Marriage. Honeymoons. Sex. Weddings. Engagement. Dating. Flirting. Attraction.
I don't think anything on earth generates more conversations, entertainment, money, interest, or opinions. You would think it was the very spine of civilization with all that attention it gets. Billions of hits on the internet, billions of dollars, billions of relationships. Once you hit puberty, it would seem to be the driving force of human existence based on a casual observation of our planet and it's inhabitants. People are creatures consumed with sexual quests and questions, burning instincts and sex drives, and the laws of physical attraction and relational reaction. Our feelers are out, our radars are on, our pheromones are wafting, our hormones are coursing, our adrenaline is racing. We are sending out signals and picking up signals with the strength of a 4G network, as if we were camped under the transmitting tower itself.
If you don't have a passion for romance, you have a passion against romance. If you don't have a relationship, you hate a relationship. If you don't love marriage, you loathe marriage. All I'm saying is that there isn't neutral ground on this subject, it generates strong emotions for or against. The energy expended either thinking about or trying not to think about stuff surrounding people's relationship with the opposite sex could take care of our current energy crises.
Paul takes a whole chapter to share his take on relationships. It is probably one of the most confusing, controversial and contrarian sections of the whole Bible. He was single and he seems to be advocating that if you can stay single, you'll avoid the lion-share of suffering associated with human existence. He recognizes that "it's better to marry than to burn with passion", so he concedes that most will plunge into marriage simply because they can't help it. Their loins are burning. It makes sense.
But he strongly urges people to consider a life of singleness so they can free themselves from the divided devotion of marriage and the struggles that being married brings with it.
What? Come again. Are you trying to talk humans out of getting married when most people want to, are going to, and were created to be in intimate relationship with a companion of the opposite sex? Are you trying to make people feel guilty for deciding to cut their commitment to Christ "in half" because of their "obligation to their spouse" and the "concerns of the world" as Paul calls them? Wow. Talk about riling up some strong reactions. This is hornet's nest he's playing hot potato with.
He tells us why he's promoting celibacy:
"Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you of this."
Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Thanks for looking out for our futures and warning us of the dark side of marriage. Thanks for filling our hearts with hope and longing and eagerness and dreams and happiness. Thanks for giving us the pep talk. How encouraging a prospect marriage is now.
But, this is what I love about Paul. You may not agree with him, but you have to love his honesty.
Maybe he's trying to talk people out of it so that they will move beyond the shallow feelings of infatuation that catapult most careless people into relationships. If you can't fight for why you should get married based on credible, rational, reasonable lines of logic, then don't do it. Emotion won't get you very far. Fanciful dreams of "rocking all night long until the break of dawn" and the like might make for a great hit single on the airwaves, but it gets you killed in marriage. All these illusions and delusions fed to us by the world around us set us up for dissipation at best, destruction at worst. Often, the honeymoon is over before the honeymoon is over. All the dysfunctional dreams dashed against the rocks of reality. No matter what people say, perception isn't reality.
So maybe Paul is trying to test people's passions. To get them to recognize that marriage is hard and requires nothing but the best effort man knows to give. Maybe he was trying to force people to wake up to the reality of attaching your life to someone else and making a vow to be faithful regardless of any circumstance. Maybe he was trying to alert them to the "morning breath" and "make-up-less face" and "monthly moods" of marriage. Maybe he was trying to talk people out of marriage just so they knew what was at stake and how much it was going to take. It's a commitment that demands sacrifice and suffering.
"Troubles"...as Paul says in this text, "...many troubles".
Paul seems to be saying, "Let me tell you something. If you're thinking about getting married, think again." Think again!
Think long and hard about this decision. It's huge. It will involve serious trouble and if you don't handle trouble well, pressure well, stress well, disagreement well, conflict well...PASS on marriage! Don't do it! If you aren't willing to apologize often and admit weakness, forgo marriage. If your love is skin deep, your skin isn't thick enough to handle the rigors and requirements of this relationship.
I wish I could go back to several couples I've married and have a "do over". I would say, "Don't do it! You're not ready! Think again! Your answers to those deep questions were too shallow to give me the confidence that you will survive the coming days let alone the coming years!" I have had countless couples of weddings I have officiated sign divorce papers before they made it a year into their marriage. And you know what's sick? If I look back, something in my heart saw the hand-writing on the wall and I went through with it anyway. Shame on me.
I should have been talking them out of getting married, forcing them to talk me into marrying them based on clear and irrefutable evidence. No kindas, sortas or maybes. No if, ands, or buts. People enter into marriage too naively these days and don't consider the "trouble" that awaits them that will break them in half like a twig if they aren't married to God first, truth second, reality third and each other fourth.
So yes, I think we would do well to spare people of marriage if they are entering it thinking that they are above trouble. Trouble and marriage go hand in hand. This is what makes marriage awesome if you're committed to each other and this is what makes marriage awful if you're committed to a hollywood spin on matrimony.
Stay single if you're planning on staying single after you get married. Otherwise, plan on attending your marriage and your funeral on the same day, because coming alive to someone else doesn't happen unless you die to yourself in the process.
I love my marriage. Thankfully I had people telling me the truth before I entered this sacred covenant. I owe the success of my marriage to the honesty of my parents, my mentors, and my Savior. Without them, well, there's no telling what would have become of me (us).