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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

NOT FREE TO DO, BUT FREE TO BE

Second Sunday After Epiphany


“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.


Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Cor. 6:12-20



“Free at last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!” Famous words from a famous man, whose birthday is celebrated tomorrow. Free! How we cherish that word. As citizens of the United States, we prize our freedom. As Christians, we prize our freedom in Christ even more. We glory in those great words, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1)


We have freedom in Christ. But we’d better have a clear understanding of what this freedom means. And in today’s Epistle lesson, the Apostle Paul explains its meaning. We’d better pay attention, for it’s God’s Word that Paul is writing, and he tells us that we are not free to do just any old thing we feel like doing.


“Everything is permissible for me,” Paul tells us. (1 Cor. 6:12) He’s probably quoting the proponents of freedom in the city of Corinth, who believed that any activity was okay. In their twisted thinking, a person could be as casual in satisfying their hunger for sex as they were in satisfying their hunger for food. To them, having sex with a prostitute was no different than stopping in at McDonalds for a hamburger. Both acts were permissible, they claimed, and could be performed in an equally casual way.


“Everything is permissible for me” Paul quotes, but then he adds – “but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Cor. 6:12) In fact, some “permissible” things are not only not beneficial – they’re downright harmful! This is especially true with sexual sins. Venereal diseases have always done irreparable harm to the body, and now AIDS has vividly shown the tragic consequences of this misunderstood freedom.


And even more serious is the potentially irreparable harm to a person’s spirit that sexual sins can cause. To enter into a wrongful relationship with another human being is to damage the relationship we have with Christ. “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” (1 Cor. 6:16) A person can’t be one with Christ while he’s one with someone else in a sinful act!


“’Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12) Paul warns us that some permissible things can eventually become our masters. If we begin to think that everything about our bodies is our domain, ultimately we will be dominated by our bodies. We will become slaves to passion and so destroy our freedom. Sin is an unrelenting master! When we choose sin, it chooses to master us!


What a powerful message the Apostle Paul offers to us in the 21st century. “Anything goes” is the philosophy of too much of our land, found in books and magazines, on television and in movies, on the internet, and in the lives of the people in the highest positions in our country! And if it’s permissible in all of those bedrooms, it must be permissible in our personal lives as well. “It doesn’t matter,” too many people say. “Oh, but it does matter,” St. Paul says!


A libertarian approach to sex corrupts the moral fabric of people. Only God knows how many people, moved by the power of suggestion, have allowed themselves to be mastered by their passions, and have thoroughly destroyed their relationship with their Lord.


We are not free to do whatever we want to do. As soon as we begin to think that we are, we’re in danger of falling into traps that can harm us both physically and spiritually. We’re in danger of being mastered by the very things that we thought we were freely choosing. When we confess our sins, we need to admit our weaknesses and failings before God in all humility, and plead for pardon.


We are not free to do, but by the grace of God in Christ, we are free to be. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Cor. 6:13) Our bodies are liberated when they’re linked to the Lord through faith in Him as our Savior and Lord. Our bodies are for the Lord, and when He is our Lord, then we are truly free.


And besides that, the Lord is for our bodies! He redeemed them from sin. “You were bought at a price.” (1 Cor. 6:20) “For you know,” Peter writes, “that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)


The Lord is for our bodies. Not only were they bought at a price and given the gift of forgiveness, but they were also given resurrection power. “By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.” (1 Cor. 6:14) Just think: we will be raised again, and as Paul told the Philippians, Christ will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body!” (Phil. 3:21) How can we dishonor with sin the bodies that God has so honored with the promise of their resurrection. We are free to be the noble people whose bodies will someday take on the very noble qualities of Jesus Christ himself.


And because we are free to be what God has made us in Christ, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms: “Flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Cor. 6:18) Joseph in the Old Testament was free to be what God had made him to be – a faithful child of God. That’s what made him able to break free from the amorous clutches of Potiphar’s wife. Even though that break for freedom landed him behind bars, he still remained in the freedom of a strong relationship with God. The words he said to his brothers could just as well have been spoken to Potiphar’s wife. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen. 50:20) All this was possible because in the power of God, Joseph was made free to flee from immorality.


We are free as we remember how our bodies relate to the body of Christ. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” (1 Cor. 6:15) Of course we know. But we need constant reminders, just as the Christians in Corinth did. These reminders strengthen us to be truly free, as we are meant to be.


Our Baptism is one clear reminder. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “We were buried with Him through Baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)


Holy Communion is another clear reminder: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16)


And yet another reminder is found in the scriptures: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” (Col. 3:16)


In Word and Sacrament we are reminded of our membership in the body of Christ, and are strengthened in it.


We are free also as our bodies fulfill their God-intended function. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Think of the dignity God gives to our bodies! It doesn’t matter if we’re big or small, thin or fat, old or young. What does matter is that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is in us, our bodies deserve respect and need to be treated honorably. How would you feel if pornographic movies were shown in our church building? Well, just as out of place is any pornography in our mind, heart, or body. To permit such things desecrates the temple of our bodies just as graffiti would desecrate the walls of our church. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Gal. 5:13)


Finally, we are free to be when we use our bodies to glorify God. “Therefore honor God with your body,” we heard in our Epistle lesson. (1 Cor. 6:20) Our body is a temple, and with our body each of us is to serve as a priest. So Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)


Martin Luther defines the priestly use of the body in his explanation of the 6th Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”


We honor God when we keep our bodies from anything that would abuse His gift of sex. We also honor Him when we use this gift in a God-pleasing way to express our deepest love for that very special person whom God has given us in marriage.


We are not free to do. Thank God for His restraining Law that curbs our sinful desires.


But we are free to be. Praise Him for what He has made us to be through the cross and the empty tomb.


Amen

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vswiger
2021. jan. 18.

Love this so much. Beautiful Sermon written by a wonderful man. Many prayers and blessings sent his way. Thank you for sharing.

Kedvelés
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