The church raised
With relationships fazed
The family razed
With soul crazed and unamazed
“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ…God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord…we have the mind of Christ [!]
“for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?…[yet] you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God [!]” (I Corinthians 1-3).
Paul’s rhetorical style amazes me. Every time I stumble upon his opening words in I Corinthians, I recollect the grace of God when I desperately need to. Paul establishes and reveals to the Corinthian church their identity from the very beginning — ones filled with the grace of God through Christ. He then proceeds to point out certain aspects of their body that fail to represent the fundamental truth. While he admonishes harshly at times, he repeatedly reminds them how the cross transformed (past tense, it has already happened) their previous vivid dream-like state into this new mysterious reality predicated on the foolishness of man. I can just see Paul writing this letter feverishly, urging the Father, with his fist raised somewhat indignantly in the air, to grant the Corinthian’s the grace to truly see themselves gifted with the mind of Christ.
Oh how I wish I would believe and trust that God has given me (us) the mind of Christ!
Each blessing given to us can be coerced into a curse and each curse can be morphed into a blessing. Growing up as I did, in a Christian family that enrolled me into a Christian school and drug me into a church on Sunday mornings, I was inundated with various forms of the Gospel. Most of them probably, at some time or the other, reflected the risen Christ (Can you hear it now? You know, the testimony of the Christian who has always been a Christian? Oh, come on, you know, he/she walks down the isle, says the sinners prayer, and all is good with their eternal prognosis? Yeah, let’s not go there).
In the spiritual whirlwind of childhood, the concept of grace always struggled to find the soil in which to root itself. Sometimes, the thorns would choke the seed out while other times, the birds would swoop down and snatch it. I was talking to a friend today about a novel he read called Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. In the story, there is a character named Jack who struggles with his faith while the rest of his family embraces it easily and fully. Since he was raised in a faithful family, he understood the premises of many Christian doctrines. But the seeds could not, for whatever reason, take root in the lush, fertile soil. His basic knowledge of predestination and his inability to grasp the faith in the way he thought was necessary caused him to wonder if he is one of the un-elect, condemned to hell. He was helpless, hopeless. In the same way, I am sure the Corinthian church felt similar to Jack when they realized this long, fifteen chapter letter (yes, I know Paul didn’t put the chapters in there) came from their spiritual foundation builder. Who writes an encouraging letter of that length?
But Paul, by way of his style, emphatically points out to the Gentiles, whose new faith in Christ is so foreign compared to their previous beliefs (driven by the wisdom of man — I Cor. 1), that the grace of God gave them the mind of Christ — they belong to Him by the indwelling of the Spirit! They might feel like Jack, who believes he is one of the un-elect, but in reality, the power of God infused into them the third person of the Trinity.
“…our response to the love of Jesus demands trust. Do we rely on our resume or the gospel of grace? How do we cope with failure? ‘Grace tells us that we are accepted just as we are. We may not be the kind of people we want to be, we may be a long way from our goals, we may have more failures than achievements, we may not be wealthy or powerful or spiritual, we may not even be happy, but we are nonetheless accepted by God, held in his hands. Such is his promise to us in Jesus Christ, a promise we can trust'” (The Ragamuffin Gospel).
I pray I begin to see myself as a man with the mind of Christ. I pray that in my failures, the grace God showed to me through his son moves to the forefront of my consciousness so I realize I have been forgiven. Fill my soul with your Spirit.
One thought on “To the Languished —”
Loved this post because I think it something we all struggle with. At some point in our lives our relatedness to the Corinthians is indistinguishable and I think that is why Paul's letter continually hits us so hard! Hand in hand with transforming our minds is a transformation of the heart. The biggest miracle we can ever experience in life is such a transformation! Perhaps we will never be able to rationalize the forgiveness God extends to us, but experiencing his mercy, the truest encounter with His heart- Christ on the Cross, is something which allows us to respond with great humility and in that I think we find our greatest intimacy with God.Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and readings! God is working in such an amazing way in you Justin!! 🙂