Courage and Character

"Do you (plural) not know that you (plural) are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you (plural) are." (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17)

Paulís first letter to the Christians in Corinth fascinates me for many reasons. One reason is found in the fact that Paul chose congregational unity as the first thing to address in this troubled congregation. In this congregation, there was sexual immorality that not even idol worshippers permitted (5:1). Christians attacked Christians in a court system that did not even know the living God existed (6:1). Christians were not considerate of Christians who disagreed with them (6:12-20). Christians disagreed concerning marriage issues (7). They wrangled with each other over idolatry issues (8). They abused communion (11:17-34). They abused spiritual gifts (12). They failed to understand the importance of love among Christians (13). Their questions concerning resurrection butchered the concept (15). With all these problems, Paul addressed the problem of internal unity first (1:10-4:21)

If Christians are going to be a powerful, positive voice in their community, they must practice the love expressed in unity. If unity exists, it exists because Christian respect reigns, not because everyone is in agreement on everything. Moral problems will not reign where such unity binds Christian to Christian. The voice of inconsideration will not speak for Christians bound to each other where such unity exists. Remembrance of our Lordís sacrifice will not be abused among Christians with the courage to embrace unity. Godís gifts will not be exploited among Christians committed to Godís family in the spirit of unity. Unity based on respect for each other found in Godís respect for us is the foundation of godly behavior and spiritual eloquence. It is the voice that must be heard and respected even by those who do not believe.

One of the strongest condemnations written by Paul was written in 1 Corinthians 3:17, "If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." When our anxieties seem to justify an attack on unity, we need to take Paulís warning to heart. We also need to ready our answer to God for our course of action, for He surely will ask us.

Perhaps a reason for Paul being so direct in this matter of congregational unity is found in this truth: it takes a lot of courage and character to be a person committed to Godís concept of unity. However, it also takes a lot of courage and character to be a Christian. Not everyone shapes his or her life by a resurrection that occurred 2000 years ago.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 7 September, 2006

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