A Competition of Unholy Rivalry
God of mercy and of love, I am before You now, seeking guidance and strength. I give You praise and thanks.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11, ESV).
This passage is devastatingly revealing of our hearts. Chloe’s household brought word to Paul that the Body of Christ in Corinth was in the grip of painful divisions, fractured unity and an ugly competitiveness. “I follow Paul.” “I follow Apollos” or Cephas or (top this) Christ himself. This division is hardly remote from our local church. What Flannery O’Connor writes about despair can be said of our divisions in the church: “At its worst our age has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.” Paul is heartbroken that a dislocating focus and quarreling has taken up residence in their common life.
What’s at issue and what’s the cure? First, the cultural setting has greased the tracks. Corinth had been rebuilt as a Roman colony in Greece in 44 BC by Julius Caesar. At the core of its proud intellectual life was the legacy of impressive oratorical skills, where the visiting sophists would package “wisdom” in impressive, classic style. The content meant much less than the effect on the hearer. (I once asked my mother about a sermon she recently heard. “Oh, it was fantastic,” she said. “What was it about?” I asked. “I don’t really remember, but it was amazing!”) The orators would come to Corinth and it would be the battle of the bands. “I want to be like him….”
These verses, secondly, expose the heart’s tendency to take anything secondary and place it in the center of the throne room of our lives (liturgical preference, the cherished inflection spoken by a beloved minister, the aesthetics of a certain chapel). Compared to the surpassing worth of the Gospel, it is rubbish (Phil. 3:8).
How infectious this virus can become. Paul’s passion is to relocate everything to gaze at the cross–to the Gospel and to its wisdom where true unity erupts.
What person or cherished thing needs to be ripped from your heart’s throne? Will you stop right now and give it to the Lord? Why or why not?
Father, so easily I have majored in appearances, preferences, or secondary matters. Start me over this moment, gazing at Your cross. Nothing more, nothing less.
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