As we know, Paul wrote letters to the Christians in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians also wrote to Paul. They corresponded to ask him questions about faith and practice, questions that were troubling them very much. One question in particular, as we see at the beginning of chapter 7, had to with the issue of marriage. Apparently, some in Corinth thought and taught, for several reasons, that it was more spiritual and moral for followers of Jesus not to marry. This perspective may have appealed in part because of distinctly immoral sexual behaviors that plagued the Christian community in Corinth, as indicated by Paul previously in this letter.
Paul responded as both a teacher and a pastor to the Corinthian Christians. As a teacher and a pastor – grounded in God’s truth and God’s love as manifested in Scripture, in creation, and in Jesus – he explained that marriage is not intrinsically wrong or even inferior. Nor is sexual intimacy between a man and a woman within marriage – within a covenant of love and commitment – wrong or inferior. (Compare Genesis 2:21-25.) At its least, marriage may limit and prevent wrongful behavior between a man a woman. At its highest, marriage may express and fulfill a loving union, spiritual and physical, between a man and a woman – a union that, even more, reflects the mystery of the union between Jesus and his Church. (Compare Ephesians 5:31-32.)
At the same time, Paul, aware that marriage is not possible or desirable for all, refuses to denigrate the single state. For many reasons, some people may be single; some may stay single all their life. For whatever the reason, this can be good – in the Lord – Paul clearly affirms. Indeed, being single can enable a person to serve Jesus more freely and single-mindedly.
Paul was clear in his letter to the Corinthians, and we undoubtedly know from our own experience, that being married or being single is not always easy and not always comfortable. Yet each situation can be good in the Lord – that is, good when submitted to faith, hope, and love in Jesus. For Jesus is himself the true “lover of our soul,” the source and end of all true love in life.