Corinth was an important harbour city. Many strangers came there for limited periods of time. This may be one reason why Corinth was known for lax morals.
The Jewish community at Corinth was different from synagogues in Palestine. Jews that were living in other countries tended to be broader in outlook compared to those living chiefly amongst members of their own nation.
Often some people from other nations joined the services in the synagogues.They were gentiles in origin. They liked the Jewish religion – maybe because of its lofty ethics. Yet they were not proselytes. They had not fully become Jews. In the New Testament these people are referred to as godfearers.
Some of the synagogue at Corinth and some godfearers had come to believe in Jesus. Others may have become Christian believers that would have hardly attended synagogue services.
There were people of different backgrounds in the Christian fellowship at Corinth. Some had been worshipping other gods. Others had been zealous for the religious law of the Jews.
In chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians Paul writes about his own apostolic ministry. Paul had firm principles for himself, yet he learned to appreciate various kinds of people. He states how he used to adapt to people and their way of thinking in order to win them. (Verses 19-23).
The Corinthian Christians tended to divisions. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12+13). The idea that they would the body of Christ did not always determine their way of dealing with each other.
Paul wanted Christians not to follow preconceived bias. He sought to encourage an attitude of love an appreciation.
There is more than one word in the Greek language to take the meaning of love. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul uses a Greek word for love that seems to emphasize the way of thinking. (1)
Whenever we are coping with believers from backgrounds strange to our own a teaching on love that stresses how we think about people may help.
In dealing with strangers often enough we may have but confused feelings. We may even suffer from a brand of what can be described as culture shock.
First of all we must be prepared to love and appreciate others. Then we can think about how to be acceptable to these people without losing our own standards. After that love on an emotional level may also grow.
The city of Corinth was a place where people from many different cultures met. Seamen would stay for short periods of time and seek enjoyment. Corinth was known for lax morals.
Christian believers were to learn to love each other though they were so different from each other. Yet laying aside bias was not to result in an attitude of ‘nothing matters any more’. Moral and ethical standards were an important aspect of Christian teaching.
Thinking about the city of Corinth and the Christian community in those days may help us. It encourages us to assess our own Christian environment. At best it will help us develop love principles to follow in our dealing with other believers.
James Strong: A concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament; cf. entries 26 and 5368