“I’ve got my rights and no-one is going to take them away from me. If people don’t like what I do – tough.” Such sentiments characterise a good deal of our modern society. Human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, children’s rights.
I accept that human rights are very important and we should work to establish them. But fighting for our own rights is not the Christian way.
In our passage for today, 1 Cor 6:1-20, responsibilities are stressed, rather than rights. The Corinthian church were a lively bunch of rather unruly charismatics who didn’t manifest as much personal holiness as they should have done.
Paul tackles them about taking each other to secular courts. Instead Paul urges them to deal with disputes within the fellowship. “I say this to shame you.” he says, “Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?
And he adds: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”
He then moves on to criticise those Corinthians who believed they had a perfect right to behave as they pleased. Apparently they were saying: “Everything is permissible for me” and they particularly favoured sexual licence.
Paul gives strong reasons why this attitude is wrong:
Firstly, such so-called freedom of behaviour harms people physically, emotionally, morally and spiritually. It is not beneficial, Paul says.
Secondly, indulging the lusts of the flesh becomes addictive and destructive. It “masters” the individual. Sexual sin has a most profound effect on people. It is a sin against one’s own body. “All other sins a man commits are outside his body,” says Paul, “but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
Thirdly, indulging the lusts of the flesh dishonours Christ with whom we are spiritually united. Paul writes: “‘The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!”
Fourthly, indulging the lusts of the flesh offends the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within us. “The body “is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Fifthly, indulging the lust of the flesh means a person will not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul specifies the sins of sexual immorality, idolatry, slanderers, swindlers, drunkards, the greedy and thieves.
By the way, that means that slanderous old gossips in the church are put in the same category as sexual sinners, and are likely to suffer the same fate. Frightening, isn’t it!
On the positive side Paul teaches that God can and does set Christrians free from such powerful sins. However bad a person’s life is, God is prepared to accept them and transform them if they turn to him. No-one is too bad.
Paul continues: “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also …Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
But his final point is unanswerable for Christians who wish to indulge the lusts of the flesh. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.”
A Prayer Lord, help us to remember that we do not belong to ourselves, but to the one who shed his blood to redeem us and who sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Help us also, therefore, to glorify him with our bodies and not to use or abuse them to gratify sinful desires, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction