In this section of his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul explores the limits of his message of freedom in Christ. Some in the community have interpreted the Good News as freedom to do anything they want, but others seem to be wary of adopting such a broad interpretation, especially when it comes to sexual morality. What is right is not immediately clear. Paul responds to the church’s dilemma by modeling for them that freedom in Christ includes the freedom to wrestle with and to discern what we do not know.
Three times in this brief passage—in verses 15, 16, and 19—Paul asks a rhetorical question beginning with the phrase, “Do you not know . . . ?” By asking these questions, Paul invites members of the church to remember what it is they know with certainty. These include: that our bodies are members of Christ’s body, that our bodies become united to other bodies through sex, and that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. If these are things you know, Paul advises, you should choose your sexual relationships with great care because it is simultaneously personal, communal, and sacred.
Paul could have responded with a simple clarification of his message. He could have said freedom in Christ did not make one free to do whatever one wanted. He could have sent a list of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Instead, he reasoned out his response and gave the church a model for discerning the answers to our own sticky questions. Paul shows us that when the answer we seek is not immediately clear, we, too, can ask: What do we know with certainty? What beliefs do we hold with conviction? How do these inform our understanding of the issue at hand? How do they guide our faithful action?
God, in matters that I do not know, make my questions wise and my discernment faithful. Amen.
We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it’s easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their callings. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from First Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.
Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. Can you think of a time when you failed to hear God calling you? What helps you to listen to God?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. How does the knowledge that all humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” inform the way you regard and care for others?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul writes, “All things are lawful.” What does that mean to you? What are the responsibilities inherent in such freedom?
Read John 1:43-51. Who are the people who invited you to “come and see” Jesus? Is there someone around you to whom you could extend that invitation today?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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