Uniting as One Flesh
7 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
– 1 Corinthians 7:1–7 ESV
Paul’s words in this text are just as critical for our day as they were for his own. Human sexuality in marriage has its origin in creation. God intends for us to live in community. The complimentary nature of the anatomy of men and women is a symbol of a much deeper spiritual connection of the two becoming one in marriage. They were originally one. Then woman was taken out of man and they were separated from each other, and in the sexual encounter of marriage they are reunited again as “one flesh.” Paul describes this complimentary unity as not claiming authority over our own bodies but “yielding” our bodies for the sake of the other. In marriage there is a commitment to the mutual fulfillment of the other. This selfless giving is the nature of a loving community into which children are to be born, nurtured, and mentored.
Paul also clearly acknowledges that in the midst of the beauty, power and attraction of human sexuality there is also the perfect opportunity for Satan’s temptations to influence us in ways that are contrary to God’s intended purposes. There is much confusion today regarding sexuality and marriage as Satan continues to influence people in the direction of self-centeredness, self-realization and self-indulgence. Sexuality has become more about pleasing self and using another person to achieve that end than about love, commitment, relationships or marriage. Our culture has attempted to justify self-serving behavior by norming mutually exploitive relationships—you can use me for your satisfaction if I can use you for my satisfaction. This is the nature of sexual immorality to which Paul is referring. The net effect of these behaviors (that have become valued in our culture of non-judgmental acceptance and tolerance) is the continual growth of perverse sexual immorality that undermines, marriage, family and a stable environment for children to be nurtured. Just as moral behavior consistent with God’s will leads to healthy relationships and fulfillment, immoral behavior contrary to God’s will leads to broken relationships, a vacuum of selfishness, the destruction of human community and the senseless deaths of countless unborn children who were intended to be the fruit of selfless love in marriage.
Marriage is a gift and Paul points out that those who refrain from marriage also have a gift. But such a gift is not grounded in self-serving opportunities. The gift of remaining single is not a matter of being unwilling to share with others in order to keep more for oneself. Paul’s life was just the opposite. His life apart from marriage was bound in the community of the Church providing him with the greatest flexibility for serving Christ and caring for many churches.
Luther’s words regarding this subject are helpful. Luther writes, “There are many reasons why people marry. Some marry for money and prosperity. Many people marry because of sheer immaturity, to seek sensual pleasure and satisfy it. Some marry to beget heirs. But St. Paul gives but this one reason, and I know of none fundamentally stronger and better, namely, need. Need commands it. Nature will express itself, bearing fruit and multiplying, and God does not want this outside marriage, and so everyone because of this need must enter into marriage if he wants to live with a good conscience and in favor with God. If this need were not there, all the other reasons taken together would make very poor marriages. This is particularly true of that smart immaturity which leads fools to take lightly such a serious, needful, godly estate; but it is not long until they realize what they have done to themselves.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we give you thanks for your Word that is the way, the truth and the life. Give us the courage and the tenacity to live according to it even when it places us at odds with the surrounding culture and its values. Strengthen our marriages making them living examples of the love and eternal commitment you have for your bride, the Church. Make our homes communities of faith where children are nurtured in selfless love. In place of the shallowness of acceptance and tolerance, strengthen us to live by those values that reflect your will and by the power of your Grace make us instruments of your justice and mercy for all you have created. In the name of Christ our Lord we pray. A-men.
Pro-Life Action: If married, reach out in selfless love this week to strengthen your relationship with your spouse. If single, reach out in love to build your relationship with another member of your local congregation.
Today’s devotion was written by Rev. John Bradosky, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church.
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Ruth 1 (ESV)
1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Naomi and Ruth Return
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
Psalm 17 (ESV)
In the Shadow of Your Wings
17 A Prayer of David.
1 Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
2 From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!
3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
10 They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
11 They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
12 He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.
13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14 from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.
Acts 21:27–36 (ESV)
Paul Arrested in the Temple
27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”
Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.