Lord’s Day 1/27/08

I found out late last night that our pastor, Ariel, was sick and wasn’t going to be able to make it to church today. So the English ministry (EM), only 9 of us today, joined the Korean ministry (KM) for their service. Since the entire service was in Korean, I couldn’t understand too much of what was going on. I do wish I can improve my Korean. My hesitation to use Korean with the recent immigrants in the EM has helped me to understand their similar hesitation to use English with me. It’s funny–sometimes the dominant language of the English ministry during lunchtime is Korean.

So during the sermon, I opened to 1 Corinthians 6 and started skimming because I thought that’s what the sermon was on. I don’t think it was. But I saw something that caught my eye, so I kept reading the passage. 6:1-8 regards Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church about disputes and grievances among believers. Many will know this as the place where Christians are told not to get involved in lawsuits with one another. In other words, Christians should not sue one another and let disputes be resolved in court, outside the confines of the church body, instead practicing discipline within the confines of the church. It’s interesting how Paul asks rhetorical questions to help the Church understand the basis for his exhortation. Out of 12 sentences in the ESV translation, 8 end with question marks. While I found the overall argument convicting, I was most struck by two short but pointed questions, wedged in the middle of the last two verses:

7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! — 1 Corinthians 6:7-8 (emphasis mine)

These questions cut me to the heart (cf. Acts 2:37). I realized that, as a Christian, I am called to endure wrongdoing from others, both believers and unbelievers. Does this mean that I am supposed to be spineless and weak, unable to hold my own ground and stand up to people who try to take advantage of me? Not necessarily. This is something I need much wisdom for. But I would ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to pause when someone hurts us in some way. It can be as impersonal as someone cutting you off while you drive or as personal as someone slandering you and spreading damaging and untrue rumors about you. It is our natural instinct to justify our angry and bitter reactions by saying, “Look what they did to me!” But we are called to more than this. We are called to be meek and to be long-suffering. I chose these two specific words intentionally.

The first is “meek.” I have in mind Colossians 3:12-13: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (ESV). Didn’t “meek” mean being weak and timid? I looked up “meek” in the dictionary a few months ago and found the definition eye-opening. Merriam-Webster had three definitions. The second and third had to do with the common understanding of the word as standing for weakness. But the first definition said this: “Enduring injury with patience and without resentment.” It really stuck with me.

The second is “long-suffering.” The King James translation of the famous verse 1 Corinthians 14:3 (“Love is patient, love is kind.”) says, “Love suffers long.” That’s where we get the old word “long-suffering.” Here’s M-W again: “Patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship.” Very similar to “meek.”

I hope these definitions have broadened this particular aspect of Christian love for others. What is the basis for this kind of behavior? The example of Christ. Here was the perfect example of meekness, the sinless son of God, put to death for sins he did not commit–beaten, insulted, mocked, and shamed. “As a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7, ESV). If we meditate on the meekness of Christ, we will be overcome with conviction over all the ways we do not follow his example. We are called to so much more as Christians than we realize. Let us understand that the Law is made even more unattainable because of Christ’s example (eye for an eye has become turning the other cheek), but then let us also realize how great it is that Christ fulfilled the Law for us. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

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