Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I & II Corinthians

Corinthians could be called the book of love. It espouses the teachings of Jesus as the way to eternal life, and reminds church members of the right way to live, but mostly emphasizes the need to "love thy neighbour" as the most important action of all.

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three. But the greatest of these is charity." -- I Corinthians 13:13

In the King James Version, the word 'charity' means love, which is agape love, not romantic love. We're not meant to love just one person, bringing them flowers and showering them with affection. Agape, meaning divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing love of God for mankind and of mankind for each other, is the kind of love we are to have for everyone.

Jesus was the physical embodiment of love in action, and to follow him and his teachings means to work at becoming like him, by showing love to others. It's so challenging, yet so simple. You don't need to be a brainiac to get Christianity at its foundation. Just love. That's it. Everything else will follow.

Like Romans, I & II Corinthians are letters written by Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to a church that was failing to live up to its goals and standards. The church at Corinth was getting out of line because it was starting to become influenced by the morally corrupt. The Greeks had 1,000 prostitutes working at a temple, which some of the Christians were getting to know a little too well.

Paul wrote his letters (three, actually, one in I Corinthians, and two in II Corinthians) to the church at Corinth to tell them what was what in terms of Jesus's teachings. He managed to set them right, back on course, but it wasn't without difficulty. Some of the church leaders were arrogant and said he wasn't worth listening to, but he kept writing back, defending himself and reminding them that if they are to follow anyone, and to trust anyone, it should be the original leader; Jesus himself. Eventually, they listened, and since his letters were so powerful and influential, they've become part of the New Testament. I Corinthians chapter 13 is probably the most repeated chapter in the bible. Anyone who's been to a Christian wedding knows this one. "Love is patient, love is kind..." it's almost a cliché.

Some criticism:

I don't particularly like the fact that Paul is a total misogynist, stating bluntly that women shouldn't speak in church, but ask their husbands when they get home if they have any questions. Seriously, Paul, what the heck? In doing a bit of research, my understanding is that he meant prostitutes shouldn't speak their mind because they'll lead people astray, but this doesn't make sense to me. What about morally corrupt men?

Also, Paul tells the Corinthians they should weed out the morally corrupt from among them and push them out of the church because, like yeast, they will infiltrate and negatively influence everyone with their bad behaviour. Doesn't this fly in the face of what Jesus preached when he told the townspeople to cast the first stone at the adulterous woman? If we cast out the "bad folks" from our churches there'd be no one left. And who will cast the first stone? Are we not fully aware that no one is perfect? And should we not accept ESPECIALLY those who are imperfect into a church with open arms, since that's the very place they'll be influenced to good rather than continue down their crooked path? If not within the church, then where will those who need help get it from well-intentioned Christians? This seems like such hypocrisy to me. More investigation and understanding needed on this one. In the meantime, I'm onto to Galatians and the rest of Paul's much shorter letters.

**NEXT: Galatians

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