Summary: The Corinthian Christians failed to see the truth of equality with differences, and it hurt the church.
A well-to-do tourist stopped to get some souvenirs at Indian
teepee. When he saw the poor old Indian chief sitting there barely
making enough money to survive, he decided to give him some
advice. He said, "Why don't you go to town and get a job in a factory?"
"Why," grunted the chief. "Well you could earn a lot of
money." "Why," asked the chief. "Well," said the tourist, "If you
work hard and save a lot you can build up a good bank account.
Wouldn't you like that?" "Why," the chief asked? "For heaven's
sake man," he shouted, "With a bank account you could retire and
not have to work anymore." "Me not working now," the chief
replied. And that was the end of the advice.
Here were two men who had very little in common. They were
not equal in their possessions, in their opportunities, and in many
other ways they were unequal. But they were equal in that one
thing that made them both proud to be Americans. They were
equal in their freedom. One was free to work hard and save, and
the other was free to live leisurely and survive at best he could.
When we refer to the equality of all men we need to grasp that
no one means by it that men are equal in every way. This is
contrary to all the facts of life. Not even a fanatic for equality
would argue that all are equal in size and strength. No one believes
all are equal in their talents. Those who seek to destroy the concept
of the equality of all men can find numerous illustrations to prove
that men are not equal. They miss the whole point, however, for
nobody is declaring they are equal in everything.
The question is not, can all women make equally good wives, but
do all women have the freedom to try. The question is not, can all
men bat equally well, but do all men have the freedom to play
baseball? Elton Trueblood, the outstanding author and preacher,
wrote, "The truth is that it is impossible to make a reasonable
statement of the meaning of equality except in terms of freedom.
Men are equal only because all men are intrinsically free..."
Once you depart from the issue of freedom, and try to prove
equality, you quickly get into difficulty. There are many minor
areas of life where men are equal, but they are not a sufficient basis
on which to build. Richard Armor gives us a humorous illustration
of equality. A part of his poem goes like this:
Of all the ills iniquitous,
The cold is most ubiquitous.
It comes to every national,
To sane and to irrational,
To debtor and to creditor,
Illiterate and editor.
And even royal highnesses
Have trouble with their sinuses.
To this minor negative equality we could add the major negative
equality of death. All men are equally marching toward the grave.
Jesus descended to this level of equality with all men. In our text of
John 20 we see two great men literally running toward the tomb,
and in them we see a clear illustration of how men can be equal but
Peter and John were both in the inner circle of Jesus. Both were
granted the privilege of being Apostles and authors of inspired
writings. They were equal as great men of God, and they were the
best of friends. And yet, they were very different from each other.
They were both exalted by Christ, but in different ways. Peter was
made the number one man among the Apostles as the spokesman
for all. He was the one who gave the explanation on the day of
Pentecost. John, on the other hand, was the Apostle whom Jesus
loved in a unique way. John mentions this in verse 2, for it is the
thing of which he is most proud. Peter and John were equal, but
because of the age difference it was fitting that Peter be the leader,
and John be the object of special love. John's youth captured the
love of Christ.
We see that even though men are equal, their age makes them
different in the roles they play. Unique leadership tends to go to the
older, and unique love tends to go to the younger. Later in life John
became the aged Apostle who, like Peter, had great respect, and
authority. When he tried to assert that kind of authority as a youth,
he was called a son of thunder. He tried to be equal to an older man
of authority, and it didn't work. He was young and rash, and did
not have the maturity to be in control of great power. He was ready
to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans, which was