“The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of this world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. I want you to be free from the concerns of this life.” 1 Corinthians 7.29-32 (NLT)
In a church full of compromise and spiritual pride as the Corinthian church was, the apostle Paul takes time to answer some questions about marriage – both personal and also our “marriage” with culture. Even in trying to discern the reasons and attitude behind these questions reveals that this was a self-absorbed group of people.
Essentially, Paul keeps bringing it back to Christ. Whether married or not, the bigger purpose for our lives in Christ is Him. What can we do and what are we called to do to serve Him and follow Him in obedience. Paul makes it very clear that some things obviously, although good, could significantly hinder one’s pursuit of Christ and obedience to Him. Things such as…
- A great marriage
- Times of mourning
- Times of celebration
- Significant purchases or ordinary shopping trips
It’s far too easy to become self-consumed with our own plans, marriages, families, houses and stuff. For the Christ-devoted follower, these good things are alarmingly seductive. We can rationalize all we want, but the fact remains that Jesus Himself said,
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10.37-38)
The follower of Jesus is never given permission to embrace complete comfort and “family-time” to the exclusion of His kingdom. This does not mean that family-time cannot also be “kingdom-time.” But I fear that for far too many Christians, we have embraced our own kingdoms above that of our Messiah and Savior.
The same God who doesn’t want to see anyone perish but for all to come to repentance would, I think, have difficulty excusing our exclusionary embrace of cultural entertainments, hobbies or family activities if they do not serve to communicate the Gospel or exalt Him in some way.
I cringe every time I read Haggai 1. In it, the prophet takes the people of Israel to task for neglecting what God had clearly commanded in order to focus on their own homes and families. He asks in verse 4, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” He was referring to the temple which the people should have completed by that point, but they had gotten distracted by the building of their own homes. In response, God revealed that much of the struggle they were currently experiencing was His judgement against them.
After all, Israel was commissioned to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19). The obvious implication is that a priest is a mediator between God and men. Israel was to seek to become the spiritual leaders of the world, leading men to their Creator. But they had embraced their own comfort, families, hobbies, possessions, etc.
In 1 Peter, the apostle there also reminds New Testament believers that they have inherited the commission that God gave to Israel. The church is now “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2.9)
Paul’s words to the Corinthians above urge us to a radical focus. “…should not be absorbed…be free from the concerns of this life.”
His encouragement to us is that life is best enjoyed when it is submitted to Christ in all areas. Our marriages, homes, possessions, times of mourning and celebration are all precious gifts. Yet they are best enjoyed only in the context of Christ. It’s much like a rainbow can only be enjoyed in the context of a passing thundershower, or a sunset enjoyed in the context of coming darkness.
If we’re too absorbed in this life, we may just miss the deepest joys hidden in it for those who seek first His kingdom. When we exalt Christ first, all these other “things” will be added unto us. (Matthew 6.33)
On this day...
- Reflections on Senegal - 2019
- 'Nuff Said: Improving Your "Do," Things to pray for your kids, 20 things you shouldn't do if you're over 20, 30 things you may already be doing that impress others, when a cult repents, too much phone? and Star Trek - 2014
- Surprises about the unchurched - 2013
- Feeling sick, Mike? - 2011