As we’ve mentioned before, Corinth was a wealthy, powerful city in the region. So Paul’s messages in this letter are addressed to wealthy, powerful, but spiritually young people. Which makes it a great letter for modern America who fits that mold perfectly. And what does Paul have to say to us today?
Paul has much to say about marriage. One of my favorites is, “Those who marry face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you from this.” I can just imagine a Mrs. Paul listening to his sermon and rolling her eyes (or maybe that’s my wife when I say things equally insensitive). Yet Paul has a point. Those who marry are responsible for their spouse, kids, in-laws, and others for whom they would not otherwise be responsible. And these responsibilities close off avenues of service that are otherwise open to us. So to remain unmarried opens up many new avenues of service to God. This is one of the primary reasons Catholic priests and nuns have traditionally been unmarried. In fact, I’ve heard people talking about nuns say, “they are married to Christ”.
But I think this is an important point. Not about marriage but about focus. Is our focus on serving God before anything else? Would we sacrifice the joys and blessings of marriage if we believed it would help us serve God better? I’m guessing not. We won’t even give up our favorite TV show or social media platform for God, let alone marriage.
We need to refocus this life of ours. If we are truly going to claim that we follow Christ, then we had better follow Him. And I promise that He will lead us into some very uncomfortable places. Is my pastoral advice to remain unmarried? No, for the same reason Paul didn’t – because for most, remaining unmarried will lead to lustful thoughts and actions, and so, Paul says, it is better to get married than to sin sexually. But for those able to live celibate lives, Paul gives great praise. For they will be uniquely qualified to follow Christ with more devotion than any of us married folk ever could.