We began a sermon series in 1 Corinthians a couple of weeks ago. Week 1 on the first chapter went off fine. I talked about how the church at Corinth was a squabbling, quarreling church and that Paul was writing this letter to them to teach them to be united Christ and to get along in love. The root of their problem is described in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 where they are arguing over which person to follow, rather than comparing these people to Christ and realizing that Christ is who they needed to be united around, not this influential leader or that one. The command given to them is not to boast that their way is best, but to boast in Christ.
After some jokes about churches splitting over the color of the carpet, the sermon went off fine and I think the purpose and message of the chapter was communicated effectively.
As Tuesday came and my work week began, my co-pastor Curt and I were discussing some minor hiccups regarding our vision of Crossroads intentionally become a multiracial church. These hiccups were nothing major, but are the kinds of things that an anxiety-prone person like me can stew over while imaging worst case scenarios. As we thought about these things, God clearly began revealing to me: 1 Corinthians 1-2 speaks directly to your situation at Crossroads.
I’ve written at length about how segregated churches are along white and black lines and how this presents a malformed picture of the body of Christ to our world. There are a lot of reasons for how we got to this place, but the reason we stay in this place is because we like to follow what we know and are comfortable with. And in fact, if we’re honest, most of us would say the “other” way of doing it is not the right way. We judge, make assumptions and mistrust the other side, while feeling like our side is the effective, spiritual and correct way of doing church.
Which is the exact same thing that was happening in 1 Corinthians!
And Paul told them they were to be unified in Christ, not in the layers of race, ethnicity and culture that they were arguing about.
What’s interesting about 1 Corinthians 1:12 is that Apollos is Greek and Peter (Cephas) was Jewish. Guess what people in the Corinthians church probably thought Apollos’ way of doing things were the best way? The Greeks! And guess which people thought Peter’s way of doing things was right? The Jews! These early Christians were unifying themselves in the layers of their ethnicity and culture, not in Christ. And they got an entire book of the Bible written to them to straighten them out! A book that I’ve read a hundred times but never saw the root racial/ethnic picture of until last Tuesday, and how that dividing line was exactly what Paul was writing against.
So the question that most of us don’t want to deal with is: How does the American Church unify around layers of race, ethnicity & culture that have nothing to do with Jesus, rather than unifying in Jesus himself?
This is where you get upset and come up with a list of reasons why this doesn’t apply to you and why your context is different than this one and most importantly, where you say it’s not a sin to have an all-white church or an all-black church.
Instead of getting upset, I challenge you to simply pray through 1 Corinthians 1-2 and ask God to reveal more of his will for the Church to you. And I’m not telling you what to do, I’m telling you what we’re doing at Crossroads Church that has God has very clearly revealed to us, and I ask you to pray for us as we navigate this challenging and hiccup-filled road!
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