1 Corinthians 7:29-31. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
When we say that Christ is in us and we are in Christ, or that we have union with Christ, we are also saying that Christ’s kingdom is in us. The kingdom of Christ is what we call “already but not yet.” Or another way of saying this is that we live in the “overlap of the ages.” You see, Christ’s kingdom is here on earth spiritually inside of us the church, but it is not yet consummated physically. By his first coming, Christ rules in our hearts through his death and resurrection and our co-dying and co-rising with him. But he does not yet rule physically on a throne in a literal city. Not until his second coming.
When Paul says the appointed time has grown very short in v.29 he is talking about this “overlap of the ages.” He is saying that the age that we live in could end at any moment when Christ returns. And then the kingdom will be fulfilled. Then all that are in Christ will be brought fully into the kingdom of God by their union with Christ. So how does this truth impact those of us who have the indwelling Christ? Good question. First we must understand that there is more to this life than what we see.
Paul seems to answer this question with some rather harsh sounding statements: if you have a wife, live like you don’t. If you are mourning, rejoicing, or buying things, live like you’re not. Why? Because the world is passing away. Ouch.
It sounds like Paul is telling us to go live on a mountain top and leave the world behind. But that clearly isn’t what he has said anywhere else in this chapter. We must understand what Paul is saying in light of everything else he has said. He has told us to get married if we are passionate for each other, and to grab our freedom if we are slaves and the opportunity arises. He has told us to have sex if we’re married. He has told us to seize every situation and “stay as you are” because it is an opportunity for Christ. In fact, back in chapter 3 he told us that everything in the universe is ours in Christ.
So how does “stay as you are” and “the world is yours” work alongside this new idea of “live like the world is passing away?”
This is where union with Christ comes in. “To live is Christ” means that we will be balanced in our approach to life. Everything in life is now an opportunity to find joy and serve others because Christ lives in me. At the same time, nothing in life is ultimate, because I live in Christ.
Marriage is an opportunity for service. But I don’t live and die based on whether or not I get married. I don’t live as if my spouse is everything to me- she’s not. Christ is. His perfect love is the only one that can truly satisfy.
Singleness is an opportunity to advance the kingdom. But I don’t fear marriage or reject it for “spiritual” or ascetic reasons. Singleness isn’t my salvation. Christ is.
Sorrowing and rejoicing are opportunities to relate to others; to encourage and comfort others. But I don’t live in just my sorrow or my joy alone as if it is all there is in life.
I participate in the everyday business of life (buying, selling, a job), but I don’t invest my whole life into these earthly things. My money isn’t really mine. My things are not my life. Christ is.
The bottom line is “to live is Christ” should keep us from being bound to this world. It is going to end. All of it’s status, power, comforts, sorrows, joys, and even marriages (remember what Jesus told us about no marriage in the Kingdom) will end. The Kingdom of Christ, experienced by those that are in Christ, will be full of status, power, comforts, joys (no sorrows), and a marriage to Jesus himself that will far exceed anything we might be trying to hold onto here.
So yes, experience all this life has to offer, it is all yours in Christ. And it is all an opportunity to serve Christ by loving others. But remember that all of it will end and be replaced by Christ. So don’t let anything this side of Heaven control you and prevent you from serving Christ and loving others.
Do you find that you are overly connected to this earthly life? To things? To relationships? Do you live for your emotions (mourning or rejoicing) each day? How can your union with Christ bring you the balance of experiencing this world yet not being bound to this world?