It occurred to me as I read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we Christians are concerned about the state of the world; we lament over the blatant sin, the disregard for Christianity, the increasing ungodliness accepted as normal. And we are right to do so
But Paul is talking about caring for the temple. I wonder if we’re as concerned about that as we are about the world. It’s easy to point fingers, to talk about “they.” It’s not as easy to point those fingers at ourselves.
Paul tells us we ourselves are God’s temple. (3:16) He asks us to consider our foundation, and our building materials. Are we building our faith on the standards of the age, the wisdom of the world? Or is our foundation Jesus Christ, our faith built on Scripture, God’s wisdom? Is our temple built by we who are servants, obedient, faithful?
Paul warns us not to go “beyond what is written.” Do we even know what is written? Building and protecting this temple called Connie involves reading and studying God’s Word apart from anything else. It means obeying God by keeping myself pure, by listening to His voice and sharing Him with others. Caring for this temple, where God lives on earth, involves effort, intentionality, humility.
Now, I believe if we Christians took better care of our temples, our own lives and relationships with God, then our world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in.
But God pointed out something else to me this morning. We Christians aren’t taking very good care of God’s Church, either. I guess that’s a direct result of not protecting ourselves from sin. But Paul addresses the problem of ignoring sin in the church. He even said the church in Corinth was proud of the fact that they embraced a man guilty of a sexual sin. “Shouldn’t you rather be grieved over this sin,” he asks?
I can’t help but think of whole denominations that embrace homosexuals in their congregations and their pulpits. Shouldn’t God’s people be grieved instead? But Paul doesn’t stop with the sexual sin this particular church-goer was guilty of. Paul includes, “greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” in his list of people who should not be comfortable in our pews.
Paul goes so far as to say they shouldn’t be welcome in the church. I know that goes against what many of us believe these days. But I think we need to consider the truth of what God inspired Paul to write.
I remember years ago, after the contemporary movement was introduced as a result of surveys given to unchurched people about what they would like to see in churches that would encourage them to attend, Ravi Zacharias said something to this effect:
Church should be the last place a sinner feels comfortable.
And I believe that. A church that prides itself on tolerance, on open doors, on a come-as-you-are-and-stay-that-way approach, isn’t a church at all, no matter how involved they are in their communities. It’s a social club. I think I’ve shared about the “church” that advertises by saying, “Come worship with us. We won’t tell you what to believe.” Is that where we’re heading?
It is if we don’t start protecting our temple, caring for our churches. It has to start with each of us individually. But it also has to spill over into our churches. Do we allow sin into our midst, hoping that somehow it will turn into purity? Paul says beware, a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast.” (5:7) I think that is true both for my heart, and in my church.
If I accept a little sin here and there in my life, it doesn’t stay little. It grows, and it invites its friends in. If we accept, or ignore, a sin in our church it won’t stay little there, either. One sin becomes two, then four, and we end up with an unusable batch of dough. Paul challenges us to become “bread without yeast,” a fellowship without sin.
I hope you’ll read these chapters in I Corinthians. There is so much here. Some of it is hard to hear, some of it will thrill your soul. Let God speak to your heart today, and may it change us. May it change the Church.