Skip to content

Here's a sermon on 1 Corinthians 7

Basically I think the chapter's about contentment.  Marriage and singleness etc are a presenting issue (v1).  But really Paul's telling us to stay put in our circumstances. 

And to do it we need to remember calling, timing and gifting.

God's call (v15, 17, 18, 20, 22) is His call to fellowship with Christ (1:7).  And it can come to anyone in any circumstances.  So the grass is not greener in another set of circumstances, you can fulfil this incredible calling wherever you are.  So be content.

The time is short (v29).  Marriage is not 'happily ever after', it's momentary.  Even if your job is "for life" it's completely insecure.  So plug into the roles where God has you but don't be "engrossed" (v32).   Our home is the future, not present circumstances.  So be content.

Our circumstances are a gift (v7).  If you're single you have the gift of singleness, if you're married you have the gift of marriage.  ie your circumstances have been given to you from the hand of Christ.  Singleness/marriage, this job / that job / unemployment is His gift to you - a gift from the One who loves you more than you love yourself.  Receive it as His gift and be content.

I ran out of time at the very end and left out a page of my notes.  It was basically all about how you're supposed to ever get married, given that singleness is to be preferred, and we're not to look for a spouse.

In brief - we should learn contentment in all circumstances, understand the benefits of singleness and if there's someone on the scene who belongs to the Lord (v39) and wouldn't be a sinful choice in other respects, and if you actually want to marry given all this, then go ahead.  Sexual attraction is a major sign that marriage should be on the cards, and if it is then for goodness sakes hurry up before it turns into sexual sin.

That kind of thing.  I also drew people's attention to these resources.



Turning the other cheek is the very nature of Jesus' posture towards us.  It defines His way.  This is true in the OT as much as the New.

It is a response to being wronged.  (Note that being sued and forced labour are the parallel cases in Matt 5:40,41 - it's not just about non-violence, it's about our posture towards any and every kind of assault).

When you are wronged the natural response is either retaliation or retreat.  You either strike back or shrink away.  Jesus commands an entirely different response - standing firm in meekness.  Offering the other cheek effectively says:

It hasn't worked has it?  You want me to diminish myself - either to run or to descend to your level.  But here I am in an apparent weakness that hides unnatural strength.  You have not won.  I have taken the blow and remain unaffected.  I have arrested the cycle of violence and now I stand here confronting you with your own wickedness.   I'm outmaneuvering you.  I have entirely changed the terms on which we are relating.   You may change them back again, but each time I will disempower you by refusing to perpetuate your aggression.  I may look like I'm losing.  But in reality you lost the minute you struck me.  And I refuse to join you.  My way - the way of voluntary weakness - is really the only way to win.

Now we know how this tactic has worked en masse.  Think of Gandhi's non-violent protest.


But here I want to think about it's transformational power in personal relationships.

Imagine three families where one of the members acts as a kind of scapegoat.  The scapegoat is the member of the pack who becomes the perpetual butt of every gag.  The family only properly functions when the scapegoat is to blame.

In family A the scapegoat eventually hardens into a sharp-tongued, spikey wise-guy. 

In family B  the scapegoat shrinks into a self-blaming, shy, clutz. 

But what about a third way?  Imagine if the scapegoat finds Christ.  And in Him finds a power to receive the very worst blow and neither to lash out nor to shrink down.

And so this time the barbed comment comes their way....

Father:  You just crashed the car, you stupid clutz!  You're always doing that.  What's the matter with you, how can you be such an idiot?!

Now scapegoat A would fight back.  Scapegoat B would crumble into tears.  But in family C the scapegoat says...

Oh Dad, I'm much worse than a clutz.  My life is chaotic, I'm always running late, I never look where I'm going.  There are some deep seated problems that I'm praying through right now, and 'stupid' doesn't even touch the depths of my problems.  But Dad, let's forget about the car for a second and let's talk about why your first response to my car accident was to abuse me?  Seems like there's something pretty wrong in our relationship if that's the case...

Wouldn't that be a powerful?  Wouldn't that be turning the other cheek?

Or a marriage (could be any marriage!) where the husband comes home late after some ministry activity:

[Fuming] You said you'd be home half an hour ago!

Response A:

Honey, it was for the gospel!  And if you were for the gospel you'd understand!

Response B:

I give in.  I can't win.  I'm off to blog...

Response C:

You're right.  There were some unavoidable delays, but at heart you're right - and it's worse than you think.  I have this horrible need for people to think I'm a funny, personable guy so I stick around to crack jokes.  I put my image ahead of my word to you and that's awful, I'm going to pray about it.  But first can we talk about a better way of communicating in these situations?

You refuse to retaliate, you take the blow in all its fullness and then you turn to address the relationship (not the fight).

