Jump Start # 2015
1 Corinthians 1:11 “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.”
The Corinthian church was a mess. There are not many of us that would have liked this congregation. There was trouble on every page. Division. Immorality. Favoritism. Abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Suing one another. It was a nightmare. Most preachers would have run screaming from this place. It’s enough that most elders would have resigned and moved. What a mess. Where does one start? Is there any hope?
There are many lessons to be drawn as one takes a look at Corinth, especially from a distance. The lessons from Corinth are the very lessons that we need today.
First, because some were not living and behaving right, it did not mean the plan was wrong. It’s easy to throw the whole towel in on Christianity and believe that no one can do it. The world looks at how we treat each other as a measurement of the theory of Christianity. When they see us fighting, judging and condemning one another, they conclude that all of Christianity is broken and a failure. Such is not the case. The plan is perfect, even if we are not. We sometimes forget that others, especially in the family, see and hear what is going on.
Second, there are surface issues that are caused by deeper faith issues. Often, we see trouble on the surface and apply what we feel is the best answer, without addressing why did these things happen. It’s like putting a band-aide on cancer. The problem lies below the surface. Their divisive attitude and arrogance stem from a lack of a servant attitude and a lack of understanding Christ. Look to Jesus. Look to the Gospels. Look where Jesus was at. Look who Jesus helped. Build that compassion and that faith. This is what is missing. When people are divided, simply having a pot-luck isn’t going to solve the problem. Putting them in the same room won’t solve the problem. There are some core faith issues that must be dealt with.
Third, Paul never suggested ending the Corinthian church. He never encouraged some to start another congregation. The same could be said of Rome, where some were eating meats and others were not. How easily it would be to have the meat eaters church and a veggie church. Didn’t happen. Nor, at Sardis, where some were dead and a few were alive. The few didn’t leave the rest. That is our culture today. If I don’t like things at church, I will rally a few family and friends and convince them to start another church with me. Preachers do this. It’s time to leave, right or wrong. But instead of leaving, they start another church in the area and damage the work that already existed. There may be a time one has to leave because of doctrinal issues or else there is no hope of surviving spiritually in that atmosphere. But too often, it’s hurt feelings, it’s bruised egos, and it’s not getting your way that leads to splitting up a congregation. Much like a divorce in a family, church splits don’t go pretty. Fellowship and friendships are ruined. People who once worshipped, worked and hung out together, now no longer like each other.
Fourth, it’s easy to assume that the whole church was wrong. The problems stand out. The problems are what everyone sees. What we don’t see is the good that is still being done. What we don’t see is the love, devotion and dedication to the Lord that remains. Generalizations are often not the true picture. Women will say, “All men…” And men will say, “All women…” White people, black people, urban people, country people, young people, old people—it’s easy to bunch up these groups and assume everyone single person in that group is the same. Religiously, we say, “Liberals, they all…” Or, “Conservatives, they all believe…” Wrong. False. Not fair. It’s not true. When we are upset, especially with things down at the church house, we can feel like Elijah and declare that we are the only one that is doing right. Hiding in our cave, discouraged, disgusted and ready to quit, we grow tired of doing everything. We are always teaching. We are always cleaning the church building. We are the only ones. Elijah didn’t know about 7,000 others. That’s a bunch. We may forget about others who are praying and doing things that we don’t even know about.
Fifth, there lies a temptation when churches become like Corinth, to be angry. Angry sermons. Finger pointing. Angry emails. Angry one on one discussions. Bust the chops and break the knee caps, is how we can come across. You don’t get that from Paul. He was firm. He was direct. He was Biblical. But he was also, hopeful, pointing to Christ and helpful. Fix the problem and do not destroy the people. Stay true to the Biblical principles. Ranting doesn’t accomplish positive results.
Six, do what you can. Our verse reminds us that Chloe’s people sent word to Paul about the problems. Other letters came with questions that Paul would answer. These folks were not gossiping. They were seeking help. The N.T. was not formed yet. Today, the answers lie within our hands. Back then, they sought apostolic answers. They sought help from Paul. They cared. They wanted things to be better. They didn’t give up. Turning to the Scriptures is the answer. Having hearts that want to follow the Lord is the key. The big picture must be kept before us. Remembering Christ, the purpose, the goal, and our responsibilities is important. Like a marriage, it’s easy to want the other person to change. Holding up a mirror and looking at ourselves is the first step.
Messes are made and messes can be cleaned up. It’s hard work. It takes time and effort. But it can be done. Do we want to do that? Some are waiting for someone else to do the work for them. Some are content just to have things as they are. But there are others who understand and know how things can and ought to be. They will teach, influence, preach and show how we ought to walk with the Lord. It’s easy to make a mess. Any child can do that. Cleaning it up, now that takes some work!