Sexual Temptation, Worldly Desire and Marital Status
I have just discovered an interesting post that presents a good way of thinking about the choice of whether or not to pursue marriage from 1 Cor 7. The author Dan Miller argues that there are 2 principles to consider: “The principle of avoiding temptation to sexual immorality makes us conclude that we should marry” and “The principle of avoiding worldly anxieties makes us conclude that we should not marry”. Neither is absolute, neither is primary, we each choose for our particular situations which is the more compelling. The strength of the avoiding temptation principle depends on how much a person struggles with sexual temptation, while the strength of the worldly anxiety principle depends on a person’s gifts and opportunities. The latter may be expressed in terms of whether marriage would help or hinder ministry.
This idea of conflicting principles ensures that both principles are considered together. If the principle of avoiding sexual immorality were ignored then one might get the idea that because singleness has advantages that ought to be used for God’s glory by those who are single, singles therefore ought to prefer singleness and avoid marriage, irrespective of the level of sexual desire and suitability for long-term single ministry. Similarly if the principle of sexual purity were taken on its own, one might take the position that those who struggle at all must marry because serious sexual sin is inevitable, ignoring the possibility that the advantages of undivided devotion that singleness brings may be worth the loss of marriage as one major way of reducing the struggle.
While these 2 principles are important in the choice whether or not to pursue marriage, there are other issues to be taken into account in the decision, such as desire for marriage, existence of somebody to pursue, readiness for marriage, the God-glorifying nature of marriage etc. Of course it is not purely an exercise in logic, the other principles of wisdom ought to be employed, prayer, the opinions of others, considering other relevant bible passages.
In the process of seeking to live the Christian life well to the glory of God we may not even be aware of the competing principles. The desire for marriage may be so strong it is urgently sought without much thought, or marriage and sexual desires may be weak enough that ministry enhanced by singleness may unexpectedly, but joyfully, turn into a life-long pattern. I would also say that from our point of view at least, we may have a genuine choice in the matter and if both are God-glorifying ways of living our lives then we may choose either.
Of course this whole discussion is based on the respective advantages of marriage and singleness for living life to the glory of God. It is not easy to use the gifts of marriage or singleness well, and even if we have made our choice, the challenge of glorifying God within our respective marital statuses still remains.