In today’s world, things can be so confusing. We as Christians look to the Bible for definitive help on social and sexual issues. Is it really okay to divorce? Is being gay a sin? I’m not trying to answer those questions, but I merely point them out as examples of questions about which we look for guidance from the Bible.
It is fascinating to me that the early Christians in Corinth were dealing with the same issues then. At that point they did not have the Bible as we know it to guide them. They had the Torah. They had the customs of the day. And they had the letters from Paul, such as today’s reading.
This reading is particularly interesting to me as it is not often that, in an epistle, it appears to be a response to a previous writing. Today’s reading starts out “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’” Someone was apparently asking Paul for guidance in the sexual nuances of their time vis-à-vis the new Christianity.
Paul’s response is straight forward – if you are married, exercise self control and be faithful. If you are not married, practice self-control. It’s pretty clear that his point is to practice self-control no matter what your circumstance. Basic stuff, but difficult nonetheless.
Are things so different today? I don’t think so. Paul’s words are so basic that they apply timelessly. This is certainly something we have tried to instill in our two boys as they move into early adulthood. What a difficult time to practice self-control! We are no longer able to control their lives as we could when they were younger. However, we can continue to provide a model for them to follow. And we can provide them with a safe place to come for questions and advice, even if they don’t always ask when we think they should.
Self control is something we must always practice. We must always keep our guard up against evil and the havoc it would raise in our lives. That is the timeless lesson of Paul’s words.