Last week I preached on 1st Corinthians 7. This text includes Paul’s advice/instructions to those who are single. Paul wanted the Corinthians to consider the benefits of remaining single. He also said that getting married was a good, God-honoring choice.
Here’s what I find fascinating about this text: Paul essentially says, “Here are the pros and cons, now you decide.” He did not say, “God will tell you whether to be single or get married.” He did not say, “God will choose your spouse for you.”
Sometimes it seems that we try to be more spiritual than the Bible. I hear people, for example, talk about God choosing their spouses for them. I honestly like this idea, but I’ve never clearly seen it in the Bible.
This way of thinking can lead to some humorous interactions between single men and women. I know of more than one single person who has heard this line: “God told me that you are the one I am to marry.” The bewildered young man or woman then wonders why God didn’t inform him/her of “the plan.” Should I mention that this line is usually used on singles who are absolutely gorgeous?
Others are terrified that God will choose something they don’t want, like forcing them into a life of singleness. Or since God has a sense of humor, perhaps He will choose the ugliest man/woman in your city to be your spouse.
According to Paul, the very choice to marry is ours. Likewise, the person we marry is our choice.
I have a couple of analogies that I think are helpful. They aren’t perfect (analogies rarely are), but at least you’ll have some food for thought.
It seems that some view God’s will as a tightrope, especially when it comes to relationship choices. Stay on the rope and you’ll be absolutely safe–no harm will come to you. Make one wrong move and it’s all over, with no hope of getting back to safety. Every step must be slowly and carefully analyzed. Every move must be perfectly calculated. Some call this the “paralysis of analysis.”
With a tightrope mentality, every painful experience is interpreted as the direct result of your mistake. If you get heartbroken or rejected, it means that you stepped off “the rope” and you deserved it. This sounds extreme, but I constantly hear evidence of this mentality. It is not unusual for a heartbroken single to email me after a breakup. He/she assumes that he/she did something wrong. A perfect “tightrope,” after all, means that you find “Mr/Ms Right” on the first date and walk straight into marriage. Any other result and you’ve obviously departed from “God’s will.”
I think there’s a better way of thinking about God’s will:
God’s will, like a playground, does have boundaries. He instructs us, for example, to avoid sexual immorality in our relationships. He instructs us to choose singles who are committed Christians. His Word teaches us to make wise decisions. Step outside of His protective commands and you will have major problems–it’s just like leaving the playground’s fence and deciding to play in the street.
Within the playground, however, we will have more than one choice. We have the choice of staying single or pursuing marriage. We have more than one person to choose from if we decide to get married. We must carefully listen to God, but we can trust Him to warn us if we are somehow headed for disaster. There’s no need to be afraid in the playground.
We will probably have a few bumps and bruises along the way. All of us have fallen and scraped our knee a time or two. This is a normal part of growing up. We may get dumped or basted a few times. This doesn’t always mean that you disobeyed God–it is just part of living in an imperfect world.
So what do you guys think? Tightrope or playground–or have my analogies somehow missed the point altogether?
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