Saturday 18 March 2017

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

“The present form of the world is passing away” (v. 31)

1 Corinthians 7:25-31 Saturday 18 March 2017

Psalm: Psalm 121


Paul anticipated that the end times with the return of the Lordand judgement were close at hand. In view of this, he tried tocreate a reflective space for the Corinthians to work out aresponsible ethical stance for marriage. It is interesting becauseit was not prescriptive, but nevertheless tried to give theCorinthians a steer.

A virgin was likely to mean an unmarried but engaged youngwoman. Paul had no direct teaching from Jesus (the Lord) on thissubject, so gave his opinion, deeming his seasoned Christianjudgement to be trustworthy.

His advice was essentially pragmatic and designed to preventunnecessary disruption to community relationships. If you werealready married, stay that way. If you were not married continue inthat state. If you really wanted to marry, go ahead, that was not asin. Remember, however, that marriage can bring complicatingresponsibilities.

But in the context and understanding that everything was passingquickly away, hold to attachments relatively lightly. Commitmentsin this life were shortly to pass away.

Paul's framework for individual discernment was the well-beingof the whole Corinthian community. In other words, how didindividual choices safeguard the well-being of everyone, at thesame time give the individual room for manoeuvre and discernmentfor personal happiness?

Paul stated his preferences, but was not prescriptive.

The passage can help us to think about the basis for our ownethical living, when there is no clear right and wrong. Forexample

  • How far is it an individual choice to marry, or not to marry(but maybe live with a partner); to divorce or not divorce?
  • How in our individual choices do we also make space forconsidering how those choices are affecting the well-being of thewhole community?

Perhaps for us, this is particularly problematic when finding anethical, responsible attitude to saving money or giving awaywealth.

In balancing individual and collective choices perhaps we needalways to hold the two in tension to guard ourselves againsthypocrisy. For example, saying one thing collectively and doinganother individually. And also, being aware that the collective cancoerce the individual. (Note that this was one thing that Paul wasnot doing.)

To Ponder

  • What principles guide you in the making of your own personalethical choices?
  • In making our ethical choices we may be quite judgemental onourselves or fear others disapproval. In what ways does Paul'sadvice encourage us to be compassionate and not too purist? Is thishelpful or the slippery slope?
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