Paul on Paul – 14th February 2021

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year B
1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved.
Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

“Never do anything offensive to anyone” – if you ever think that being a faithful Christian is easy, then remember that one verse. But again, like so much of St. Paul’s letters, we must pray with this and think carefully about what we take from that line.

All people are different and respond to our actions differently and it is impossible to never offend anyone. What we do to help or support one person, can hinder or create a problem for another. We are not expected to be all things to all men (if we remember the context of that comment from last week), because we cannot possibly be – and God does not ask from us more than we can give.

Instead, this is not about our effect on the world, but the intentions of our actions. This is perhaps clearer later on in the passage where Paul writes to “…be helpful to everyone at all times…”. We cannot control how others respond to our words and actions, but we can set out to be helpful to others. And not only that we are to be “anxious” about that – we are always to be thinking about how we can work with others.

But why is that? One way to think about this question is to consider that God is Love, and love (of whatever kind) is “wanting the good of the other for the sake of the other”. We were created as an expression of God’s love. It is an innate part of humanity to love others – and to help them in their lives. As we seek to become ‘better people’ part of that is to be better people.

But who are we to help? Paul speaks of not being offensive to “…Jews or Greeks…”. While this might seem odd to us in the 21st Century, this meaning of this would have been obvious to those reading it in the 1st Century – even if the message was controversial. Jews were a “nation set apart” and Greeks simply meant the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people.

So, then, Paul tells the Corinthians they are to make themselves available to all people – whether they are part of the people or not. So, then, must we. We are called not to be offensive and be helpful to all – whether they are part of the Church or not; from our country or group, or not. And by doing that, we copy the actions of Jesus who came as saviour of all – and in that way, we can take Christ as our Model, as Paul did.

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