I entered the house after delivering another load of tents to the local Outdoor Pursuits Shop.
Paul was sitting at the table writing on another pile of parchment papers.
“Hello” I said, “would you like a hot drink?”
“What have you to offer?” he asked without looking up.
“Hot boiled fish water sweetened with honey …” I replied casually.
“The same old brew …” he mumbled in disgust, “when will someone discover coffee, or tea or hot chocolate drink?”
“There’s also hot milk and honey from the Promised Land!” I said encouragingly; but he did not answer.
I asked him what he was writing.
“It’s a letter to the people of Corinth …” he said, “I have to finish it today and send it before postage costs go up yet again …
“They’ve asked me for advice on how to live … just basic advice. I mean … can’t these people think for themselves. Here, have a read” he continued, as he passed me some bits of parchment which smelled like old goat skins.
I read … “Chapter 7 - Verse 1”
For some reason Paul always wrote his letters by numbering every chapter and every verse. I don’t know why he did that. Must be some affectation of some kind I suppose. He wrote:
“A man does well not to marry.”
“Hein?” I thought, “what’s he on about?” I kept on reading what seemed to be rather personal advice to these Corinthian people; albeit good advice I must say, and then again, at Verse 7 he wrote:
“Actually, I would prefer if all of you were single as I am …You single people and widows, it is better if you continue to live alone; just as I do …”
I stopped and looked at him writing there. I wondered why he’d never got married. Perhaps having met my mother-in-law he got frightened out of matrimony altogether.
But his advice made no sense. How can he possibly say a man should not marry, and in fact he’d prefer all of them to remain single and live alone?
I asked him “How would people multiply if they followed your advice?”
“What’s Mathematics to do with it?” he replied without looking up, “they can learn their multiplication tables like every one else!”
“No …” I said hesitantly, “I mean … you know … doing it … having babies …”
“Oh … I gave them a let out clause in Verse 9” Paul continued nonchalantly, “I told them if they can’t control themselves they’d better get married anyway.
“I really can’t understand those people … why can’t they distract themselves by playing card games, or Monopoly or similar board games. The shops are full of them!”
I kept on reading and I must admit I got a bit embarrassed at the personal advice which followed. He meant well, I suppose, and maybe those Corinthians were a little slow on the up-take and needed very detailed advice on how to live as early Christians.
Then at Verse 26 he repeated his opinions again.
“If a man is unmarried he should stay this way. If he is married he should not get rid of his wife!”
“Charming” I thought, “no doubt he’s considered the costs of divorce and alimony when giving this advice."
But then his letter continued:
“Are you unmarried? Then don't look for a wife ... I would rather spare you the everyday troubles that married people will have.”
Well, my mother-in-law certainly has had an influence on him; I thought.
I got out of the house somewhat more confused than those Corinthians will be when they receive this letter.
I was met by my wife and mother-in-law coming home from a shopping trip. Before I had time to welcome them mom-in-law said:
“What are you doing lazing in the sun? Have you no work to do?”