Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
1 Corinthians 6:9 is a hot topic these days. It seems that it is time for me to share some of the results of my prayers about it, since like it or not, the debates and arguments and rhetoric have begun to frequently touch my daily life, and it seems to be time to open up a bit about what I have been receiving in prayer.
And the spoiler alert is that I don’t have an easy or even a difficult resolution for anyone. All I can offer is a little light, from what has been given to me so far.
We do better, I believe, when we take scripture seriously. That includes reading it in the Spirit in which it was given, testing scripture against scripture, and waiting upon the Lord for guidance. It includes, in my approach, resisting the urge (and I get it) to use scripture to prove one’s point or tear down another person. It includes a willingness to consider the writer, the target audience of the writing, and their purpose – to some extent. My caution about the heady, intellectual approach is that in my experience, this leads to argument and perhaps self-satisfaction but not resolution or redemption.
Disclaimer – I cannot pretend to be the “chief of sinners,” but have had a good run at it from time to time in my life. Those who know me best know my frailties, and I bless them for their love and guidance. So, along the lines of the Lord using the foolish to confound the wise, I offer to share some openings I have had in prayer, about how Friends are to deal with sin. Aside from the mention of 1 Corinthians 6:9, which is central to many arguments, I am going to refer to simply to sin, because it seems to me that overall what is the appropriate way to deal with one is the appropriate way to deal with all.
Aside from the above-mentioned scripture passage, another one often brought up is Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. What did Jesus do? He listened to the accusers, let them have their say. What He did not do was engage them in an argument about scripture, about what God really meant, and so forth. Jesus made the point that the one who is to punish sins is the one without sin. He wrote something in the sand, and one by one, the accusers left. It appears that each decided he was not without sin. I did not read that any of them repented, just that, when faced with whatever it was that Jesus knew and was writing in the sand, they were, so to speak, out of ammunition. And once they were out of ammunition, it looks like they no longer had a purpose, at least, no purpose to be with Jesus.
The woman, who had been facing death just minutes earlier, stayed. She stayed long enough to hear what Jesus said, asking where her accusers were and directing her to go and sin no more. She responded to Him when He spoke to her. We are not given the rest of the story, whether she followed His directions or not.
As this scripture came to me in prayer, a question came with it. Who did right in this story? Jesus did, in my opinion. He stood for mercy, and he stood against sin. Not just the sin of the woman brought before Him, but against the sin(s) of her accusers.
The woman did right by staying with Jesus and responding to him.
There was even something right about what the accusers did, although the set up was designed to destroy Jesus’ credibility and ministry. But they did right by bringing the woman to Jesus.
They did right by acknowledging that they themselves were not without sin.
Did they do right by walking away? I am not inclined to believe so.
But beyond these openings about the story, I did not receive much. What I did receive was another scripture story, this one from the Old Testament prophet Hosea. He married a prostitute because the Lord told Him to do so.
This introduces a level of complexity to the subject of sin, at least, in my mind. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul writes quite specifically about the spiritual damage done by having sex with a prostitute. But the story of Hosea tells us that it was the Lord’s will for Hosea to marry Gomer, the prostitute. Well, what am I to do with that information?
Checking to see if I recall that story correctly, I found the following statements (especially the text I have underlined) that jumped out at me, on http://bible.org/seriespage/hosea in an article written by Hampton Keathley IV: “I also think Hosea’s marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with Israel. Hosea’s choice of a prostitute was exactly like God’s choice of Abraham. Abraham was just another sinner like the rest of the people in the world. He did not deserve to be chosen. But that isn’t what the Jews thought. They thought Abraham was special because of his own merit and upright character. (cf. Jubilees 11:14f, 12:1f OT Pseudepigrapha vol 2, p. 79-80,Charlesworth) God may be using Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute to make this point. We will see later that the Israelites thought God owed them blessing. Why else would someone think that, unless they thought they were special through some merit of their own.”
In prayer times past, when I asked the Lord to just give me the answer to the hot topic, here is what I was told: most who are involved in the argument are not asking the right questions, and are not focusing on what matters most to the Lord. People are taking positions, taking stands, and tossing verbal stones at one another. And at least in some cases, it appears that they are not even expecting to win their case, they have become habituated to the conflict.
It took some time before my next question began to be answered. Lord, what are the right questions, what is the right focus? I am beginning to see that it has to do with bringing honor to the Lord Jesus, and thereby, to God the Father.