When preparing for this study of love and “not puffed up”, I thought I might just write about some of the other scripture passages where the same Greek and English word is used. Those who read my posts of the last two weeks may have found them somewhat difficult to understand. Indeed I feel to really explain these passages a short blog post of not more than one page is not sufficient.
Careful study of the bible is essential to effective and fruitful Christian living. For example as we look at Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians it is important to think about the problems Paul and his readers have been facing in those days. The way how we analyze the situation they were facing largely determines at what conclusions we will arrive for ourselves.
Meanwhile we can look back on two thousand years of church history. Therefore we tend to evaluate what we read in the light of what we consider good or bad in the history of the Christian church. Yet Paul and the Corinthians represent some of the first Christian believers ever.
Some of them had been Jews before they came to believe in Jesus. What were they to do about their Jewish heritage? Others had turned to Christ from heathenism. Christianity to them was a branch of Jewry. Yet they could easily observe that what the apostles taught was not always agreeable to religious and political leaders of the Jews.
One way to react could be just to leave behind values they had grown up with and somehow begin to feel they were better than others. They had discovered divine truth in the faith in Jesus Christ. But did they thoroughly comprehend their newly found faith?
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul is referring to some practice that would neither have been acceptable to Jews nor to Gentiles. Paul is criticising them for that and he says to them: You don’t behave adequately; you are merely ‘puffed up’!
The problem was that one of the Corinthians had taken his own father’s wife unto himself. We don’t learn more than that about what had happened.
I cannot deal with all questions that might arise when reading 1 Corinthians 5. Yet I want to use this to illustrate the meaning of the word ‘puffed up’.
• The man who had taken his father’s wife thereby disregarded his own father. Rather than holding his father in high esteem and honouring him he was indulging in a sexual relationship that had been his father’s before. Was he trying to prove to the woman that he could attract her more than his father had done? Was he seeking to humiliate his own father?
• In doing so this man was disregarding ethical standards of Gentile people and of the Jews.
• Others were condoning this behaviour. Maybe they felt that those standards were not relevant to them anymore.
In some aspects Christians were at variance with beliefs and practices of the society surrounding them. Paul is telling them that this practice was not acceptable to Christians either. The Corinthian believers were not to protect this man from Jews and Gentiles eager to voice their disapproval.
In recent decades Western societies tended to depart from ethical standards concerning sexual relationships that used to be considered as binding. So did many churches.
Yet to sincere Christians the main question is: How can we really enjoy God’s love? How can we live genuinely Christian lives beyond mere pretence?