What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 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
From this writing (among some of his others), it sounds as if St. Paul thought the end of the world was near. If that was the case, then Paul had no idea that his words would be preserved for thousands of years and presented by the church as the Word of God.
So then, why do we assume that when Paul is writing to people in the early church – when he answers those unknown questions that were put to him – why do we assume that he is also talking to us, today, in 21st century America?
For sure, there is good stuff in Paul’s writings. There is much to learn from what he has to say and a lot of his advice is well worth heeding, even 20 centuries later. But some of what he says just doesn’t make sense to our post-modern ears. Until we stop trying to make this first century square Jewish peg fit into each succeeding generation’s ever shifting cultural inputs, trying instead to see Paul for who he was, when he was and where he was – then we are destined to find ourselves bogging down over his words, words that he never intended for our ears. I doubt if Paul would ever have imagined his letters causing so much trouble for us, especialy as he likely didn’t even think there would ever be an ‘us’.