October 12, 2015
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
TO THOSE SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST JESUS AND CALLED TO BE HIS HOLY PEOPLE (i.e. “US”):
One of the hardest things about becoming a real Christian and growing in the grace of God is becoming “crucified to the world.” It means laying aside every distinction we have “earned” or added to our resumes in order to become just like everyone else. Am I speaking of some kind of chosen mediocrity? No! I am speaking of authentic humility, which is a proper estimation of ourselves as men and women who stand before God with nothing in our hands.
Everyone has had the experience of being in the labor and delivery ward of a hospital and gazing through the glass at the freshly born group of babies. In some ways they all look the same, yet all of them are gloriously distinctive. We never look in on the group and consider that one child is more valuable than another; except if one of those children belongs to us. Still, this child of ours is distinguished by nothing else other than our particular affection for him or her. Even in our affection, we still do not somehow consider our child as better than the other precious surrounding newborns.
This begins to change the minute these children leave the hospital and enter into the world with all its distorted economies of class, privilege and poverty. From this moment forward, the parents, and later the children themselves, will give themselves to distinguishing their child as more intelligent, better dressed, more gifted, more schooled, more skilled, more privileged, more athletic, more connected to more important people, and yes, more valuable than the kids down the street or across the country.
I’ve got good news and bad news for us. The bad news? The Cross of Jesus Christ crushes this entire “value” system. The good news? The Cross of Jesus Christ crushes this entire “value” system. Here’s the rub though. We unwittingly bring this entire value system with us into the church and even into our relationship with God. From the beauty of our baptismal gowns to our country club confirmation celebrations, we press right on with the system. In a few weeks we will see Paul take on this same mentality among the Corinthians with respect to spiritual gifts. We’ve all seen the t-shirts: “God loves you, but I’m his favorite.” There’s tongue-in-cheek truth in it, but truth no less.
The Baptists are more “saved” than the Methodists. The Pentecostals are more spiritual than the Baptists. The Bible Church people are more biblical than the rest of us, and the Church of Christ people . . . they’re going to be the only ones who make Heaven anyway. ;0) It’s not a perfect analogy to today’s text but it gets at the point. This entire system might fairly be called the power of pride or equally, the pride of power. We take pride in our distinctions to the point of dividing over them; even if we keep up the show of sticking together.
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Baptism in the name of the Triune God takes us right back into that hospital labor and delivery nursery. It’s why one of the ways the Bible refers to salvation is being “born again.” All our worldly distinctions, all our merit badges are stripped of their power to bolster our identity and inflate our importance. Once again, we are all the same. We are given another chance to embrace the humility of our common humanity. We are the same before God, and if this does not increasingly translate into an ever deepening self understanding that we are the same before one another, we are fooling ourselves. I heard my friend, Jason Upton, once put it this way, “The mystery of Heaven is we are all God’s favorite.”
And what of all our highly developed talents and skills and wealth and grace gifts? Do they not matter? Of course they do—but only to the extent they become the means by which we can bless and affirm the sacred worth of other people. Becoming a real Christian means bringing everything that once distinguished us and divided us from other people under the Cross of Jesus where it can all be transformed into the creativity of holy love— the means by which we can uniquely give ourselves for the sake of other people for the glory of God.
CALLED WITH YOU TO BE HIS HOLY PEOPLE.
1. Does any of today’s material rock your world or at least move your understanding to a new place? What in particular?
2. What is it in us that wants to be better than others? More accomplished? How can we take steps in becoming “crucified to the world?” What would it look like to distinguish ourselves and our accomplishments for the sake of blessing other people?
3. Can you visualize yourself back in that hospital nursery? How can you get back to living out of that place of inestimable worth and possibility? Can you visualize your baptism? Might the Holy Spirit be revealing deeper meaning from that moment that can break you free from what holds you back?
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J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.