After I came to Christ, I discovered that the church has struggled with conflict and disunity from its earliest days. In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul wrote to this small church to correct a number of problems, including their sectarian devotion to men and personal experiences. When Paul wrote, He scolded the Corinthian church on four important points.
- The Corinthian believers were being carnal, self-focused and immature as they argued over the teacher from which they drew their identity.
- Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to walk together in the things in which they agreed, and to allow God to straighten out their differences over time.
- Paul reminded the church that both he and Apollos were working towards the same goal. Paul laid a foundation, and Apollos built some of the walls. Yet the true foundation is Christ, and each member of their church should focus on Jesus.
- In 1 Cor. 4.6, the apostle Paul told church that the best way to avoid this kind of conflict was to learn not to go beyond what is written. In other words, the substance of their faith should rely on the written Word of God, not the latest preacher’s fiery sermons, or recently published book.
Looking at the pastry ring in the middle of our table, I realized how easy it is for well-meaning believers to land on their own experience of God’s grace, and use their personal reference point as some kind of “faith qualification” when leading others. We choose to make our experience the center-point of our faith, instead of God’s Word. When I insist that God reveal himself to others in the same way and he reveals himself in my life, I am ignoring that God gives different gifts to different people based on their personalities, temperaments, experiences and what he wants them to do and be in the world.
God’s infinite wisdom, beauty, knowledge and truth cannot be contained in one group or single hierarchical organization. He needs each one of us to learn and live his word from our tribal experiences in order to fully expose his glory, and create a mature body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16) . The truth of his Word never changes. Yet the expression of his Truth must change, from tribe to tribe and generation to generation. Otherwise Christ-followers risk becoming irrelevant, obscure and out of touch with the people we are called to reach.
What about you? Are you willing to accept another “culture,” even if it’s your neighbor, or someone that lives across town, in order to connect and communicated the life giving message of Jesus’ sacrifice for all men’s sins?