28 Mar Thread Season 3 Episode 5 : How Far do you go to preserve relationships with other believers?
Thread is God’s word, tying together all the pieces of your life as a person in ministry. Its the place for believers who want to maximize the impact of their lives on others. In Season 3 we are moving through 2 Corinthians.
Today’s lesson covers 1:23-2:11 where we return to the sacred nature of all relationships, especially in the body of Christ.
Let me ask you right now to pull up in your memory, your best relational moment, a time in your life when you had a relationship that was life-giving and sacred.
Doing life together is such an essential Kingdom of God concept.
One of the things we almost never speak in Bible study, and I’ve only heard it mentioned once in my life from the pulpit, is the way that Jesus re-defined family. All over the world Family is about your bloodline. Especially in the Middle East this is huge. There’s the old joke that in a middle eastern family it is “me against my brother, but me and my brother against my cousin, and all of us against outsiders.” That is how the world has always been, then here comes Jesus, the teaching rabbi, in a culture that prizes blood family as a doctrinal distinctive. His mother and brothers came to interrupt his teaching time and everyone informed him that his family was there. Then he shocked the room (and probably his family) with these words, “You are as much my family as they are. You are my mothers and sisters and brothers.”
Christ redefined family as spiritual family and gave it the priority, though he was quick to also point out that we should all do our duty to take care of our earthly parents in their old age.
Paul is a disciple of Jesus and he takes this family teaching to heart. The body of Christ is just as much his family as his blood kin are. This entire book only came about because of Paul’s relationship with the Christian community in Corinth.
Paul values his relationships with these people and he refuses to let a relationship with a Christian be damaged. All relationships are vital. Everything that happens in our life comes through our relational network, but a relationship with a Christian is a sacred thing. Jesus has made us brothers and sisters with his blood and just as you do not give up on a blood brother or cast a sister away, you do not walk away easily from a relationship with another Christian.
Paul is such a great model of relational integrity. For him there are no disposable relationships. It’s really hard to get out of a relationship with Paul.
We need to honor the agonizing work of peacemaking—it’s noble work.
Let’s look at vv.2-10. Note how Paul treats this chronic church situation. He has endured much relational pain. The core group of spiritual people in Corinth have now been successful at taking back their church from the carnal leader who had taken it over. Look at the amazing grace that Paul shows toward this man.
Now that this man has been taken out of leadership and is ashamed of his carnal behavior and has had the correct pressure of mature people bearing down on his life (he had no business ever being in leadership), this man is no longer a threat to the church. Paul sees him as a true Christian, but one with a deficient formation in his character. This can be fixed if he will humble himself and walk with Jesus in the community of the church. Paul urges the church to embrace this man for everyone’s benefit.
So often we paint the other party in a conflict as being so terribly evil, when usually it’s a simple matter of misunderstanding. Insecurity provokes all kind destructive behavior. Loss of face can drive a good person to ridiculous lengths to reestablish their status in a group. Discouraged people behave poorly so we need to keep in mind. When we wrestle with the personality of another person who is clearly a Christian we must not treat them as an enemy.
The church is an amazing thing.
1. The church can survive bloody assaults of many kinds. Sherry and I live in the 10/40 window nations where most persecution of Christians takes place. Christians are beaten. Their homes and churches are burnt, and sometimes they are doused in gasoline and set on fire. Amazingly, the church can always survive this kind of attack.
2. A church can even remain healthy with half of it members struggling mightily against addiction, mental illness, and a host of other spiritual attacks. As long as everyone is honest about their struggles they will bear one another’s burdens and move on.
The church can survive anything as long as it maintains relational integrity. Christians must keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and God’s power will flow.
Illustration: How we used relationships as our discipleship system at Lighthouse Christian Community in Metro Manila.
But when the church loses its unity the grace of God is hindered. Even a powerful church can be destroyed from within this way.
V11 Paul is very aware of Satan’s devices. He does not fear persecution, but he has a healthy respect for the damage that unforgiveness and division can do to a church fellowship. A divided Christian is a powerless Christian. Churches without unity become showy churches, focusing on lights and sound and performance because they do not have the truth engine of the Holy Spirit working inside of them.
Splitting a Church
I think the lowest thing anyone can ever do in the ministry is to split the church. I would never be part of it. It’s like splitting a family and the wound is hard to ever heal. On top of that, a church planted as a result of a split has anger and hostility as the root emotion and wherever the root is, there will be fruit later. You will be dealing with conflict forever in such a church.
Let’s hold all our relationships as sacred—but especially relationships with those with whom we are one in Christ.
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This week, expect God to use you. You are the light of the world. So shine on!
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