When the Church Doesn’t Get Along

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul’s addressing the Corinthian church’s divisions due to jealousy, quarreling, and other means of worldly behaviors. See, they were arguing about which preacher they choose to follow (Peter, Paul, Apollos), based on their style of preaching, which was what the secular world did with philosophers. Paul begins by basically saying, ‘You’re supposed to be mature Christians…stop behaving like spoiled babies! But since you insist on behaving as babies, I’ll treat you as babies.’ (v. 1-4)

Paul explains next that he, Apollos, and Peter are nothing but mere tools used by the Lord. One plants, the other waters or fertilizes, but it’s God who does the growing. So none of them can boast of anything that they’re doing because they’re just hands in the field, working together for the purpose of God’s project, which is the Church.

But now, he also goes into the teachings of those in the world’s culture who are trying to merge their teachings into the Church’s. See, the world based their standards on wisdom and style (like a child buying a toy because of how cool the box looks, not really caring much about the quality of the product inside). But Paul explains in the analogy of a house that he laid the foundation (concrete, solid, sturdy), and subcontractors are entrusted to build quality up from that foundation. But now, look at the houses today versus those built about 50-100 years ago. The walls are hollow, cheap material is used, and they go up quickly…because they’re not about quality, but quantity and speed. But such will not withstand a fire because there’s nothing to them. In the same way, if people allow such teachings of the world (health/wealth/prosperity, “God wants you to be happy all the time”, “if you’re sick or in debt, then it must be due to sin”, “Positive Thinking”, or the ‘being a “good person” will get you into heaven’ B.S.), then when the Lord returns, or when trials come up, it’s all going to burn up because there’s nothing to it…they won’t be able to stand firm in their faith.

The foundation of the Church is Christ Crucified (chapter 1). Everything else is put up by other workers.

But now here’s the main part…the summary, I suppose: if your Bibles are open, read verses 16-17. Every time the word “you” is used in these 2 verses, it’s 2nd person plural. In other words, it’s not the individual that Paul’s talking about when he says “you are the temple of God”, but you as the gathered Church are the temple of God, and in you (the gathering) dwells the Holy Spirit. If anybody tries to destroy the Church, then God will destroy that person…yet y’all are destroying the Church with your quarreling, jealousy, and other behaviors!

Actually, the word “jealousy” comes from the root of the word “zeal”. So it’s possible that they weren’t actually jealous of each other as much as they were separating each other due to their religious preferences. Sort of like those people who consider themselves “holier than thou”, or “we’re right, you’re wrong, so we can’t associate with you”, or ‘we prefer it this way’, thus forming cliques.

Wow, look at all the churches in your town. In Chicago’s north side, there are Churches on opposite street corners. When I served in Morehead, Kentucky, a small town that doubled in size when college was in session, there were over 60 churches. None of these churches were working together, and of those that may have been, they were usually just networking among the Pastors, and nobody else in the congregation knew or wanted any part of it.

Also, how many times have we heard preachers take credit for the “success” (as seen in worldly terms) of the churches where they’re serving? Or Pastors competing against one another for the presence of other Christians (often instead of the lost, but also for the lost), bulks of the congregations going their separate ways because they can’t agree or because some want to treat the church like a business…I mean, just look at what’s happened to the temple of God! Is it not divided?

Now, I’m not jumping on denominations, I’m jumping on the fact that we are the Temple of God in our gathering as a Christian community. Yet as a Christian community, we are not gathering together, but instead pushing others away because of our worldly behaviors (zeal, quarrels, cliques, gossip, money issues, vision, backstabbing, ego, pride…). I understand that since 70 A.D., Paul was crying out for the urgent need of unity within the Church as a whole…the fellowship of the Christian community. And even still in his letter, he cries out for it.

Reflection:

  1. What would it mean for our Christian communities to see ourselves as the Holy temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells, only when we are gathered in unity? What would it take?
  2. Today, atheists, agnostics, people in religions, all look at us and wonder what’s so fantastic about our faith. And they’re especially confused when they see us all quarreling with one another (look at them, they can’t even get along with each other). But now think for a moment…can you imagine how they would see the Church if we all behaved as people of God? God’s nation of priests? God’s Holy people? A People who actually represented God, not individual
    ly, but actually as A-People? What sort of impact to you suppose that would present?
  3. Also, with this in mind, imagine this…struggling congregations being helped (financially, sending people, labor, etc.) by bigger congregations, regardless of the denomination? Churches not competing, but instead, when a member leaves, seeing it as good that they’re at least learning the Gospel someplace else? (Instead of them not going anywhere, at least they’re hearing the gospel where they’re moving)…some plant, others water and maybe fertilize, but it’s God that makes them grow in Him. Everybody in the Christian community gathered together in unity with the one foundation of Christ Crucified. Like Jesus’ apostles…not a thing in common except Christ Himself, and yet, they gathered together around their common foundation. Can you imagine what that would be like? Can you imagine the impact it would make not only in the Church, but in the world?

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