1 Corinthians 1-16
Boast In The Lord [1 Corinthians 1]
27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God.30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."
Every morning I wake up thinking the world is all about me looking and acting like I know what is going on. I have this automatic drive each day to be competent and capable. Then, as I read God's Word and pray, I am reminded it is not about me, but about Jesus and His sacrifice for me because I don't know what is going on and I am not competent and capable no matter how much I want to be or how hard I try. Once again, I can choose to relax in the Lord and surrender my foolish wisdom and weakness for His true wisdom and strength. He is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption today. By God's grace I boast in the Lord because Jesus died for me and chose me in my weakness and foolishness!
We praise You that You alone are wise and strong and You made a way for Your wisdom and strength to be available to us through Jesus. Cause us to daily be in the Word and in prayer willing to surrender our weakness and foolishness for Your strength and wisdom.
Weakness For Power [1 Corinthians 2]
2For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.3I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
Paul looms large in my mind as some sort of super saint. He wrote most of the New Testament letters, traveled extensively spreading the gospel, suffered numerous persecutions, natural disasters and was imprisoned. And yet, here in 1 Corinthians, he explained that he came to the Corinthians in weakness, fear, much trembling and "not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. " Later, in the second letter to the Corinthians (12:9), Paul wrote "
And He (Jesus) has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." As it turns out, Paul was just a man with strengths and weaknesses like all men. However, he knew that it was futile to rely on his own strengths to do the work of God and that only as he acknowledged his weaknesses and gave them to God in exchange for God's power, could he accomplish the work God gave him. Amazingly, we have access to the exact same source of power that Paul had through the Spirit of God and God's grace is sufficient for us, too!
Here are the things Paul has to say about the Spirit in today's reading:
The power of God is demonstrated through the Spirit
Reveals God's hidden wisdom through the Spirit
The Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God
Knows the thoughts of God
The Spirit is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God
We can be taught by the Spirit
A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them
We have the mind of Christ (through His Spirit)
We praise You because You gave us Your Spirit to take our weaknesses and replace them with Your power and wisdom. Cause us to be like Paul and boast in our weaknesses so that Your power and wisdom can be manifest in us through Your Spirit.
All Things Belong to You [1 Corinthians 3]
18Let no man deceive himself If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS"; 20and again, "THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS." 21So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,23and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
Do you want to become wise? You need to become foolish. You have to throw away your reasoning and recognize it is useless. What God is offering instead is the wisdom that we "belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God."
Because of this truth all things belong to us. God has invited us into a relationship that shares all things with us, "whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you."
Lord, I am sensing that if I really grasped this piece of Your wisdom, I would live my life completely different. I want to begin by acknowledging what You have proclaimed as true - I belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. I praise You that Your wisdom is not of this world. Cause me to boast in knowing You and not in what man has to offer.
To read another blog about 1 Cor. 3 click here.
A Servant of Christ [1 Corinthians 4]
1Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
I have been pondering what it means to be a servant of Christ. A couple of years ago I watched the movie Cleopatra and realized that I did not have a good picture of what it means to be a servant. I began to take note of the servant girls who were devoted to serve the queen. They stood there in constant attendance but did not do anything until the queen nodded or asked. When another official came and demanded they do something different than what the queen had requested they disregarded his command and stayed true to the queen. Their pure devotion is what fascinated me and I began to think about my own idea of serving the Lord.
Me, well, I look at the situation and determine what needs to be done and then I jump in head-long and do that thing, thinking all the time that I am being a servant. In contrast, those young servant girls probably saw many things that they could do to help out but they did not move until beckoned. Or at least they asked the queen before they combed her hair, or the routine things. Sometimes it was a look or a wave of the hand but always they knew what her desire was before they proceeded.
God used another passage to begin to speak to my heart as I was pondering this idea of what it means to be a servant. The first one is Psalm 123:1-2, “To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He is gracious to us.” This passage meant something different for me after seeing that movie. Now the comparison makes sense. My eyes should be on the Lord, waiting for Him to show His desires not on the things I think need to be done.
Lord, please cause me to keep my eyes on You, my King. Thank You, for giving me the opportunity to serve Christ and to be a steward of Your mysteries. Make me trustworthy as You are trustworthy.
To read another article from 1 Corinthians 4, read "What Does God Think About the Work I am Doing?
A Call to Holiness in the Church [1 Corinthians 5]
7Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;10I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
God is not calling us to judge those outside the church. Otherwise, "you would have to go out of the world." But He does call us to "REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES." Why is this? Because we are "in fact unleavened." He has made us holy as He is holy. The leaven represents living a life of unholiness and if left in the lump of dough it will penetrate every part of the dough. In Galatians 6:1-2 God says it in a different way, "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." Verse 2 goes on to say, "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
Why does God feel so strongly about this? "For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Because of what Christ did on the cross, as the Passover Lamb, we can are now free to worship in spirit and in truth.
