One of the things with which all teachers must contend is developing assignment directions that are easy to follow. However, even the most carefully crafted assignment sheet can appear too convoluted to certain students. Are these students stupid? Probably not, but their need reflects that every student learns differently, and because of this, not every student understand directions as intended. Therefore, you need to pull these students aside and talk them through the requirements using different details and often streamlined expectations so that they are set up to succeed with the assignment.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul has to perform a similar approach when conveying Christianity’s message to the Corinthians. One indication of this is the prose style he adopts. And it’s appreciated, for this more direct prose than the one used in Romans makes his points clear. Apparently the Corinthians were a form of hedonists and Paul had to find a way to make his message heard with this in mind. It seems he stuck to the high points of Christianity.
Of these points, several are really interesting and cast a favorable (though not always embraced) take on Christian values, how to respect them, and to whom they apply.
My favorite: “Don’t go above what is written” (4:6). Apparently some of the followers were tweaking God’s message and Paul felt the need to clarify: don’t do that. Since this still happens today, with people injecting all kinds of meaning that isn’t written (or implied), it’s useful to see this reminder (again) in print.
Paul also comes across as a really reasonable individual. And his particular points on divorce are pretty illuminating. He reiterates the hard stance on divorce: don’t do it. The follow-up contains the point that deserves even more attention: however, if people don’t follow the faith, let them (7:15). It appears that Paul had no wish to hold people who did not follow what would become known as Christianity to be bound by its rules. Makes sense, right?
He also clarifies that the body is not meant for sexual immorality (6:13). This seems to be a rehash on his anti-gay stance; however, he refers specifically to sleeping with your dad’s wife (5:1) and sex with prostitutes (6:15-16). So perhaps when he mentions sexual immorality elsewhere, this is what he means, not homosexuality. Otherwise, why not mention it with the other examples?
Lastly, as he unspools his philosophy, he asks his audience, why should his freedom be judged by another man’s conscience (10:29)? This suggests that people should not hold others to a personal value set. Why should one person be penalized for not believing what I believe? This represents the core spirit of what Paul is conveying to the Corinthians and one that should still resonate today.
Reminding people of these points is a good way to remember that every person is different and entitled to his or her own belief system, especially if this belief system has no impact on anyone else, like whom you love or sleep with.