Scripture: I Corinthians 7:25–40
We are taking a “strange” Scripture as our point of departure.
Peter Marshall, famed Washington, D.C, preacher of some years ago, delighted in welcoming newlyweds to what he called “the highest halls of human happiness.” How do you suppose he meant these words? Prove from Scripture that God desires and delights in man’s happiness. What is meant by true happiness?
This passage written by Paul, however, doesn’t look like much of a recommendation for marriage. Some have accused him of being an ascetic who forced his “negative” ideas on the church of all ages to its detriment. Let it be noted that such an interpretation does violence not only to many other Biblical statements but also to Paul’s own words here. Read this passage carefully and discuss it in the light of the actual circumstances which prevailed in Corinth at that time. Consult, if need be, a reliable commentary. We perhaps ought to remember that then as well as now Christians sought marriage for their children from unworthy motives—social position, ease, financial gain, etc. Only when our children are mature, will they make proper life-companions for someone. And to help them attain true maturity is a basic responsibility for all Christian parents. How concerned should we be that our children become truly ready for marriage? Do you think parents are really concerned about this?
1–The responsibility of Christian parents
That parents have a large stake in the marriages of their children goes without saying. This follows from the close relation which ought to exist between parents and children, one of deep affection which seeks happiness in which all can somehow share. As covenant parents we should be deeply concerned especially for the sake of God and the “sanctity” of his covenant. What is meant by this “sanctity”? What are mixed marriages? Are these ever permissible? What should you do, if your son or daughter falls in love with an unbeliever?
In Bible times (also New Testament days, cf. I Cor. 7) parents had much more to say about this than today. Do you think our present situation is an improvement? State your arguments. Although parents no longer choose the children’s partners, they continue to have a clear-cut responsibility before God. Why? How far does this responsibility extend? When should we first begin to talk our children about marriage and home life?
2 –The calling of Christian young people
Today the common complaint is that young people marry much too early and much too hastily. Do you think this is true among your acquaintances? State some reasons for marrying at an earlier age now than a generation ago. Evaluate these reasons. What is the best age for entering marriage? Is this age about the same for all?
Because of the responsibilities which marriage entails before God and men, young people should recognize the need for personal maturity on the part of themselves and their prospective life-partners. This includes at least the following:
a–Physical maturity. What is meant by this? Does modern life with its rigorous educational, social and financial demands tend to postpone the possibility of marriage too long? What are some dangers? Sound health is also an important factor. Why?
b–Emotional maturity. What is meal1t by this? How can parents help children assess themselves in this regard? Show how it is intimately bound up with the third purpose of marriage, loving companionship. A boy unwilling to put his wife ahead of his male companions does her an injustice. A girl not content with home-making and child-bearing tends to defraud her husband. Should we put some curb on working-wives? Explain. Should a wife put her husband’s desires in this matter above her personal preference for a job or career?
Also to be considered is “falling in love.” What does the phrase usually mean? What is the Biblical view of true love between man and woman? How can young people really tell whether they are in love? Does love come before or after marriage? Explain.
c–Religious maturity. Christians should enter marriage as a faith-response to God. If they can assume the ordinary responsibilities of marriage, they ought to be mare than ready to take a clear-cut stand for God. Show how this means more than making public profession of faith in church. Demonstrate that the “Form” plainly assumes that both parties are committed Christians. What difficulties will arise if one party is merely a nominal church member? How should young people discuss these matters with their prospective mates? Is it important that they decide to which church they shall belong?
3–The art of Christian dating
Also in keeping company with each other, when of marriageable age. Christian young people must set a good example. This is plainly required by God. Much is at stake—the reputations of themselves, their parents, their friends, their church, and their God. For what sound reasons does God demand chastity before as well as in marriage?
Our customs differ widely from those obtaining even two or three generations ago. Today “dating” often results from casual contacts. Where ought young people meet each other? What can be done for those belonging to isolated churches of the same faith which have few “prospects”? Discuss some “dating” practices in your community.
Ordinarily engagement is the next step. How serious is such a step? What all is involved? What is the purpose and value of engagement? How long should engagements usually last? Should the approval of the parents be sought? Discuss the specific help which parents can and should give to their children who “go steady” and/or are engaged.