Father, we praise You for Jesus' sacrifice. Thank You for Your forgiveness and for cleansing us from ALL sin. Cause us to live as those who are forgiven and cleansed, in sincerity and in truth.
To read another article about this subject, click here.
My Body Was Bought With A Price [1 Corinthians 6)
12All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." 17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
20For you ave been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
I can understand the idea that my body is for the Lord but what does it mean that "the Lord is for the body?" God is for my body because it is a member of Christ (v.15)
I tend to think of my body as necessary, but not the focus - God wants my spirit. But the truth is, He bought me at a great price so my body could be the dwelling for His Spirit. (vs. 19-20) In Romans 12:1-2 He is calling me to present my body to Him as a living sacrifice (to be transformed to the perfect desire of God by renewing my mind.
Lord, cause me to think the way You think about my body. May You be glorified (correctly represented) by my body. Thank You for the huge price you paid for my body to be a place for your Spirit to dwell.
My female mind thinks about my body in terms of size and shape, which in my mind is ultimately determined by what I eat. God, through Paul, begins this passage by encouraging us not to be mastered by food. What part does what I think about food play in the daily presenting my body as a living sacrifice? To read more on the thoughts about food, click here
Free From Concern, Devoted to the Lord [1 Corinthians 7]
32But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
In light of what was written previous to this chapter, especially in chapter 6, you can see that the theme of "the body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body" continues. Now Paul is addressing each of their concerns and questions: Should I stay married? Should I get married? Should I be circumcised? Should I not be circumcised? If I am married, should I stop having sex with my spouse? If I am married to an unbeliever, should I leave him/her? Should I keep my unmarried daughter, unmarried? Should I be a slave? or have a slave? All of these questions concern what to do with our bodies. There is a recognition in each question that something may need to change, now that I have been bought with the price of Jesus' blood.
Paul, patiently deals with each question. If you are curious about the answers, read the whole chapter in the Daily Reading section. His answers are "not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord."
What is the most important thing? In his letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, verse 6, he sums it up by answering that question - "faith expressing itself through love." (NIV) In other words, the focus is not to be on changing your circumstances, but rather, your faith and devotion to the One who washed you, sanctified you and justified you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 7:11).
We praise You God that You called us each, knowing what circumstance we were in. (v. 20). You called us to be holy as You are holy. We thank You that through Your Spirit You give us faith that expresses itself in Your love.
We Exist For God through Christ [1 Corinthians 8, NASB]
5For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,
6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
This passage is dealing with the issue of eating food that has been offered to idols. Tucked in the first part is the overlying theme: "Knowledge inflates with pride but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know as he ought to know."
Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the chapter. When we think we know what God wants us to do, without asking Him, we are acting in pride. The truth we need to remember is:
- all things come from the Father
- we exist FOR Him
- all things come by the one Lord, Jesus Christ
- we exist THROUGH Him
In each question you have about what to do (in this case to eat or not to eat) ask God. He will give you His wisdom. (James 1:5)
We praise You God for being One God, our Father. All things exist for You, including us. Thank You for Jesus Christ, our one Lord. We exist through Him and because of Him, all things exist.
How Should Those Who Preach the Gospel Earn Their Living? [1 Corinthians 9]
6Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?8I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING " God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12If others share the right over you, do we not more?
Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
It sounds like this is an age old tension - who should those who preach the gospel earn their living? Should they have a job that supports themselves and their families or should those who receive the gospel, give financially to them? I have personally been back and forth in this argument. Should missionaries be tent-makers? (A term that describes what Paul did for a living. He was a tent makeer and it seems that is how he made his living.) But this passage has a very clear answer. "So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel." He points out that even the law agrees. Paul choose not to exercise this right so that there would be no cause for "hindrance to the gospel of Christ."
When you know that all things are from God and that you exist for God, you will want to participate in God's economy of giving and receiving, rather than the world's economy of earning, buying and selling. He has given the freedom for some to sow spiritual things in you and to "reap material things from you."
Thank You God for our dear brothers and sisters who are dedicated to sharing the gospel of grace. Supply their needs through us who receive the benefits of their work, Thank You, that we have the treasure of giving so others may go out with undistracted devotion to share the gospel.
