God, I praise You for Your powerful promises. I’m grateful You see me through Your lens of unfailing, unconditional love. Thank you, Lord, that I can know Your truth, live Your truth, and share Your powerful truth with others. Forgive me for the times when I get self-focused and forget my brothers and sisters in the faith. Please teach me how to live in peace and harmony with my church family. Shine Your searchlight on my heart, Lord, and show me ways I can increase in my capacity to love. Use me, O God, to be a bridge builder in my home, church, community, and world. In the strong, life-changing name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
Part One: We Are Family
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.—1 Corinthians 3:18
I don’t know about you, but when my kids are the ones being picked on, Mama feels all the feelings. I’m talking anger, hurt, and, in this particular case, bafflement, at who was doing the bullying and who didn’t step in to stop it.
My daughter had a bit of a lisp in elementary school, and some of the boys on the school bus had made fun of her by calling her names and mimicking her lisp, of course exaggerating. Spit actually flew from their middle school mouths into my little girl’s face! She came home in a puddle of humiliation.
I wanted to climb aboard the yellow bus like a mildly deranged mama bear and have a swipe or two at those hooligans, but of course, I restrained myself. (I aspire to be sanely involved with my children’s conflicts.) I prayed for grace, forgiveness, and wisdom, because the main instigator was the son of a friend. Yikes!
My son was a witness to what had been happening to his sister. “Sweetie, what did you do when those mean boys were picking on your sister?” I asked.
Awkwardly, my son lowered his head and replied, “Nothing.”
Heaven help me. I wanted to jump out of my skin. “Nothing? Are you kidding me? You watched your sister getting taunted and teased, and you did nothing? Can you help me understand?”
Before he could respond, I kept going (as moms do): “Honey, we belong to the same family — we are Bultemas. We stick together. Family members don’t stand by and do nothing when our sister or brother needs help. Family members take care of each other.”
The same is true for the family of God.
Unfortunately, the church members of Corinth had forgotten how a spiritual family operates. From tattling on each other to taking their brothers to court, the local church was a hot mess of over-blown drama and bitter contention.
And Paul was extremely concerned — especially about their lack of unity.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Ask God to open your mind to understand the Scriptures in a fresh new way (Luke 24:45). Record any initial observations below.
Unity may seem kind of a churchy word, but as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:10, it just means agreeing with one another, with no divisions, no conflict. The word division in ancient Greek has a connotation of ripping or tearing fabric, so literally Paul begged the church members in Corinth to not be ripped apart.
Describe the problem in the Corinthian church reported to Paul in verse 11.
The disagreements must have been heated for word to have reached Paul in Ephesus! I mean, my kids have been known to quarrel with their siblings. But if someone would have contacted me while I was in Greece to tattle on them — their disputes must have been doozies! (Thankfully this didn’t happen, and my kids were on their best behavior while we were gone. Or so they say.) Fortunately, Chloe’s household kept Paul in the loop, and he was fully aware of the battle raging in Corinth.
One detail brought to Paul’s attention was in regard to how the saints had broken themselves into isolated cliques.
Write out the four factions from verse 12:
I follow _____________________ I follow _____________________ I follow _____________________ I follow _____________________
When he wrote his letter, Paul knew things were super tense. The cliques had formed, and each was sure they were right and everyone else was wrong. But why exactly had these cliques developed? There are two theories:
- In Corinth, students were encouraged to show their loyalty to their teacher by promoting and defending him publicly. This mind-set could have transferred to the Corinthian church as they openly announced which church leader they would favor and follow. It wouldn’t have been the first time the culture of the city shaped the culture of the church.
- In the large and diverse Corinthian church, the saints simply preferred different preachers.Unfortunately, devotion to their favorite leader drove wedges between the church members in Corinth. People were disagreeing and distancing themselves from each other because of some kind of Christian celebrity popularity contest!
Can you relate to falling into the trap of preferring the preaching or leadership style of one person over another? How have you witnessed — or experienced — this before?
I love how — in the midst of so much splitting and drama — Paul used bonding, family language to appeal to the church members.
Write out 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Depending on your translation, you may have written “brother,” “brothers and sisters,” or maybe even “brethren.” The Greek word adelphos, translated “brothers and sisters” in the NIV, refers to “believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family.” Adelphos was one of Paul’s most familiar ways of addressing Christians, using the word twenty times in 1 Corinthians alone.
Through the use of “brothers and sisters,” Paul emphasized all Christians are part of God’s family and should live together as such. From the list below, circle any/all who are part of God’s family:
Christians with tattoos
Christians with no tattoos
The family of God is a beautiful thing. We may have various preferences on worship style and church size, enjoy different ways to get our praise on, and speak in a wide variety of languages and dialects — but in Christ, we are family.
The family of God is a beautiful thing.
Forgive me as I have flashbacks of my fourth-grade roller skating party — complete with my sparkly Shaun Cassidy satin jacket and bell-bottom pants, jamming to “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. (Younger women, Google it!) Great song, and even greater message.
We are family, so how in the midst of all our differences, do Christians get along? Thankfully, the Bible is filled with instructions on how to get along with “one another.” In fact, there are over fifty “one another” references in the New Testament. Nearly one third of the “one another” commands address the church getting along. Take a look at a sampling below:
- Be at peace with one another. (Mark 9:50)
- Don’t grumble among one another. (John 6:43)
- Be of the same mind with one another. (Romans 15:5)
- Accept one another. (Romans 15:7)
- Don’t envy one another. (Galatians 5:26)
- Gently, patiently tolerate one another. (Ephesians 4:2)
- Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another. (Ephesians 4:32)
- Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
- Don’t slander or judge one another. (James 4:11)
- Confess sins and pray for one another. (James 5:16)
Put a check by the “one another” hardest for you as you interact with your brothers and sisters in the church. Pray and ask God to empower you by His Holy Spirit to not only know this truth but to live it as well.
Can you imagine how the church in Corinth would have been different if they had lived and shared these truths with each other? Thankfully it’s not too late for you and me to still make an impact in our church community!
As we reflect on the Corinthian squabbles, let’s ask God to help us be part of the solution, not the problem. We will never experience a full, free life in Christ if we are unable to live peacefully with our brothers and sisters.
Pray and ask God to infuse you with wisdom as you reflect on the following questions, then journal your thoughts.
What steps can you take to prevent or correct disunity in your church?
Can you think of any quarrels in your church or small group community that need to be addressed?
Have you contributed to these challenges in any way?
What might you do this week to help restore a damaged relationship with another sister in Christ?
Reread the list of “one anothers” on page 48, this time declaring them aloud as prayers. Go through the list twice, the first time praying the verses for you individually (i.e., Lord, help me to be at peace with one another), and the second time, praying them for your church community (i.e., Lord, help us to be at peace with one another).
Now that we know the truth, let’s live the truth! Send a quick encouraging email or text to a sister in Christ — preferably from a different church community — with a fresh reminder that she matters to God, and she matters to you. Life delivers many reasons to be at odds with our sisters and brothers. Let’s look for ways to be at one with them instead.
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Come share your answers to any of the above questions! We would love to hear from you!