The Life Project: 1st Corinthians
If there were one statement that would sum up the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the church in Corinth it would be this; speaking the truth in love. In Corinth we find a church that had made some wrong choices and given in to the pressures of sin around them. Their list of sins is long and ugly. Corinth was a hotbed of activity in the 1st century Roman empire. It was a large capital city that held all of the trappings of a modern inner city. Sadly the sin culture crept into even the church of Corinth. We have all faced the dilemma of wondering just how to deal with sin inside the context of the church. What do we say? How do we respond? What action, if any, needs to be taken? What do we do when the sin of the world around us invades the sacred space of the church?
1st Corinthians is an interesting case study in leadership and discipleship as we see how Paul responds to the church’s lack of a moral compass. How would Paul, the great church planter, evangelist and pastor respond? Would he rebuke them and cast them aside as a failure? Would he ignore their sin in order to preserve and maintain relationship? Both of these are extremes; extremes that are almost always ineffective. I am sure many of us have come to the same place as Paul wondering, "how do I respond to the obvious sin of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ?". We find through the leadership of Paul the roadmap for navigating the issue of sin inside of the church. We find that Paul had patience with the Corinthians. He held strongly onto a hope for them. This doesn’t mean he tip-toed around the issues at hand. Although his love is clear from the beginning of this letter to the end, Paul’s love doesn’t drive him to compromise but it drives him to confrontation. Confrontation has such a negative connotation doesn’t it? It seems like at times we do our best to avoid confrontation. However, Paul shows us that confrontation is a much needed element inside of the church both in the 1st century and today. The book of Proverbs tells us, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." If you have ever seen the process of a sword being sharpened you would not define it as an easy or peaceful process. It is a process that is loud, one in which sparks fly and excess things are removed. We see in the case of the Corinthian church that Paul’s love for his family drives him to demand more of their walk with Christ. I believe this is an important distinction. Without love we have no business speaking truth to anyone. Truth without love is the bull-horn preacher on the street corners telling everyone they are going to hell. Although this may (or may not) be true it is completely ineffective. Why? Because truth is not productive unless it is covered in love. The flip side of that coin is equally important; love is also ineffective if it is not based in truth. Paul shows us in Corinthians that our love for one another within the church should make it impossible to ignore reality. He makes it very clear in 1st Corinthians that together we make up the Body of Christ. If one part of the body becomes diseased with sin it becomes the responsibility of the rest of the body to seek health and healing from that sin. The Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death. If we ignore sin it will eventually infiltrate the entire body, robbing our message of life in Jesus.
In 1st Corinthians we see a beautiful picture of a loving friend concerned about the state
of the church. He begins the letter with words of love and encouragement but continues
to call out the sin among the people and call a church to repentance. Paul gives them
an invitation in chapter 11 verse 1 to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of
Christ." What a beautiful picture of speaking the truth in love. May we have the courage
to follow this biblical model.