Why the Old Testament? [1 Corinthians 10]
6Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." 8Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
If you are in the habit of reading only the parts of scripture that make you feel comfortable and loved, you may avoid reading many of the books in the Old Testament. I used to feel that the Old Testament left too many questions in my mind about God and how He worked in history so I read the Psalms, Proverbs, a few favorite chapters in Isaiah and the stories of the Biblical heros but mostly ignored the rest of God's words in the Old Testament. Fifteen years ago I was challenged to really get to know the fullness of who God is by reading His love letter, the Bible, from start to finish. In this new quest I was encouraged by Beth and others to not be afraid of my questions, to not get tangled up in trying to apply every account to my own life but instead to read, looking for God's character. Ask questions like, "What is it about Your character, God, that You want me to know from this account?" It wasn't comfortable and it threatened my own little concept of God and I started with fear and timidity. But what a journey it became and how my eyes were opened! I gladly began to repeat the process each year, and with each reading my eyes were opened further and I began to see the bigger picture of God's redemptive work.
Paul addresses those fears as he begins the chapter saying, "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea." He goes on to say that "all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." Did you know that Christ was with the Israelites in the desert?
These things were written for our instruction, "now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved."(v.6). He repeats it again in verse 10, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." Why do we need to know about what happened to the fathers? As an example to us what happens when we forget God. To see what happens when we start worshiping something besides the God who provides spiritual food and drink. We need to know how important is it to be aware of Jesus in our lives.
We praise You, Father, for showing us how You worked in the lives of the fathers or our faith. Thank You, Jesus, that Your offer of living water is not a new offer. You are the same yesterday, today and forever.
For another blog on this chapter read: God is Faithful
What About Traditions and Customs? [1 Corinthians 11]
1Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
2Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
The verses proceeding these verses are an important prelude to this discussion about the custom of head coverings. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved." As we have been reading the book of 1 Corinthians we see Paul addressing many problems. Some of the problems came because of the many members who had come from a pagan background and had brought some of their practices with them. Others came from having customs that were from the Greek traditions (e.g., men did not have their heads covered while worshiping, but women did, which was contrary to the Jewish tradition). Paul encourages them to look at the customs and see if they are contrary to God's Word or His creative order. If they are not then they have the freedom to "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?"
It is clear that the gospel is the most important thing. Galatians 5:6 reminds us that customs are not important, but "faith expressing itself in love" is what it is all about. In this passage, "I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved," so that in all things God is correctly estimated, He gets the glory.
Thank You, Lord, for showing us the way through Christ to deal with our different customs. In all that we do let there be not misunderstanding that "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."
Read more about this passage - Celebrate the Gospel and God's Design for Husband and Wife.
God Put the Body Together [1 Corinthians 12]
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
24But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.27Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
Why different spiritual gifts? Why didn't God give each of us all the different gifts? In this passage God begins to unfold His answer. He is calling us to experience unity with other believers. He designed us for relationship. In verses 4 and 5 we are reminded of the relationship between the Spirit, the Lord and God as they work together in our life. There are different gifts but the same Spirit is "distributing (gifts) to each one as He wills" (v. 11). There are different ministries but the same Lord. There are different effects but the same God. (And by the way, did you notice - He is the One doing all the work!) God wants you to be completely aware of why He has given different gifts. Don't miss verse 7 - each one of us is given the manifestation of the Spirit, not for our own benefit but for the benefit of others (common good).
In the following verses He begins to use the human body as a picture of the body of Christ. (Those who belong to Christ are His body.) He reminds us how we need each part of the body and each part is very important. “The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary,” (v. 23) and are given “abundant honor” so that there will be “no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
Isn't this what your heart longs for? To be a part of something bigger than yourself, to be surrounded by others who feel what you feel and who take care of each other? Well God says that NOW this is true - you are Christ's body.
What is keeping us from experiencing this unity, this honor? Divisions. Discontentment. Envy. Selfishness.
But He is going to show us a more excellent way. Tomorrow - 1 Corinthians 13.
We praise You, God, that You are the three in One and that You have made us many but one body. Thank You for giving us the desire to be together, to care for each other and to honor each other. Cause us to know You in this way today.
The Greatest of These Is God's Love [1 Corinthians 13]
8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Do I know fully how God loves me? No, I am like a little child, I want to be shown and reminded all the time. I still "think like a child, reason like a child." I now "see in a mirror dimly," but soon will see God in the fullness of His love, "face to face." I look forward to the day that I will know God fully " just as I also have been fully known."
It helps to know, as I read the descriptors of God's incredible love, that God loves me in this way while He knows me completely. There isn't any secret about me that He doesn't know. There isn't one little thing about me that escapes His notice and still He loves me with a love that never fails. For further definitions of those descriptions read, How Does God Love You? and God's Great Love for You, other blogs on this chapter.
