We had been sneaking cookies up to our room all weekend! It was fun having the sleep over with all my buddies, but we were told not to bring food up to our room! We did it anyway. That is until one of us (I’m not going to mention any names!) knocked over the end table in the hall during the night and woke up the whole house! Great, now we’ve been discovered! Now we’re in trouble! Thanks Jim! (Oh, sorry! I said I wasn’t going to mention names)
Isn’t that always the way. We like the cover of darkness when we’re doing what we shouldn’t be doing. By the way, that is a BIG HINT to you: when you’re doing something you KNOW you shouldn’t, you always try to keep hidden! So, how do we handle when we suspect others of doing “bad?” You may be surprised at the answer!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 4:5-8:
BRETHREN, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!
Our dear Corinthians were an unruly lot. They even had a man who was living with his step-mother as husband and wife! Needless to say, Paul, their bishop, was not please. So he instructed the Corinthians to stop ignoring this immoral situation and deal with it! Of course, the Corinthians over reacted and Paul had to write them in 2 Corinthians and tell them to accept the man back into the community after he repented! From one extreme to another! Kind of sounds like the way I behave sometimes.
Notice how Paul is trying to help these Corinthians to balance out their tendencies to extremes.
First, he encourages them not to “pronounce” judgement before the Lord does! All of us want other people to “get what they deserve” until it’s time for us to get what we deserve! Then, all of a sudden it’s “Don’t judge me!” But St. Paul tells the Corinthians that the path to wisdom lies in understanding that we don’t have enough “light” to truly “know” what someone else “deserves!” We need to wait till the Lord comes so He can judge completely! He will be fair. I don’t have enough “light” to be “fair.” He will judge rightly. My track record isn’t all that great, especially when it comes to discerning the purposes of my own heart!
Next, he insists the Corinthians learn from his example. You see, Faith is always easy when it remains in the realm of mere theory or “philosophy,” but when Faith is most effective is when it is embodied in our behavior! Paul and Apollos have lived in such a way in front of the Corinthians that they have an example to follow. Now they have to DO that! It’s why you and I must have spiritual fathers to protect us from thinking we can do this by ourselves. Plus, we are all called to SHOW our faith, not merely talk about it!
Finally, all of this is possible when we each realize that all we have has been given to us. None of us have gotten to where we are by ourselves. Even all that hard work you’ve done to achieve this or that goal can be ultimately traced back to someone else’s influence to encourage you; someone else’s instruction to you; and someone else’s grace toward you! Ultimately, the key to avoiding being “puffed up” as St. Paul warns these Corinthians lies in the humble truth that all we have is a gift!
Today, are you tempted to “pronounce” judgement before all the facts are in? Do you find yourself excusing yourself while condemning others? All of this is a symptom of a spiritual illness that reveals you still don’t believe your life is a gift. You are still struggling with the delusion that your “light” is bright enough when it isn’t. If we are going to avoid the spiritual sickness of stumbling in the dark, we are going to all have to pull together and be Orthodox on Purpose!