1 Corinthians 6.12–20
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
I recall having a moment of conversion as a young man. Not conversion to Christ, that happened earlier when I was fourteen. This was another moment of conversion, one of several others.
This moment of conversion came about from reading the Bible. (If you want a safe, comfortable life, don’t read the Bible!). But it was too late for me. I was already reading it.
This moment of conversion was about what the word ‘you’ means.
You might wonder what I mean. You means you means you. But it doesn’t.
Sometimes, ‘you’ means one person. Sometimes, it means more than one person. Some Aussies say ‘youse’ when they mean more than one person. We say that it’s bad English. But it’s great communication. I wish it were good English—I’d love to use youse. So I think I shall. I hope youse won’t mind.
Let’s look at our 1 Corinthians reading with this in mind.
Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’. Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.
Paul is setting up a kind of imaginary conversation here. It was a well-known way of discussing an issue. So:
I am allowed to do anything.
Interestingly, Paul says Yes but:
Yes; but not everything is good for you.
Paul might surprise us here.
I’m a Christian, and a Christian is free from all condemnation. I can do what I like.
Paul says Yes but.
I can smoke, I can drink to excess.
Paul says Yes but. And Paul says something we all know about: “I am not going to let anything make me its slave”. We all know the addictive power of so many things, from alcohol and cigarettes and gambling to smart phones and sex. Paul says
I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.
So we can do things because we are free, only to be enslaved or addicted.
There was an Exclusive Brethren leader who thought the men of the church should show their freedom by drinking a glass of whisky. So they did. Each evening. Whether they liked it or not. Because they were told they must. To show how free they were.
Let’s go to verse 13. I’m going to change where the quotation marks go here. It will make more sense:
Someone else will say, ‘Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food. … but God will put an end to both’.
Then Paul replies:
The body is not to be used for sexual immorality, but to serve the Lord; and the Lord provides for the body. God raised the Lord from death, and he will also raise us by his power.
The ancient world was a very different place. Men were able to satisfy their sexual urges outside of marriage without any criticism. They could go to a brothel, or proposition a slave who would have no choice but to comply.
When they became Christians, some of them thought that could continue in this way. And why not?—remember, ‘I am allowed to do anything’.
And anyway, they reasoned, the body was going to end one day. It didn’t matter all that much.
To which Paul says, the body is for the Lord and, more than that, God is going to raise us from death just as he raised the Lord Jesus. Bodies matter.
Later (chapter 15), Paul says that in the resurrection this body will become a spiritual body, a body which gives some kind of form to the spirit. It won’t be this body, just as the risen Jesus wasn’t just a corpse with the life pumped back in. Even so, the body is basic. Paul says it’s like a seed that will blossom into something beautiful. The body is important, and what we do with it matters.
Paul goes on:
You know that your bodies are parts of the Body of Christ.
Note the capital ‘B’. This is the letter, 1 Corinthians, in which Paul teaches about the Body of Christ.
The church—including me and youse—is the Body of Christ. That means we, youse and I, are intimately joined to Jesus—as closely knit to him as the parts of our own body are to us. I can’t detach my hand or my eye; they are part of me. And we are parts of Christ’s Body. So, our bodies are parts of the Body of Christ.
Paul is saying We can’t just do what we want, even if we are free to do what we want. Whatever we do affects the rest of the Body.
That is how truly we are connected in Christ. That is what it means to be the Body of Christ. We can’t follow Jesus and ignore the rest of his Body.
The body matters. Our bodies, and the Body of Christ.
In all of this, Paul is laying the groundwork for talking about the Body of Christ later in this letter. In chapter 11.12, he will say
Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts.
So we can’t make decisions about what we do as though we are isolated from other people.
And this Body of Christ is not just this congregation, not even the Uniting Church in Australia. It is the church everywhere. During the week, the President of the USA used derogatory language to describe where some immigrants come from. But their bodies matter. How should we treat them as part of the Body of Christ? The Body is so much more than just us!
Soon, we’ll be sharing the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together. We shall do that as one Body in Christ. We’ll pass the Peace of Christ to one another in preparation for this sacred Meal. Christ will come to us in this Meal, and draw us deeper into his heart.
That’s what it means to share this Meal. It’s not just ‘you and Jesus’, it’s youse and Jesus. It is us in Christ. It’s all of us all over the world in Christ.
We are the Body of Christ. Let us remember this in our daily life in the body God has given us. Amen.