1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The start of a section in the letter to the Christians gathered in Corinth.
Lots of things intersected at Corinth. Money, people, power — it was a business hub and a huge sea-faring town. And also ideas. The Greeks stand out in history for investing in thought, philosophy, education — they had universities and forums and all that junk.
One huge part of Greek thought was that there is a strong difference between the body and mind/spirit (dualism). Some folks believed that anything that’s physically real, matter, like our bodies, is more basic and essentially evil compared to the mind/spirit, and that the mind/spirit is pretty much pure and good.
This idea shows up all over the place nowadays, and seems to be present in Christianity – that the body has all these natural, animal desires that make us greedy and lustful and violent, while the spirit is that eternal part of us that is good, or some version of all that.
Anyway, maybe Greeks heard the gospel of Christ, heard about the Holy Spirit, and it made sense that humans are sinful (in body) and need to be ultimately set free. Some took this so far as to think that Christ had to die to be released from that evil body, and so after the resurrection he was just a “spirit-man” walking around. Weird, and the early church totally rejected this idea (because Christ came to redeem every bit of humanity, body, mind, spirit, 100%).
In Corinth, with these cultural ideas shaping their spirituality, it’s easy to see where the struggles came from. One one hand, some new Christians said, “Well, my body is basically evil, and I’m trying to do better but it’s just made that way. So why fight nature, I’ll just satisfy my body’s needs and commit my spirit to Jesus.” They figured hungry people feed themselves, so horny people go see prostitutes, no big deal, and so on.
But then the other extreme group of people thought the gospel was a call to strictly control the body’s evil desires. Maybe these were the folks that had sworn off their sexuality, isolated men from women in general, and even questioned the goodness of marriage (see all of 1 Corinthians 7).
So, overall, there was dispute in Corinth. And the dispute sprang out of the powerful influence of their culture over their spirituality. They struggled to understand and live a faith where body and spirit are united under Christ, and where the church body is completely diverse but also united in one Spirit.
How about us? How about the influence of culture? Just look at advertising, for one. Almost every ounce of media/information/idea that comes at us, all day every day, is powered by business. Even news programs that claim to strive just for unbiased news reporting, and shows that are most entertaining, only exist so that companies can advertise their products.
Sunday we’ll take a look some ads like this one:
A teacher of mine has told me that every ad, every commercial, intends to raise a “felt need” in the viewer. As in, by the end of the ad we realize that we “need” whatever they’re trying to sell – from cars to carpet cleaner – we never even knew we needed it, but we need to buy it. And usually that need is pictured as the one thing that will solve life’s problems, and give us meaning, etc. etc. So, in the “Dos Equis” commercial above, with the “most interesting man in the world,” how are they trying to make us need that particular beer?
And how does it influence us as people, and our lives, and our spirituality?