1 Corinthians 13-14

Good ol’ 1 Corinthians 13. I know and love this chapter, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it in context and gone on to read chapter 14.

1 Corinthians is kind of a wild ride, because we’re reading a letter that Paul wrote to certain people at a certain time in culture in a certain place, and he’s making bold, seemingly generalized statements. My Bible commentary speculates that because women didn’t receive the formal religious education that men did, they would have more questions during the church service. To scale back on interruptions and divisions (come on, you’ve all been there in group gatherings), he instructed women to ask their questions to their husbands later. Instead of flaunting their Christian freedoms, because in Corinth, women would not have been allowed to question men, but in the church, God made them equal. I believe Paul’s words here were aimed to promote unity. I still have “but what about the single ladies!” questions, and a little bit of a chip on my shoulder (because men interrupt at church meetings too, okay!). But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t go to the church in Corinth, and Paul’s not talking to me here.

But did you read chapter 13? God is love. And all those characteristics he’s asking of us listed, he offers us. He’s patient with us, he’s kind, he’s never rude or irritated with us, he doesn’t keep a list of ways we’ve failed him. I’ve been up for, like, 40 minutes and have managed to fail in all of those areas already. He doesn’t give up on us, he believes the best in us, love wins out. The more my understanding of God’s character grows, the more my doubt and questions that arise when reading Scripture shrink.

I also remind myself that God doesn’t ask us to do things that Jesus didn’t do. Jesus humbled  himself more than we will ever have to. He knows about the cultural pecking order, social class and social norms. He knows how fickle they are and how someone always loses out. He extends the gospel to everyone. Man, woman, slave, master, etc etc. There is no sliding social scale with him. And that’s where my true identity lies: with him. 

Love is a choice. It’s like a body suit we should be shrugging into every morning. We can not hit all the tick marks listed in 13:4-7 without Christ. He helps us set aside our natural desires so that we can love without expecting anything in return. The more we become like him, the more love we will show to others.

The attribute of love that jumps out to me the most is “it is not irritable”. Maybe because I spend most of my time with a pretty unreasonable 3 year old, but that one is hard! People are irritating. They don’t use their turn signal, they tell slow, boring stories, they don’t know exactly what I meant when I mumbled half a sentence from the other room, they use poor grammar, they send me the same hospital bill twice and they don’t anticipate my every single need. I need to adjust my expectations. I am expecting every human action to revolve around me, meet my needs, make my life easier or entertain me. When that fails, entitlement and irritation flare up from head to toe.

Today, when you find yourself getting irritated, responding rudely, or jumping to the worst conclusion about something, ask yourself: What are my expectations right now? Are you loving someone with expectations? That’s not godly love.

Pause and thank God for the perfect ways that he loves us. Let’s repent of the infinite ways we fail to love him, each other and ourselves and today, posture ourselves to love selflessly today.

 

-Carly

 

1 Corinthians 11-12

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (12:13)

I certainly read these chapters with new eyes after being in Greece, bouncing between Middle Eastern and Greek culture. While there can be found certain similarities due to millennias of being neighbors, the strong underlying currents of Eastern vs. Western thought still hold strong.

Christianity has morphed through the centuries and through the continents. I’ve spent time in 10 “Christian” nations and seen many contrary applications of Christian life. It is our tendency to take the parts of the Bible that suit us, and leave the rest. There’s also the historical aspect of many Christians living out the religion their priest or pastor suggests since they don’t or can’t read the Bible themselves. 

If we started wearing head coverings when we prayed, here in America, we would feel uncomfortable. We would hate to be lumped in with Jews and Muslims, right? But here in chapter 11, there’s no denying we share similar roots. Principals the very first Christian westerners (Greeks, this time in Corinth) also immediately rejected. 

Ancient Greece was full of goddess worship, much of which scandalized the institutions of marriage. Maybe Paul was addressing this. Feminism takes many forms, swinging out from under oppression to grab hold of equality. We must be careful of our defensive swings. Over compensation misses the point. We must seek the plumb line truth. 

Similarly so with communion: one place uses grape juice, feeling wine is a gateway to immorality, another uses wine, feeling grape juice is unbiblical and not representing Christ. People are hungry, people are drunk. The Lord’s table, which should be a demonstration and command for sacrificial love, turned into an unfair party. 