Now you have a go.  Is there a situation where you need to turn the other cheek?  How will you do it?


PS - for a brilliant example of Bob Kauflin turning the other cheek to a guy stealing his car battery, listen to the first 5 minutes of this

Ok, another little example of engaging with non-Christian world-views.  This is from a wedding sermon I gave a few weeks ago.  The great majority of the congregation were not Christians. The couple asked me to speak from 1 John 4:7-12.  I'll quote a part of the sermon and then make some comments.  (Just so you know I've tweaked the last paragraph since giving the sermon.)


Why is virtually every film, every TV show, every novel, every pop song obsessed with people falling in love and getting together?  If they're not obsessed with falling in love and getting together, they're obsessed with falling out of love and drifting apart.  You can't get around it: this kind of committed, mutually self-giving relationship consumes our culture and consumes our hearts.

Why?  Why do all the songs say ‘Love is the greatest thing'? 

Craig and Debbie know.  That's why they chose this reading from the bible.  Why does the world say ‘Love is the greatest thing.'??  Because God, the greatest thing, is love. 

That's the famous phrase from our reading.  Verse 8: "God is love."  Coming into church this afternooon you may not have known any verse of the bible - now you know one.  "God is love."

God's not just in a long-term relationship.  God is an eternal relationship of committed love.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit love one another, uphold one another, pour their life into one another from eternity past to eternity future.

The committed love of marriage is a faint picture of the incredible love that binds the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Whether you believe in Him or not, whatever concept of God you've brought to church this afternoon, allow it to be shaped by God's own word.  God is love.

God doesn't just do love.  God is love.  His very existence is an existence of love.  Love is the very stuff of His being.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are who they are because they are constantly giving and receiving love.

Why do the songs say love is the greatest thing?  Because the greatest thing, God, is love.  To put your finger on the ultimate pulse of reality you will find the committed love of these three Persons.  Of course the whole world sings of love.  How could it not?! 

But here's the terrible tragedy.  The world doesn't know why love's the greatest thing.  And so the world is left with this groundless, abstract thing called love.  It becomes a mere feeling for us to praise and magnify, and, in all probability, to watch slip through our fingers.  Love, without this grounding in God, becomes only a sentiment to be admired.  But if that is all that love is, then today is robbed of it's meaning.  If love is just a feeling, we may well smile at the happy couple, we will praise their participation in this grand myth called love.  But then we'll go home wondering if there's any real substance to it all.  But to all that, the bible says Perish the thought!!  Love has a grounding.  As verse 7 says "Love comes from God".  That's why Craig and Debbie want us to think about these verses.  The God who is love will breathe meaning back into that old cliche that 'love is the greatest thing'.  And in doing so He will provide a foundation not only for Craig and Debbie's marriage but for all of our lives.  So let's pay attention to these verses for the next couple of minutes...


Four observations.

First, the Christian can take upon their lips non-Christian sentiments and use them truly.  But in doing so we commandeer those propositions and press them into a quite different service.  So 'love is the greatest thing' on the lips of a non-Christian means what?  Well it could mean many things but at the end of the day it effectively boils down to 'love is God.'  Love itself becomes the object of worship.  But what does 'love is the greatest thing' mean on the lips of a Christian?  Well in the kind of context I tried to give in the sermon, it becomes testimony to the entirely different truth 'God is love'.

Secondly, I really mean it when I wonder out loud How can the world not sing of love?  I am happy to draw attention to this universal sentiment that 'love is the greatest thing.'  But I will tell the non-Christian that he or she doesn't really know why it's their sentiment.  And that even the terms of that sentiment are distorted into falsehood.  'Love is God' seems a hairs-breadth from the truth, in fact it's idolatry.  And idolatry is not a stepping stone to true worship.

Thirdly, none of this depends on agreeing with a non-Christian definition of love.  It's not a case of saying 'Hey, you love love, I love love, everyone loves love.  Lemme show you the best love.'  We can't do that because verse 10 describes love in terms that are completely off our natural radar screen.  According to God's word, love is bloody, sacrificial, atoning death.  And that for enemies.  I've never found the non-Christian who will agree to that definition of love in advance!  We simply do not share a common understanding of love from which we can argue to divine reality. 

Fourth, I'm very fond of that kind of phrase: 'Allow yourself to be told...'  I don't know where I first picked it up but it's kind of my whole theology of revelation.  Preaching (but in fact all speaking of Christian truth) is declaring with divinely delegated authority: 'Allow yourself to be told something you do not know, could never anticipate and will never have under your belt...  Put yourself in the path of this meteor from above...  Receive something that you absolutely do not already have in your grasp.'  It is news that we tell.  Revelation.  I try to have my rhetoric shaped by that.


Twitter widget by Rimon Habib - BuddyPress Expert Developer