First Corinthians: Such Were Some of You
March 4, 2018 Series: First Corinthians
Topic: Let Go and Let God Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:1–6:11
Second-grade students at Fairview School are writing their autobiographies. Our granddaughter’s teacher took me aside one-day last week to show me something Dahlia had written. In the first couple of sentences, she referred to the Presbyterian Church as a big part of her life. The teacher wanted to show me how Dahlia had spelled it: “Pestbeterian.” I thought that’s pretty good. We are supposed to make pests of ourselves, in seeking social justice, and critiquing the values of society - or the lack of values in society. So we’re Pest-byterians.
The first part of our passage deals with some sort of lawsuit that some in the church at Corinth had brought against fellow believers. Paul asks, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? He writes in the spirit of Christ’s teaching to turn the other cheek. It’s better to lose money or reputation than to strike out against other Christians.
That’s a very tough call. When we’ve been hurt or offended, human nature wants to make the offender pay. Even when we take no actual revenge, there might be feelings of revenge in our hearts. Who could adopt the approach, “I’d rather be cheated and taken advantage of than try to get what’s mine, or give payback.” Yet that is the biblical theme.
Most of our hurts and conflicts don’t reach the level of intensity that results in a court case. But our defensiveness or desire to strike back can raise the stakes in a harmful way. This passage invites us to try an experiment. When someone makes a little criticism of us, we can try letting it go, or even admitting it: “You’re right: I didn’t put the cap on the toothpaste again (for the tenth time).” A blogger writes:
“I can be defensive sometimes. I hate to admit that but it’s true. One thing that really bothers me is when someone believes something about me that is untrue. Like, you can think badly about me, and if it’s true, ok, I’m not all good. I get that. But to believe something about me that’s not true, just makes me cringe. However, I’m getting better with this, especially as I get older. As you probably already know, with age comes caring less and less what others think about you. But in addition to getting older, there is another thing that has helped with my defensiveness. And this is simply letting God be my defender. It’s learning to move out of battles that were never meant for me to fight, and let God do this thing like only He can do. And you know what that leads to? Peace girlfriend, P.E.A.C.E! Now peace? I got plenty of time for that and I know you do too. So I want to encourage you today to move aside in faith and let God fight your battles.”
Now we come to a list. It’s a list of people who are harming themselves or others. Some cherry-pick verses from it to prove that it is anti-gay. It’s not that. It’s anti-exploitation in any relationship. We dehumanize the other when we treat him or her as objects for our own gratification. That’s all over the news today, we learn the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment in all sectors of society: churches, schools, sports, the corridors of power, Hollywood, and businesses. Many perpetrators have taken to themselves the name of Christian and dragged it through the mud. It has given rise to the #MeToo movement, and innumerable lawsuits, entirely justified. Human exploitation is very real.
The passage, however, is not merely a catalog of complaint. It is a testimony to the spiritual power that was present in the early church. Paul can write, in another key verse, “Such were some of you.” In other words, “Some of you, Corinthians, used to be like that. Now, you’re different. Christ has changed you.”
We might wonder, is such dramatic change really possible? Do predators, harassers, and addicts ever truly change? Even when outward behavior is prevented by some form of confinement, does the heart ever change? We can’t answer for others, but we are responsible for ourselves. Our destiny in Christ is to evolve—to become better people over time. Letting go of behaviors and bigotries that don’t reflect Him, we move toward the goal of the upward prize.
Have we examined where we might have treated other people as objects instead of people? Have we grown spiritually, moving from where we were, toward what we shall be?
As it says in 1 John 3: Beloved, we are now children of God, what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”