I Wish That All Men Were As I Am…
1 Corinthians 7:7 “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”
Paul is addressing questions on marriage from the Corinthian church. In the entire 1st Corinthian letter he seems to address various questions they had written to him for guidance and clarification. Each chapter addresses a different issue. Chapter 7 addresses marriage issues.
Apostle Paul’s main thesis is that considering the times we live in, it is not good to marry (1 Corinthians 7:1). He sees marriage as carrying so many problems in this sinful world. He recommends against marriage to spare the readers problems (1 Corinthians 7:28). He also argues that marriage will certainly distract us from full commitment to God’s service (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
While singlehood as opposed to marriage is Paul’s preference, he also recognises that not all can handle singlehood. Singlehood may be difficult because of burning sexual desires (1 Corinthians 7:2 &9) and the fact that God hasn’t gifted everyone to accept singlehood (1 Corinthians 7:7). He therefore juxtaposes that reality and his perception by declaring that, I wish that all men were as I am.
Apostle Paul seems convinced beyond reasonable doubt, that marriage is not the best idea for now. However Apostle Paul recognises that this truth has a potential to attract critics who will use it to attack him and cause chaos and confusion in the church. People who thrive in controversy and pointing mistakes. People who unless there is a controversy, you don’t hear from them. They appear with long posts and incessant comments when the church seems to be wrong, then they retreat into silence and boredom during times of good news from the church, as they wait for next church problem. Because of them, Apostle Paul struggles to make his point by insisting that it’s advice and not a command (1 Corinthians 7:6).
Apostle Paul also says that it doesn’t come as a command from God (1 Corinthians 7:25). From that statement questions have arisen on whether 1st Corinthians chapter 7 is inspired. All scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Inspiration doesn’t depend on the author’s confirmation or realization. Many who wrote what is now in the Bible, did not know it was inspired and that it would end up being scripture. If God has allowed it to be in the Bible, it must be good and inspired for all time. The Bible is not partially inspired, it is fully inspired. To suggest that not the whole Bible is inspired, will put us in a trap where some churches in the past and present, rejected Bible books that opposed their doctrines, and declared that they were not inspired. Those who rejected keeping God’s law but only upheld faith, rejected the book of James (because of James 2:20 and it’s related texts). Therefore it is safe to take the entire Bible as inspired. Regardless of what Apostle Paul thinks, his entire first letter to Corinthians was preserved for us and for our own good, because it is inspired. At the end of the chapter Apostle Paul affirms that in this writing he was still under the influence of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 7:40 “…–and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”
Apostle Paul is also keen to make it clear that, the married should not use his advice to seek divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-12). Apostle Paul also declares that being single and being married is not sin (1 Corinthians 7:27-28). Don’t marry because you think singlehood is sin. Don’t divorce because you think marriage is sin. Both the single and the married are accepted by God, but he says, I wish that all men were as I am.
Apostle Paul as a member of the Sanhedrin must have been married (Philippians 3:5-6 as a Pharisee he had to be married). After conversion he seems to have lost his marriage for reasons we can only speculate. May be the spouse died, may be she left him when he converted to Christianity, etc. Whatever the reason was, Apostle Paul presents himself as a single person or unmarried, as he writes this epistle. When he says i wish that all men were as i am, he is wishing that all were single as he was. He is also wishing that they had self control as he had. I wish that all men were as i am.
Apart from counsel of marriage and singlehood, Apostle Paul shares a powerful lesson on tolerance. The biggest problem bedevilling the church today is lack of tolerance and an unhealthy desire for uniformity. Apostle Paul makes his position on marriage and singlehood very clear and he doesn’t insist that it becomes a universal standard for everyone. Though he wishes it was universal, he recognises that we can’t all be uniform. I wish that all men were as I am, but each man is different. I wish that all were unmarried, and i also wish that all had self control like me, but we can’t be the same!
From the Genesis creation account, God created diversity in everything. Diversity in the animal and plant Kingdom. Diversity even among the inanimate things. Diverse soils, rocks, water, rivers, lakes, etc. Human beings are diverse too, from gender, race, language, tribe, location, etc. In relation to marriage, some prefer to be single, while others prefer to be married, some can have self control over sexual desires, others must marry because of sexual desires. Paul recognizes this diversity and he surrenders to it by declaring that, I wish that all men were as I am.
When Apostle Paul says that, I wish…, it brings out the reality in all of us. We all wish everyone was like us. If we sleep 8 hours, we wish everyone did. If we don’t have TV in our house and we teach our children in a certain manner, we wish everyone did what we are doing. If our camp meeting is in August, we wish everyone had there camp in August. If our worship begins at 9am, we get offended by those who begin at 11am. If we eat food without oil and salt, we wish everyone ate like us. We therefore create teachings and social media clips to promote our type of preference. All in an attempt to make everyone to be like us. While like Apostle Paul we wish everyone was like us, we too must go beyond and accept that there is diversity. I wish that all men were as I am, but they are different.
We are supposed to be United in faith and doctrines. While we all believe in evangelism, we can’t evangelize the same way in all parts of the world. While we all accept the need to partake Holy Communion, some will have it Friday night, others Sabbath morning and many others Sabbath afternoon. What is defined as acceptable and decent may even vary from place to place because of availability or absence of resources. Even our problems vary. Others grapple with challenges of polygamy and others struggle with homosexuality, others struggle with malnutrition and others struggle with obesity.
What is a big issue to one part of the world, is a none issue in another part of the world. We are not uniform at all, we are diverse. While we wish everyone was like us, let us tolerate diversity and not sin. Even our progression is not uniform. Some are where others were several years ago, in development, in adoption of technology, etc. Music by choirs in East Africa and by those in Asia are not the same. Decent dress for Sabbath is not the same world over. How we wish we were all uniform, but we worship the Creator of diversity, we therefore embrace it. I wish that all men were as I am, but they are different.
Tolerance is not compromise. Compromise is accepting what is wrong to be the new norm. Tolerance is accepting what is right but different. Our tolerance must not water down our faith or mislead others. Our tolerance must affirm our faith, and embrace others to a unity in Christ. If we belong to Christ, we must be tolerant of those who are right but different. While like Apostle Paul we wish others were like us, let us like Paul go further and be tolerant of those who are not like us. I wish that all men were as I am, but they are different.
We will be happy and blessed if we recognise that we can’t be uniform, we are different but right. May the God who created diversity, bless us and grant us unity and happiness, though we are not uniform, in Jesus name. Amen! (C)firstname.lastname@example.org (do not delete any part of this post, including this. You are free to share these posts but don’t edit the authorship or content… thank you and be blessed!)