Before I got married, I read a number of helpful books on dating and relationships. And some unhelpful books (by well-intentioned but slightly misguided Christian authors). I was surprised to learn, while reading these books that dating in the US is very different to dating in Australia (apparently dating multiple people at once is ok over there, or at least, so I was told).
Paul wrote this letter to a Christian community that lived about two thousand years ago (and a society that may have been facing a food shortage, v26 ‘present crisis’). The society they lived in had very different norms on romantic relationships; I don’t think dating as we conceive was a ‘thing’ back then. It sounds like men and women were commonly ‘betrothed’ to each other; more what we would describe as an engagement.
Nevertheless, there are some helpful principles that we can distil from this passage, which I’d summarise as follows:
Singleness is good; in fact you are more free from a time point of view to serve Jesus than a married person.
Marriage is fine; and it is much better than fornication (again, Paul is very realistic about the human tendencies towards sin).
Whether we are single or married, we must remember that this age will not last, the world in its present form is passing away (vv29-31).
Ultimately, we are citizens of heaven, not of earth. We mustn’t place ultimate value in the things of this world, and this includes our husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers. In Matt. 22 Jesus taught that at the resurrection people won’t marry or be given in marriage.
How can you be concerned about the Lord’s affairs (v32)? What does it look like for you to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit (v34)?