Thursday of Epiphany II – I Corinthians 6:12-20

12 “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. 13 “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. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 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! 16 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.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 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, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Laurie (not her real name) sat in my office. She did not cry. I do not think there were many tears left in her. Her eyes were empty. She stared at a point on the floor, somewhere between us. She began a long litany of what she had done. She had believed the message that she should explore her sexuality, including her attraction to other women. She should fully experience all that life could offer her. But she never stopped to see what it was doing to her until one day she found herself absolutely empty.

Laurie came to talk to me several times. She had grown up Lutheran in a Midwest community which she had fled. I think this Lutheran pastor was something of an anchor point to a life which seemed very distant to her now. While I forgave her, I do not know that I was able to help her. Did she, could she, believe what my words said? She stopped coming by after a while. She never told me why. I have not seen her for years. I think of her when I see the same empty look in the faces of people living on the streets of Portland these days.

The last few decades have seen a stunning reversal in the legal standards of acceptable behavior. When I entered ministry in 1991, gay marriage, marijuana, and much more were proscribed by the laws of the land. So much has changed so quickly. In the recent round of elections in my state certain uses of psychedelic mushrooms were made legitimate. This has made Paul’s assertion in this passage to the church in Corinth so much more applicable. Just because something is allowed, either by law or social custom, does not make it good to do.

Discerning this requires wisdom. Paul gives us a wise place to start as we consider these things. God has united himself to us in the incarnation of Christ. That makes us, including our bodies, sacred. Jesus did not redeem just our soul, but He shed red, sticky blood and broke his physical body on a cross to redeem me, including my body. I am important to Him.

There were very few things against the law in the ancient Roman world. Corinth was particularly known as a place where everything was for sale, including people and their bodies. Paul enjoined them and us to living in a wisdom rooted in God’s incarnate love for the whole person. What is good for you? If everything is permissible, then the question is what is good for you. What will you do?

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