Stewards of human community…

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1 Corinthians 6:1 When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that? In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that. 

Paul was angry that there were such divisions among the believers, and not of the religious kind, but likely property matters. It was unthinkable to have non-Christians deciding issues among believers. It should not have been that believers had a conflict so deep they could not deal with it internally. There was likely a lack of humility and a desire to be “right” – even if it meant bringing division into the church. There was also the issue of social status in secular proceedings of this day. Those who had greater social standing could bribe judges and tilt a case in their favor, particularly against one of lower social standing. These kinds of social distinctions had no place in the church then or now, and the fact that some Christians were yet participating in the secular court was appalling to Paul.

By and large I think churches tend to do a poor job of dealing with internal conflict. The guidance in Matthew 18:15-20 is helpful if it’s followed – which often it is not. Too often we allow toxic people to go unchallenged in our congregations. Why? We tend to want to avoid confrontation even when it’s so obviously needed. And so we allow destructive behavior to continue, which spares us the confrontation in the short-term, but often leads other people to leave in the longer-term. Pay now or pay later. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn over the years.

Of course this kind of situation is not unique to the church. It happens all the time in workplaces, schools, homes, pretty much anywhere people gather.

Lord, If there’s anything we’ve learned during this pandemic it is how much we need the company of other people. Give us grace to be good stewards of the communities we lead. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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