Last week I introduced the sermon with a post titled “How to Completely Fail as a Church”.
In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Paul brings up a situation where one party in the church was taking another party to court, likely over a property dispute. Paul is absolutely astounded about this, and he says to them “you have been completely defeated already.” He describes how they should have handled it internally. The were making a horrible show of disunity, unkindness, and a lack of love in front of the rest of the city of Corinth. In front of the same people they were trying to show the good news of Jesus.
“Look at those Christians in court…that is some pretty bad good news they have going on.”
And so Paul suggests that it would be BETTER to be wronged and to be cheated by your brother or sister in Christ, than to take them to court.
I mentioned the following story in the sermon: Chris Wenden from Child Evangelism Fellowship, at a recent ministerium meeting, told us how difficult it is navigating the tricky world of permission to hold Good News Clubs in local public schools. While Lancaster County is a great place for CEF, with lots of opportunities, Chris sometimes has problems with principals at some elementary schools. The law is on the side of CEF, because of Supreme Court rulings that allow CEF in any public school. So if he wanted, he could whip out the Supreme Court ruling, and slap it on the principal’s desk, saying “Give us a room, we have rights!” But Chris said something very interesting. He prays a lot about CEF’s relationship with principals because they want to honor Christ in front of the principals. So when a principal is a tough cookie, Chris said something fascinating and convicting: if being right would do damage to the relationship with the principal, Chris would rather be wrong!
So don’t jump to hasty conclusions in those situations where you are feeling offended, hurt. When you have been cheated and wronged. Take some time before you act. Seek out counsel from people who love you and know you best. Don’t go to a lawsuit. Come to a situation with humility. It always takes two to tango, and that means until we can admit what we have possibly done, we’re not ready to deal with it.
And remember, it is okay to be wronged. Remember that Jesus is our example. He was wronged, for our sake. He didn’t deserve it. Yet he willingly went to the cross. And his words as they are hammering the nails in his wrists and ankles are amazing “Father, forgive them.”
That’s what it is like to so entrust yourself to God, that you don’t have to lash out, react, or get retribution. Imagine that. Being able to absorb the flaming arrow that someone has just shot at you. Without reacting. Without needing revenge. Without allowing bitterness to creep in. But receiving it, with love for the other person. Forgiving. Healing. And being okay.
That is the abundant life of Jesus. If it seems wrong, it is because we are not used to the radical self-giving love of Jesus. We surely love it when he gives himself to us, but we are not used to giving it to others, especially when they wrong us. But in the church, our mantra should what Jesus told us “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”
Paul will expound upon this love in a few more chapters, that famous chapter 13. This week feel free to jump ahead, read it and reread it. Think about the people in the church who you really struggle with. Those people who you can’t stand. The people who rub you the wrong way. The people you would love to see get what they have coming. The people you hope you don’t have to talk to. The people who have that personality trait that gets under your skin. The people who have hurt you. What does it mean to love them? What is one way you can show them love this week?
By treating people this way, we see the secret for how not to fail as a church.