17 March 2017

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

β€œIn fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – and believers at that.” (vv. 7-8)

Psalm: Psalm 119:161-176


Paul was upset that the Corinthian church was failing to act as a community, and that its members were not taking responsibility for one another.

He suggested that some of the matters that they were taking to the civil courts were trivial and they should be able to sort them out themselves. In verses 1 and 2 he uses Saint as a word for a Christian, for someone living a sanctified life.

The Christian inheritance meant that Christians could judge angels (verse 3), and yet the behaviour of the Corinthians was belying this. Rather they were getting non-believers to make judgements on believers in straightforward cases, and in doing so making the church look ridiculous.

Paul suggests that it would be preferable to let themselves be wronged or defrauded (verse 7). Such a suggestion in our rights culture today would seem to be a travesty of justice and controversial to us.

Paul made an impressive list of the type of wrongdoers who would not inherit the kingdom of God (verses 9-10). And he notes that some of the Corinthians had been/were like this, but then they were washed (baptized) and brought into the holiness of participation in Christ.

Strong meat from Paul.

It might seem that he was describing a hopelessly, idealised community which could only exist in the abstract. A prescription for failure and discouragement from live human community. Or perhaps he can be seen to setting the bar high, because he saw some very real challenges that threatened to abort the health of the Corinthian church.

The church seemed to have an inflated ego, and Paul was at pains to show that their collective egos were well and thriving; their spiritual health, however, was not so great! And the collusion of ego massaging was producing great resistance to the life of the Spirit in their community.

To Ponder

  • Are there times where it is appropriate to let yourself be wronged and defrauded? And times where this is inappropriate. When and why? How do you deal with a sense of feeling weak?
  • In what ways does Christian faith give you wisdom-in-community to deal with some of your ethical choices? And how has this worked in your experience?
  • When might there be a role for the Church in arbitrating in community disputes? Perhaps we might see this as part of the call to be peace-makers.

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.