Craig S. Keener, New Testament scholar, says chapter 13 is in the form of a Parenesis, an ancient rhetorical and literary style in which moral exhortations loosely joined together with other literary elements. The closing words of the author gives specific instructions to the community of faith. Let us read these exhortations in the light of thetheme, the sanctity of the marital relationship.
Do you remember your chemistry lessons from school? We all learnt of co-valent bonds, a chemical bond that involves sharing of electron pairs between atoms. When these shared pairs or binding pairs form a stable balance between the attractive and repulsive forces between atoms, it is known as covalent bonding.
It is quite similar to our marriage relationship where the two become one ( Mark 2:8-9). When two unique individuals come together in holy matrimony, it needs care, tending and growth to achieve a balance through some sort of co-valent bonding. Otherwise the attractive and repulsive forces which are part of the marital relationship may destroy the bond. Let us glean a few instructions for marriage from today’s portion.
Core Christianity (v.1-3)
Love is at the core of Christian faith, and the concluding exhortations begin with it. Without love, hospitality (v.2) can turn into two things : An industry (with a profit motive) or hostility (heartless actions). Hospitality is overflow of a heart filled with love ( Remember Jesus making breakfast for his disciples who went fishing ? John 21:10-13). Verse 2 recalls Abraham’s hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18), which turned out to be angels. Verse 3, talks about visiting prisoners. It was written at a time when Christians were imprisoned for their faith and persecuted. May our lives within the marital bond and beyond be ever hospitable.
Keeping the covenant (v.4).
The Bible minces no words when it comes honouring the marital covenant. Note that unlike the Old Testament, the emphasis on fidelity is assigned in a gender neutral manner – both are equally responsible. Written in an age and area in which extra-marital, pre-marital sexual activity was considered normal, and sometimes sanctioned by some philosophies, the Christian faith stood for integrity and faithfulness between partners. The consequences of judgment is brought to consciousness by the writer. May our marital bonds strive to hold on to the holy covenant and its terms.
Contentment over enchantment (v.5).
Money is not the only answer but it makes a difference, said Obama. Chuck Palahniuk in his famous novel Fight Club asserts:
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
Contentment must be prized over the enchantment by money and that is echoed all through the Scriptures (Pro 19:23; 23:4-5; Ecclesiastes 5:10, etc.).
Confidence in Christ (v.5-6)
Our portion ends with two encouraging verses that urges the readers /listeners to base their relationship on a trust founded in the Lord. Both these verses are quotes from the Old Testament (v.5 from Joshua 1:5 and Deut 31:6,8 and v. 6 from Psalm 118:6)
Prayer : Lord, help us to hold on to the core principles of Christian marriage so that we experience your divine love enough to share it with others. Amen.
[Shared in a shorter form as a devotion in Everyday With the Word, Sep 29, 2018.]