Corinthians – Living the New Life
When people become Christians, they don’t at the same moment become nice. This always comes as something of a surprise. Conversion to Christ and his ways doesn’t automatically furnish a person with impeccable manners and suitable morals.
The people of Corinth had a reputation in the ancient world as an unruly, hard-drinking, sexually promiscuous bunch of people. When Paul arrived with the Message and many of them became believers in Jesus, they brought their reputations with them right into the church.
Paul spent a year and a half with them as their pastor, going over the Message of the “good news” in detail, showing them ow to live out this new life of salvation and holiness as a community of believers. Then he went on his way to other towns and churches.
Aren’t you glad Paul never gave up on the Corinthians?
Aren’t you glad pastors, teachers and other mentors in our lives never gave up on us?
Sometime later Paul received a report from one of the Corinthian families that in his absence things had more or less fallen apart. He also received a letter from Corinth asking for help. Factions had developed, morals were in disrepair, worship had degenerated into a selfish grabbing for the supernatural. It was the kind of thing that might have been expected from Corinthians!
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a classic of pastoral response: affectionate, firm, clear, and unswerving in the conviction that God among them, revealed in Jesus and present in his Holy Spirit, continued to be the central issue in their lives, regardless of how much of a mess that had made of things.
Paul does not give up on them. Paul doesn’t disown them as brother and sister Christians, doesn’t throw them out because of their bad behavior, and doesn’t fly into a tirade over their irresponsible ways. He takes it all more or less in stride, but also takes them by the hand and goes over all the old ground again, directing them in how to work all the glorious details of God’s saving love into their love for one another.
Paul cares enough about the Body of Christ, Believers in Christ, to confront their behavior that has fallen back to the old life in which they lived before knowing Christ with a Spirit of Love.
Do we care enough to confront those who will crash and burn someday if they don’t hear the Truth in love from us?
When we are confronted by someone who truly cares for us, do we listen and take stock of our own behavior?
This lead us to one of the most read chapters in 1 Corinthians. It is read at weddings as a sign of couples’ love for each other, although I’m not sure some couples know the background of the message of love.
Let us read this passage slowly, prayerfully and carefully, asking for the Holy Spirit to convict, guide, comfort and confront us this morning by the powerful words penned for a worldly people who had lost their way.
I Corinthians 13 – The Pursuit of Excellence
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 1-13, NIV
How did your prayerful reading go? What did God say to you?
Read it in other translations. Go to: https://www.biblegateway.com to read easily in KJV, NLT or others. Now, put this passage in your own words for today to internalize the meaning. This is an exercise that will make us stronger and less likely to fall back into hateful ways of past, worldly behaviors before knowing Christ.
I am so glad we are perfectly forgiven for our imperfect behaviors. Aren’t you?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for teaching us how to love well, to love like Jesus taught us to love, to love like you love us…unconditionally. Help us to love each other in the most excellent way in good times and bad. That will be the test, right Jesus? Continue to transform me from the inside out. Wash away all the impurities of my heart, for from my heart flows what I will say when pushed against the walls of doubt, fear and anxiety. Give me wisdom to behave like I say I believe and the quickness to ask for your forgiveness when I do not.
In Jesus Name, Amen