God, Sex and Marriage: Guidance from 1 Cor 7
Sex and marriage. Singleness. Divorce and separation. Who to marry and when. It's all covered in June's Book of the Month.
Alison Taylor | June 2012 - Highfields Book of the Month
By John Richardson - (1988) Surrey: The Good Book Company
I don’t know about you but I tend to groan when I see another book or hear about another seminar on sex and relationships. Growing up in a Christian environment and going to camps and youth conferences it sometimes felt a bit of an overload – different people’s opinions about what you should and shouldn’t do as Christians. So when a few years ago I was recommended this book, I took it up a little wearily, and prepared to submit myself to more of the same.
Straight away however, this small book (only 88 pages) caught my attention. With its retro 50s-style cover photographs and cartoons by Taffy inside (not ‘dodgy’ ones – as I had to convince the students when recommending this book to them!) there’s something different about it from the outset. The main difference is that it’s based on one passage of Scripture – 1 Corinthians 7. So, rather than articulating the author’s views based on random verses pulled from all over the Bible, this book systematically goes through 1 Corinthians 7 and deals with what the passage deals with, including sex and marriage, singleness, divorce and separation, who to marry and when – plus lots more. Obviously some of these are huge and sometimes controversial issues but John Richardson introduces them sensitively and scripturally and in a non–voyeuristic way. There might be some things you question about his exposition of the text but his argument is easy to follow and certainly gives a deeper understanding of some quite difficult verses. My only real complaint about the book is that the second chapter is a bit heavy-going (lots of textual interpretation and translation issues raised). But try to get through it as it sets the scene for the rest of the book, which is much easier to read. It's not just for young people either - whatever your marital status or age, you will find things that are relevant to you.
The author himself is single. In his introduction, he says he wanted to write about these issues because he hadn’t felt particularly encouraged by being single. He defends his ability to write about marriage by saying ‘this is not about my views on marriage; it is a book about what the Bible has to say’. The fact that he’s writing from that standpoint makes it a really helpful book, whether you are single or in a relationship.
Having come back to this book 2 or 3 years after first reading it, in preparation for a student Bible study, I was again struck by its usefulness. Interestingly, my own cynicism towards this topic, having grown up in a Christian environment, was not shared by students for whom Christian teaching in these areas did not form part of their upbringing. They were desperate to find out what God really thought about sex and relationships, rather than what the media portrays Christians as believing. Even those who had grown up in Christian homes were challenged by looking at what the Bible actually says about it. If you share that desire, I would recommend this book to you.