This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Corinthians 6:12-20-
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
Glorify God in Body and Spirit
12 ‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’,[a] and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple[b] of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
Yesterday I looked closely at how we can interpret Paul’s thinking for the present day. In this blog, I want to focus on two theological ideas that Paul expresses here.
The first is his teaching on the unity of Jesus Messiah and believers. It is a spiritual unity, of course, but it includes rather than excludes the bodies of both the risen Messiah and that of the believer. The Lord Jesus is “for the body” in the sense that he has lived and died in a human body and has been raised to life bodily, for the sake of human beings, whose bodies will share the glory of his risen body. In response the bodies of believers should be “for the Lord”, that is, entrusted to the Lord and his Way. This spiritual unity is so real for Paul that he can charge men who have sex with a prostitute with forcing the Lord to unite with her. The bodily integrity of the human person is enhanced by spiritual unity with Messiah Jesus and by the Holy Spirit dwelling within a person’s body as in a temple. It is degraded when the person is damaged by careless sins or enslaved by destructive habits. Here, “body” is not merely a physical entity, it is an embodied personal life open to communion with other bodies, including the body of Jesus Messiah.
The second is his startling echo of the teaching of Jesus about sexual relationship. He refers to the Genesis statement that man and woman become one flesh in the sexual act. Paul reckons that this is still true of sex between a prostitute and a customer; the two are united even if they refuse to think so. Paul is sometimes accused of belittling sexuality, but here is evidence of his profound respect for it and his indignation that it might be belittled by commerce or lust.
These two teachings show a love for the human body and suggest a spirituality that preserves and enhances its dignity. Jesus Messiah offers his body for me; and I may respond by offering my body to him. The casual “freedoms” of the Corinthians opposed by Paul are common in our society and are especially damaging to our young people, who may never experience relationships that give dignity to their bodily selves.