Reading through the Bible together
As a missionary I live and serve in Asia. A huge part of the culture in this part of the world relates to honor. When I ask for directions, I’m careful to phrase my questions so that the person does not have to tell me “no,” because it is not polite not to give a good answer. Cultural differences require that we avoid embarrassing others as much as possible.
The Apostle Paul observes that the fighting and bickering in Corinth, leading to lawsuits, should cause them to be ashamed of themselves (vs. 5). The situation was so bad that believers were taking each other to court, going before unbelievers to settle their church problems (vs. 6). It would be far better for them to accept wrong than “do these things to your brethren!” (vs. 8). Such behavior makes them just as bad as some who will not be in God’s kingdom (vs. 9-10). “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (vs. 11).
At the heart of this chapter, Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful” (vs. 12). One of the classes I teach at the Seminary in the Philippines is the development of Adventist theology and lifestyle. One principle for missionaries is that we strive not to offend others. I have come to appreciate that in different parts of the world, people view things differently. When I was a pastor in the United States I preached with a suit and tie, but now I have learned to preach barefoot, and even though it is hot in this part of the world, I have learned that long sleeves are more important than a tie. To follow such customs is a sign of respect.
Going back to the subject of sexual purity, the Apostle Paul observes that sexual immortality corrupts the body (vs. 13). It is shameful for the church. “Flee sexual immorality,” Paul warns (vs. 18). And in summary, he admonishes, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (vs. 19, 20). For many years I heard that verse quoted as the basis for health reform, but in reality the Apostle Paul is speaking about the need for sexual purity. When this principle is applied to any and all aspects of our lives it brings honor. Paul contrasts this shameful behavior with the purity of Jesus whose death brought us honor.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies