Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Only Other Remedy

For many Christians, Valentine’s Day is a special occasion in which fondness for one’s spouse or potential spouse is especially expressed. But for others, it is a painful time. The apostle Paul actually says that it is better not to get married seven times in 1 Corinthians 7 (vs. 1, 8, 27, 28, 32, 38, and 40). But in this chapter he recommends marriage for those who can’t control themselves (vs. 9, 36) so as to avoid fornication (vs. 2).

But this is not to say that a Christian should always marry when in this condition (not being able to control oneself with respect to a particular person). There are several cases in which marriage would be in violation of God’s Word. Christians should never marry non-Christians (I Corinthians 7:39, II Corinthians 6:14). And they should not even entertain the idea that they might later persuade the non-Christian to become a Christian. You don’t know that this is going to happen and it would just encourage the non-Christian to get baptized for the wrong reasons, leading to a false conversion. If someone is a fornicator, covetous, an idolater, filthy-mouthed, a drunkard, or an extortioner and yet claims to be a believer, then you shouldn’t even eat with such a person! (I Corinthians 5:11). The Bible also says that remarriage after divorce is adultery (Mark 10:11, 12, Luke 16:18) except in certain cases (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, and possibly I Corinthians 7:15). It also seems logical that one should not marry someone who takes an opposing position on an issue that one feels strongly about, such as abortion. There are also times when God may be leading two people to two different geographic locations at some future time, so things just can’t work out, but in the mean time there is temptation. Other times the romantic feelings one has just aren’t felt by the other person. Sometimes the young are too young to marry or their parents don’t approve.

So what is one to do when one finds oneself in one of these situations—not able to control oneself and not able to stop having impure thoughts about the other person when Paul’s recommendation of marriage can’t be followed because it is forbidden by other scriptures or scriptural principles? Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

Don’t fool yourself. If marriage is not an option in this situation then the only other remedy is to stay away from the person whose presence causes you to sin. You may have to start going to a different church, quit your job, or even move away. Everyone else may think that this is a foolish overreaction, but such is often the case when a Christian does the right (1 Corinthians 2:14, 3:19).

This is a hard to decision to make and it should be done with great care. It is a sad thing when a great friendship has to come to an end because of something like this, but what must be done must be done. It is often no one’s fault. In this case, telling the other person that this is the way it has to be should be done so that there is no impression that you are laying blame for the situation. Whatever the case may be, you should be careful to make clear that the reason is the avoidance of sin and not to hurt the other person.

These situations are made worse when you put off talking about the important issues mentioned above (2nd paragraph). They are also made worse when tempting situations aren’t avoided and by engaging in things that lead to fornication or cause impure thoughts. I recommend the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris.

This is an unpleasant topic, but I hope that someone will benefit by reading it.

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