This week’s readings contain what is one of my favorite illustrations from the epistles, in chapter 3. Paul is talking about the foundation of our faith–and what we build upon it. I’m fascinated by the fact that even though this was the early early church and we’re nearly 2,000 years later, we all deal with the same problems.
One of them is division. And once you have division, you have false claims and foolish work and people who no doubt think they’re getting along just fine, but they’re really building their faith-house with rubble rather than the materials that last. But when the fires come–trials, God’s judgment, whatever that might be–anything inferior’s going to be found out. Burned up. We‘ll be saved, but as if through the fire. And all that labor–gone.
What does this look like in life? I think in part it’s when we deliberately cheap out in our faith-walk. Who hasn’t been a spot at one point or another where we know what we should do, but we’re just too busy or tired or [fill in the blank]? And so we do less. We only give a little. We don’t get involved in a project or cause even though we feel that tug on our spirits. Or we do spearhead a project or cause, even though God didn’t tell us to and had something else He wanted us doing instead.
I think it’s also when we cling to a sin. How can that help but put the whole building in danger? The foundation is still steady, but if we use a warped girder, it puts in danger everything around it. This goes along, I think, with chapter 5 as well, where Paul is calling out sexual sin in the church.
How many Christians today ought to be saying ouch to that one? Not with the particular example he gives, but with the heart of the matter: that there’s sexual impurity in the church, being practiced by the believers who claim to be of Him, and no one cares.
How many ought to be saying it . . . and how many really are?
We are a society these days that not only tolerates sex out of marriage, we embrace it. We rejoice in it. We expect it–and that all too often is true within the church, not just in the world. I was recently talking to a friend about this, and about how it’s caused a cynicism in the millennial generation–too many of us aren’t willing to buy the concept of “true love” anymore. Our fairy tales have begun to be more funny and sarcastic and less sweet and romantic. We call it “realistic,” but it’s largely a reflection of what a generation’s view of sex has done to their concept of marriage and love. It’s cheapened it. It’s substituted sub-standard materials for what ought to be strong ones. And we’re left with a shaky faith that doesn’t quite know what to do. On the one hand, it does still have that foundation of Christ, and some solid boards have been used in other places. But then there’s that rotten part. The millennial Christian might have a hard time reconciling what they know deep in their spirit–what His Spirit has breathed into them–with the actions they see all around them, and so which they mirror.
The people will be saved. But barely.
Is that what we want to see happen to our brothers and sisters? Of course not. But do we call them out? That’s Paul’s admonition in chapter 5. Don’t just accept it! Save them from the judgment–that’s our job. Call them out, hold them accountable, and don’t let it spread within the church. That’s what love does. It doesn’t turn a blind eye–love heals.
What parts of I Corinthians 1-5 jump out at you?