Thursday, May 30, 2013

1 Corinthians 7 - Marriage

LINK: 1 Corinthians 7


BACKGROUND


In 1 Corinthians 7:1-16:12, Paul answers a series of questions raised by the believers of Corinth.  1 Corinthians 7-10 involve personal questions:
Chapter 7 - Is singleness better than marriage? What about divorce and remarriage? 
Chapter 8 - Is it acceptable for Christians to eat food offered to idols? 
Chapter 9 - Is it proper for a person who ministers the gospel to get his living from it? 
Chapter 10 - If an action is lawful, is it profitable or beneficial?
In this chapter, Paul is talking about marriage in a city filled with sexual temptation. Corinth had a reputation in the pagan world for sexual immorality and religious prostitution. The Corinthians needed special instruction. We need special instruction today as well!


REFLECTION (all quotes in this reflection are from http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm)

Here are some results about marriage from the Barna Research Group:

Barna's results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all.  George Barna commented that the results raise "questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families." The data challenges "the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage." 
Right now, I am looking at a picture of a 2002 gathering of 17 friends that I met through a homeschooling internet forum. Since that gathering, ten have divorced and one has divorced twice. Of the remaining seven, two were already on their second marriage (but now happily married) and two more have contemplated divorce since that time. This does not include another three women who could not make this 2002 gathering who have also divorced since that time. On a happy note, one remarried her husband after years of being divorced. These people are not a statistic to me. They are people I love.

It is interesting to note that nine out of the sixteen people were from the South.  Of those nine, at the time of the picture, two were on their second marriage, and five divorced (but one remarried her husband). The South is the Bible Belt; but according to the Barna Research Group, the South has the highest percentage of divorces:
The data showed that the highest divorce rates were found in the Bible Belt. "Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the Top Five in frequency of divorce...the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average" of 4.2/1000 people. 
bullet11 southern states (AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, MS, NC, NM, OK, SC and TX averaged 5.1/1000 people. (LA data is not available; TX data is for 1997).
bulletNine states in the Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT) averaged only 3.5/1000 people.
Some of the factors that contribute to a high divorce rate in the Bible Belt, relative to Northeastern states are:
bulletMore couples enter their first marriage at a younger age.
bulletAverage household incomes are lower (OK and AR rate 46th and 47th in the U.S.)
bulletThey have a lower percentage of Roman Catholics, a denomination that does not recognize divorce. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention in Oklahoma commented: "I applaud the Catholics," says Jordan. "I don't think we as Protestant evangelists have done nearly as well preparing people for marriage. And in the name of being loving and accepting, we have not placed the stigma on divorce that we should have."
bulletSome factors in conservative Protestantism -- which is prevalent in the Bible Belt -- may causes a higher level of divorce.
The women in my picture are not statistics, they are friends who I have prayed and wept for and with. I have walked with some more deeply than others, but I know that none of them have entered the divorce process lightly. 

What is to be done in our marriages today?  Here are some suggestions from the article:
Some of the approaches being used by governments and religious groups to reduce the divorce rate are:
bulletPre-marital counseling for engaged couples. Some clergy now refuse to marry a couple unless they have completed such a course. The Roman Catholic church has done this for many years.
bulletEncouraging couples to accept mediation before deciding to divorce. 
bulletAdding public school courses that discuss values and relationships.
bulletIntroducing covenant marriages which are more difficult to get into and more difficult to get out of, in comparison with regular marriages.
I would also add that based on 30 years of discipling women and doing pre-marriage and marriage counseling, that most couples are/were not ready for marriage.  

My husband and I give a message on marriage in which we emphasize that we should know these things before we marry: 

Our Master - This involves a rock solid intimacy with the Lord to where He is our first love before our mates. It is not impossible to develop intimacy with the Lord after marriage, but it gets really dicey when one partner wants to grow, and the other one does not. If we have a rock solid intimacy, we are more likely to choose well when it comes to a mate. Also, without a security in the Lord, we might look to our spouse to meet our unmet desires, and those desires become demands! Then, the fireworks can fly!
Our Mission - These are those God-breathed heart passions that drive us into a meaningful and purposeful life. When one spouse gets a calling to something while the other one does not, it can cause conflict. Like-hearted purpose and direction is so important in marriage, and when we have a direction, we can also choose well when it comes to  . . .   
Our Mate - Who will complement and partner with us in our mission for our Master!
It is interesting that I am writing this post after just having read a Victorian novel that follows the lives of people in the English town of Middlemarch. Two of the main characters, both with noble life purposes, chose spouses who did not partner with them in their life passions. One of the main themes of the novel involves the consequences of those choices. It is definitely a cautionary tale.

APPLICATION



Several years ago, I led two classes called Marriage without Regrets. We covered all the major passages related to marriage, prayed for one another, and kept each other accountable. The class was life-changing for all of the participants! I highly recommend it. There is also a book written by Kay Arthur on the subject, but I recommend you "dig" for yourself in the Word of God (because this relates to what I said in the 1 Corinthians 3 post).

PRAYER


Lord, marriages everywhere are in turmoil. I pray that You would strengthen them, drawing each partner to You in a deeper and more intimate way. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Post a Comment