Summary: How do grace and peace speak to a society that is falling apart? Paul’s attitude shows us how.
October 28, 2001
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 4I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said "hello" when ssssopp! Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned. Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water.
Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. Well, she replied, Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore -- he just sits and stares.
It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.(1)
In many ways the residents of Corinth 1950 years ago were as happy as the pre-vacuumed Chippie. The culture was economically prosperous, well educated, and religious. That parallels our society too.
In fact the comparison is scary. Our economy still surges past the rest of the world; our education is accelerating – we have more religiousness in America than ever before. We are so much like first century Corinth – they had so many different religions, everybody could have had his own.
One other identity twin – Corinth was as obsessed with sex as America. They even combined sex with their religion. The Aphrodite temple had 1,000 prostitutes. It was part of their cult rituals to provide sexual encounters as part of worship. Sexual intimacy was understood to cultivate the divine.
One historian noted that the prostitutes served their shifts at the temple, and then moonlighted in the marketplaces. It’s not so far-fetched…our temples are attached to cable – operated with a remote control!
The Church in Corinth
On Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 18) he wandered into Corinth – on purpose – and met Priscilla and Aquila. With their help Paul set about winning folks to Jesus. He spent longer there (18 months) than at any previous stop.
He stayed because God was blessing. The Spirit gave many gifts and the church at Corinth was founded. And when Paul left, this young group of converts was strong in their commitment to win that part of the world for Jesus.
Three years later, Paul wrote to his loved ones in Corinth. They had started strong, but divisions within the church, and the influence of their culture had mixed-in with their Christianity – the result was not pretty.
They were polarized.
Disagreements over which hero to follow, Paul, Apollos, Peter or Jesus had taken what was a loving bunch of new converts, and turned them into vipers, nipping at each other’s throats.
They were paralyzed.
From a spiritual perspective, this crew was blessed. But they had slipped back into the cradle roll.
Far from progressing – growing in the faith, they were spiritual catatonics. In matters of Spirit-growth and progress they were like Chippie – sitting and staring off into space.
So What Did Paul Do?
Spanked ‘em, right?
Well, let’s say Paul did bring their wayward and mis-directed activity out into the open. But, spank? No!