A reflection on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, January 17, 2021
‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NRSVA)
Initially this may seem like a strange reading to hold alongside stories of God’s intimate knowledge of each of us.
Paul, however, is revealing here that God knows that no one and no thing is worthy of our worship other than ‘the Lord’.
It is an important revelation. Paul even refuses to worship the Christ-won freedom he clearly enjoys.
The fact that all ‘things are lawful for me’ is not Paul’s ultimate statement of faith. Even this is curbed by the call to be dominated by nothing but ‘the Lord’. Both food and body – and their temporary nature – find their right place only in subjection to the God who ‘raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power’.
It would seem that authentic worship of God places boundaries around all other realities.
For before we are anything – law-abiding, hungry, lustful – we are the dwelling place of the ‘Holy Spirit’. We are ‘not our own’ – but ‘bought with a price’ and called to – and created for – the glorification of God ‘in our body’.
On the surface it all seems like a long way from the ‘freedom’ Paul initially claims. This is, however, the ultimate freedom – to place first the one who truly and perfectly knows and loves us.
Indeed, Paul’s claim here is that God is the only one who perfectly knows us.
A big – and earth-shattering – claim indeed!
What lesser-gods are you tempted to worship? What do these demand from you?
What does it change in you to know that the ultimate reality about you – and others – is that you are ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’? What would this insight do for you if you were to truly take it to heart? What would it do for your relationship with other people?