Summary: Belonging and the desire to belong are not bad, but the desire to gain status by belonging is dangerous. This text explores Paul’s thoughts on preacher worship and the division it causes.
SERMON TITLE: An Undivided Church
SERMON TEXT: 1Corinthians 1:10-17
Preached by Louis Bartet on 11-16-03 at Point Assembly of God.
10But, dear brothers, I beg you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so that there won’t be splits in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11For some of those who live at Chloe’s house have told me of your arguments and quarrels, dear brothers. 12Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul”; and others say that they are for Apollos or for Peter; and some that they alone are the true followers of Christ. 13And so, in effect, you have broken Christ into many pieces. But did I, Paul, die for your sins? Were any of you baptized in my name? 14I am so thankful now that I didn’t baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius. 15For now no one can think that I have been trying to start something new, beginning a “Church of Paul.” 16Oh, yes, and I baptized the family of Stephanas. I don’t remember ever baptizing anyone else. 17For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; and even my preaching sounds poor, for I do not fill my sermons with profound words and high-sounding ideas, for fear of diluting the mighty power there is in the simple message of the cross of Christ. (The Living Bible)
ALL OF US WANT TO BELONG
All of us want to belong, to be a part, but our carnal nature makes us want to be a part of not just any group, but of an exclusive group. We want to be a part of some Inner Circle.
Belonging and the desire to belong are not bad, but the desire to gain status by belonging is dangerous. This desire causes us to compare ourselves with others and to be depressed when someone else gets in and we are left out. We adjust to insure acceptance into the inner circle. We pretend to agree when we secretly disagree. If necessary we use insincere flattery to gain the approval of those in the inner circle hoping that they will give us admittance. In short, we compromise to be a part of the exclusive Inner Circle.
Even so, the Inner Circle turns out to be like the ripples in a pond. Once we make it to a certain circle, we find out there is yet another one. We also discover that no circle, no matter how exclusive, can confer on us the sense of worth we so badly desire. Why? Because our worth does not come from without, but from within. Our value is not increased by belonging, but by being.
By definition, every society includes
• people who connect, who belong to one another and
• people who feel left out,
who don’t get chosen at recess,
who fail to make the ball team,
whose invitations to dance get turned down,
who get blackballed and
voted off the island.
We exclude others because of pride or prejudice or fear or ignorance or the desire to feel superior.
In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them, John Ortberg wrote about his experience aboard an airplane:
• The first-class passengers were served gourmet food on china and crystal by their own flight attendants; those of us in coach ate snacks served in paper bags with plastic wrappers.
• The first-class passengers had room to stretch and sleep; those of us in coach were sitting with a proximity usually reserved for engaged couples in the back row of a movie.
On almost every flight, once the plane is under way, a curtain gets drawn to separate the two compartments. It is not to be violated; it is like the Berlin Wall or the veil that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Holy of Holies in the temple at Jerusalem. The curtain is a reminder throughout the flight that some people are first class and some aren’t. Those who aren’t first class are not to violate the boundary. They can’t even see what’s going on behind the other side of the curtain.
On a recent flight, a voice came on the intercom system, telling us that because of new security measures, the attendants were not allowed to fasten the curtain. But the airline wanted all of us in the Court of the Gentiles to know that we were not allowed to use the facilities in the Holy of Holies, even though there was one restroom for eight people up there and two restrooms for several hundred of us (mostly children under six who had been drinking Jolt Cola the whole flight) on the other side.