The truth is, I have never know anyone on this earth who has loved me with the kind of love that is described in 1 Cor. 13. I have glimpses of someone being patient - long suffering with me even when I am difficult, not giving into hasty anger or punishment even when I am being stubborn and obstinate. But then they may not be kind which means to be useful. Is it useful for me to continue in my stubbornness? Or they may keep a record of the things I did while they were being patient.
But not God. His love has all of these qualities at the same time and they never waver. As I am growing in believing this love, more of this kind of love spills out from my life into others. I am still thinking about the first three verses of this chapter and pondering that agape love is something I have because God gives it, not something I do.
I am still a child in my understand of Your love, Lord. But You are perfect in love. I praise You that Christ demonstrated this perfect love when He died for me and He continues to demonstrate it fully, day after day. I praise You that someday I will see You face to face and then I will know fully this incredible love.
Pursue Love As You Worship Together [1 Corinthians 14, NASB]
1Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy,
2For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.
Pursue God's love. "I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and the width, height and depth of God's love, and to know the Messiah's love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17-19, Holman CSB.) As you pursue and know God's love you will be filled with the fullness of God. Did you see that this is to be done in community? So now lets talk about what the community of believers needs in order to pursue God's love together.
Think back to 1 Corinthians 12 where we saw that the Spirit gives different gifts to be used in the body of believers to build up that body. In the passage above the word "edification" means to build up. We desperately need those who prophesy (speak forth the Word of God). As they speak forth the word of God others will be built up, encouraged and consoled. We need to earnestly desire that we have people in our community who will speak the word of God into our lives.
In this passage God, through Paul, is dealing with yet another immature, selfish thing that the Corinthians are doing in their church that is causing disunity. They are using the spiritual gift of speaking in a tongue (which is literally a different language), to alienate each other and to build up there own selves.
Remember the description of God's love? God's love is not self seeking or puffed up. When the Spirit is manifested in our lives through a gift it will never be to build up ourselves. It will always be to build up the other believers.
Verse 6, helps us understand this a little better. "But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in other languages, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you with a revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?" And then verse 12, "So also you - since you are zealous in matters of the spirit, seek to excel in building up the church." (Holman, CSB).
To read more about this chapter read God Is Certainly Among You and God Is A God of Peace, Not Confusion.
(If you want to get my take on the women issue, read the second one.)
This weekend as we worship together I pray that we worship our God of unity and love in unity and love. May we all fall on our face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among us, v. 25.
Be Strong and Have Love at the Same Time? [1 Corinthians 16]
13Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14Let all that you do be done in love. 15Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), 16that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors. 17I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. 19The churches of Asia greet you Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
In this closing chapter, Paul mentions people by name and gives his last minute instructions. Tucked in there are two statements: "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." As I think about those things, being on the alert, standing firm, acting like men, being strong, I see them almost opposed to doing everything in love. I get this sense of making myself strong and fortified so that I won't be wishy-washy in dealing with people. It is almost like I have to set aside love to be strong, to stand my ground.
While dealing with a tenant who didn't pay the rent and the process of getting her out of the house, I constantly felt the tension between these two ideas. She kept asking for more time, with no intentions of paying what she owed. When I would think and pray about loving her in the midst of the process, I would think that I needed to show mercy. Thankfully, God's definition of love kept coming back to mind. Love is kind. Kind is doing what is useful, profitable for that person. I sensed God calling me to be strong, alert, standing firm because it was time to not let her take advantage of others. But I needed to have love in the process.
I am learning a lot about what I think about love in this process. When I start relying on myself to complete the great command of loving others as myself, I think I have to give them what they want. When I think I need to be strong and stick to my guns, I find myself empowered to do that by thinking unloving thoughts, "I can't believe she thinks she can get away with this. What a jerk." How many times have I told the story of her offenses? Even complete strangers hear my litany of woes. In the midst of telling the story I sense something is not right. This is not having God's love. This is me justifying myself because I have forgotten God's love, that bears (covers) all things and does not keep account of wrong. I have forgotten that God rejoices in the truth. The truth is that Christ paid this debt. His love covers her multitude of sins. The truth is that He is protecting and loving me during the process. No one else has to decide who was right and who was wrong. God is the righteous judge.
I cannot be strong and do everything in love. I can't even glimpse what it would look like. This can only be done in the power of the Spirit, as I recognize that I can't do it and ask God to do it in me. He is strong and He is love.
I praise You God that You are the righteous judge. You know when to give mercy and when to require justice. Thank You that You are not asking me to figure it out. Cause me cease trying and to run to You and let You do that work in me.