In our evening services at the moment we are working our way through 1 Corinthians. It’s a bit like exploring a series of caves. It’s dark and murky in places but you keep coming into new chambers in which there are spectacular formations that take your breath away.
Sunday evening is no exception. We will be looking at chapter 5, in which Paul takes the church to task not simply for tolerating immorality but apparently embracing it. There’s a lot of murk, but in the midst is a reminder that we are sincere and true followers of Jesus in a dark and murky world.
This is a tension with which we all live. We know God’s standards, yet we fail to reach them. Just when it feels like we are doing well we find a new way to fall short of those standards, or slip back into old habits. That can be true of churches as well as individuals.
To the church in Corinth Paul warns of the effect of yeast. Yeast, in most biblical illustrations, is something small and insidious that permeates and affects the whole person or church. Yeast, for us, are the little things that have the potential to blow up into something massive.
The church that embraces immorality will find its message being ignored by those who hear it because they are being hypocritical.
The church that embraces greed will find that people write it off as ‘only after our money’.
The church that embraces pride will find that people consider that they look down their noses at others.
The church that is riddled with divisions will find that people are not interested – they have more than enough conflict in their lives already.
And the same is true of us as individuals.
Here lies the tension. We know that (whether a church or individuals) we are not perfect. We know that we fall short of God’s standards. We know that people who come in will find themselves feeling very uncomfortable if we are ‘holier than thou’.
How do we create church / be believers who are intolerant of our own sin while not condemning the sin of others, while being open and welcoming to all, while being free samples of Jesus in his world?
Perhaps the answer lies in being people who draw in the sand rather than throw stones. People who, while we recognise our own sin and wrestle with it, refuse to transfer our feelings about it onto others. People who will not condemn, but don’t condone.
Thank God he has given us his Spirit to help us!
Be blessed. Be a blessing.
A party of Methodist ministers was attending an Annual Conference at a private countryside resort. Several of them set off to explore the area, and presently they came upon an old bridge that crossed a quiet pond.
Unfortunately, they didn’t notice a sign declaring the bridge to be unsafe. As they crossed it, the caretaker came running after them. “Hey! You there! Get off that bridge!” he protested.
“It’s all right,” declared one of the ministers, “we are in this resort with permission. We’re Methodists from the Conference.”
“I’m not worried about THAT,” replied the caretaker. “But if you don’t get off that bridge, you’ll all be BAPTISTS!”
*spelunking is the American word for potholing or caving