During discussions of marriage and how we believe marriage “should” be structured (which does not begin to address what marriages actually are),1 I have often directed attention to the fact that only one passage in the Bible speaks of authority in marriage. It’s here in 1 Corinthians 7 and it’s a shared authority.
The authors of this chapter, Ronald W. Pierce and Elizabeth A. Kay, provide twelve principles of mutuality found in 1 Corinthians 7. But they start the chapter by pointing out that much more work could be done, both with this chapter in its own context and with this chapter in conversation with other parts of Scripture. This is the most lengthy passage relating to marriage and singleness and yet it stirs little discussion.
The only one of the principles that I will highlight today is the one that states that an unbelieving spouse can be “made holy” through the believing spouse and it applies equally to both wives and husbands (1 Cor 7:14). Although Paul does not explain what exactly he means by this. In context, it is the reason that a believing spouse should not divorce an unbelieving one, though they are not bound if the unbelieving spouse walks away. We do not know what God will do through our lives submitted to Him.
Perhaps we should be less concerned about hoarding all the authority for ourselves and more interested in what God could do with our submission to Him, whether we are men or women.
1 Whether complementarian or egalitarian or anything in between or more extreme, what we think marriage “should” be is an ideal. We do not exist in the steady lines of an idealistic marriage; we live in the back and forth course correction of reality. However, what we think marriage should be, what we think our particular work in marriage is, does set our aim. It directs all of the course correction that we make and therefore is important.