In the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. 1 Corinthians 11:17-18
Paul loved the church in Corinth with a passion. He had founded the church and so it is not surprising that he longed for the community to thrive. It must have been particularly painful to him that they managed to get so much wrong when they came together to worship. The time when they should have been at their most united seems to have been the time when their divisions were most in evidence. We cannot be entirely clear what the problems were. We do know that their gathering focused on a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, however, the way in which they did so was clearly chaotic.
Some people were so eager to eat their food that they didn’t share with others. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that there were both rich and poor people within the church, and the poor were getting left out. Another focus of division may well have been that those from a Jewish background were insisting on kosher food.
The fact that there were tensions and divisions in the church is tragic but not really surprising. Because churches are made up of frail and sinful human beings like you and me, every church has its shortcomings. It is, therefore, vital that churches are blessed by people like Paul, who are willing to speak the truth in love. It would have been desperate for the Corinthian church if Paul had kept quiet about its failures. Those within it may well have been surprised and even hurt by the directness of his language, but they needed to hear the truth if they were to grow – and we are just the same.
Who is good at speaking the truth in love in your own church?
Lord God, forgive us for the way in which my church falls short of what you want. Help us to listen with patience and care to those who tell us how we could improve. Amen