Though this letter is commonly known as having deep meaning in the Church and what the church is, it seems this chapter is taking a left turn and talking about marriage. But when you look closer at the meaning behind this chapter, Paul is not changing his thought process. Rather, in describing the family, he is describing the Church and God’s love for us. There is way more than I can go through in these short articles, but I do hope that God could open your minds to a greater reality than what meets the eye.
Paul does not see the Church as some functional institution that some mere human made up. Institutions we can control, manipulate and be lord of. Things we know and understand, we tend to control. We try to use our knowledge as a way to hopefully make things better. But the Church is not something to simply command and govern the way we would conventionally think of it.
Rather, the Church is a mystical body; in particular, it is the mystical body of Christ who is God. Because Jesus is God, the body of Christ is a mystery. By the very fact that the Church is a mystery, we cannot know everything about it; Christ is our head. If we do not know everything about the Church, then we cannot control it. This is an irony as we even have a Pope, bishops and priests that have authority in the Church. But those with authority are the servants of all (Mt 20:26). The authority they have is begotten of love. That is why Paul exhorts us all, “Follow the way of love, even as Christ has loved you” (5:1).
God came to empower us, but to what has He empowered us? He has empowered us to love and thus conquer sin and death. We want to fix our sins by power, but it is love that inspires us to give up the sins of the flesh such as lust (3). True love as we find it in God conquers all sin; that is why Satan wants to attack the real meaning of love and twist it to be an experience of lust, manipulation, greed and emptiness. It is also the reason why Satan would attack the sacraments of love: first the Eucharist and then the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
Marriage was designed by God to be a means of making the love of God happen in this world between spouses. That is why “no fornicator, no unclean or lustful person…has any inheritance in the kingdom of God” (v5). In fact, you will notice in that same verse the scripture would refer to such a person as “an idolater.” What does lust in sex have to do with idolatry, which is a false worship? What is the connection between who God is and marriage? The answer can be found in the fact that God is love itself. God is love and marriage is fulfilled in love. When we say God is love, this is in the understanding that the experience of love comes from God. This experience of love is to be an authentic expression of and in congruity with the one who is love. Anything else is a false image; it would be idolatry.
It is a good thing that the Church is a mystery, otherwise those of evil intent would manipulate it into oblivion and utterly destroy it with “worthless arguments” (v6). So by the very fact that the Church is a mystery, God protects it. At the same time, because it is a mystery, the image of the Church and marriage can be easily twisted into a false image. The false image leads to gross abuse. It leads to selfishness, lust, anger, a twisted self-understanding and much chaos (v7), whereas honoring the mystery in the Church and marriage encourages respect for God’s design and, therefore, each other as spouses and in children. It encourages and is open to an authentic expression of love when it is sought out.