Our brother in Christ, who has fallen asleep long before our time, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote:
“For Christian truth, if I may say so, has itself eyes to see with, yea, is all eye; but it would be very disquieting, rather quite impossible, to look at a painting or a piece of cloth, if when I was about to look I discovered that the painting or the cloth was looking at me.”
Indeed, as one preaches out of His Word, one would do well to be mindful that, as the Word is preached – as the Preacher peers into the Word – greater eyes see into the deepest places of the heart, holding the Preacher accountable to their own words or, far better and far more seriously, to His. In the spirit of that knowledge, I say that I too need as much help and strength and prayer that I can find. I cannot afford to put on a façade, for greater eyes know the truth about my needs and struggles. So, as I deliver a message from the Scripture, I preach to myself far more than to you.
1 Corinthians 7:36
“If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.”
It was difficult to decide what exact verse or series of verses I would use to preface this exhortation. Nevertheless, for the point I want to pursue, this may be sufficient. Years ago, in my World Religions class, my Professor, a Lutheran minister of all things, told the story of a young couple who were getting married in a ceremony over which he was officiating. As they were exchanging rings, the young bride whispered into her groom’s ear, “Thank you for keeping me pure.”
“Thank you for keeping me pure” – this was burned into my mind instantly. I found this to be remarkable and it seems like it is an easy thing to accomplish or, at least, the practicality of pursuing a pure relationship with another should be easy and, in fact, is easy to conceive in one’s mind. Realistically, the effort two must place in pursuing one another’s purity is great, because it requires us to deny that which feels innate and forces us to sacrifice for the other. When you care about the purity of the other person, you say “enough” and “we cannot go further”. You pray together and read together, while preparing your own hearts in moments of solitude, when your companion’s eyes are not able to observe your private deeds.
My Pastor, during a moment of confession about the difficulties my lady and I were having with abstaining (we abstained, praise God, throughout the relationship), cautioned that this might be a fair sign that it is time to wed. Over the course of a relationship, the affection becomes far more affectionate and the line seems far less distant than it once did. If his passions are too strong. While, at the beginning, caring for the purity of the companion means abstaining, at a point down the line, caring for the purity of the companion means coming together at the altar as bride and groom or, forbid it from being so, setting the companion free from the companionship and the fiery passions which endanger their purity.
Arguably, one who has cared for the other person’s purity enough to abstain as carefully as they were able to do so has interest enough in the finality of things to care for the well-being of the other once they have been bound together in the eyes of He, who being unseen, sees all freely. They establish a precedent of sacrifice and patience, which acts as a foreshadowing of the things to come in that, though difficult moments arrive, they will persevere in the Lord. More importantly, just as marriage is a type, pointing to the marriage of Christ with the church, the relationship also serves as a type, finding its model in the moments leading up to the betrothal, wherein the groom-to-be loves his bride-to-be and gives “himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant” bride, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
It is not enough to read this and say, “He is only talking to husbands.” In fact, Paul relates this to Christ’s love and care for the church before the marriage itself. One can take this and should apply it to the period leading up to marriage. Being men and women, however, who are all stuck in the middle of a war, wherein our flesh wages battle, we must pay heed to Paul’s warnings: if our passions arise for one another, it is then good to marry. If our concern is indeed for the purity of our companion, then our intentional protection of their heart should mean care enough to lead them to the altar as bride and groom.
To the Most High, protector and savior of our souls – who is our refuge, strength, and shield.