Monday, February 10, 2014

Corinth's Communion (part 27 of 27)

By informing this body of believers that they should not be glad about injustice (1 Corinthians13:6), Paul not only comments on what was possibly a pervasive mindset, but he also reveals to them the fact of their unjust behavior.  By tagging his mention of injustice with “but rejoices in the truth” (13:6) he also appears to remind them that they should be glad that he is correcting them in a way that is designed to lead them into the truth that will come to be exercised in both word and deed, so that (again, considering his words within the flow of the letter) they will not be judged (11:31,34). 

In the light of Corinth’s receipt of truth, so that they might understand the way that love will actually look when it is put in practice, which was contrary to what was on display at what they also may have been referring to as their “love feast” (a fact which also helps to explain why Paul takes the time to make this explanation about love), Paul then adds that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends” (13:7-8a).

Throughout the whole of this letter, Paul builds and builds and never wavers from the subject at hand, never ceasing his offerings of correction while expressing his desire that this church over which he has so dutifully labored.  With their location in an important and somewhat influential city, they were to be a shining light of the kingdom of heaven, but were falling short of that call.  However, while he is being critical, one should not imagine that the problems to be observed here in this church at Corinth were somehow unique to them---when the eye and ear are properly attuned, these issues can be found throughout the New Testament letters

When Paul’s letters are read (along with the rest of the New Testament) while keeping in mind that the Gospel of Jesus as Lord and ruler of all and the kingdom of the Creator God was being preached in a world that was ruled by the Caesar as the Lord of all and the glory of the empire of Rome was paramount, which was shaped by glaring and pronounced social divisions (by no means is this reducing the message of the Gospel to merely a social gospel) in which the lines of demarcation (ethnic, religious, economic, etc…) between peoples were carefully drawn and tacitly enforced, it should not be surprising to find Paul and others hitting on this problematic theme of divisiveness in the church on more than one occasion (the letter to Laodicea in the book of Revelation springs to mind). 

Chances are, however, because most that are reading this study find themselves in a western world that is so far removed from a societal context that would allow this to be easily recognized (which means that many are terribly handicapped, with this made even more problematic because so many believe themselves to be in a position of superiority in Scripture interpretation), Paul’s treatment of similar situations has been read dozens and hundreds of time without ever considering the social and cultural realities of the world into which it was delivered.  Just like has so often been done with the Corinthian letter, many believers have heard Paul’s words in the context of the cultivation of an individual spirituality and focused pursuit of personal holiness that will result in achieving heaven (and avoiding hell) at death, rather than hearing Paul in the context of a responsibility to cause the Creator God’s will to be done on earth, which is the call of those that confess Jesus as Lord. 

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