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Faith for Christians means keeping a focus on ‘life that is everlasting,’ says California professor

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“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:29-31). 

These verses come from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, a letter sent from St. Paul to the church in Corinth, a city in present-day Greece. The letter was written in approximately 53 A.D., says the website Bible Study Tools. 

The First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians “revolves around the theme of problems in Christian conduct in the church,” according to the same source.

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Paul had lived in Corinth for three years and “was personally concerned with the Corinthians’ problems, revealing a true pastor’s (shepherd’s) heart,” said the same website.

“At first glance and in isolation, the commands of this passage might seem counterintuitive,” Joshua Smith, PhD, an associate professor in the Torrey Honors College at Biola University, told Fox News Digital.

Biola University is a Christian university in southern California. 

“Without sustained reflection, one would be inclined to think that Paul was asking people to abandon marital fidelity and to suppress emotion,” he said.

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While it’s consistent with Jesus’ teachings to not place high esteem on possessions, “the idea that one might take the marriage bond lightly is contradictory and the idea that one would not give expression to life’s sorrows and joys is both inhumane and impractical,” said Smith.

Verse 31, Smith said, is the key to understanding the passage: “The form of this world is passing away.” 

“Paul invites us to view life with a clear sense of the physical world’s fundamental imperative, namely, that everything we experience in it is fleeting.”

“In other words, Paul invites us to view life with a clear sense of the physical world’s fundamental imperative, namely, that everything we experience in it is fleeting, even something as sanctimonious as marriage,” he said.

Additionally, “Paul is also asking us to view life from the spiritual world’s fundamental imperative — which is that Jesus will return.” 

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“When Paul says that ‘the time is short,’ he is referring as much to the imminence of the second coming of Christ as he is to the eventuality of the world’s passing,” said Smith.

So Christians, Smith said, should interpret these verses as “less about the despair and futility of earthly life and more about the security we have in a life that is everlasting.” 

faith fasting and prayer

“We are able to let go of our possessions – be they literal or figurative – because we are holding tightly to the One who possesses us,” he said.

And while “the idea of being possessed or owned by someone sounds offensive to the ear of the contemporary western thinker,” it is different when the “possessor” is Jesus, said Smith.

statue of St. Paul

“We are freer than ever,” he said. 

“There is a liberty that we are afforded when the roots of our joy and peace rest in something that cannot be shaken,” Smith said. 

“The happiness of this life is but a faint call to secure the joys of the next.” 

This, too, applies to “even those things that are temporal.” 

“This is because we can then accept the temporary for what is: the opportunity to rehearse for a life to come,” he said. 

“The best this world can offer is to remind us that the happiness of this life is but a faint call to secure the joys of the next.” 

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