Crazy question huh?
Well, this morning I was reading St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I know what’s in this letter… I’ve read it dozens of times. I know that Paul is going to rebuke the church for being proud of one of their members who was having sex with his step-mom.
Do you remember that? Here’s what he says:
I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. 2 You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.
3 Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. 5 Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT)
Now there’s a lot to catch there, but I want to direct your attention to this one thing – did you see “chapter” in which this rebuke is located? It’s about a third of the way into his letter to this young church!
Yea… it’s pretty messed up that a guy is having sex with his step-mom. It’s even worse that his church is proud of it! You’d think something like that might get addressed FIRST in Paul’s letter! But it didn’t!
Do you know what Paul tackled first?
After a nice, friendly greeting, which is instructive for pastors and church leaders – be gracious and kind… even to people who are really jacked up, Paul tackles FIRST the matter of divisions and rivalries in church caused by spiritual immaturity!
Check this out:
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NLT)
WHOA! BEFORE he addressed the crazy sex thing… he rebuked the church for being spiritually immature and divided! He rebuked them for being jealous and acting like middle-schoolers bragging about what brand of shoe they wear!
There’s something important here for all of us who call ourselves Christians…
If you are arguing and divisive… the greatest problem in your church probably isn’t the dude who is sexually weird.
If St. Paul were to write a letter to your church, my guess is he’d start by talking to you!
He’d get around to dealing with the sexual craziness, but because that’s not the worst problem, he wouldn’t start there!
Listen, if you are a Christian, please focus on building one another up; focus on creating a place where there is love and unity, encouragement and grace.
CHRISTIANS ARE NOT CURMUDGEONS!
Christians don’t do cliques.
Christians don’t do rivalry with one another!
There certainly is a place and a time for confrontation and difficult conversation, but this is all part of teamwork with the end goal of encouraging and building one another up!
So here’s the thing I’m thinking about…
If St. Paul came to my church… what is the first thing he would address? I hope it would not be cranky, divisive Christians!