“Where does sin reside? How powerful is it? And how will good will triumph over evil?” These are the questions found in the second of Niebuhr’s five theological motifs related to ethical behavior.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth, I wonder if it was like writing to the church at Las Vegas, or Times Square or that corruptible city that our contemporaries may know as the World Wide Web? Where does sin reside? The answer is in the hearts and minds of all men. Historically we can make a case for the three questions in Niehuhr’s motifs at any time in history. We can return to the Old Testament to watch Joseph be sold into slavery by his brothers. Overtaken by the sin of jealousy they stole his brother’s birthright and citizenship and lied to their father convincing him that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. It took many years but as circumstances and God’s will prevailed and Joseph was in front of his brother’s again, only as an authority. “What man meant for harm, God turned to good and good will triumphed over evil.
In Corinth we find a city filled with perversion, prostitution, homosexuality and fornication. Paul is concerned that which was built for good would turn to debauchery and kill the churches’ progress in Corinth. So he reminds them with a letter about “who they are in Christ. They are not their own and that they were bought for a price and that was the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. And that takes us back to another example, the capstone of good will triumphant over evil. Around A.D. 33 it was Christ that God sent as a sacrifice for the sins of man.
From the sin of Adam and Eve to the disobedience of whatever you did last night, evil thought that it won. And then just when it seemed over, the Risen Christ paved the way for the church in Corinth; Joseph and his brothers; the guy addicted to internet pornography, and the homosexual activist, whatever the sin, none greater or less than the other all of us have the opportunity to “come out and believe in the risen Christ.”
Paul says in 1 Corinthians (1:18): I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those on the road to destruction. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God.”
Think of it! Between the Greek philosophers and a culture that dismisses the wisdom of God. We can hardly fathom it ourselves. Paul acknowledges that the world’s wisdom is distorted and so though the most brilliant minds may form a think tank on how to solve the social problems that are caused by our culture without the power of God they will fail. Our sin, our evil dwells within us. Denial is prevalent that there is even such a thing as sin. Sin has been like sandpaper in my industry of media, and in my life. It is powerful in its convincing lie that it doesn’t exist! It’s like the “Empower with no clothes,” or the undertow, it’s like the predator in wait that you can’t see until it’s much too late. Good will can only triumph over evil after sin is revealed and exposed. Forgiveness and redemption, acceptance, and healing will not occur until the acknowledgement of sin and its remedy have transpired.
Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth is a letter that says ‘don’t take your salvation for granted, you are rooted in a city filled with porn, you have access to prostitution, homosexual relations; the visual, the actual, and the fantasy. That lifestyle will kill you!’ The reality is that we are all tempted. Sin resides and is powerful-not too many of us can stand up to it alone.
The reality check is that there is no separation between the powerful bond of sex and the powerful plan of sex in marriage between one man and one woman. No matter how hard you try to separate the two. Joe E. Trull in his book Walking in the Way writes:
“Cultural forces also contribute to our growing sexual problems.
Everyday entertainment and advertising bombards us with sexual messages.”
The Greek philosophers during the time of Paul’s letter divided human beings into “soul and body.” Trull maintains that this was a distorted view of sex. The soul according to the Greeks was the good part of humanity, the body the bad. This is what started the idea that sex was somehow dirty. Unfortunately, Christianity was influenced by this Hellenistic approach and sexual activity was viewed as a “necessary evil.” Paul defines in the letter the difference between perverted sex and God’s plan for sex in marriage. I try to practice what we preach and have turned a lot of work down when it compromises the intent of the Creator. We try to test it when dealing with certain clients and creative development. Some of the questions we ask:
Is this God’s creation or perversion of His creation?
Does it edify the Body (church and individual) or is it junk food?
Will this draw people to Him (God) or lead them astray?
Is it a cause that God want’s us to be a part of?
There are lots of ideas to clarify that we must explore, but the
purity of motives is where we start.
Trull, Joe, E. Walking in the Way: An Introduction to Christian Ethics. Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN. (pages 158-160) 1997.
The NIV Study Bible:(Isaiah 29:14), (1 Corinthians 1:18) Zondervan Publishers, 2001