The final greetings in this letter to the Corinthian church are tender and personal. Paul cares deeply about this gathering of people and wants them to be courageous in their faith and loving in their actions. He desires that people live with respect for each other, honoring others who are committed to the Kingdom’s expansion. “When Timothy comes, don’t intimidate him. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don’t let anyone treat him with contempt. Send him on his way with your blessing when he returns to me. I expect him to come with the other believers.” Even over an expansive distance, life is still best lived in the closeness of community. Love those around you and greet others as they travel through; be blessed and be a blessing.
Hospitality is not a southern thing; it’s a biblical principle. I resolved in 2005 to live out the truths in a part of Paul’s letter he wrote to those in Rome. “Practice hospitality” was one of those truths. Like other skills that we practice, we can grow to get better at them, even if it does not come natural at first. To help me be more concrete in this goal I began a Hospitality Notebook. How blessed I am to read through pages of visitors and to think back on the times we shared, some just over night and other stays more lengthy. I asked our guests to write down where they were coming from, where they were heading and something I could pray for them. Opening our home, no matter where it happens to be blesses our family because we learn more about people and the world from those traveling through it. And when the time comes to say good-bye, we aim to send the sojourners on their way with a blessing.
There will come a time when there will be no more traveling; all in the family of God will be safely home. Distance, time and language will no longer separate us. Nothing can separate those who are in God’s family from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, and one day all believers will be united again. What a wonderful family reunion that will be!
1 Corinthians 16:10-11 NLT
Should unfamiliar language be used to communicate public prayer in church? Paul seeks to address the issue in a letter he wrote to those seeking to worship God in Corinth. This less modern version of 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 can help us to see a little more clearly the dilemma. “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.”
This seems to suggest that even if what is said is good, it is hard to agree or be helped by words that are not understood. Paul goes on to “sayest” that he is thankful that he speaks in tongues but when it comes to speaking in churches, he strongly encourages people to use a language that can instruct and be understood. We are to pursue love and by communicating in understandable ways, people can be strengthened, encouraged and comforted by God’s truth. Father, may we bless You with both our spirit and with our mind, being sensitive to each situation. May we seek to live out of love so that the words that come from our tongue are so much more than a clanging cymbal. Thank You God, for listening to us when we pray to You. Please continue to guide us in truth and peace. Amen.
1 Corinthians 14:16 KJV
In Paul’s straightforward way of speaking, he tells the Corinthians to worry a whole lot less about what others think and a whole lot more about what God says. “…I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!” Paul’s teaching here has to do with food that has been sacrificed to idols. I don’t think we have eaten idol food, but we sure have had our share of interesting meals. Often I’m asked to describe some of the weirdest food I’ve eaten while serving in Asia. One dinner comes to mind. While at the village home of good friends an intriguing trio was placed on the short, round wooded table: snakes and snails and mountain cat tails. We thanked God for the meal and He blessed our time of sharing His love as we shared special food. Paul gives us all good perspective about gratefully eating what is served to us. It can be a little mind stretching and take us out of our comfort zones to eat unfamiliar food, but seeking to connect to people of different cultures may open up doors for sharing with them Jesus, the Bread of Life.
1 Corinthians 10:29b-30 MSG
There were divisions when Paul was writing to the Corinthians and the challenge of loyalty still has an effect on people today. “The cup of blessing that we give thanks for, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for all of us share that one bread.” Paul focused on the Lord’s Supper when Jesus used the bread and wine at the meal to make reference to Himself and the new covenant that He was making. Jesus was offering unity with the Father through Him. Actions speak very loudly and show just where our allegiances are. May we be unified in Jesus and remember that His death bought for us life—new life, blessed life, a life that is connected to Him and the Father.
This was the kind of new life Russell was teaching about at La Palabra de Dios, our first church for Hispanics. He emphasized the importance of loyalty to Jesus and Ricky had a hard choice to make. He loved God yet he loved the girl he was living with too. Long story short, with proper use of church discipline and faithful teaching that the Lord’s Supper was for those who were following Christ in obedience, Ricky and the whole young church were built up. Repentance led to restoration and great joy. We at The Word saw how trusting God changed lives. Restored hearts celebrated the cup of blessing with thankfulness as we joined to share the Lord’s Supper and remember all that Jesus has done for us.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 HCSB
Paul writes about what he does, how he does it and for what reasons. In each of his interactions, whether it concerns food, freedom, income, self-discipline, temptation or loyalty, he says, “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” He has counted the cost, and has found that the blessings that come from following Christ far outweigh other things that might vie for his attention and affection. Paul is all about doing everything for the praise of God. May we live life with clear purposes and ultimate goals, because in the end, what really matters most? This radically God-focused lifestyle does not come about on a whim but requires careful thought. What have we been saved from? What have we been saved for? What does “for the sake of the gospel” mean? Is the cost worth it? What do we give up and what do we take up?
With serious compassion Jesus answered some of those questions by saying, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” He told this to His disciples as He sent them out with power to be change-agents for good. He shared the price of this discipleship to the crowds that gathered around Him. When a man seeking Jesus’ approval who thought that he had met the requirements by the law heard directly from Jesus that he needed to put Him above his own riches and take up the cross to follow Him, he calculated that the cost was too high. Even though Jesus loved this rich, young ruler, He honored the man’s choice and the man walked away sad. God, today You give to us the choice to follow You or not. I pray that we would grow in our confidence through Your Word and through Your Spirit, that You are worth the cost. I pray we would embrace afresh the good news that You love us and that no matter what, You are worth following. Amen.
1 Corinthians 9:23 NIV
Paul addressed some very real concerns regarding marriage and singleness, and he passed on this advice to the church in Corinth because they had written to him about these situations. After talking about marriage, singleness, separation, and about helping spouses who are not yet believers, he addressed the issue of remarrying. “A wife must stay with her husband as long as he lives. If he dies, she is free to marry anyone she chooses. She will, of course, want to marry a believer and have the blessing of the Master.” Marriage and other deep interpersonal relationships are the challenging ways we learn and live out the story of love and commitment. May our relationships honor God. I pray we would seek the blessing of the Master upon us as we live, loving in good and appropriate ways. Amen.
P.S. Sara honored God and her wedding vows to her husband in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for nearly thirty-nine years until in death they did part. Her grown children lovingly gave her their blessing to marry again. May God richly bless the marriage of Sara and David, a widow and widower seeking to joyfully live their lives for the Master.
1 Corinthians 7:39 MSG
From Ephesus, where he stayed about three years, Paul wrote lengthy letters to the struggling church in Corinth. These correspondences sought to answer questions and gave training in godliness, even if it was from a distance. Paul did not want his followers to be deceived, but to build on the foundation that is found in Jesus alone. He brought to his readers’ minds how he and his team lived among them and he warned them about pride that can so easily rob God and distort reality. Paul wrote,“We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.”
Making rice taffy is hard work, yet that was one of the ways Hank made a living. He was a new believer and his family lived in a minority village in China. One day Hank was in the market hawking his wares offering samples to those doing their shopping. A man took the taffy, then arrogantly spit it out all over that day’s inventory. Hank had a choice to make. The old Hank would have beaten the rude man, but the new Hank did not. Later, Hank shared this experience with a group of young men who also needed to learn that blessing and patience could be lived out. Returning evil for evil didn’t have to be the way. When our foundation is firmly placed on God, we have the strength and the state of mind to offer a blessing instead of cursing, to patiently put up with insults. This shows a maturity from a life trained in God. He will judge all. Frequently recalling that our identity is as a child of the King will help give us a proper perspective as we actively live in a world that desperately needs to know Him.
1 Corinthians 4:12 NLT