Summary: Its not just about what we believe. Its about how we treat one another. And its not just about how we treat one another. Its also about how we engage with people outside the faith.
Bibliography: Finding Christ, Finding Life: Reconciliation
In 1967 Columbia Pictures released a movie called “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” Set in the 1960’s, this comedy tells of a dinner party given by a bride’s parents to meet her fiance‚ and his parents. The comfortable middle class existence of the bride’s white parents is disrupted when they find out that the groom is black. Nor are the groom’s parents, also invited to dinner, happy to find that their son is going to marry a white girl.
Today interracial marriages are somewhat more common place. I’m not sure to what extent, particularly here in the deep south, they are accepted. But you can imagine how radical the idea was in the 1960’s and how radical this movie was when it was made. The dinner would have been a strange and awkward meal, indeed.
Paul writes to a group in Corinth who are dealing with some radical concepts. You see much of life at that time was ordered and measured by how well one knew one’s place and kept it. In fact, the better job you did of keeping to your status and situation in life, the more you were respected. It seems rather bizarre, but following this reasoning on down, there was a way in which to take pride in your poverty, or enslavement, or inferior position in society.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us now, but that’s the way it was back then. However, Jesus Christ and the Christian faith changed all that for believers, because if you believed in what Jesus said and did and represented, then you understood that salvation was open to everyone no matter who they might be. And if you believed salvation was open to everyone, then you also had to change your ideas about how you treated one another, about how you related to one another, and about how worth was determined in the individual.
For example, here in the Corinthian church were some top class wealthy citizens. But by their faith in Jesus Christ, there were also some who were very poor. In the Corinthian church there were slave owners. But by their faith in Jesus Christ, there were also some who were slaves. In the Corinthian church there were lots of men. But through there faith in Jesus Christ there were also women. And you have to remember this was long before the Emancipation Proclamation and the Women’s Suffrage movement. Further more there were people who were Jewish as well as Greek citizens of the Roman Empire who each would have believed in their own way that the other was heathenistic, backwards, primitive people.
These people were called to worship together and to share the Lord’s Supper together which they did regularly when they gathered together for worship much in the same way we do every Monday evening.
Can you understand how radical it must have been, how overwhelming it was for these people to put all of these differences aside and worship together? They just couldn’t do it. Even within their faith in Christ they found ways to set themselves apart, to make themselves appear better than others.
Do some of you remember the story of when Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper with his disciples before he was arrested and put on trial for sedition, how he began the evening washing the disciple’s feet? Servants and slaves did that sort of task. It was degrading and embarrassing. And Jesus told the disciples that anyone who wanted to be his follower had to be a servant like he was being. These folks in Corinth were having real trouble understanding how to come together on that level. They were use to gaining status, not losing it, and they were having a tough time letting go of that and coming together. What an awkward and uncomfortable meal the Lord’s Supper must have been.
So there was division and factions within the Corinthian church. To this situation Paul sends a message calling for reconciliation.
“No longer do we judge anyone by human standards..”
In other words, they can’t follow those same old class distinctions we always have.
He points out that at one time they tried to judge Jesus that way. Remember he was just the poor son of a carpenter. But Jesus was the Son of God. His resurrection has proven this. So anyone who wants to join with Christ, believes in Christ has to do away with the old way of thinking and has to think in a new way.
Paul points out a couple of things to the Corinthians. He reminds them God has sought people out. It was God who sought a way in which to have a relationship with humanity. It was God who through Jesus dealt with our sin. We as humans didn’t do that. In fact we as humans couldn’t do that. The saving grace of Jesus Christ is a gift from God.