Summary: All Christians should understand that Real Life Christianity does not always have “happy endings”, but it is still a lifestyle worth living.
Enjoyed watching “The Polar Express” DVD last December. Our kids are at the age where there is bit of doubt about the reality of Santa Claus. But after watching the movie – they were true believers once again! It just HAD to be real!
But we know a time will come when they will grow beyond the childhood belief in things like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. It’s just part of growing up. It would be very unhealthy for an adult to still believe in Santa Claus!
In 1 Cor. 4, the Apostle Paul writes some things to the Corinthian church which challenge some of the ideas which are commonly held by Christians. And in so doing, he helps us to understand that certain ideas we might have about faith in Christ may need to be discarded as we grow to maturity in him – as surely as a belief in Santa Claus is discarded with age.
Let’s turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 4:8.
CONTEXT: One of the problems Paul is addressing in the first 4 chapters of his letter is the problem of divisions in the church. Some claim allegiance to Paul, others to Apollos or Peter or others. Along with this divisiveness came a pride and arrogance that they had somehow “arrived” in their spiritual understanding. They evidently were enjoying prosperity, and were taking this as a sign from God that they were maturing spiritually far beyond where they really were.
To address this problem, Paul contrasts the way he and the other apostles are living with the way the Corinthians are living.
1 Corinthians 4:8-17 (NIV)
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! 9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
14I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul tells them, “From what I hear you are becoming arrogant in your prosperity. Some of you may even be saying that because of the poor conditions I endure that God must not be with me. But I urge you – ‘Imitate me!’ And the kind of ways we’re told to imitate Paul teaches us…
1. Real life Christianity is no “Hallmark” production! (1 Cor. 4:8-12)
You know what I’m talking about. Hallmark plays on your emotions in the cards they sell, the commercials they produce, and the movies they sponsor.
There is always some sort of tension, but by the end of the show or the commercial everything is right again. People are smiling. There are happy tears being shed once again. All is right with the world.
Take a look at the kind of things that mark the Apostles’ way of life:
• Considered foolish (v. 10).
• Weak (v. 10).
• Dishonored (v. 10).
• Hungry, thirsty (v. 11).
• Dressed in rags, homeless (v. 11).
• Brutally treated (v. 11).
• Hard manual work (v. 12).
• Blessing those who curse them (v. 12).
• Enduring persecution (v. 12).
• Answering slander with kindness (v. 12).
• Considered the “scum of the earth” (v. 13).
These are the sorts of things that make Paul write in verse 9 that it seems to him that God has “put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena”.
This is not the type of stuff people put into commercials to sell products. This is not the type of promotion that is ever going to gather a huge following among the masses.