01/18/15 Sermon (January 18, 2015)

posted Jun 24, 2015, 11:17 AM by David Hawkins

“Sin Affects All of Us”

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”

17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Sermon: "Sin Affects All of Us"             Rev. David Hawkins

Well! It’s not often that we hear such graphic terms like ‘prostitute’ and ‘fornication’ spoken in the sanctuary, is it?  I have to admit that I really hesitated to preach this text. Not that I feel like I need to apologize for scripture, but because the language in it is so forthright, so earthy that I was afraid that we might recoil from it, that we might not be able to really hear what Paul is trying to say, simply because the words he uses are so strong.

But, despite the harsh words that Paul is using, this scripture is not really so much about sexual sin (although, you can be sure that Paul is definitely against it!). Paul is using the example of sexual sin to communicate a deeper truth about our lives together as Christians.

I’m going to focus on this deeper truth this morning, and so  you won’t hear a lot about fornication and prostitution today. Some of you might be disappointed, some of you might be relieved. But I just wanted to get that out of the way. That doesn’t mean that the sermon is going to be comfortable, however.

Paul is writing to his church to address some concerns that he has, based on reports that have filtered their way back to him. One can tell that the church in Corinth is having some problems. They’ve got people suing each other in court, they’ve got cases of incest, they’ve got social climbers, they’ve got all kinds of examples of the rich lording their money over the poor. The church has come to think that because they they are free from the law in Jesus Christ, they are therefore free from any obligation or expectation, and can behave in whatever way they would like.

And this is what Paul is angry about.

Now, the problem is, in some ways, they are right. They are free from the law. In fact, Paul himself uses a great deal of ink in his letters to various churches saying exactly the same thing. In his letter to the Galatians, he says that the law does not make anyone righteous before God; it is not based on faith; it is not the foundation of our salvation in any way. In Romans, he says that if we are alive in Christ,  we are dead to the law. We are discharged from the law, we are no longer slaves to the old written code but are given new life of the Spirit.

And so, yes, Paul agrees that all things are lawful for us, yes we are longer bound to the law.

But then he takes it one step further: All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. And this is where we find Paul’s clearest expression of what he believes about Christian Community.

Of course all things are lawful, he says, but not all things are healthy for the body of Christ. Paul reminds the church that our connection to Christ is not just ours alone. Our connection to Christ involves all those who are also connected to Christ. Being bound to Christ means that we are bound to each other.  

In other words, we are not in this thing by ourselves. We do not have the luxury of thinking that our behavior only affects us. We don’t have the privilege of doing whatever we want, whenever we want, to whomever we want, because our decisions, our actions are not as individual as we would like to think.

The things we do, both good and bad, have a direct impact on other Christians. The things we do, both good and bad, reflect our understanding of  what it means to be connected to Jesus, and to be connected to one another.

That means when we tell a racist or dirty joke, we drag Jesus into that mud, and we tarnish the reputation of all Christians. But when we we offer a cold drink of water to someone who thirsts, the church offers the promise salvation on behalf of Christ.

When we bind ourselves to addictions, when we abuse our bodies, we enslave the community, and abuse the Body of Christ. But, when we clothe the hungry, feed the poor, tend the sick, we do so knowing that Jesus is already there with us, and that we are in the company of all saints from all times.

Being a Christian is not a solitary relationship. It’s not an individual faith. Being a Christian means that we are one, not just with Jesus, but with all those who also believe in Jesus. Our sins are their sins, our joys are their joys, our burdens are their burdens, our work for the  kingdom of heaven is the work of Jesus Christ and the Church from the very beginning.

This changes the way we think about freedom, doesn’t it? We are no longer bound to the law. But we are bound to Jesus. And this means things.

Paul reminds us that we are released from the devastating effects of sin, not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the community. We are freed from the requirements of the law, not in order to flaunt our freedom, but to use it in service to each other.

These are the promises that we make when we become a member of the church: to build one another up, to work with each other, and to live lives that are worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Not because it’s the law, but because we are all in this thing together.

To the Lord who speaks to us,
and strengthens us,
and blesses us with peace,
be all glory and honor forever. Amen.