gave me a sense that my singleness, as uncomfortable and undesired as it was, at least had a purpose. Although I confess to throwing way too many pity-parties about the matter (if I didn't confess to it, many people who knew me back then would submit comments making sure my true attitude was known), I resolved to make my singleness count for God's Kingdom by plunging into every ministry the church made available to me. Whether or not I always had pure motives or right doctrine in these endeavors, granted, is fodder for debate, and digresses from my point today.
This morning's guest on Focus on the Family's radio broadcast was Pastor Francis Chan, a pastor from Simi Valley, California, who made an interesting application of 1 Corinthians 7:29-35 to marriage. First, let me quote the passage:
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 34 There is[a] a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Pastor Chan said that, as married people, we can cultivate the same dedication to the Lord as our single counterparts presumably have. The key is in verse 29. Living as if we were single, while not neglecting our spouses by any means, we are to regard our marriages as tools for advancing Christ's Kingdom. Our marriages, though they indeed can produce the by-product of happiness, exist primarily as an example to a watching world.
To begin with, marriage is a metaphor of Christ's relationship with His Bride, the Church. Chan didn't touch on Ephesians 5:22-33, but I think it's absolutely pivotal in how couples must model this relationship.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[e] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Okay, not politically correct. Get over it. I'm more interested in being obedient to God, as Scripture reveals His will, than in living in a way that appeals to popular trends. God has well-defined marital roles. Not that men work out in the field while women stay in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, but that men love their wives sacrificially while women choose to follow their husband's leadership.
John and I, because of our disabilities, have several people who see our marriage close up. I guess I could complain about the supposed pressures of living in a fishbowl (as celebrities often do in rationalizing their divorces), but really, I'm excited that God has entrusted us with such a beautiful responsibility! Our Personal Care Attendants see John helping them to dress me as a tender, daily expression of his love for me. They see my feeble efforts to follow John's leadership, and hear my apologies when I fail to respect him. Hopefully, despite my shortcomings, we model a Christian marriage.
If we don't set a good enough example now, we can make doing so the purpose of our marriage. As 1 Corinthians 7:29 says, time is too short for us to focus merely on enjoying our marriage. Yes, we should enjoy it, and I'm sure this blog reflects how thoroughly John and I delight in ours. But even our joy must have a greater purpose of showing people the grace and faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Today's radio broadcast challenged me to approach marriage, as I approached singleness, as a platform for showing the Lord's glory to a decaying world.