"But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." - the Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians
I am not married, nor do I plan to be any time soon. Therefore, I do not consider myself an expert on the Christian-style sacrament of marriage. I have a rough idea of how it works (and how it doesn't). I do, however, have a lot of experience with weddings as of late. Oh, reader, I warn you:
I'm 'bout to get all verbally offensive if you're not careful.
My brothers will back me up when I say this: the main point is the marriage, not the wedding. And though you may confess with your lips, you actions some-the-times betray those words, fellow Arborites!
Paul talked about marriage. To some of us at SAU, chapter seven of 1 Corinthians is the scariest chapter in the whole Bible, because Paul tries to convince us that it is actually possible that staying single could be better than being married!
Take it easy, we'll go through this from a literary standpoint. By chapter seven, Paul is wrapping one of the harshest tirades that I've read in any of his writings. Is anyone who claims to follow Christ engaging in sexual immorality (whatever he means by this is hidden from me in the Greek, which I cannot read)? If so, kick him out! Don't even have dinner with this turd (1 Cor 5:11). Don't sue your fellow Christians, because it opens us up to be wicked to each other. We might as well just give up trying (1 Cor 6:7). Then, he comes back to sexual immorality. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Sexual sin is one of the worst kinds of sin, because we usually underestimate the consequences (1 Cor 6:16-17)!
Paul starts the next paragraph with this very interesting qualifier: "Now for the matters you wrote about:". I would really like to know what the Corinthian church body asked Paul in that letter. Paul is, of course, not married. I can only guess that it had something to do with his marital status, because he begins a huge concession on the social aspect of marriage in the church.
First of all- and this is a personal rant- the fact that this discussion takes place is a demonstration that the institution of marriage exists beyond the borders of the Christian church. Believe it or not, the Church does not have a monopoly on marriage. That's all I will say about that.
Now that we have a literary basis of context, let's look at the first bit (nine verses) of this chapter- which is about as deep as most people get before they get scared off/ justify marriage with threat of sexual sin (I wish I knew the Greek behind the phrase "burn with passion"). Paul present marriage as a sort of last-ditch form of accountability. Of course, that is not all it is, as he goes on to explain. But in the case of the church of Corinth, it would be helpful to have both marriage and a healthy understanding of the Christian marriage. Our bodies are not just our own anymore. This combats sinning against the body (1 Cor 6:18), because we no longer have total control of our body anymore. In this light, getting married is more of a confession of weakness to the world, rather than a strong statement of love or a covenant of faith.
Paul says that it is better for a man or a virgin/unmarried woman (interesting that he includes both genders in this discussion, plus the possibility of an unmarried woman who is not a virgin) to be unmarried. Deciding to be unmarried is not a sin, neither is deciding to be married. Paul says that he tells everyone in the church that they have been given a God-sanctioned place in this world (7:17). Changing that station isn't necessary, because the things of this world like baptismal water and circumcisions don't mean anything past the grave (7:31). It is much more important to keep God's commands. This is a cornerstone of both Jesus' and Paul's teachings- love God and keep his commands, and the rest will follow. Duh.
It looks like I had a lot more to say that I thought. It isn't right to automatically think "marriage" in relationships, and it isn't fair to the other person. Being unmarried can be and usually is a gift from God (7:7). I say again, it is not imperative for you to marry! So, I would encourage anyone reading this to read the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians for themselves.
If you don't, Jesus will come back before your wedding night. Ha.