The Lord who has counted the hairs on your head cares about the situation of your life. Whether married or single, Greek or Jew, free or slave; whether a Star-Bellied Sneetch or one without: God cares about the situation of your life.
One of the implications of the Incarnation of God in man, God as Jesus Christ, is that the God who created everything good and is in the process of redeeming it cares about the real life details of our lives. It’s important that you are a man or a woman or a boy or a girl. It’s important that you’re married, or that you’re not. It’s important that you live in the United States, and it’s important if you don’t. Rich or poor, young old, God cares about the circumstances of your life, and that means that they’re important.
This teaching is summarized by St. Paul when he says, in verse 17, that “as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk,” and in verse 24: “Let each one remain in the state to which he was called.”
It is God who has called you to the life you now have. Inasmuch as your life is not sinful, it is a life that God has ordained for you, and you are to live in it with holiness and to the glory of God.
Paul starts with those who are married. If God has called you to a married life, then there are certain ways you must act in order to walk worthy of God’s specific calling as a married person. All of the general Christian principles apply equally to all conditions we find ourselves in, but the specific ways they are applied may change.
If you are married, then God has called you to a holy state of matrimony. He has called you to be the image of the marriage of Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church. You are called to be one flesh and therefore to act as if you are one flesh. Though elsewhere Paul makes clear that the man is the head of the wife in a way that the wife is not head of the husband and that the woman is to be submitted to the husband in a special sense, Paul teaches something else here.
That something else is the love and holiness that must characterize each member of the marriage and the marriage relationship as a whole. The wife does not have authority over her own body: she can’t do with it whatever she wants. Not only is she under God’s authority, and therefore she can’t do whatever she wants with her body, but she is also under the husband’s authority (verse 4.) But notice that the husband does not have authority over his body either, but his wife does (verse 5.)
At first glance, this may seem nonsensical. Neither person has authority over his or her own body, and yet the other person does? Wouldn’t that create chaos?
Not if the two realized they were one flesh and were supposed to live in love. In other words, the real authority in the marriage is first of all God, but second of all the mutual God-given love that is to be shared in their one-body relationship.
The two-persons-in-one-body Christian marriage is to reflect the unity and love and intimacy that God Himself – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – has. Therefore, the binding force of mutual love must be at the center of the marriage relationship.
And then there’s sex. Sex was God’s idea, we sometimes forget. God could have had us reproduce by splitting like amoebae or by budding like hydrae or jellyfish. But where would the fun be in that? Marriage is the most intense human relationship there is, and sex is the most intense physical expression of this relationship and unity. So powerful is the power of sex to unite 2 people that Paul teaches in Chapter 6 that to have sex with a prostitute is to become one flesh with her.So marriage and sex are good gifts from God.
But so is singleness. Paul himself rather prefers the single state, but the main point is that being married and being single are both to be holy states. If you’re single, God has put you in that state at the present, and it is to be used to glorify Him. Paul argues that single people are more able to care about the things of the Lord and not get caught up as much in worldly things. But do we view our singleness that way? Sometimes we seem to believe that being single is a lesser state before the Lord.
Paul’s point is that married or single, we are to accept and affirm the circumstances that God has put us in and use them to glorify Him by serving Him – in those particular circumstances.
The really interesting example is that of the first-century slave. It shocks our modern ears that Paul could be so insensitive. He says: “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called a slave? Do not be concerned about it” (verses 20-21.) In other words, if God has called you to be a slave, then be a godly, holy, loving slave because in so doing you will show that you are the Lord’s freedman.
Another way to see this is that by faithfully using whatever your present condition is, as God’s slave, you are truly free because service to Christ is perfect freedom. Yes, if you can get your freedom, then by all means do it, and if you can get out of poverty, then you should probably do it. But in whatever condition you are in right now, accept it from the Lord and use that very specific life that God has given you to serve Him as a faithful disciple.
Are you content with the life God has given you? I’m not talking about the sinful parts, but have you willingly and gladly accepted whatever God has said is your daily bread, the cross for you to bear?
That’s the question for today. God cares about the details of your life, whatever your condition. In whatever life God has given you, wherever you are right now in life, God is asking you to accept the non-sinful parts and use them to glorify the one who created them.
John Keble expressed these ideas well when he wrote in “Morning” from The Christian Year:
If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.
The trivial round, the common task
Would furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves; a road
To bring us, daily, nearer God.
Seek we no more; content with these
Let present Rapture, Comfort, Ease,
As Heaven shall bid them, come and go: —
The secret this of Rest below.
Prayer: Father, I pray that You will help me today to acknowledge You to be the giver of every good gift. I ask that You will help me to be thankful for whatever You bring to me today and especially to be thankful for the life You have chosen to give to me. Amen.
Point for Meditation: One of the cures for discontentment or complaining is thanksgiving. Reflect on how God may be using the circumstances of your life to lead you to Him. Practice giving thanksgiving for the things God has chosen to give you in this life, which are your daily bread.
Resolution: I resolve to reflect on any non-sinful aspect of my current life that I may not be accepting as from the Lord. I resolve to ask for the Lord’s help in accepting it and using it to serve Him.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson