One of the struggles Christians must face is our relationship with our society and the life that it offers us. Because people do not like anyone to be different or do anything other than what they do, there is always the pressure to conform to the standards of ‘everyone else’. How often have we heard as an explanation as to why someone chose to do something, “But everyone is doing it!” As Paul was writing to the Christians in Corinth, he had to deal with this very problem.
“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, ‘I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16 NET)
Christians are warned about involvement with those who are not Christians. The reason given is simply: righteousness cannot exist with lawlessness, just as light and dark cannot coexist. I think we can see the problem: Christians involved in worldly activities may cause them to have to turn their back on what they believe, in essence turning their back on Jesus.
We may think: but I could be such a good influence if I were to be involved. Perhaps we could. But there is a greater chance that we will be influenced to compromise what we believe.
Paul put it this way: it would be like the Messiah compromising with Satan (the Greek term ‘Beliar’ or ‘Belial’ is a reference to Satan). We know that Jesus refused to compromise in any way with Satan! So, keeping that in mind, Paul asked, “what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” The answer should be obvious: we have nothing in common until they become a believer.
He takes it even further: what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? Throughout the history of the Kingdom of Judah this was a problem. They saw the gods of the nations around them and eventually adopted their gods and brought idols into God’s temple. The prophets denounced this in no uncertain terms! We need to realise that, as Christians, we are the temple of God today – and we cannot compromise what we believe.
What then are Christians to do? Paul gave them the solution.
“Therefore ‘come out from their midst, and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the All-Powerful Lord.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)
Paul quoted from Jewish scriptures telling us he Paul knew God’s word. But notice this is how he knew what was right from what was wrong. It is God’s word that we must follow.
As Christians we cannot return to living as everyone else does. God is our father and we are his children.
This the solution to all problems involving sinful living. We now have a new life in Jesus. We need to now live for him. In this way we will “accomplish holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Image of Jesus’ temptation by Gordon Johnson from pixabay.com.
Readings for next week: 2 Corinthians 5-13