Friday

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans … (v.1a)

1 Corinthians 5:1-8 Friday 10 May 2019

Psalm: Psalm 125

Background

At this point in his letter to the young Christian community in Corinth, Paul introduced two specific issues that had been reported to him and about which he was deeply concerned. The first of these was an incident of sexual immorality "not found even among the pagans" (v. 1).

Traditionally, the city of Corinth was associated with a high degree of sexual immorality, exacerbated by the presence of the temple prostitutes associated with the goddess, Aphrodite. This reputation, however, really refers to Greek Corinth, destroyed in 146 BC, and not to the rebuilt Roman colony known to Paul. Nevertheless, the Greco-Roman world had a different sexual ethic to that of the Jewish world from the perspective of which Paul was writing.

Reports had arrived with Paul of a believer who was living with his father’s wife, possibly his step-mother. As men often married women who were significantly younger than themselves, the pair concerned may have been of similar age rather than of different generations. Nevertheless, this was a step too far even in the prevailing culture: Jewish, Greek and Roman societies had regulations guarding against incest and the defilement of a father’s bed.

What had shocked Paul, however, was the acquiescence of the Christian community to this situation. Why, he wondered, are they not in mourning about it? And, using what would have been a familiar metaphor, that of dough and yeast, he urged the community to discipline the offender with the rigour that he himself would have adopted had he been present among them. Like yeast in a lump of dough, a sinful situation accepted would permeate the whole.

The question is one of Christian freedom – to what extent are Christians freed from the Law and to what extent do they remain bound by it? On what foundation must the community ground itself in order to be faithful to the Gospel and to witness credibly to it?

 

To Ponder: 

  • Reflect on a situation about which you have been uncomfortable? How was it handled by you and by those around you?
  • Where is the Holy Spirit in this matter of freedom from social norms?
  • To what extent do you consider that your faith had freed you from traditional rules and regulations, leaving you to do as you wish?
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