There is an interesting link between our three readings today. The early church has a crisis meeting to decide whether the new Gentile converts should be expected to keep the Law of Moses. Leaders including Paul, Barnabas, Peter and James participate in a conference in Jerusalem. The end result is that a letter is to be sent to all the churches telling them that they are not required to keep that Law, but they should “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols … and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15:29).

Deuteronomy 22 has a section about laws concerning sexual immorality (verses 13-30). In it rules are laid down that the people must abide by an upright moral code. A woman should preserve her virginity until marriage. If she is found not to have done so she is to be put to death “because she has done an outrageous thing … so you shall purge evil from your midst” (verse 21).

There is no evidence that such punishment ever happened among the early Christians. Baptism into Christ blotted out all past sins. However, we read in Hebrews, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord … that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy …” (12:14-16).

Our third reading is in the Song of Solomon which is an allegorical story of true love and how a bride adores her beloved. “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (2:16); this is interpreted as illustrating Christ’s love for his church. Paul was to write, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … that she might be holy and true and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25,27). All those who aim to be true members of the body of Christ should bear these words in mind.