Love is not Rude

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through 1 Corinthians 13 lately and tonight, we’re going to be talking about how love is not rude.

Keep in mind that the kind of love Paul is talking about here is that which is needed in the Corinthian church, which will result in unity. It is group cohesion. Paul himself was blunt with those outside the church as were the church fathers. A quite amusing piece is found in Against Heresies by Irenaeus where Polycarp is approached by the heretic Marcion and Marcion asks “Do you know who I am?” and Polycarp answers “I do know thee. You’re the firstborn of Satan.”

In the ancient world, honor and shame were everything. It meant a great deal to give honor where honor is due and shame would have meant being outcast from the community, which would essentially result in a loss of your identity. When one reads Plutarch, one can regularly hear about ostracism, which was a common punishment. To be banished from the city meant great shame. The epistle to the Hebrews is dealing with a group of Christians who are not yet experiencing physical persecution, but are experiencing shame, which is bad enough.

You were expected to be attached to a group and your identity came from that group. Jesus’s apostles were recognized by Jesus. What I mean by that is that what they did was a reflection of Jesus and their loyalty was to be with Him. By being an apostle, they were putting their honor on the line by tying it to His and saying that whatever He did they were supporting. If Jesus was against the Pharisees, so were they. If He was against the Sadducees, so were they. The same was true in reverse. If the Sanhedrin was against Jesus…

By the way, the same should be for Jesus’s own followers today. For those who did not believe in the resurrection, to identify oneself with Jesus was to identify oneself with the crucified Messiah. It was identifying with one who opposed the Jewish worship system and was under God’s curse, in the eyes of the Jews, whereas in the eyes of the Romans, it was identifying oneself with a traitor to Rome.

Neither were good positions to be in.

Honor was something to be sought, but you also did not seek to take honor from one who rightfully had it. If your honor was challenged, you had to defend yourself against the challenge or else you lost the honor you’d earned. This was what was going on when Jesus had challenges with the Pharisees and Sadducees and others. These were more than just an attempt to stump Jesus, but rather an attempt to shame him in the eyes of the audience.

Shame was what all dreaded, and that’s why I have this entry. The idea of love not being rude will not be as sensible outside of that context. We live in a culture where if the group doesn’t want to go our way, then fine. We’ll just go our own way. Our identity tends to come from us. We work on having self-esteem. (I recommend Don Matzat’s book on Christ-esteem instead. We all say our identity comes from God but then try to find it in ourselves.)

The call to not be rude means to not seek to lower the honor of those who have rightfully earned it. It would be an end to one-upmanship. Considering this is a church where everyone was interested in showing that they were more spiritual than everybody else, this is an important message.

Fortunately, that idea doesn’t exist in the church today.

No way. We don’t go around putting on our best Christian faces. We don’t refer to each other as brother and sister one day a week and then forget each other the rest of the week. We don’t talk about our rich prayer lives or our great Bible studies. When you meet us, what you see is what you get.

Doesn’t sound accurate? Didn’t think so.

In that light, when we try to cover up everything and try to be as spiritual as possible, we are actually not being loving. Now some of you may have rich prayer lives and you may find more often than the rest of us great insights in Scripture. God bless you. If not, don’t try to act like you do. A lot of you may think God is communicating with you every day and you have great peace with what’s going on in your life entirely. Watch it. What picture do you think could be being presented to immature Christians or younger ones period who wonder “Well what is wrong with me if my life isn’t like that?”

So there’s a couple at church that is driving to church and having an argument and they’re furious with one another, but they walk into the church and all of a sudden they’re fine and at peace with the world and are telling everyone about how good God is. Then they leave, get in the car, immediately start the argument again, go home and separate themselves from one another and don’t resolve the issue.

Because, well, we know they just couldn’t admit a problem at church. They might be…JUDGED!

No. I’m not one of those people who will quote Matthew 7:1 regularly. There is definitely a time and place for judging. However, a judging that makes people think they have to be hypocrites in church or else not be good Christians is not the kind of judging we need. Do note that sinners were able to come to Christ as sinners. If sinners are not able to come to the church as sinners, then can we really say that we are representing Christ to the world?

What would it mean if we could come to church and someone say “Church. I am really struggling with alcohol. I get drunk regularly. Can you help me?” or “I have been battling internet pornography for a long time. I just don’t know how to handle this,” or “My husband and I are constantly arguing and it’s really hurting the kids. Can anyone help us?”

And then what would it mean if the church actually helped?

Why, things could be different couldn’t they? We could come to church and be real people and get real help and we don’t have to shame those people who seem less Christian than we are, all the while realizing that we want someone to help us out in our own struggles.

Maybe we could even have people think they’re coming to people who are really Christlike. After all, Christ didn’t put on a spiritual face. When he wept, he wept. When he was happy, he was happy. What you saw was what you got.

When it comes to people in the church who are successful meanwhile, celebrate it. If you want to be in that position, work for it. We have already covered envy and this would be included. Do not begrudge someone the position that they’ve worked for if they do indeed rightfully hold it. (I do happen to think there are many pastors who have no business being pastors unfortunately and this can only result in the harm of the church.)

Give honor where honor is due and respect where it is due. The church is called to be a body. When the body attacks its own, it will not survive. The body cares for its wounded. The church has been described as one of the only institutions that shoots its wounded. Let’s change that.

We shall continue next time.