“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2
Anyone with a basic Sunday School background can recite some of the problems the church at Corinth faced. They argued over their favorite preacher (Paul, Cephas, Apollos). They compared and ranked the very gifts the Spirit had given them to build up the church. They loved visions, and knowledge, and wisdom, and looked down on anyone who could not match their level of performance or insight. They were committed, but the commitment was to a form of self, and peace was lost.
Paul worked hard to heal the resulting fractures, but our best evidence is that he was only marginally successful, or successful for only a short time. We have extensive correspondence between him and the church. The problems came and went and resurfaced. In fact, we even have a letter written by Clement of Rome near the end of the first century. Some forty years after Paul, the problems he described at Corinth were much the same.
The “Corinthian potential” exists in every church, and also manifests itself in every Christian. We all have an almost irresistible tendency to rank and grade everything around us, and that includes church. Every part of the liturgy is up for evaluation, and the standard for grading is personal preference. Rather than creating better and more devoted disciples, this approach has created more discontent and stress than ever before.
The reason for this over-examination is clear. We are the most “marketed to” people in history, and that creates a sense of entitlement that our preference be acknowledged and met. Thus churches attempt every possible form of catering to the whims of people who may be interested in religion but not sacrificial commitment to Christ. Churches today expend a great deal of energy chasing after an audience that is not really all that interested in being caught.
The real challenge facing the Corinthians, and the real issue facing you, is not a matter of taste, of worship style, or even particular shades of theological meaning. The real issue is commitment. Our basic spiritual need is never met by the latest trend, it is only met by Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. William Sloane Coffin wrote, “Socrates had it wrong. It’s not the unexamined life that’s not worth living. It’s the uncommitted life.” Frankly, we are often long on examination and short on devotion.
Spending too much time evaluating everything and everyone around you can create a sense of superiority or even super-spirituality that leads to dissatisfaction. Lost in the rush for the next new thing, or the more passionate experience, is the basic commitment to Christ. Paul focused on Christ as the solution for the fractured Corinthian Christians, and Christ is still the solution for fractured lives and churches today.
I doubt there is any spiritual problem you are facing right now that would not be diminished by a more focused commitment to Christ. We need a little less Martha, a lot more Mary. So let Christ be your vision today. Remember, you are in Christ, and He is in you. Speak to Him and, more importantly, listen. He is the source of peace in your life and church.
Dr. Terry Ellis