The struggle of Christianity is often finding the timeless truth and applying it to our cultural context. These chapters are leading into Paul’s famous ode to love in 13. It should be noted, picking and choosing biblical commands to suit are cultural context is a very slippery slope. 

THANKFULLY, we are given the Holy Spirit. He grants us gifts of power, decernment, wisdom and knowledge, but spreads them out. We need each other. We need international us. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit which unites us. 

We are not independent. We are dependent on HIM and interdependent on each other. Remember to place those values highly for one another, and on time, listening to what the Spirit has to say. Also, of course, reading the word.

We’ve got this, He’s got us. It’s gonna be great. 

-Bethany 

1 Corinthians 9-10

“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 9:22-23

In chapter nine, we see Paul outline how he goes about ministry with people:

  1. He finds common ground. This goes above and beyond scrounging up a few stats about whatever sports team the other person enjoys. He aligns his life with their life. “Doing everything he can to save them.” I had a friend who felt called to the impoverished neighborhood near his suburban home. His kids were coming home from school talking about his poor classmates who didn’t have lunch or clean clothes. In a drastic turn of events, he moved his family into that neighborhood, became friends with the families of his child’s classmates, started a community garden and let his home be a revolving door for dinners, mentorship and joy. Knowing he didn’t have common ground with that social class at the time, he created common ground at the cost of his own comfort and status.
  2.  He eliminates pride. God hates pride. (Proverbs 16:5, Romans 12:16, 1 Timothy 6:4, a few of my favorites.) Paul has a lot of reasons to boast, but insists on remaining humble. Whenever my pride rears its head, or I’m tempted to jump in on a topic I think I know more about, or I start to judge people who Just Don’t Get It, I’m reminded of Christ’s humility. No one has ever, in the history of creation, wanted to be a part of something after a pride-soaked speech or shamed-based scold. For example, no, I don’t want to join your fitness program or buy protein shakes for you after you tell me how much better you are or how horrible I am for mistreating my body. Pride divides, while humility disarms differences and endears.  The gospel should make all people feel accepted.
  3. Uses opportunities to share the gospel. Paul is BOLD when it comes to sharing. I often err on the side of “loving on people” and hoping my actions will, all by themselves, point people back to God. There is definitely some truth to that, and the Bible confirms that the Spirit can convict people through actions rather than words. But, living a godly lifestyle should not replace sitting down with someone and telling them God’s story (at the appropriate time/space). Excuse me while I share my own apologetics, but I tend to think we skip this part. I was convinced, for years, that a coworker of mine would eventually one day announce to me that she couldn’t deny how different my life was than hers and ask to be a part of Christianity. Instead, one day she was crunching on an apple across the break room table from me and casually asked “I can’t remember, are you Mormon? Or what?” Not quite the Focus on the Family moment I had been preparing for, BUT, it was a wake-up call (and an opportunity to share, actually). Obviously, I don’t extend my hand and a memorized personal testimony to every person I meet, but I do try to act more brave and intentional when the opportunities present themselves to people I’m in relationship with. And they will. I do, in fact, have a friend whose family sat her down after months of her conversion to Christianity and asked her “how do we get what you have?” So, of course it’s possible, but it’s not an excuse to hide from opportunities.

Is there someone God has put in front of you to reach? How can you find common ground with them? What does it look like for you to extend the gospel to them?

 

-Carly

1 Corinthians 7-8

The gospel seeps into every aspect of life, or at least, its intended to. Western Christians are often caught accessorizing their faith, wearing it when it matches or fits, and setting it aside if it feels out of place. In both these chapters Paul is appealing for its everyday inclusion, from marriage decisions to food.

Chapter 7 is interesting for a few reasons, one being Paul is asserting his opinion since he thinks he has the Spirit of God. This is convenient for many to, then sweep aside, as its a very unpopular choice to remain single. It flies in the face of mankind’s first ever command from God: Be fruitful and multiply. Paul was in a very volatile situation and the persecution of believers was ramping up. This made family life and attachments a liability. I will interject, as a long-time single person, that Paul is on to something and God is deeply satisfying and single life with Him roxx. Its something to consider.

There’s also a lot of awesome directives about marriage in there. Like, not with-holding sex from each other, except for maybe seasons of prayer or fasting. That sounds pretty healthy, but what do I know? Just that God’s designs are wise.

Chapter 8 can be unpopular too, but the heart of that, also is the consideration of others and the prioritizing of the gospel. We don’t want anything getting in someone’s way of knowing and experiencing the love and grace of God.

“Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” (8:13)

That’s very cool of you, Paul. I think we could all take a principle here and apply it to our own lives and spheres of influence. Is there something we want more than this? Could our influence and love for people increase if we would only lay down one of our many “rights”?

Ask the Lord about this today. The gospel is not limited to one area of life. Will we grant it unlimited access?

-Bethany

1 Corinthians 5-6

Excuse the late post! Technical difficulties:

One of the many swinging pendulums in Christianity is grace & truth. Ideally, they go hand and hand. Run side by side along each other, one not inching further than the other. 
I see people air heavily on the side of truth, wagging fingers and heaping shame onto already-discouraged shoulders. Other times I’ve witnessed unachored measures of grace, using the name of Christ like a get out of jail free card (which, eh, it is), excusing any and all behavior, without tethering themselves to anything. I, myself, wavor between these two extremes and wonder when I’m getting it right. 

I love Paul’s no-nonsense tone here. Here are a couple things I consider when I’m bringing the truth, with grace: 

Know your audience. Paul was speaking to a mature group of believers who were aware of what was expected of them. He knew them, had a relationship with them and he had authority over them. New believers, people who are just stepping into a community of faith, they need more grace. (I once heard a pastor compare it to disciplining a toddler verses a teenager.)

Preach the gospel. Notice in 6:9-11 that every time Paul lays down the truth, he follows it up with a piece of the gospel. “But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God…” 

Try to leave your opinion out of it. Anytime Paul brought up a behavior that needed correcting, he reminded them what God thinks about it, not necessarily what he thinks about. Our hearts tend to be fickle. Sometimes we enable those we love and try to justify their sin, other times our hearts can be unnecessarily judgemental and bitter towards someone. Stick with what God says.

On the flip side of this, whenever someone speaks truth into your life, sift everything they say through God’s word. Not everything someone with spiritual authority in your life says is right. Does it line up with the gospel? Is there Scripture backing up what they’re telling you? 

I’m so thankful for the people in my life who extend me equal measures of grace and truth. The more familiar I become with God’s word, the more easily I can hear his voice amongst the noise. 

Is there someone in your life you need to speak truth to? 

Or, did someone speak into your life and you’re not sure what to do with it? Pray, first and foremost. Ask God to confirm it if it’s true, or reveal what’s really going on. 
-Carly 

1 Corinthians 3-4

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (4:20)

This age old problem endures. People want to relate to a person or a thing they feel most comfortable with, instead of God Himself.

We love our Christian philosophers. We are so very Greek. Podcasts, books, trends, movements, “new” ideas and even creating Christian celebrities. This is a madness. It moves us away from the point.

God sent Himself to be our priest. Christ is our teacher. We have His life as an example. We have His Spirit inside us and it’s powerful. Raising the dead, healing the sick, comforting those who mourn, staying patient in persecution, having peace and hope in affliction, reconciling people who have every right to stay angry. 

But in chapter three, Paul says, “It looks like I have to start over with you guys.” So caught up in fandom and differing philosophies, they’ve lost the gospel and reverted back to a kind of pre-conversion state. 

This temptation remains. Even as a I read chapter one again, it says:

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

And I’m like, “yeaaaah right!” It’s as if our favorite pastime is disagreeing and splitting hairs over theologies and the playing out of our “personal salvation”.

It’s time to repent. It’s time to get back to the Kingdom of God. I am so guilty of this. It’s time to get back to The Word and attentiveness to His Spirit. It’s time to get face to face with God Himself, Christ in me,  and being a temple of the presence of God’s Spirit. The power lies in Him.

-Bethany 

1 Corinthians 1-2

It was really refreshing to hear from Paul again this morning. I feel endeared to the book of Corinthians, because Corinth kind of reminds me of my home town. A port city, a melting pot of people and a chip on it’s shoulder. Here’s a little video about it, watch even the first couple minutes!

Paul lived  and ministered in Corinth for a while, and after leaving, started hearing about some major problems going on in the church. These letters address some of the main issues that were popping up.

 

“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

God is faithful to do what he says. There’s a lot of weight to these first two chapters, a lot of important concepts church attenders should read and take note of. But today I just needed the simple reminder that God is faithful and doesn’t flake out on his promises. He doesn’t tell me what I want to hear, he tells me what I need to hear, the truth.

What is something God has told you that you need to trust in?

 

-Carly