Letters to the Corinthians: Status Updates

This is 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 and it’s the shortest section of this chapter.

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

Let’s read on a bit more …

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

I wanted to say this earlier, but the last post was already long enough – culturally speaking, marriage had a context that sort of worried newly-converted believers. Look at the questions these people were asking: “Hey Paul, I was circumcised before I became a believer, but I understand that it’s not a requirement. What should I do?” or “To Paul, I’m a slave and I’ve just come to the faith. What would Jesus have me do?” That’s probably the same sorts of questions these believers had because their status – free or slave, married or single, insider or outsider – it was everything to them. Their status determined their place in society – it even determined which seats they take at the Colosseum to watch the spectacles. A change of status changes their seat in society – marrying the right person means increased benefits, marrying the wrong person means losing them. Many were concerned that when converting to Christianity, they might have to change their lives in such a way that they lose everything. Drawing a modern parallel is quite different, being a Christian is usually somewhat advantageous these days. Being trusted as an honorable person and treated with respect is useful for those who running for office. And statistics show that those who don’t believe in God aren’t treated the same way particularly in the more religious corners of the states. Status is still everything – we just have it the other way around.

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