Corinth’s “Sex Issue”

woman and man
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/indi/4202565878/">Indi Samarajiva</a>

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Even legal habits can be addicting. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food – but those who live to consume will be consumed. Your body isn’t intended for illicit sex. It’s for Jesus. And Jesus is for your body. God raised Jesus, and God will raise us by that same power.

You know that your bodies are components of Jesus, don’t you? So would I defile Jesus’ body parts by having sex with any whore I can find? Hell no! You know that when you have sex with a whore you become one with her, don’t you? Remember Genesis? “The two shall become one flesh.” But if you’re part of Jesus, you’ve got Jesus’ same spirit. Avoid illicit sex. Every wrong anyone can commit is done externally, except sex. People who have illicit sex do wrong to their own bodies. Don’t you know your body is a holy spiritual temple? Once you have God’s spirit you belong to God, not to yourself. You’ve been bought with cash, so treat your bodies like God’s property.

Paul has a reputation for being a prude. It’s probably well deserved. But if Paul was a prude, the church in Corinth had an issue with illicit sex. Neither of them was dealing with it very well.

Neither of them really gets beyond the view of people as objects. And especially women as objects. (Paul is addressing the men at Corinth.) It doesn’t really matter whether the illicit sex the Corinthians were engaging in was part of other pagan cults that were on the scene. What matters is that they were buying people with cash. And inasmuch as they were participating in the dehumanization of people, they were cut off from Jesus, whose whole aim was precisely the opposite: to re-humanize people who had been objectified.

But Paul applies a theology to the situation in which God engages in the same behavior, buying and paying for people. Paul is too concerned for the purity of Jesus’ body to consider that hanging around with prostitutes and sinners never seemed to bother Jesus himself. Paul is too upset about the whores polluting his church to care for them as the very people Jesus came to re-integrate into the body of humanity.

Thanks to Paul, much of the church still has a sex issue. And the problem is still in recognizing that the sin is not in contamination transmitted by touch or even by the exchange of bodily fluids. It’s still a problem about getting past a theology of transactional redemption that treats people as objects to be bought, paid for, and used.