Monday, January 19, 2009
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
Believers are called out
Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
"I will live in them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore come out from them,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be your father,
and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty."
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.
Comment: II Corinthians is a difficult book to understand. There are some scholars that do not believe II Cor. to be a work of Paul. But if understood in the context of Paul’s other writings, Paul is trying to hold up what it meant to be a follower of Jesus in the context of Corinth’s pluralistic society. He is trying to keep the Corinthians from involving themselves in the dominant religious systems of their city—that of the gods Aphrodite and Asclepius. He is teaching them to shun the religious practices of their surroundings—the fertility cults and the eating of food offered to idols—both practices that would have been common in Corinth. Evidently the followers of Jesus in Corinth did not follow Mosaic Law and this would have put them at odds with those Jewish followers of Jesus. ‘Beliar’ is an uncommon word for Paul, but it was used by contemporaries to denote evil or a demon.
What are we to make of this passage? We who follow Christ are to make a distinction between ourselves and those who follow the gods of society. We are to recognize that we are called to stand apart from the aspects of common culture that would lead us away from faith in Christ. Does that mean that we cannot associate with those whose ways are not ours? I don’t think so. We are called to recognize that our relationship with God is what gives rise to our ethics. It is our commitment to loving others—recognizing that we are the Temple of God and do not participate in those actions that would damage that friendship with Christ. I do not have to prohibit others—especially those who do not believe as I do, from what they do. I must be willing to live out the ethics that Christ would have for me. This means that I, as a Christian, am always at odds with the society around me. My baptismal vows set me apart. This means that I cannot judge my actions by the norms of society, but by the love that Christ showed me in the Cross.