But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife…
(1 Cor 7:33 ESV)
They were a young missionary couple living in Sudan. Decades of civil war had made roads impassable even by four-wheel drive. They had to walk through the bush to reach villages to do ministry. Walking became increasingly painful for the young wife and with no doctors nearby, there was no treatment available. While home on furlough, the wife visited a doctor and when blood results came back, the doctor diagnosed her with an autoimmune disorder. She had to remain home in the States to receive necessary treatment. The mission field was no longer an option for the wife.
One hundred fifty years ago, there would have been no question what the husband would do. He would leave his young wife at home with family and return to Africa to continue God’s work. Many of our missionary heroes have stories that read exactly this way.
Today the opposite choice is made with little thought because there is extreme cultural pressure in the ministry and missions world on couples to stay together. That’s a higher value today than it was 150 years ago when the job, the mission, the campaign, whether sacred or secular, was the highest ideal. Today, the husband stays with the wife and cares for her. He has to choose where caring can best be facilitated. If he only has one choice, then the season for working in the foreign field has passed for this couple.
What does this have to do with the verse at the top of this page? Paul is walking readers through a delicate teaching. At a glance, it looks like Paul is pro-celibacy and anti-marriage. But nothing is further from the truth. Paul is not elevating one calling above the other. In fact, if you read Ephesians 5:22-32, you’ll discover that Paul describes the marriage relationship between a husband and wife as the best expression Christ’s love for His Bride the church.
Paul is answering specific questions that have been raised by the congregation in Corinth about a young man with a strong call on his life to ministry. Also, he’s engaged. The young man is walking through tension and wants to choose wisely.
The dictionary defines tension this way: the state of being stretched tight.
Tension is holy. Living in tension causes you to to seek the Lord, and, therefore, walk on holy ground.
Paul wants the man to make as informed of a choice as possible. Neither choice will be worry free, but there are choices that are less worry free than others. So, like a wise mentor, Paul lays options out for him as he sees them. During this season of singleness, he can give himself fully to the Lord. If he has a stronger sense that it’s time to be married, then get married. But if he tries to do both, that is launch a new ministry venture and get a new marriage off the ground, he’ll endure more stress than he’s built for.
Examine the season you’re currently in, the status of your relationships, and the call of God on your life and decide where the Lord is leading you. But don’t try to do it all. Some decisions you make need to be weighed with the most sobriety possible.
Byron and Emily Johnson Shepherd’s Staff missionaries Ukraine live in holy tension. They were sent by their home church to Ukraine. Emily is a diabetic dependent on daily doses of insulin. This is as important to her survival as oxygen. Yet, as a couple, they know God has called them to Ukraine. Their church leadership has affirmed it. When they arrive in Ukraine, war broke out adding to the tension of making a decision about staying in the will of God as they serve Him moment by moment. They are in a holy place, experiencing holy tension, and walking on holy ground. How do they move forward? What is God calling them to do? Tune in to our podcast this Tuesday, June 11, 2019, to discover how they chose.