Challenges for Leaders
Help us, Lord, to see ourselves as we are before You, and so to remain humble and dependent upon Your grace.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
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.
“Without question one of the most remarkable Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ himself through the Holy Spirit will actually enter a heart, settle down, and be at home there. Christ will live in any human heart that welcomes him” (Robert Boyd Munger). Amazing: my heart, Christ’s home!
Paul uses irony to bring home to the Corinthians the emptiness of their claims to be advanced in spiritual knowledge. There is irony in the contrast between their boasts and the reality that they are “mere infants” still requiring to be spoon-fed (1,2). Irony often leads to humor, as the absurdity of human pride is held up to ridicule, and perhaps we Christians sometimes require to be shown how ridiculous our exalted claims for ourselves are in the light of our failure to provide convincing evidence of the healing, uniting power of the Gospel. The most superficial acquaintance with the language sometimes used by Christians using electronic social networks to talk about faith reveals exaggerated claims to spiritual experience from people who have scarcely begun the life of faith. Paul’s tactic seems designed to let the Corinthians see behind their own distorting masks and then to laugh at themselves as they come to their senses.
There is a sobering warning here for church leaders. Having described himself and his colleagues as “only servants” (5) and as utterly dependent upon God who alone “makes things grow” (7), Paul warns would-be teachers and evangelists that their work for the kingdom will one day face the ultimate examination for its authenticity and spiritual quality: is it consistent with gospel values or, behind the façade of professionalism, does it amount to “wood, hay or straw” (12)?
Professionalism in ministry, with its technical skills, threatens to eclipse Paul’s spiritual priorities, and we do well to reflect on this passage. As Richard Hays puts it: “Are we trying to build the church with clever management techniques and psychological insights? If so, we need to be reminded that no foundation can be laid other than Jesus Christ and that currently ‘relevant’ building materials may quickly be shown to be ephemeral.”
Are you a leader? Take time to think prayerfully about these issues. Are you a member of a congregation? Take time to pray for your leaders.
Indwelling Holy Spirit, You point me to Christ. Grant me his authority and humbleness as I seek to be his servant in the world.
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