Friday 13 March 2020

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? (v. 1)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 Friday 13 March 2020

Psalm: Psalm 15


We need to be clear that Paul was not saying that Roman law was a bad thing in itself. In Romans 13, for example, he pays due respect to civil law. What Paul writes about in today’s passage is an almost incomprehension that fellow believers in the Corinthian fellowship would use civil courts to settle internal church disputes. “Do you dare take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints?”(v. 1) For Paul, writing with astonishment, this recourse to a secular court was an admission of Christian failure.

Paul uses the words “Do you not know” six times in this chapter, expressing his exasperation that the Corinthians obviously had paid little heed to his teaching about Jesus in his two years with them. It is not simply a matter of spiritual incompetence for a church to be unable to sort these things out in Christian love; there is also the question of attitude, of example to others. I wonder if Paul had in mind some of the words of Jesus, later gathered and written down in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, concerning “justice”: “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40) Paul is surely appealing to their better nature, to graciousness, to kindness before in verse 8, reminding them that they are not only victims, but engage in unethical practices themselves.

Verses 9 to 11 appear to be a recognition of the way of life that many in the Corinthian church had come from, reflecting the loose morality and selfish lifestyle of Corinth generally at that time. Did Paul’s departure from them (with stalwarts Priscilla and Aquila) result in a reversion to old habits and practices? So Paul reminds them that they were “sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (v. 11) Thus, Paul reminds his readers about the authority of Jesus, the foundation of their faith.

Today we live in times when blame, compensation, litigation are daily news items. We also realise both how fragile and how imperfect we all are. We’re not so very different from the Corinthians in Paul’s time. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church are these words: “... (God) reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18) Jesus reminds us again and again that selflessness, forgiveness, kindness, generosity are key values in the kingdom of God, and especially in all aspects of Church life.


To Ponder:

  • For people to move on after feeling a grievance, justice requires the truth to be told. For Christians, is there is also always the need for forgiveness or mercy?
  • The hymn “Beauty for Brokenness” (Singing The Faith 693) enlarges the scope of justice for the world. Perhaps use this hymn as a basis for prayer today: “Melt ‘my’ cold heart, let tears fall like rain; come change ‘my’ love from a spark to a flame.”
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