Worldly Ways

Worldly Ways

Whenever I read the writings of Paul, I’m always struck by the tensions present. Between The Law and Grace. Between everyone keeping their proper place, and disrupting the social order of slave vs free, man vs woman, Greek vs Roman vs Jew. In the world, but not of the world. It was the last that struck me particularly this week. In First Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul writes:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?

Paul is faulting the Corinthians for their worldliness, calling it a sign of spiritual immaturity. Later, In 1 Corinthians 5:1, he states

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people

That all sounds like familiar Pauline stuff. But immediately after that lines comes 1 Corinthians 5:2

not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

I don’t remember ever seeing that second half of the admonition before. Paul is telling the church to hold themselves to a high standard, but, at the same time, telling them that they are not to separate themselves from the rest of the world. And, if the point wasn’t clear enough, Paul goes on in verse 12:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

The words of Paul have been used by the church over and over again to judge. To point out the failings of others. Yet Paul himself is clearly saying that this isn’t the right way to go about things. Paul was all about reaching the whole world with the Gospel. Maybe we, as the church, need to listen more to that message. Not to get caught up in the minutia of specific instructions to specific people and churches, but to focus on spreading that Good News to the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s