Paul returns to his advice about singleness and marriage. He recognises that every relationship brings responsibilities, and rightly so. With the possibility of persecution and the inevitable pressure that would bring to married couples and the extended families, he urges caution about rushing into marriage - which would otherwise have been a normal expectation.
He now develops his previous argument about the need to be emotionally undistracted and mobile when persecution comes (1 Corinthians 7:25-28). As we invest in marriage, what concerns one partner also concerns the other. Also they want to protect and please each other. There is a proper sense in which one partner is the priority concern of the other. The practical issues of finance, home-building, interaction with the extended family, raising children and emotionally satisfying the other spouse … all take time, thought, skill and devoted love.
Does that mean that married believers cannot be devoted to Jesus? No! Of course not! But it does mean that both husband and wife need to agree together to prioritise God's kingdom and be ready to accept the stresses associated with living for Christ in a hostile world. Singleness avoids many of those concerns and Paul gives special honour to those who are willing to forgo marriage for the sake of God's call, as Jesus did (Matthew 19:12).
What does matter for all believers is that we devote ourselves to the Lord whatever our social and marital situation. All of us will experience limitations of one kind or another; and all will struggle with the practical challenges of living for Jesus in a world that does not want Him Lord of all. However it is a special challenge to those who are not yet married that they should consider their future lives in the context of God's kingdom and not just their human desires.
© Dr Paul Adams