Thomas McKenzie
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What Was That?

Corinthians 7:1-9

Today's New Testament Lesson from the Daily Office
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: 'It is well for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.' But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of selfcontrol. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing selfcontrol, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

What Was That?

From Thomas

I constantly encourage our congregation to read the Bible. Anglicans believe that the Bible is the "rule and ultimate standard of our faith" and it contains "all things necessary to salvation." Then we read the Bible together and we come upon passages like this one. And we say to ourselves "what was that?"

The first thing I should point out is that there is a context to this passage. Paul is engaged in a conversation about morality, sex, and family. At the beginning and end of the passage above, Paul commends celibacy to his readers. It seems that Paul was unmarried and celibate, and he suggests that this life is a good one. He does not say it is required, and he is very straight forward in saying that this is not for everyone. This should be understood as the context of "it is well for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman."

The modern Church often talks about 'family.' Many times church leaders have forgotten that singleness has a place of great honor in the Bible. Those who are single among us should be encouraged and greatly esteemed. Unfortunately, they are often talked down to and made to feel unincluded. "When are you going to get married?" is a common question that most single people hate. They are too polite to ask those who are married "when are you going to be widowed?" My point is that we would all do well to value one another regardless of whether or not we are married.

This passage does something else that is very interesting. St. Paul explictly gives husbands and wives equal access to one another's bodies. Paul is often criticized for some of his comments which do not seem favorable to women. In this case, however, he is directly challenging the culture of his day. In his era, men effectively owned their wives bodies. Here, though, the Holy Spirit is presenting a vision of mutual respect and accountability.

God created us in his own image, both male and female. Equally, we are in the image of God. Jesus portrayed an image of male/female relationships that we would do well to imitate. Here in closing is an informative quote from the renowed Christian humanist and author, Dorothy Sayers (hat tip to my friend Danny Bryant).

From Dorothy Sayers

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were the first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this Man--there has never been another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them as "The women, God help us!," or "The Ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without peevishness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about womens' nature."

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