11–17 June 2017.
1 Corinthians 5 is a difficult text where we see Paul’s old pharisee background coming through in his thinking, and where many of his arguments seem to go against the things Jesus taught us. Maybe that’s not a surprise given how frustrated and angry Paul is here with the Corinthian Christians. Many of us know how easy it is to lose our cool when we get angry! This passage is so awkward that most churches leave it out of their preaching programme and just skip over it completely. But despite its many problems, I think Paul still has something important to teach us here.
When I first came to Taiwan, another foreigner welcomed me and told me that my family and I will really love living here. “Taiwanese people are so great”, he said, “so caring, and friendly. Except for the Christians. The Christians,” he said, “are nasty and arrogant, and always ready to criticize others.” I was so shocked to hear him say that that I didn’t dare tell him I had come here to work for the church!
Clearly that man had had some bad experiences with Christians before and then assumed that all Christians must be that way. Of course that’s not true at all! Over the last 10 years I’ve found Taiwan’s Christians to be incredibly caring and wonderful people. But it just shows how much damage one bad Christian can do to the reputation of the whole church.
In Corinth, several church members were doing illegal and immoral things. One man was in a relationship with his father’s wife, but many others were greedy, stealing, getting drunk, and cheating others in business. On the one hand, we know that all people are sinners. But this type of behaviour was shaming not only those individuals but the whole church and even the name of Jesus Christ! Because we are followers of Christ, we need to live up to a higher standard of behaviour. But much more importantly, if the church sees its members doing such terrible things to others and then does nothing about it, we send a message to the victims that we don’t care about them. And we send a message to the world that we don’t really care about such evil actions. The poor way that the Catholic Church has handled the problem of pedophile priests is an example of this terrible result.
As Christians, each of us carries the name of Christ and represents Christ in this world as well as his church. One day each one of us will have to stand before Christ. Just imagine how terrible it would be to have to explain to Jesus that others think badly of him because of the bad example we have been. So this week, let’s pray that God may help us to live a life of great love and kindness that really will bring glory to him, and not shame.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis