The theme for this week is not us and them, but all of us.
The selected readings for this week are … Psalm 27:1, 4-9, Isaiah 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 and Matthew 4:12-23.
- Our call to worship in Psalm 27 presents the inclusive full range of a Christian’s experience, including the high points of faith and the low points of lament and doubt.
- Isaiah 9 focuses on our release from oppression, whether it comes from within us or without, by our Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace.
- In Matthew 4, Jesus calls Simon Peter and his brother Andrew to become fishers of people, snagging hurting hearts with the good news of God’s love and acceptance of all people.
- Our sermon text is 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, which addresses the problem of tribalism and how we can solve it.
Speaking Of Life
- Title: Are You Afraid of The Dark?
- Presenter: Michelle Fleming, GCI Media Executive
The Problem of Me Versus You
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (NRSV)
You’ve probably heard it said that American culture is the most litigious or eager to sue in the world. According to the February 2022 Electronic Journal of Comparative Law, 40 million lawsuits are filed in the U.S. every year. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that some of the lawsuits are pretty frivolous. Here’s a selection of the best ones:
- An inmate sues himself: Inmate Robert Brock filed a lawsuit against himself in 1995 for the violation of his own civil rights. Apparently, Brock’s religion didn’t allow the consumption of alcohol, and because he consumed alcohol anyway, Brock committed breaking and entering as well as grand larceny. Brock says that he “caused [himself] to violate [his] religious beliefs,” so he sued himself. Because he was incarcerated, he insisted that the State of Virginia pay the $5 million for him. The case was dismissed.
- A man sues Michael Jordan for looking like him: In 2006, Allen Heckard filed a lawsuit against Nike founder Phil Knight and Michael Jordan. Half of the $832 million lawsuit was for Jordan having similar facial features and the other half was because Nike made Jordan into an easily recognizable celebrity. Heckard had been mistaken for Jordan for fifteen years and said it had caused him “emotional pain and suffering, defamation, and personal injury.” Ultimately, Heckard dropped the lawsuit.
- A high school student sues because he was woken up during class: In 2008, a sixteen-year-old high school student in Connecticut fell asleep in class but woke up when his math teacher smacked her hand on his desk. The boy’s parents sued the high school, the board of education, and the city because they said the boy had suffered “severe injuries to his left eardrum.” The case was dismissed.
While there are some legitimate lawsuits, sometimes we find ourselves at odds with others and have a hard time dealing with someone whose views, likes, and lifestyle differ from ours. We feel threatened by a different point of view and want to fight back.
These tendencies are not new as we’ll see in our sermon text in 1 Corinthians 1:10-18.
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
In this first letter to the Corinthians, Paul notes that he has heard from Chloe’s family that the church is playing the game, “Pick Your Favorite Evangelist.” It’s a game that has no winners, but it does show us that as human beings, we have a tendency toward tribalism. Tribalism happens when we see ourselves and our point of view as the only right way, and then we gather together with blind, group loyalty to those who think like we do. Sometimes our enthusiastic allegiance is harmless and even fun, such as sports team rivalries. But other times, it can make us forget our commitment to live as Jesus did and share the love of God on earth.
What are the symptoms of tribalism based on 1 Corinthians 1:10-18?
- Being unwilling or unable to get along with others who think differently (1 Corinthians 1:10)
- Quarreling over differences (1 Corinthians 1:11)
- Picking sides on an issue and trying to rally those who have picked your side, excluding those who disagree (1 Corinthians 1:12)
- Seeing individualism and personal opinion as more important than unity in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13-16)
Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gospel was not preached, and people were not baptized to compare the “quality” of their salvation with others. In contrast to some preachers today, Paul was not trying to collect a following for himself, but to share with people what Jesus had done. In Paul’s view, his lack of skill as a speaker was a plus because there was nothing but the beauty of Christ’s self-emptying on the cross to attract believers.
When people are caught up in tribalism, they want to be thought of as “winners,” not losers. They want their team, their candidate, their issue to win, whatever winning might look like in their context. In American culture, being a winner is important, and individualism is a closely held value. Regardless of where we live, however, we must examine the cultural narrative that we have absorbed, often unconsciously, and we must question how it fits within our greater narrative, our identity as children of God, living on God’s earth with other children of God.
What’s the antidote to unhealthy tribalism in the church?
Paul explains what Christians must do: focus on the self-emptying character of Jesus and place all other issues within that framework, “so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power” (v.17). Seminary of the Southwest Assistant Professor Jane Lancaster Patterson notes that though many English translations of 1 Corinthians 1:17 use the wording “to proclaim the gospel,” the Greek uses a simple verb “to gospel” (euangelizomai), meaning “Christ did not send me to baptize but to gospel.” She suggests that Paul’s most effective gospeling may not have been preaching at all, but “the ways he treated people when they gathered for the Lord’s Supper or in his care for his co-workers.”
Later verses in 1 Corinthians 1 talk about how Christ on the cross is viewed as “a stumbling block” by the Jews and “foolishness” by the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23), and typical human wisdom can’t make sense of God’s “weakness” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Because self-emptying (i.e., kenosis) is so contrary to human nature and can seem frightening, as if we might lose ourselves and our identity, we must look to Jesus’ example to understand what it requires.
What does self-emptying look like?
Paul expands on the idea of self-emptying and how Christians might take on the same attitude as Jesus in his letter to the Philippians (see Philippians 2:1-8).
- Being of one mind and one love by focusing on our connection with others as children of God (Philippians 2:2)
- Having humility with regard to one’s abilities and opinions (Philippians 2:3)
- Appreciating others’ interests and concerns, not just our own (Philippians 2:4)
- Being willing to let go of privilege and power, like Christ Jesus did (Philippians 2:5-8).
Christ cannot be divided, and so Christ’s church also should not be divided. Though we each possess certain markers of identity (i.e., race, gender, age, education, geographical location, lifestyle etc.), these identity markers are secondary to our identity as new creations in Christ.
- Recognize our human proclivity to tribalism. Pay attention to our thoughts and notice when they tend to be divisive and unloving.
- Realize that Jesus showed us a bigger, more expansive way to love. We can offer others the loving acceptance we’ve been given by our triune God, regardless of whether we hold the same opinions and beliefs.
- Learn to appreciate the opinions of those who view the world differently. By understanding other viewpoints, our perception of reality is made more whole, not diminished. Appreciation does not mean agreement, and it takes practice to develop the skill of holding the paradox of two differing views. Human beings cannot perceive the whole of reality by ourselves; we’re too prone to a variety of biases.
Recognizing our proclivity to tribalism is vital as we reach out to our neighborhoods sharing Jesus’ love and life with others. All need to know their identity in Christ. All need to know the gospel. All need to hear they are loved, forgiven, and reconciled to the Father.
We can laugh at the silly lawsuits discussed at the beginning, but if we think about the issues we often argue about, we can see that they really are not that important when put in the self-emptying context of Jesus Christ and the cross. Our culture may steep us in unhealthy narratives, and we may unwittingly hold values, such as individualism, that spur us toward divisive behavior. Jesus shows that loving ourselves and others requires sacrifice. His love compels us to reach out to those around us and to no longer view others from a worldly point of view, but rather, as beloved children of God.
Any discomfort or sacrifice required is nothing compared to the glory of helping others see their true identity in Christ.
Towards UNDERSTANDING SALVATION
Ephesians 2:8 KJV
Ephesians 2:9 KJV
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8 NIV
Ephesians 2:9 NIV 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Titus 3:4-6 KJV
Titus 3:4-6 NIV
Titus 3:5 KJV
Titus 3:5 NIV
2 Timothy 1:9 KJV
2 Timothy 1:9 NIV
2 Timothy 2:10 King James Version
2 Timothy 2:10 New International Version
John 14:20 KJV
John 14:20 NIV
Acts 17:28 KJV
Acts 17:28 NIV
Colossians 1:16 KJV
Colossians 1:16 NIV
Salvation is BY GRACE
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Titus 3:4-6 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Salvation is THROUGH FAITH (not BY faith)
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
NOT “by” faith, BUT “through” faith … God did not save us because we believed. God gave us faith so that we could believe we have been saved.
Faith is NOT how a person becomes saved … Faith is how a person receives the salvation that was already his in Christ.
If salvation was of faith, then it was not by grace.
- Romans 11:5-6 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Salvation is IN CHRIST
2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
John 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Colossians 1:16 (KJV) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him
- Colossians 1:16 (NIV) For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Ephesians 1:3, 11-14 (KJV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: . . . 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
- Ephesians 1:3, 11-14 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ . . . 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.