SEPARATING FROM “THEM”
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’” (2 Cor 6: 16-18)
How is one supposed to do that, “come out from them and be separate”? Who are “they” anyway?
That depends on historical context. Originally, this call was addressed in the Old Testament to the priests and Levites, specifically of God’s chosen people, who had to return from Babylon (cf. Is 52: 11) and separate from specifically Babylonian paganism. But in St. Paul’s day, after the coming of our Lord and descent of the Holy Spirit, the call to “come out and separate” is both more far-reaching (to Jews and Gentiles alike) and deepened, to the inner realm or “temple” of every Christian’s life in the Spirit. The newly-baptised Corinthians are called to break with their own, recently-held world-view and “idols,” – that is, the God-surrogates who still dominated the culture of that time, and perhaps still had a place in the recently-converted hearts of the Corinthians.
So St. Paul reminds the Corinthains, and us, that – unlike the Old-Testament priests in Babylon – we need not change geographical location to overcome “idols”; We have received the capacity, in Baptism and Holy Communion, to be “temples of the living God.” It is in communion with Christ, and a maintenance of daily life in His Spirit, that we receive inner distance, inner immunity, if you will, from anything “unclean.” So let me “come out from them,” who still want a place in me, my various God-surrogates, and let me receive Christ. He enters my “temple” and casts out the various imposters, overturning their tables and making the place His again. Glory be to Him.