Stay Away from Women!

They reckon Paul was a cranky old bachelor. That is why he says things like, “Stay away from the sheilas, fellas” (1 Cor. 7:1–Backoburke Version). Others reckon that he used to be married and that is why he says such things.

Whatever the apostolic marital status, his advice still sticks there in our Bibles. He encourages people to stay single for the sake of the gospel.

Now, not only does it stick in our Bibles, it also sticks in our throats. It’s a hard idea for us to come at. Even though people are getting married older than they used to, the search for ‘person right’ is far from off the agenda. After rising to the right career notch, amassing a respectable bank balance, and going on your quota of Kontiki tours, marriage (legal or de facto) is still an honourable state of life for most. And if marriage is out of vogue, why are there so many match-making agencies? Why personal meeting place columns in the papers? Why have we stooped so low as to win a partner by lying about ourselves in a TV quiz show? Singleness is not everybody’s idea of fun.

In fact, it is a real worry for many to find themselves at their preferred marrying age with no prospects insight. The long tunnel of singleness begins to loom large. And it’s not pleasant standing at the short end of it.

Paul’s advice sticks in the craw even for Christians–and we own the Bible! Doesn’t God have a high view of marriage? Aren’t marriages made in heaven? Isn’t marriage God’s answer to human loneliness? Aren’t you somehow more complete by having a God-given companion?

Paul’s advice sticks in the craw because we have wrong priorities. If we believed the gospel more we would realise that the times are short, the Kingdom of God is at hand. We would realise that the work of the kingdom is the highest priority, that people need to be saved and so need to hear the gospel, and that means that Christians need to speak the gospel. And we would realise that this priority is more important than being married–even if you already are (1 Cor. 7:29).

It means that if you are Christian and have the gift of being single at the present time–rejoice in your greater freedom to do the work of the Lord. And get on with it!

And if you are a Christian and have the gift of many troubles in this life (ie. married! 1 Cor. 7:28)–realise what a great resource God has given you in your single brothers and sisters. Encourage them, not to join a singles club in search of a partner, but to do the work of the Lord which you in so many ways are prevented from doing to the full. Echo Paul’s advice: the time is short–stay away from the sheilas, fellas!

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