Here is a point to ponder.
Darby Livingston, pastor of Come As You Are Fellowship in Union City, OH, comments on 1 Corinthians 7:29, in his book The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pleasure of Another: A Christian Hedonist Guide to a Happy Marriage (if you are not familiar with the term Christian Hedonism, coined by John Piper, see Pastor John’s explanation here). Pastor Livingston writes:
“From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29) What does that mean? Are we supposed to leave our spouses? NO! [Capital letters mine]… We’re just supposed to be gospel-centered whether single or married. The gospel isn’t to be used to build better marriages, though sermons and books abound on that topic. Just the opposite is true. Marriage is to be used to expand the Kingdom of God through the gospel. In saying that men with wives should live as though they had none, Paul is saying that the gospel has invaded this evil world and has flipped past priorities on their heads. Our priority before believing the gospel may have been to build a comfortable little life with our spouse and pray we live long enough to enjoy the fruit of our labor [Ecclesiastes 9:9 does say as much]. Our priority since believing the gospel must be to use every temporal blessing, including marriage, as the means of advancing God’s Kingdom on earth (Darby Livingston, The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pursuit of Another [USA: Xulon Press, 2007], 124).
In John Piper-esque fashion, Pastor Livingston challenges comfortable Christian marriages, to count the cost, pick up the cross, and carry the gospel. This is not optional, this is essential. Overstating his case, Livingston says that “the gospel isn’t to be used to build better marriages.” Clearly this is not true in and of itself. The gospel of Jesus Christ does build better marriages. However, in context his point is dead on! Good marriages are not the final goal. The gospel is! And marriages are to orient themselves around this reality. As Jesus says with similar hyperbole, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). In stating his case this way, Pastor Livingston is simply paraphrasing the words of our Lord, and challenging Christian couples to live lives of discipleship.
Though, I have only read a few chapters of Livingston’s book, I commend it to you as a book that will help you see the glory of God in your marriage and to live radically for the kingdom of God. If you are a Christian Hedonist, this book is for you; if you are not yet a Christian Hedonist, I would encourage you all the more to check it out.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss