One of the most common conversations in our house is how we need to take care of our stuff. Everything we have is a blessing from God, and how we take care of it is important. I’m sure the kids could quote this conversation word-for-word. To be fair, my parents had this same conversation with me more times than I can remember as well. It’s not always intentional, but we tend to take our things for granted. I am more and more convinced that one place this happens more than we think is within the church. It’s not specifically about the stuff, but rather it is the witness of the church. My heart breaks when I get on social media, and I see the way that we as Christians often behave. What we need to realize is that God’s Word has a lot to say about our unity and our conversation. One place is today’s text. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
While many people want to take this as a reference to an individual Christian, Paul is using it more corporately here. He is talking about the church as a whole. The Corinthian church had a lot of problems. Their biggest problem was their pridefulness which lead to bitterness, anger, and division. It is bad enough when a church is walking in division and its members know it. However, what is worse is when it spills out into the surrounding community. More than giving a church a bad reputation, it defames the Gospel and the name of God. This is why Paul is using such strong language to the Corinthians. Paul isn’t saying that Christians will be condemned to hell. Rather, he is speaking of God’s discipline coming down on the church that walks in division. Sadly, in today’s world, the greatest threat to the church is not from outside of the church. Rather, the greatest threat is from inside the church. Paul opens chapter 3 talking about how they are living carnally, that is to say, they are living like they aren’t saved. Christians having division amongst themselves is essentially telling the world that God is not powerful enough to heal hurts, and help people forgive one another. No Christian would say anything like that, but this is another reminder that actions speak louder than words. What is the answer for division in the church?
- Examine your life. The first place to start is by asking God to reveal your heart to you. Let Him examine you, and see your part in the discord. This can be painful. It is easier to point fingers at others. Yet, we can’t control others. Therefore, it is necessary for us to look in the mirror and allow God to start with the person staring back at us in the mirror.
- Pray for the church. No church is perfect. This is why prayer is so vital for a church. We need God’s vision for the church, not our own personal preferences. The overwhelming majority of fights and disagreements in a church stem from personal preferences, not doctrinal differences. Therefore, I would encourage us all to take time to pray for our church every day. Billy Graham said, “You cannot hate someone and pray for them at the same time.”
- Forgive one another. One of the greatest reasons for discord in a church is unresolved hurt. While it may be easier to carry around a grudge, the only person it weighs down is you. We must remember that the standard of forgiveness is Christ’s forgiveness of us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind, tenderhearted to one another. Forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” This goes back to number two, praying for one another. Unfortunately, people getting hurt is inevitable in the church. Not because someone is setting out to hurt you, but because the church is made up of sinners who have been saved by God’s grace, but still have a sin nature. Truthfully, church-hurt is some of the hardest hurt to get over. It is like a member of your family hurting you. However, the first step in beginning to allow God to heal you from the hurt is forgiving the person who caused the hurt. Regardless of whether or not they apologize. Regardless of whether they ever admit they were wrong. The responsibility to forgive is on the one hurt, not the one who caused the hurt.
Are you carrying around a heavy burden of something that happened to you? Are you struggling to forgive the person? Pray about it, ask God to hep you heal from the hurt. While you are at it, pray for the person who hurt you. There is a lot of discussion on who said this first, but I first heard it from Diana, and no matter who came up with it, it is a good statement. She said, “hurting people hurt people.” Most of the time there is a reason behind what led to you getting hurt. So, pray for the person that God would help heal whatever maybe causing them hurt. Then, go ahead and pray for the rest of your church as well. You never know the damage that can be caused by division until it is too late. Likewise, you never know the impact that God will have on you and your church until you allow Him to heal you, re-focus you, and work through you.
By His grace and for His glory,