Trying to get a head start on the grandkids this morning, and two of today’s readings come together to form a thought that I’m not sure I can clearly put down in a few words. But here goes . . .
First, Joshua 7.
The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the Lord’s anger burned against the Israelites.
(Joshua 7:1 CSB)
Jericho defeated and razed. The plunder — all of it — was to go to the Lord, that was clear (Joshua 6:16-19). Amidst the chaos of cleaning up after Jericho’s defeat, one guy . . . ONE GUY!!! . . . takes “a beautiful cloak from Babylon, five pounds of silver, and a bar of gold weighing a pound and a quarter” (7:20) and stashes it in his tent. Did I mention that ONE GUY did this? And yet, the holy record states clearly that the Israelites were unfaithful, and that the Lord’s anger burned against all the Israelites.
Come on! In our current day of “I need to own my stuff and you need to own yours”, this sense of community identity and accountability screams against our natural sensibilities, doesn’t it? But God so viewed His people as one people that when one of his people disobeyed, the whole community of people was tainted with the sin. Talk about a little leaven leavening the whole lump (1Cor. 5:6). Talk about the need to not only watch our own walk but to care enough to come alongside and help with the walk of others. For those who are spiritual to draw near to those who have been tripped up in sin to help “restore such a person” (Gal. 6:1). Not only for that person’s good but also for the good of the community.
And that sets me up for my other reading this morning, and the community of God’s people at Corinth.
The church at Corinth was legit. It was evident that the grace of God had been given to them in Christ as they “were enriched in Him in every way, in all speech, and all knowledge” so that they did “not lack any spiritual gift” as they eagerly waited for Christ’s return (1Cor. 1:4-7). But while they had been given all the tools they needed in Christ, they had not yet grown up fully into Christ. Thus, the God who began a good work at Corinth was also committed to completing that work at Corinth, to “strengthen” them to the end, “so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor. 1:8). And part of that building process involved an exposing process. For, while they possessed every spiritual gift, they still had a ways to go toward acting as spiritual people.
For my part, brothers and sisters, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, since you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still worldly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not worldly and behaving like mere humans? For whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not acting like mere humans?
(1Corinthians 3:1-4 CSB)
Enriched in Christ in every way yet people of the flesh . . . babies in Christ . . . still worldly . . . acting like mere humans. And the thing that exposed the deep, inner reality of a group that looked so good on the surface? Internal envy and strife over church leadership.
They had allowed division to form within their midst. They were “boasting” in their favorite church leader, and they shouldn’t have (1Cor. 3:21). Some belonged to Paul, some to Apollos, some to Cephas, and for those who were really spiritual, some belonged only to Christ (1Cor. 1:12). But because of the way they behaved toward one another in their “boasting” and “belonging”, they were showing that they still had some growing up to do.
There was division in their community and, if I’m picking up anything from Joshua and the ancient Israelites, they needed to own it as a community. Not everyone in the church was picking a tribe. Not everyone was petitioning for their favorite. Yet, everyone needed to own it — that’s why Paul wrote his letter to “the church” at Corinth and not to “certain individuals.”
God is committed to growing His church. And only God gives the growth (1Cor. 3:7). And sometimes that growing is preceded by bringing to light stuff that has been stashed away and hidden in the tent. So, God in His kindness exposes the “mere human” workings of our hearts and minds so that we can fully live into the ways and mind of Christ. The Father wants to take worldly people and orient them to the ways of a spiritual family. Moving us away from the wisdom of the world and instead infusing within us with the wisdom of the kingdom. Loving us just the way we are but loving us too much to leave us the way we are.
Loving us as individuals. Loving us as a community.
By His grace, as a community of believers.
For His glory, as a community of believers.
I hear what you are saying.
And I ask God for Forgiveness every day and thank Him for all the blessings He has placed in my life, especially those I have never knew about.