No Radical Changes
Working with the Circumstance God Gave You (I Corinthians 7:17-24)
Using the principle Paul developed in regards to a Christian married to unbelievers, Paul expands it to other situations. Often we are in less control of our lives than we would like to imagine and frequently there are aspects of our lives which we wish were different. Rather than seeking changes, we need to learn how to live with what we have.
A Jew does not need to become a Gentile, nor a Gentile to become a Jew. There is no need to change one’s physical condition or his culture to live as a Christian. Circumcision was a physical sign of being under the Old Covenant (Genesis 17:10-11). But the Old Covenant has been replaced with a New Covenant (Ephesians 2:11-16). Physical circumcision has been replaced with spiritual circumcision (Colossians 2:9-14). Therefore, circumcision no longer carries any meaning (Galatians 5:6; 6:15). What is important is whether a person is keeping God’s commandments (I John 2:3-6; 3:22-24; 5:1-3). In fact, Paul elsewhere argues that to insist that Gentiles be circumcised is to deny the New Covenant (Galatians 5:1-4).
God isn’t asking people to make radical changes in their relationships just because they became Christians. They will make radical changes in their personal behavior (I Peter 4:1-4), but becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically mean they leave their marriage, leave their culture, or leave their employer. Christianity doesn’t make a relationship wrong if that relationship wasn’t already wrong. We don’t live in isolation where we only have ties with Christians.
So if a person becomes a Christian while a slave, he doesn’t need to leave his unbelieving master. Instead, he should use his situation to bring glory to God (Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; I Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9; I Peter 2:18). While on earth a man might be a slave, but the truth is that he is a free man in the eyes of God (I Peter 2:15-16; John 8:36). If circumstances arise that allow a Christian to leave slavery, then he should take advantage of it. But even Christians who are not slaves here on earth are not fully free either. Christians see themselves as slaves of Christ (Romans 6:18, 22). Being untied by slavery is a preferable state, so Christians are to avoid situations which will put them into slavery.
1. Are there limits to the principle Paul stated in I Corinthians 7:24?
2. When are radical changes not called for?
3. When are radical changes called for?
4. Can changes in circumstances be made in a non-radical way?
5. Some religions advocate radical changes in the follower’s life. For example, the Shakers insisted that married members separate. Some cults demand their members live in communes. How would you apply this section to such claims?