Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17 Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19 Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. 20 When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22 What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
Observation: The Greek term “ekklesia” (translated as “church” in v.18) can refer to a secular gathering as well as the gathering of believers. Apparently the sort of divisive and unseemly conduct Paul described in our passage was common in ancient Corinthian gatherings. However, Paul expected something different in the church. People who gorged on food and drink were clearly not thinking of others in their midst, particularly the poor. “Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (v.22)
Application: Like many churches, the church I lead includes people of wildly varying views on any number of issues. We have people who lean left, lean right, and lean more to the middle. This is no small thing given that many people in our day keep themselves within an ideological bubble, conversing mostly (if not exclusively) with those who share their views. I know there are lots of churches that function this way.
Two summers ago during the national youth gathering in Detroit, our synod bishop came out as gay during our synod worship time. I remember huddling with my associate pastor that night discussing how we might best respond. As word got around to our folks back in Dallas there were those who strongly affirmed our bishop’s actions, while others were deeply troubled.
There were some heated conversations in the ensuing weeks. It got pretty contentious at times, but in the end I was very proud of our congregation. Did everyone agree? No. Did the church create space for people of varying views to be heard and respected? Yes. We agreed that the our common bond as followers of Jesus was stronger than our disagreements. We could disagree – and still be a family under God.
Sometimes the church gets it right.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, today’s passage reminds us that norms and expectations within the body of believers is at a different standard than in the world outside. We are a people living in the world, yet set apart from it at the same time. Give us grace to embody your love and mercy to one another and to those around us. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.