1 Corinthians 1- Believing in Each Other
When you believe in peopleÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
What we see in the first part of this letter is a trait which is so typical of Paul.ÿ He is positive and he is a believer in people. This letter which is fraught with problems.ÿ And that is because this is a church that is loaded with problems.ÿ And that is because these are people loaded with problem.ÿ But you see here?ÿ Paul is convinced of nothing but good things for them.
Based on God’s faithfulness (v. 9)
This is an undying positivism that is based, not on some blindly optimistic view of human nature, but on the fact that God is working with these people.ÿ As he says in v.ÿ5, it was God who “enriches them”, and in v.ÿ7, lavishes every kind of gift on these people.ÿ As he concludes in v.ÿ9, “God is faithful.”ÿ In other words, “No matter what problems you guys might have now, God will be faithful to you and shape you and change you.” This is why Christians have not only the basis to be positive regarding others, but an obligation.ÿ To be anything less that positive and optimistic about the future of some brother or sister in the Lord is to deny that God is at work in their lives. If you’re like me, this is a problem area.ÿ And for me, the problem is that I think I understand people so well.ÿ I watch people.ÿ I try to understand what makes them tick, and then, after years of watching different types of people, what do you think I do?ÿ I categorize them.ÿ I figure out what their problems are, and once I have those figured out, then I can predict what they will do.ÿ I can predict what they will be like a year from now.ÿ I can predict what pitfalls will overcome them.ÿ On and onÿ.ÿ.ÿ. But the fact that God is in someone’s life changes all that.ÿ I have to consciously take my observations and all my wisdom about predicting people and reject it, and say, “God can surprise me.ÿ Let God surprise me with this person.” This positivism is the fuel that feeds our relationships around here.ÿ It’s the fact that we can believe in each other, the fact that we can believe the best about each other, that makes us able to stick it out together.ÿ It makes us able to have relationships over the long-term. Example: To think about what normally happens, I can look at my own life.ÿ Normally, in my life, when I have concluded that someone has a terminal problem, then I casually back away from that person.ÿ I separate myself from them.ÿ I’ll see that someone is a liar, for example, and I will never trust them again. Example: Or if I see that someone is prideful, then what?ÿ I want to see them fall!ÿ I won’t catch them.ÿ I won’t help them.ÿ Because I’m waiting to see them fall. That’s the way things normally happen when we see some kind of major flaw with people.ÿ I’m sure some of us are quicker to jump to such conclusions than others.ÿ But however long it takes, when we finally get to the point that we say, “That person is a liar,” or “That person is a totally selfish,” then we see no hope for them. Example: I was watching TV and this actor was relating how he hates doing movies about characters who go through some crisis, and then they come out on the other side a changed person.ÿ And that’s the typical movie.ÿ A person is totally prideful, but then his wife and family leaves him, and he sees the error of his ways and turns over a new leaf.ÿ And this actor, who had to play a lot of roles like this, was saying, “I hate it.ÿ Because it’s so fakey.ÿ The people I know never change.ÿ They’re still the same as they were in high schoolÿ.ÿ.ÿ.”ÿ And I thought, “How refreshing!ÿ Someone who is honest about people!” But here, among Christians with God in our lives, we can’t do that.ÿ We can’t conclude about people that they will never change.ÿ To do that is to say that God is not at work in that person’s lifeÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Instead, we believe in people and try to communicate that postivism to them.
Not a naive blindness either
Now as I say this, we need to realize that I am not talking about some intentional blindnesss or naivete that shuts out people’s problems.ÿ As I said, Paul is going to go on and discuss the problems the Corinthians, and there are many.ÿ Paul sees them all, but this doesn’t prevent him from believing the best about these people. I think people really go to extremes on this issue of how we view others.ÿ Some are so positive, they can’t bring themselves to really see the truth about someone.ÿ This may be more true as we talk about someone we really love.ÿ We’re always great critics of those who have nothing to do with us.ÿ But some folks feel like it is unloving to see the truth about someone close to us and call a problem a problem. But, the truth is, it is the very fact that Paul believes in these people so–the fact that he is so positive–that enables him to shoot straight and talk about their problems.ÿ Because he believes God will heal them, because he believes God will be faithful to them, Paul is free to take a hard and honest look at all their problems. In their case, as with all Christians, the existence of problems, no matter how serious, does not mean the end.ÿ It does not mean the person is a permanent loser.ÿ And this is what enables us to look squarely at our weaknesses. When I think of this I can think of my own life, and having to face some terrible truths–truths that would have be crushing if it weren’t for Godÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Example: In fact, I can remember one point where this was absolutely crucial for me.ÿ I had been coming around, literally, for years.ÿ And I had the opinion that I had some problems, but all I needed to do was get them under control.ÿ It was kind of like the feeling you would get if you were about 5 pounds overweight.ÿ But it wasn’t until I was laying in bed one night and realizing, “No, my whole life is screwed up!ÿ Everything is messed up.ÿ And God can change me!”ÿ That was the turning point for me.ÿ I could never have faced the depth of my problems and received healing and the change I have seen if I didn’t believe that God could deal with them, no matter how serious. So, this belief in God’s ability to change us is absolutely crucial to seeing the truth about ourselves.ÿ The truth would be too painful and depressing were it not for this.
