It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgement in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.’
In my experience, churches are places full of people who like to enjoy themselves. Christmas party season is a great opportunity to gather together with a variety of people to enjoy the festive season. Church halls host parties for the Women’s Guild, Men’s Friendship Club, Junior Church, Caledonian Society, Elders’ Meeting, and many others, with buffets and roast meals all loaded onto heaving plates. New Year (or Hogmanay) follows swiftly on the tail of Christmas parties, with late-night celebration, joviality, drinks (including a congratulatory dram or two) and the customary revelries as the clock chimes midnight. Today’s passage gets us to think about what it means to judge those ‘of the world’ who are seen to behave in ways we feel strong enough to question: whether that be greed or drunkenness, revelry or making idols, or putting before the world a view of sexuality which is informed by our anxieties and assumptions. Instead, this letter wants those ‘inside’ to think about the hypocrisy of this position which suggests distancing from the world rather than be part of it. Yet this passage calls upon those of faith to sort out their own house first – to consider what it means to be party people, to be people with diverse sexualities, needs and desires. It is our responsibility to revise our understandings to reflect those among our fellowship; we on the ‘inside’ are compelled to think about what makes us into people who like to celebrate, like to embrace a variety of relationships and encounter a plethora of needs and interests. If we can embrace and own our ‘inside’ celebrations, relationships and passions in their complex multiplicities, then our own interactions with the world in its ‘otherness’ can be nothing but welcoming and loving, embracing the humanity we share and enfold.
Prayer Loving God, help us to behave without hypocrisy and with love. Open our eyes to the diversity among us and the ways we are your people. Make us quick to judge ourselves ahead of others, that we may better appreciate your kingdom in the world. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Chaplaincy Coordinator at Newcastle University
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