Summary: You must make a choice of alignment- either with the weakness and foolishness of God- or the supposed strength and wisdom of the world.
January 27, 2001
Strength is a ‘big deal’ anymore. It shows up in many guises and in many different situations. Just a week or so back, there was a lot of advertising from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) encouraging people not to miss the wonderful wrestling by the world’s strongest people, and that they could go to some of the theatres in Montreal to watch on the big screen. Our southern neighbors have just completed an election and inauguration process in which the outcome of the election has gone to the stronger. In Canada, it’s quite the same- the party with the strongest organization, the clearest record, and greatest potential to help Canada stay strong into the future, in the eyes of the electorate, has won the day. There’s an increasing amount of advertising about health clubs, it seems, and a push from there for us to keep our strength through regular exercising- aimed toward us aging baby boomers.
People tend to believe that the battle does go to the strong, and that is normally the case. At the human level, that tends to be true. From youngest ages, you hear children shouting about ‘my Dad is stronger than your Dad; my Mom cooks better than your Mom’, and the like, and that continues, it seems, but just in a more ‘refined’ way in politics and national and international activities. People swell with pride when someone from their/our country does well- for instance, Melanie Turgeon in downhill ski racing last weekend. This subject of ‘strength’ just doesn’t go away.
This line of thinking can creep into the minds of Christians, too, and can lead to all sorts of problems. It did for the early church in Corinth. It can for us, as well, and we have to learn what’s what when it comes to the subject of strength. Where is the real strength? Where is the real weakness? And where do we want to be?
Paul launches into this subject once he has pointed the Corinthian Christians to Him, their source and their identity and their all. He calls on them to get their perspective straight, and then he takes the theory to the very practical to show how their worldly view was infiltrating their church.
1 Cor. 1.10- Paul called for unity. This is not a call for thinking the same about everything but for unity on what’s most important. This is a call for focus. So what is the proper focus for them and for us? It is the name of Jesus, which can heal wounds in a church as it healed – Acts 3.6. This is the one authoritative name under which they are to be joined together, or mended together, which is the sense of this word, here. In the church they are to be mended together. I used to watch my paternal grandmother darning socks- it was a work of art! She made holes disappear and it was hard, oftentimes, to see where the hole had been! This is what is called for!
v. 11- Paul had heard that there were contentions among the Christians.
Now, stop, for a moment, and think about this- “quarrels among you (saints)”- if that isn’t a non sequitur, I don’t know what is. Based on scripture, quarrels among saints? I think not enough see the disconnect between those two ideas- quarrel…..saints! Those words don’t go together, do they? Yet, in the name of Christ, all sorts of quarrels have been started over the years and have been continued and it’s no wonder many people have a hard time with the name of Jesus Christ. Look at Northern Ireland. Look at the ongoing antagonism between many Protestant Evangelicals, in particular, and the Roman Catholic Church- doesn’t show wonderful spirit of Christ. Look what they did:
v. 12- they put themselves forward by groups- ‘my leader is better than your leader’. This is precisely what is happening here. There was personality cult going on- something that has never been seen since, as you know. (Tongue in cheek!!) Well, no!! There was even the Christ sect, which seems to indicate a group that was spiritually independent; I’m of Christ- I’m better, more spiritual, less in need- you get the idea, I hope.
v. 13- Paul kept focus. The appeal must be to the person, work, and name of Christ; there is no room for attachment to any person. People are not the focus for centred, rooted Christians!
Look at the history of Christianity over the years, or of any particular denomination, and you’ll see the personality cults that have existed- that still do- even in our church as in so many others. It’s not wrong to appreciate particular ministers or leaders, but to start personality cults with regard to ministers or even churches is not of Christ!