Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
This section of 2 Corinthians, from 6:14-7:1, makes an abrupt change in tone, language and subject-matter from the verses that directly surround it – 6:13 and 7:2 both refer to Paul’s request that the Corinthians open their hearts to him. This is clearly a digression, marked with rhetorical questions. What does God have to do with idols?
Throughout this letter, Paul expresses his love for the Corinthians. He also shares his concern about them possibly following charismatic, but misleading teachers. There seems to be a rift between Paul and the Corinthians because of a a troubling situation and a distressing letter, which we do not have, and that fact that he has not been able to visit in a while. He seems eager to repair this rift and also to encourage the Corinthians to not lose heart in him or his teachings, even though he is not present. He wants to warn them against spending too much time with, or giving too much credence to, teachings that are idolatrous or fanciful versions of Christianity.
Many will recognize the beginning of verse 6:14 – “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers.” Many of us will have heard this quoted, or said it ourselves in reference to marriages between Christians and non-Christians. This interpretation, however, is unlikely, since the text never talk about married persons. In other letters, including 1 Corinthians, Paul does not seem to have a problem with believers being married to unbelievers, in fact encouraging such marriages to remain intact, in the hopes that the unbeliever might eventually be drawn into the Christian community of his or her spouse. Likewise, Paul does not seem to desire Christians to abandon friendships or business partnerships with non-Christians, but rather understands both the necessity of remaining in the world, and in relationship with non-Christians, both for pragmatic reasons as well as the possibilities of drawing them into the Christian community.
So what is Paul talking about? Apparently some Corinthians have failed to grasp the implications of being in Christ. If the Corinthians believe in the hope and grace of God, if they are “temples of the living God” in the world, then they should not be participating in the cultic rites of the pagan temples. The Corinthian Christians were to love all people, but not become involved with the pagan cult.
Paul is not warning us to stay away from people who are not Christians, but rather to stay away from pagan practices and superstitions that lead us away from Christ. It is one thing to love someone who is not Christian. It is entirely another to be drawn into ways of life that involve us in theft, dishonesty, drunkenness, sexual immorality. Perhaps the test is this: Who is having the greatest effect on whom? If developing relationships with those far from Christ brings them in, then all is well. If it draws us more towards an unhealthy lifestyle, then perhaps we are not in a good place to be a witness in that circumstance. Paul offers a wise caution.
Reflect: When did a relationship drag you into a bad place? When have you been able to bring someone else into a better place? How might you tell the difference?
Devotion from A Heart for Reconciliation by Megan Dosher Hansen and Michael Rinehart