Reader Question: “Where is the boundary of searching for a person to be in a relationship with, and where God wants you to be? In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about how he believes that one shouldn’t be searching for a mate, but what does the Holy Spirit want for us? What is your opinion on this?”

Dear Ben,
This passage has had much controversial conversation, and though I am no bible scholar, I will go at this with as much wisdom and reasoning as I can.

The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 7 is a letter in which Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth (think, the Church of Eugene, or the Church of New York) about marriage. At the time of his writing, he wasn’t necessarily projecting out his thoughts onto all of Christendom, but was more likely responding to a letter he had received, or oral accounts of the issues and dealings of the brothers and sisters gathering in Corinth.

This is really good to know, because without this context, we might do as too many before us have done, and take things out of proportion of how they were meant to be.

You can view a version of this text here that I will be referring to: 1 Corinthians 7
(check out vs. 27 especially)

It’s really fascinating here that Paul says “in my opinion” several times. He also says he is not speaking as the mouthpiece of God right in the passage. This is really helpful to distinguish. So if I, as a reader, see things a little differently than Paul does, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m disagreeing with God’s own words.

In my own vernacular – Paul is getting at is this: when you are involved in an intimate relationship with a person of the opposite sex, and thus have significant focus on that person, it’s simply harder to focus on God.
Paul is not saying that it’s sin to do this, but is stating the obvious. He is also implying that relationships are not happy-go-lucky, strolls in the park, but that they are hard and challenging, and sometimes really, really messy.

What I’d like to add in here though, is that to be involved in marriage isn’t any less a part of the Kingdom of God than being involved in a more obvious ministry role. They are just different.

To love God, one can be feeding the homeless, mentoring young people and setting up chairs on a Sunday morning. Being in “ministry” is primarily about the heart of the action, not about the action itself.
And to love your wife is no less something God desires for you to do well, you can be actively living for God whether you are serving your wife or whether you are serving soup. You can love God by engaging in beautiful relationship with your wife, or with engaging in the growth of a younger man. Both are needed in the Kingdom.

So it’s in context. To be single is a blessing because you can enjoy focusing your energy and time and resources on certain things and don’t have the trickiness of relationships to juggle. To be in a committed relationship with a wife is a blessing because of sex, and partnering together to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, and children, and supporting single people doing ministry.

When Paul says “Do not seek a wife” or “Don’t search for a wife” (1 Cor 7:27b) – I think the heart he is getting at is “don’t be worried about trying to find a wife if you’re single – don’t make that your top priority” Instead, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33 NLT) – and I would add, “everything you desire.”

This means practically that if you are seeking God (talking with him, delving into his nature, seeking what he wants you to do with your day, your week, your education, your career, your money, your time, your everything, including your relationships with women) then he’s going to take care of you.

I’ve seen many men enter into relationships prematurely, and they often don’t work. Instead, if you must search after something, search after being whole and holy in God for yourself to offer your future bride the gift of a healthy husband who is ready to take on the challenges and joys of marriage.

God will put in your life the right woman.
In the waiting, seek Jesus.
In the longing, seek Jesus’ love and strength.
In the loneliness, seek your brothers’ and sisters’ company as a whole

She’s going to come.

A man who is searching has it on his heart and mind always to find her. To find the ever elusive and unreachable “one.” To seek her among everyone he knows and sees and runs into and passes as he is going about life. This can be exhausting, and definitely shifts the man’s focus from God to finding a wife.

However, a pursuer can be someone who waits until the Jesus is like, “Psst, that’s her” and then he (the man) seeks after her heart with all of his might. He woos her and treasures her and all that fun jazz.

May you see the difference and walk in freedom because of it.


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