July 26 – Today’s Readings – 1Corinthians 11-13 and Psalms 26
The reason Paul’s teaching sometimes seems difficult for us is that we don’t connect his instruction with the context and time frame it was written in. In this section, Paul was trying to bring order into a Church were chaos ruled. He spoke to them about “dress code” and outward appearance of the men and women in the Church because the way they dressing had great significance. If a woman dressed and looked a certain way, she was advertising herself as a sexually provocative woman or a prostitute. If a man behaved or dressed a certain way, he was saying that he was effeminate. If men or women spoke out of turn in Church services, the entire gathering would become chaotic and this atmosphere would dishonour the Lord. These seemingly insignificant issues were causing problems in the church, and Paul needed to say something so that this assembly could better reflect the glory of God.
Leaving first century customs, dress code and culture aside, we can certainly draw parallels to our present day. We too can make a very clear statement about our attitudes towards life and the things of God by how we present ourselves. Our attitudes, appearance and speech give those who come in contact with us an impression of what a Christian is or is not. As individuals we are unique – we have a certain appearance – we speak with a certain accent or dialect – we may even dress in a unique manner according to our age group or customs of our culture. We also understand that the outward appearance of a man or woman is not nearly as significant as the inward appearance – (the heart). When people meet us, they should come away with the knowledge that there is something very beautiful on the inside of us – the presence of God. Moreover, the Holy Spirit also instructs us individually about our outward appearance. If you wore the colours and “uniform” of a gang member when you came to Christ, it wouldn’t be long before you changed your clothes in honour of your relationship to Christ. If you where a “tough guy” in leathers and chains when you came to Christ, you probably would alter your looks so that people would not fear you anymore but rather be drawn to Christ. The inside of us becomes like Christ and the outward man follows suit.
Communion must have been quite a spectacle in Corinth before Paul straightened the church out. Some people seemed to be bringing picnic lunches complete with lots of booze and having a “binge feast” before the Lord, while their fellow Church members went hungry. Paul told them they were doing more harm than good and that their “communion” was not communion at all. He even went so far as to say that if they were not “recognizing the body of Christ” – and that there would be increased sickness and even death among them because of it. He went on to tell them that collectively, they were the body of Christ. In order to have a proper communion service, all members of the body had to be honoured. Paul caps off this teaching by emphasizing that love for God and love for one another is what really holds a Church together – not the spiritual gymnastics this church seemed so proud of.
1. Do we have other “dress codes” in our society that represent rebellion to God or certain sinful lifestyles?
2. What should a Christian “look like” in order to reflect Jesus and relate to the world around us? (Hint – What did Jesus look like? What did the Pharisees look like?