Why Not Suffer Wrong? (6:7)
I don’t like this question. I don’t like what it implies. I especially don’t like it in the context in which it appears. I am an advocate for fairness and justice. Anything that appears to challenge these virtues makes me twitch. But Paul is saying that I should value unity in the church and Christ’s reputation in my community more than fairness and justice. To be balanced, Paul is not against the legal system. To the contrary he upholds it as God’s instrument of justice in Romans 13:1-7. But he says the legal system is no place for two feuding believers.
Paul is clear that the church should adjudicate civil disagreements between believers. Paul assumes both a level of involvement and competence by the church that would allow the church to fulfill this role. The reason for the church’s involvement is to protect the church’s reputation and to ensure Christian principles are honored.
Reflection: In order to follow this instruction we would have to value the unity of the church more than our “rights” and trust our church leaders more than the legal process (regardless of the outcome). That is challenging. Are you involved in the life of your church in such a way that you would be prepared to follow Paul’s commands? Does the corporate reputation of the church supersede your personal sense of justice? This passage challenges our hearts greatly even when our circumstances do not involve possible litigation.
Resource: Peacemakers Ministries (www.hispeace.org) is a parachurch organization devoted to helping Christians and churches settle differences through Christian Conciliation in a manner consistent with Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 6.
Such Were Some of You (6:11)
We face at least two dangers with sin in modern culture. First, we have so narrowed the definition of sin that nothing is really sin anymore. Second, when we do speak of our “issues” they usually define us as a permanent part of our identity. I Corinthians 6 deals with the second of these dangers.
Paul had a church full of sex addicts, homosexuals, kleptomaniacs, workaholics, alcoholics, and pathological liars. In our culture, these would have been viewed as permanent conditions, diseases, or personality disorders. But Paul says “such were some of you.” This passage is not offering the Gospel as the quick panacea of these struggles. The profound struggles of the Corinthian church would refute that (5:1). But Paul does hold out hope for character transformation.
Reflection: One implication of this passage is that our struggle with a sin does not define us as a Christian. That is not to say that Christians do not struggle with substance abuse, same sex attraction, strong lust, or urges to deceive. It is to say that Christians struggle with these things, it is not “who” Christians are. It is wrong for a Christian to say “I am gay” or “I will always be an addict” or “This [sin] is just who I am.” These struggles may be aspects of the flesh that an individual battles to put to death their whole life – we are never fully sanctified in this life.
Reflection: What sin are you tempted to define yourself by? You can usually identify this by asking when you do speak of sin in terms of “I am…” or “I have…” This passage is both comfort and challenge for you. By the grace of God you can overcome and need not “be your sin.” At the same time, this passage challenges you to fight this sin tenaciously – to surrender to our sin is an indication that we have not inherited the kingdom of God (see also I John 3:9-10).
I Will Not Be Enslaved
God’s children are not meant to be slaves. In I Corinthians 6:12 Paul is discussing “lawful” things. Specifically he discusses food, but we could add alcohol, recreation, work, Facebook, video games, “guy/girl” time, acceptance and many other “lawful” things.
The question is, “How do I know if I have become ‘enslaved’ to some good thing in my life?” Before looking at some criteria to help you make this assessment, make a list of the things that you are potentially enslaved to. If you cannot make a list of 3-5 things, you need to be more honest with yourself.
- When you get home what is the first thing you want to do?
- If you are running late, what will you do anyway?
- Even if money is low/absent, what will you still do?
- Where do you turn for comfort more naturally than God?
- What do you use to escape when life is hard?
- What do family members complain is more important than them?
- If you cannot do this you get very edgy or irritable?
- What do you lie about doing to minimize time/money spent?
- What do you get defensive about in conversation?
- What do you daydream about?
- Have you told yourself you should probably cut back?
- Do you feel guilty about it and use it to forget the guilt?
- Has it ever interfered with your work performance?
Remember Paul does not say these things are morally bad. He says it is wrong to be enslaved to them. His main point is “you were bought with a price, so glorify God (6:20).” When we seek refuge, hope, or pleasure in these things to the degree they have become “non-negotiable” they have become our functional god.
Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.