January 25, 2021
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Rev. Mike Stallings
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Stay as You Were When God Chose You
17 But each believer should live in whatever situation the Lord has given them. Stay as you were when God chose you. That’s the rule all the churches must follow. 18 Was a man already circumcised when God chose him? Then he should not become uncircumcised. Was he uncircumcised when God chose him? Then he should not be circumcised. 19 Being circumcised means nothing. Being uncircumcised means nothing. Doing what God commands is what counts. 20 Each of you should stay as you were when God chose you.
21 Were you a slave when God chose you? Don’t let it trouble you. But if you can get your master to set you free, do it. 22 The person who was a slave when the Lord chose them is now the Lord’s free person. The one who was free when God chose them is now a slave of Christ. 23 Christ has paid the price for you. Don’t become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person is accountable to God. So each person should stay as they were when God chose them.
Concerning Change of Status
There are so many times, in reading the epistles of Paul, that I wish I could raise my hand and ask some follow-up questions. This passage of 1 Corinthians is one of those times. Upon first reading it seems simple: He seems to be saying, “Bloom where you’re planted and be content there.” But in thinking about it, that becomes troublesome. Does he really mean we should be content to live “in whatever situation has been assigned to us?” Are we not supposed to grow and change into better disciples? Are we supposed to remain without any ambition or drive to grow our churches or become better servants? Should we stay in exactly the same situation we were in when God called us? I hope not. I’ve learned a lot about how shallow my faith and understanding were when God first called me. The reading suddenly becomes a bit confusing, and even contradictory: Paul encourages slaves to gain freedom if they can. How could they do that while remaining in the “situation the Lord has assigned?”
Sometimes it takes a bit of wrestling with scripture before insights can be gleaned. I think I’ve figured a couple of things out. First, Paul calls us to be in the state we were in when we were first called. Well, what was that state? It was one of receptiveness and openness to God’s voice: a state of realizing and confessing our need for God; a state of recognizing that God’s grace was overwhelming, and that God’s love sought us out when we had no idea that it was there. That’s a state that we can live in until we finally achieve the perfection that God has promised. Second, notice that the examples Paul uses reflect exterior marks of tribalism or culturally assigned roles. They are conditions imposed by others. I believe that Paul is saying that God called us without any consideration of our nationality, social status, education level, self-worth, slavery to addictions, or our desire for society’s approval.It seems that Paul is saying that the important thing is not to “bloom where we’re planted;” but, as we mature in faith, and perhaps find ourselves in another assignment in another stage of life, we should still endeavor to remember who we were. We should hold onto the memory of God’s call despite our unworthiness or misguided self-righteousness. We should live in a state of adoration, confession, gratitude, and desire to respond to God’s love with service to neighbors. That is our most holy condition and the one that will define us in the sight of God far more truthfully than any definitions that society may place upon us.