It’s the 8th day in the 30 Days of Paul Reading Challenge and our readings today are chapters 5 and 6 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian followers. Let’s get started!
Right off the bat of chapter 5, Paul brings up some really disturbing activity among this community. Apparently, a man from the community was having sex with his step mom and the community seemed to approve of it (5.1-2)! Holy crackers! This sounds like a headline from the local nightly news! But what are we to make of Paul’s recommendation for discipline? He states “we need to hand this man over to Satan to destroy his human weakness so that his spirit might be saved” (5.5). He clarifies what this means — to expel him from the community and no longer associate with him in anyway (5.2, 9, 11). His reasoning for this disassociation is because “a little yeast can spread through the whole batch of dough” (5.6; CEV*).
Paul then clarifies what he meant when he wrote to them previously (5.9; in a letter that’s apparently been lost). He states that when he talked about not associating with people who were “sexually immoral,” he meant people . community, not outside of it (5.9ff). I think a lot of us need to rethink our position on things that happen “outside” our communities of faith. We seem to be spending too much time judging people who are “outside” our faith communities and not nearly enough time making sure we’ve got our lives in order. Paul says, “What do I care about judging outsiders? Isn’t it your job to judge insiders? God will judge outsiders. Expel the evil one from among you” (5.12ff; cf. Matthew 7.1).
Then, in chapter 6, Paul addresses the idea of just being wronged by a brother or sister instead of suing them (6.1-8). I know that this is hard for a lot of us to hear. In our society, we say things like, “Yes, you should help and serve others but don’t be a doormat.” Paul (and Jesus) seem to think that this is not the way to go. Jesus said to forgive when wronged (Matthew 18.21-22) and Paul’s saying not to sue your brother or sister. In fact, he said that if you do, you’ve already lost — “The fact that you have lawsuits against each other means that you’ve already lost your case. Why not be wronged instead? Why not be cheated?” (6.7). I wonder what would happen if we took this to heart? How would it change the way we look at each other? How would those “outside” our faith communities look at us? Would it matter what they thought?
Paul then returns to the topic of “sexual immorality” (6.9ff). His point seems to be that those people who are intent in their hearts to act contrary to G‑d, their neighbors, and themselves are really just fooling themselves; they aren’t part of G‑d’s new people and won’t be in G‑d’s New Creation. What about us? What’s our intention? Is it to serve others or ourselves? If it’s the former, and we keep stumbling, there are plenty of others who will help us — a trusted friend, a spiritual director, an anam chara, etc. But, if it’s the latter, we should really examine our hearts. Perhaps we should seek the wise council of a close friend or minister? Or perhaps even more professional help? Either way, to think that we can just serve our own desires and not put the needs of others above our own, well, it seems that we’ve missed the point of Jesus altogether.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
* Scripture quotations marked (CEV) are from The Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.