Gathering Together

    Praying for Them or Preying on Them:

                                           Love and 1 Corinthians 13

 

It d doesn't matter how much you know. It doesn't matter how much faith you display. It doesn't matter how much you serve, how much you give, how much you suffer for the cause of Christ……if you don’t have love, you gain nothing! Zero!

1 Corinthians is called the “Love Chapter” and for obvious reasons, however, it wasn't written to be read in weddings (although I have). It wasn't recorded for the purpose of hanging a plaque on a wall (which we did). It was written, actually, for people who may not have liked one another very much, let alone, loved one another.

The context of the “love” subject material has to do with the two following issues in chapters 11-14: Worship and the spiritual gifts. In a broader context, the letter as a whole is the theology of the cross in practice. There is a division over leaders and/or following leaders. There is division over who the most spiritual members are; division over the gifts, worship, and multiple issues.

The Apostle Paul is seeing people, the ministry he invested in so much coming to not, collapsing. Considering 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, would you consider yourself a loving person? If so, would you still consider yourself a loving person towards someone who is talking behind your back or doesn't like you? Would you be able to restrain yourself in love towards someone (or others) if he/she was interfering and hindering the people or ministry you so heavily invested?

When you consider the complex division occurring in the Corinthian congregation, how would you address it?

With authoritarian force, trying to control the situation with your own ingenuity and insight? By blaming a certain group, person, or concept, thus, avoiding the real issue but appearing to be constructive in the matter? Resort to being a theological ostrich and burying your head in the sand? Or would you approach the problem IN LOVE and if so, what would that look like?

When you put out a fire, you have to replace it with something. Paul first replaced the fire by bringing the congregation back to the cross. In the first ten sentences he mentions Jesus Christ ten times. Paul used “the cross” terminology throughout the letter, for example, “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” “Christ our Passover lamb,” “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God;” “you were bought at a price” (mentioned  twice); this brother (or sister) for whom Christ died.

He did not destroy his opponents (or those who despised him) nor did he slander their character (see 2 Corinthians chapters 10-13). He destroyed or broke down their arguments, but in gentleness and humility. He did not dare compare himself to others (as his opponents had been doing) but challenged them to compare themselves to Christ.

 

He strongly, but lovingly encouraged them to examine themselves. In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, suggested that, before partaking of the Lord’s Supper to examine themselves in essence saying, “You cannot be right with God and wrong with people.” In 2 Corinthians chapter 13 he basically told them, “You have been examining me and my ministry, now put your money where your mouth is: Examine yourselves to see if you pass the test. And the test? “Are you becoming more like Christ?”

It’s what Paul did in the beginning of his letter to the Corinthians that took me back, stunned me, if you will. This is a congregation that continued to give him grief that repeatedly made false accusations about him and ferociously ridiculed his ministry. And what did he do? Before he wrote the “Love Chapter”, he lived it. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. It’s in the first letter, the first chapter, fourth verse. He wrote, “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

Now, don’t miss this! He isn't stating that he merely prayed for them. You see, we may pray for those in our church that oppose us or don’t like us and say something like, “Lord, please help (you fill in the blank) to (you fill in the blank),” hoping the person repent or get over it or to think like me. That’s not what he wrote or prayed. He’s thanking God for them (all of them, even the difficult ones) because they are in the grace of Christ Jesus!

Here’s what I have learned regarding those who you don’t like or don’t like you that are in the Lord. You will either pray for them and be thankful for them being in Christ or talk about them and be resentful towards them.

It’s your choice: Praying for them Or Preying on them…..in Jesus’ name, amen.