Many different “lifestyle choices” have been given credibility and affirmation these days. You can read to your heart’s content about the differences between transgender, pansexual, same sex attracted, homosexual, polysexual, bisexual, asexual, demisexual, gay, lesbian, polyamorous, queer, transsexual, transvestite, androgynous, bigender, bicurious, closeted, cross-dresser, gender non-conforming, drag queens, and the list goes on. Pick your flavor and raise your flag. However, there are only two lifestyle groups affirmed in the Bible, wives and virgins. “There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:34. That just sounds so foreign to our ears today doesn’t it? So narrow minded. So judgemental. When’s the last time you heard a preacher talk about the differences between wives and virgins? Chances are he was shoring up his family flock. A quick internet search revealed that the Southern Baptists have discussed same sex marriage and the differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality over 250,000 times in the last year, while they have discussed the differences between wives and virgins zero times. Can you think of any better demonstration of hypocrisy? When you say something enough times, especially in the absence of biblical standards, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So what is it that makes talking about the difference between a wife and a virgin so uncomfortable today? At first glance, the differences would seem quite obvious. A wife has had sex. A virgin has not. But Paul never mentioned sex. As a matter of fact, the word is never mentioned in the Bible. That’s because, as the old song says, sex and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. That’s precisely what makes virginity so uncomfortable. It forces us to see that our stations in life are based on our past choices and not on social pretenses and legal documents, like the Samaritan woman at the well found out when Jesus forced her to acknowledge her husbands (John 4). And that’s why I think Paul didn’t mention the Greek “joined” in these verses. It was already a given in the difference between a wife and virgin. He would have been acknowledging the world’s separation of “premarital” and “marital” sex if he had. Rather, he said the difference between a wife/husband and virgin is in what they care about, whether it’s the affairs of God or the affairs of the world. I get the feeling that the Corinthians had turned marriage into nothing more than a sexual contract and virginity into no more than a joke, much like they have become today. Paul is simply reminding them that there is much more to marriage and virginity than the physical and that the physical and spiritual components of sex cannot be separated. In other words, being joined physically creates a permanent union, whether we call it a marriage or not. The Samaritan woman could have been very religious, even singing in the choir, and had everybody thinking she was a virtuous virgin waiting on her Boaz. But which ultimately mattered, her social identity or the one Christ himself gave her?
It’s also important to note that the Samaritan woman was actually a wife and that her sexual relationships were voluntary. She was not raped, sexually abused, or the victim of sex trafficking or any other situation she didn’t have control over. Jesus was very clear about the sexual component of her present relationship when he said “and the man you have now is not your husband.” A tactful way of saying, “and the man you’re having sex with now is not your publicly acknowledged husband.” When it dawned on her who she was talking to, she asked for his living water, went back into the city and told the men, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” What a way to find out your past does matter. Then the men of the city came to meet him. If she had been raped five times and was a sex slave to the man she was living with, we would have the story of the Samaritan virgin at the well. So I think Paul’s omission of any term related to sex when talking about the differences between a virgin and a wife should give comfort to those who have been the victims of such atrocities. We have to see our identities as God does, not as the world does.