When people become believers in Jesus, they don’t at the same moment become nice. This always comes as something of a surprise to more mature believers whose memories of their conversions and growth have been forgotten. Though it shouldn’t. Conversion to Christ and his ways doesn’t automatically furnish a person with impeccable manners and suitable morals. We all are growing. Paul reminds us in his letters to churches that growing is part of the process of following Jesus.
Eugene Peterson introduces us to the people of Corinth with whom Paul spent over a year as their pastor. He states;
“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 how 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.”
“Sometime later Paul received a report from on 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 of their lives, regardless of how much a mess that had made of things.”
“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 on another.” (Peterson)
We who are called and sent (all of us) must realize that new believers need to grow in faith and that takes time. Sometimes we expect too much, too soon and wonder why frustrated believers fall away and give up. Oh, friends we must show the same love, mercy and grace as Paul demonstrates in this letter to messed up Corinthians who are new believers in Jesus.
There is a reason that the ultimate mission of most churches is “help people find and follow Jesus”. Finding is not as hard as teaching them to follow Jesus, not follow imperfect us, but Jesus. Paul cares enough to confront his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ and goes over the teachings of Jesus again. And again. We are all messed up at once time or another. No one is “good”, only God, said Jesus. We are not perfect; we are only perfectly forgiven by Jesus. We all are sinners saved only by the grace of Jesus. We all need to learn to follow Him, be made holy by Him, who saved us for eternity. This learning will take an eternity. Wanting to learn makes God smile. Our God is patient with those who learn to follow Him.
Hold all these thoughts in mind as we journey through both letters to the church at Corinth. We being with chapter one, taking in small bites at a time, because this is good stuff to chew on.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9, The Message
1-2 I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!
3 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
4-6 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often! —I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM PAUL’S LEADERSHIP…
- Begin with thanksgiving to God for your brothers and sisters.
- Affirm who we are; believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life.
- Remind believers of God’s gifts and benefits of believing and growing in His love and ways.
- God will help us to grow.
- God NEVER gives up on us.
- God is always with us.
Whew, I needed these reminders, too! How about you? Who can we affirm with this truth today? Pause, pray, let God provide us with opportunities to spur growth in ourselves while helping others to grow alongside us. We are in this together until Jesus comes!
I love how you teach us to follow as well as teaching us to seek you. Because of your love, you never give up on us. That truth in itself is amazing and so affirming today. Thank you for Paul who was dramatically saved by you, dear Jesus, then called and sent to tell the good news along with the ways to live for You. Thank you for your continued transformational growing process in me. I’m still a work in process—YOUR work in me.
In Jesus Name, Amen