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Emotions and Choices

1 Corinthians 7:36-38
If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honourably towards the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. (NIVUK)

When situations are uncertain it is usually best not to make lifetime decisions. That was Paul's advice to young men facing the possibility of significant persecution. It would be a difficult time to marry when the believers might have to relocate at short notice. However the Apostle realised that some betrothed couples were deeply in love and wanted to marry, even if it meant facing persecution together, whatever that might mean for their extended families. For those people, they should marry rather than find that they are unable to control their passions, leading to immorality.
Some men would be able to sacrifice their love and passion for the cause of the gospel. If they came to that decision voluntarily and were able to delay the marriage without becoming overwhelmed by strong feelings towards the woman, then Paul said that it was a good decision. In some ways it was better because it enabled the believer to be fully flexible to be relocated or stand up for Christ without the risk of his new wife getting involved in the persecution.
Paul's advice was not inconsistent, as some claim; he was following the Lord Jesus in Matthew 19:10-12. Marriage is God's vehicle in which physical passion can be properly expressed, and is also His gracious protection against inappropriate relationships. But the ability to relinquish personal intimacy for the sake of God's kingdom is also a gift from God (1 Corinthians 7:32).
There are situations where both possible courses of action may be good but a choice has to be made as to which option is right. It is helpful to know that we do not have to invent an answer but learn to accept the gift the Lord has given to us. For most people, the gift of marriage will be His answer; but for others who wish to serve the Lord without distraction, and are convinced that singleness is His gift to them, then they must choose His path and trust Him with their emotional future. In a morally confused world, honourable marriages and satisfied singleness are both evidences of God's grace, both in making the decision and in keeping to it.

God of love. Thank You for loving me and for providing the opportunity to love and be loved. I am sorry when I have not made the right decisions about how I manage my passions, or how I choose to serve You. Please help me to understand the gift You have given to me to manage my emotions in the best way so that I will not fall into sin or fail to serve You as I should. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams