Back in the first century, the apostle Paul wrote a really long letter to the church in Corinth. If I had to sum up the sixteen chapters in two words, I’d say he was telling them to Grow Up. He addressed a variety of specific errors the church was making, but many of them involved conflict between church members. Between brothers and sisters, as it were.
Poor Paul. It seems he had to tell churches to stop squabbling almost as much as I did my kids. I’ve talked before about one such apostolic chew-out.In chapter 6 of this letter, Paul addresses the folly of asking the secular court to judge grievances between believers –“saints,” as Christ-followers are also known. I can hear the exasperation in his voice: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?” (verse 2).
He goes on to show that even having angry civil disputes already constitutes defeat for the brothers. Partly because one believer is wronging another. But I think the greater defeat lies in the combatants not acting like Jesus’ followers. I mean, if we believers don’t show each other a little grace and unconditional love, how will a lost world know we are Jesus’ disciples?
Worse, if we publicly claim to follow Christ and then defraud and fight with each other, we risk giving Jesus a bad name in the eyes of the watching world. See, if I act like a jerk, I’ll tarnish my own reputation. But if I go around telling everyone I follow Jesus, and then act like a jerk, some people are bound to reject Jesus because of me. I will have put myself in the unenviable position of damaging someone else’s reputation along with my own.
As near as I can figure, tarnishing the perfect reputation of God’s son is part of what God meant when he said, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
It is worth noting that none of this is Jesus’ fault. He told us and told us to love each other.
If you’re a believer rescued by Jesus, can we agree to give his reputation a higher priority than merely having our own way?
Besides, showing love for other people is just flat-out more fun.
I welcome your comments–there’s space for you at the bottom of this post!
Thanks for reading,