Something else we should note about this introduction is the fact that no matter what, these people will be regarded as blameless (Look at v.ÿ8).ÿ I make this additional point because the term Paul uses here is very strong.ÿ See how he says that they will be “blameless to the end.”ÿ It means that they will never view them as guilty.ÿ God will never view them as blamable. Instead, what Paul is pointing out here is that no matter what these people do, God is going to forgive them.ÿ That’s what it means to be blameless to the end. Just to give a feel for what he might have said.ÿ He could have said, “I’m sure that things will work out OK for you guys, and that you’ll all turn out to be good people.”ÿ I’m sure that Paul feels that, since he sees God at work in their lives.ÿ But he goes way beyond that and says, “God will view you as blameless till the end!”ÿ It’s not just that God thinks you are OK, but blameless. And this is the essence of what a Christian is.ÿ A Christian is someone whom God has forgiven, someone whom God has this view of: blameless.
The first problem that Paul addresses with this church is perhaps the most serious.ÿ It is the issue of division within the church.ÿ There were parties and factions that had formed, and it threatened to divide this church into so many pieces. Read 10-12 You can see what was happening here was that people were rallying around certain figure-heads.ÿ Some were saying that their loyalties were to Paul, the founder of the church.ÿ Some were saying their loyalties were to Peter, the first pope.ÿ Then some were following this charismatic leader named Apollos.ÿ And finally, there were the snobs, who claimed to be following Jesus personally.
A tension here
There is a real tension in the things that Paul is talking about here.ÿ Because on the one hand, we ought to have personal loyalties between us.ÿ In fact, Galatiansÿ5 says that faithfulness is a fruit of God’s work in our lives. So, on the one hand, saying that I am loyal to a person or that I listen to a person is a good thing. But what is bad, is when this happens to the exclusion of others.ÿ And this is what is happening here.ÿ They were saying that they were following Paul, or Peter, and not the other guys. I want to talk about the issue of divisions, and why they were happening here in coming weeks.ÿ But the thing I want to focus on here is this element: being loyal to someone, and in the course of it shutting others out.
Differences often mean divisions
I think that one of the things that happens, almost instinctively with us, is that we assume that differences between people like leaders has to result in divisions. In other words, if I listen to one of you and you have a point of view on something, and then I talk to someone else and they have a different point of view, then we tend to think in our minds, “These guys should be kings in two different countriesÿ.ÿ.ÿ.”ÿ We assume that differences between people has to result in divisions. And this is so sad, really.ÿ If, for example, you tend to get advice and leadership from one person, and someone over here is very different, and you exclude that person, you lose out.
We need differences
The differences of opinions and styles and belief within a church is the most healthy thing we could have.ÿ I personally feel like God has blessed me with numerous sources of input in my Christian life.ÿ And they often disagree wildly with one another. In my view, and I think this is a case that Paul is going to make in the course of the next few chapters, the diversity of viewpoints in a church is a sign of health.ÿ And, the more people you can get input from in your life, the better. Example: I know that I learned this in part because I had to have had half a dozen or more people who really took me under their wings and tried to have their input in my life.ÿ And each and every one of them was great.ÿ I look back at lessons and changes that happened with each and every one of those people.
I believe that if you are here as a Christian, and you only circulate in one crowd, or only have one person’s input, you are hurting yourself.ÿ I believe we ought to actively seek out the input of different people. Within our home churches there are many different people we can seek out for input.ÿ And then, within the fellowship as a whole, outside your home church there are different influences.ÿ And ultimately, we ought to be seeking out reading, speakers or other forms of input from the church as a whole. What I find especially foolish and dangerous is the feeling that was being demonstrated here: That those people over there are bad or dangerous.ÿ We don’t listen to them.ÿ They have nothing to sayÿ.ÿ.ÿ.