"The overall effect is that we live in a world where Christianity would appear to only be a religion of hypocritical leaders of mega churches rushing to the defense of the indefensible, simultaneously condemning large groups of people for sins that they just finished defending when it was one of their own, engaging in truly divisive rhetoric and making statements that run counter to the message of Jesus; and lots of self proclaimed Christians blindly following along like sheep to the slaughter."
When we are walking with God on a daily basis, truly seeking after his will in the world, asking him to open our eyes to the needs of those around us, and joyfully obeying promptings of the Spirit; it is impossible not to see the extreme need in our world that the Church is able to meet if we are willing!
Reading this passage today made me start to think through my life and consider the times where I might have had the opportunity to be Paul writing back to the church at Corinth, but chickened out. I started to think about people in my life right now that could use some truth spoken into their lives, where I have the strength of relationship and credibility with them necessary to deliver the message in love, but where I am just more comfortable sitting on the sidelines, praying for change, but not wanting to rock the boat.
I once read a quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones 15 years ago that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the books you read”. I thought this made a lot of sense and I could see some real truth in that within my own life. Fast forward to 2018 with the incredible rise of the information age and our easy access to the internet, television news, radio & podcasts, social media, etc. and I think we would have to edit that statement to say that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the media you consume”.
At the point of writing this I have 3 daughters that are 9, 7 and 3 years old. Over the last nine years we have had lots of growing feet, fun patterned socks purchased, and mysterious disappearances. I need someone who lives on the conspiracy theory fringes of the Internet to prove for me definitively that this is undeniable proof that aliens exist and that they feast on socks. I frankly have no idea how else this happens!
There will be days where we do a better job of keeping our eyes fixed firmly on him, and on those days we will provide a powerful example for others. And there will be some days where we need to desperately look around for the “Paul” in our lives that is facing challenges with bravery from who we can borrow strength. That is the power of community.
As we watch some of the events taking place in our world today, I think there is very little doubt what God would have to say on the matter. When we see leaders in the public eye wrapping themselves in the cloak of Christianity and yet behaving quite the opposite, how will we respond as Christians?
What I have found over and over again is that there is freedom in living authentically with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I have repeatedly found my fears to be unfounded and simply an attack from the enemy. In fact, when other people see your willingness to kick shame in the teeth and lay your struggles out there, you will find many people immediately want to follow suit. We all desperately want to be known fully and loved fully, baggage and all.
Paul was not just speaking to them about the time he was imprisoned 10 years ago and telling them to hang in there because it eventually gets better. He wasn’t saying, “Listen, in a different life, I struggled with that too. I can relate!” Paul was saying that this is an ongoing battle. We are still facing the exact same challenges that you are facing today, and we will most likely continue to face them. We have full expectation that God will continue to be faithful and the fact that we are still in the midst of our struggle will be a testimony to God’s unfailing love and others can then see the manifestation of the power of their prayers as they lift us up in our battle!