By Chuck Griffin
1 Corinthians 6:1-11 serves as an excellent reminder of how far churches can drift from their reason for existing.
It is a very old problem, reminding us of the lament in Ecclesiastes 1:9-11. “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old, nothing is ever truly new.”
The young church in Corinth was troubled, although probably no more troubled than large portions of the American church are today, constantly struggling with the secular pressures around them. Gordon Fee, in his 1987 commentary “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” wrote that the Corinth of Paul’s day “was at once the New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas of the ancient world.”
Paul was blunt about how the Christians in Corinth kept jumping with both feet back into the world, rather than living as people bound together in Christian discipleship. They sued each other when they had disputes—Paul said it would be better for them to accept injustice than to provide such a poor witness about the church to nonbelievers.
Paul also left a list of sins, many of them sexual in nature, that were creeping into the church from the world.
Paul was making a straightforward point. The church should be different. We should be distinguishable from what is going on around us. Once we blend into the part of our culture that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our ability to act as witnesses to Christ’s redeeming, life-change work in the world vanishes.
We should not cut ourselves off from the world—Jesus’ mandate for the church at the end of Matthew makes that clear. But the holy nature of the church, which is dependent on the holy nature of the individuals within, has to be maintained.
We are the primary way the Holy Spirit is at work to move the world toward a complete relationship with God. We are to permeate the world, not vice versa.
As church members, it’s good to always be asking, “How different are we from the world? Do we stand together in holy ways, changing our own lives and then the people around us?”
Lord knows, we need more people willing to treat the church as their primary, life-altering community, studying God’s word together, worshiping together, and holding one another accountable in loving ways. Do that as a church, and others will notice.
Lord, where we are weak, give us a renewed vision of what it means to be a church. Amen.