The Early Church: Living in an Over-Sexualized Society

My #BibleReadingPlan has me starting 2 Corinthians today. A little background on 2 Corinthians can be found here.  To get a better understanding of Paul’s audience I wanted to do some research on Corinth and the church.

Corinth was a town in Greece, located 48 miles west of Athens, on an isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. It was a wealthy trade city and home to a temple for Aphrodite. If you studied Greek gods in 7th grade, you’ll remember Aphrodite as the goddess of sexual love and beauty. The temple was full of slaves – some estimates as many as 1,000 men and women – who worked as temple prostitutes. The trade ports and prostitution made Corinth a very wealthy city.Ακροκόρινθος / Acrocorinth - Corinth

By the time Paul arrived, the city had been devastated by an earthquake and invasion – and rebuilt – and the prostitution had left the crumbling temple and moved into the streets. It was known as a city where sailors would stop to party. Think if Amsterdam and Las Vegas met up and had a baby . . . you’d have Corinth. The Greek word korinthiazethai had two meanings: 1) to live in Corinth and 2) to get drunk and indulge in sexual pleasures.

This was a city that not only had a culture of living for sensual pleasure – but it also made it’s living off of it and got very rich in the process. The goddess many of the people worshipped demanded it.

So Paul arrives in this city and starts telling people about Jesus. He goes to Aphrodite worshipers and tells them about Jesus. He shares the gospel with people who are sleeping around, cheating on their spouses, practicing homosexuality. He tells the drunk on the street. He tells the greedy hustler who is making money of the sex tourist industry. He tells the people who are known for yelling and cussing at everyone.

This was the church of Corinth. People who met Jesus right where they were – whether in the middle of hustle or coming off a hangover from a night of partying. And Jesus washed them clean from their sin. Sanctified them. Gave them a new life. Justified them, regardless of their past.

‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

This was like a church in the middle of the Vegas strip made up of Christians who had formerly worked on the strip, got rich off the strip, slept around and got drunk on the strip. Corinth was full of people who lived for sensual pleasure and whose religion even called for it. But now these Christians were washing clean and were learning a new way to live through Jesus, which makes Paul’s teaching even more impactful:

‘”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?

For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ‘ 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 

The people of Corinth understood temples – the ruins of a temple stood on a hill overlooking their city. They also understood slavery and what it meant to be bought with a price. They understood prostitution as it was a major industry in their city.

But Jesus was calling them to a different lifestyle. And He was also giving them the power – through the Holy Spirit – to be changed. He had died for them. And He was asking them to live for Him.

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Musings on the Kingdom of Heaven

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

“But what do you think about this?

A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.

Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” Matthew 21:28-32 

I am a poster child for “fly over” America. I live in the middle of the United States in a nice, middle-class house. I have a husband, two kids, and a dog. I drive my kids to sports and school.  I am a typical “soccer mom” (minus the soccer and the peppy smile and cute blonde pony-tail . . . I’m the mom hanging out in her car with no make-up and lots of gray hair, trying to finish an overdue library book while drinking lukewarm coffee).

I am rarely pushed out of my comfort zone. I’ve traveled internationally and seen poverty, but it doesn’t touch my day-to-day life. I go to church with a lot of other hard-working, suburban, mid-westerners.

Yes, there are hipsters and hippies and refugees in our midst, but the count is small.

Sure, there are probably a lot of us living paycheck to paycheck, but not too many who are skipping meals due to lack of money.

This is my little piece of the world.

Not to say there isn’t pain and drama and sin in my church – there is – plenty of it. Just like every church in the world, the seats are full of people silently suffering from depression and anxiety. Whether in their past or present life – there is the struggle of addiction to porn, drugs, alcohol and gambling. There is divorce. There are past childhood wounds. There is future baggage being created. There is gossip and anger. There is hurt. There are struggles.

There are also the same faces that are seen every Sunday – the church leaders, the greeters, the childcare volunteers.

And then there are the invisible Christians. There are those who walk in and walk out of church, unnoticed. There are those who never even walk in the doors, because they are ashamed of the baggage they carry. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who go to church in prison as they serve a life-sentence. There are those who never show up on Sunday morning because they are in a nursing home or hospital.

In my mind, I see the “Kingdom of Heaven” being my church on a bigger scale, just without the ongoing sin and pain.

And it some ways it will be. But in other ways it will be much different.

In heaven, the invisible Christians will finally be seen. And they won’t be last. They will be first. The death row inmate who gave his life to Christ in the final hours will be leading the choir. The former thief will be at a place of honor. The invisible Christians – the poor and the hurting – will be those with the best seats at the table.

There will be people from every nationality and ethnicity, worshiping together. The prostitute with the preacher. The murderer with the cop. The man who struggled with same-sex attraction and the man who struggled with judging others. The republican and the democrat. The liberal and the conservative. The socialist, the libertarian, and the communist. The rich and the poor. The elderly and the infant.

Maybe it is time that I open my eyes and see others the way Jesus sees them. Love them the way Jesus loves them. Show compassion like Jesus showed. For all I know the homeless man I pass on the way to church might have a seat reserved for him in heaven, at the right hand of Jesus. The woman who keeps her head down at the grocery store and looks like her life is a mess . . . might be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Then he said,“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3

“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:10 

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 

“I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to his disciples,“I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said,“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:23-26