“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12
To win the battle for sexual purity one must be intentionally strategic. This verse is the opening thought to an extended apostolic admonition to avoid sexual immorality. Paul wrote this to the Corinthians because he has already addressed the horrible toleration of sin in that local church in chapter five. That situation arose from a lack of intentional purity. Now in chapter six the way to strategically address this underlying issue is explained. It had to begin with a change in thinking about sexuality that rejected the sinful cultural norms.
Two phrases set off by quotations in the ESV translation let us in on the attitudes Paul is correcting among the Corinthians. The first is found in the phrase "all things are lawful for me". The second is "food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food". "All things are lawful" was a misunderstanding of human choice. "Food for the stomach" was a misunderstanding of God's design.
Paul addresses our choices with the clear admonition to: 1) recognize not everything is helpful. Some standard culturally recommended choices are terribly counterproductive and very hurtful. 2) commit to not let anything become a controlling activity. Some things not moderated and monitored are dangerously addictive.
Sexual immorality is a problem in both these ways. I only need to look at my own now heavily pornified culture to see the results. It too easily creeps into my own thoughts, forcing me to have an aggressively proactive strategy to guard my alone time and to make the best choices. And I have to do that in community, talking to others about my strategies. Silence is killer.
Sex is so deeply engrained in our very personhood yet so physically forged into us that it has a dreadful capacity to control us just like many physical experiences such as eating, activity, adventurous behaviors, and many enjoyable physical actions can do. The warning later in 1 Corinthians 6:18 is that we can through immorality sin against our own bodies in uniquely damaging ways. That is so true. I've got my scars. That is one more reason for aggressive strategic countermeasures. I deploy them around entertainment, activity choices, internet use, electronic devices, and my alone time. And I believe I always must do so, because not everything in this world is good, helpful, or useful for achieving real satisfication. I will only know that in Jesus. I will fight sin hard, because even a casual slip in attitude so easily enslaves. I will not be dominated by anything. Jesus is the King of my heart!