Today we will be kicking off a new sermon series titled, “Better Together.” During the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at relationships, the bumps that occur along the way between people in a relationship, and how we can begin to deal with these moments of conflict in a Christ Centered way.
Because, after all, no matter our place in life, and no matter if we are married, single, dating, or uninterested…and no matter if we have one close friend, no friends, or more friends than we know what to do with, we are in relationship with others.
The fact that you are here, today, speaks to at least one network of relationships. People who are different from you and of this group, chances are that there is a person with whom you will eventually disagree and come into some form of conflict with.
Honestly, this very thing is one of the problems people have with the church. We are, as a church, a collection of people who are, on some level, all broken, and when you put that many broken people into the same room, magic happens, right?
There’s a saying that goes, “If you find a church that’s perfect, stop going…because you’re going to ruin it.”
When I enter into the room, I bring with me a whole cocktail of beliefs, emotions and passions. I bring my love of the Cardinals, my hatred of Olives and all of the things that annoy me. I bring past hurts and past baggage.
Do you know what the problem with baggage is? We think the world that has been shaped by our experience is the correct version of the world.
How we see things, how we interpret things and how we perceive things must always be right because, well, I’m right!
And so, it’s from this belief that I am right that we are beginning our conversation on relationships and relational stress/dysfunction, because, before I expect You to change, I must first examine my heart and my mind. I must be willing to change if I expect others to change.
And so, with this in mind, we will begin today. Our passage we will be reading from comes from 1 Corinthians 3:18-23:
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
So, what’s going on here?
This book was written by the Apostle Paul, the man who once tried to kill followers of Christ, but had such a powerful experience with Christ, that he became the first missionary of the Church. He spread the Gospel all over the ancient world, preaching, teaching, and setting up new churches wherever he went.
This young church, the recipients of this letter, were in the ancient city of Corinth. The city of Corinth was, by accounts, Las Vegas, Amsterdam, Ibiza as well as any other party city lumped into one. This was a city known for their sexual debauchery, their tendencies to pursue pleasure at all costs. This was the city that espoused the saying, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
Pleasure above all else. My happiness above all else. My opinions above all else. Others live to serve me above all else.
So, this young group of Christ-followers begin a church in rebellion of this belief system. They rebelled, believing that there was more to life than the pursuit of pleasure, and that happiness came from something more than sex, money and substances.
Somewhere along the way
They began to have trouble. They found themselves in conflict with each other. They began to have disputes about whose theology they agreed with, and who was their original mentor and teacher. They would say, we’ll I’m a follower of Paul. While someone else would say, “I’m a follower of Apollo.”
Now, to us, that might sound silly, but I think we can all relate to the depth of what is happening here.
We are quite skilled at finding things we can disagree on:
We have Catholics, Lutherans, Nazarenes, or Baptists.
We have West-Coasters, Mid-westerners, Southerners, and Easter Coasters.
We have cardinals fans and giants fans (and A’s fans).
We have democrats and republicans
We vegans, vegetarians and carnivores.
We have wine lovers, and those who abstain.
We have the educated, the working class, and the poor.
As humans, we are so unbelievably skilled at finding ways to disagree with others, aren’t we? Honestly, I think it’s a gift. Have you ever found yourselves neck-deep in an argument (I would say debate, but that ended 10 minutes and a dozen angry words ago) and you realized in a moment of clarity, that this argument is absolutely ridiculous and has no bearing on real life?
No matter the debate, the disagreement or the dispute, our attitude can always be traced back to the belief that our wisdom is always right.
We hear this all the time in the political and the religious world. I’m a republican because of _____ or democrats are wrong because of ____________ (a knock against their intelligence).
Or we might say, I’m a Nazarene because of _____________ or I’m not a Baptist because of _____________. (Based in the belief that theology is the backbone of the church)
This all comes down to two words: Wisdom and Foolishness.
This is a dichotomy at work in most disagreements that we have with others. We and in the middle of a disagreement or argument, and all we can think about is the fact that we can’t believe the other person can be so ignorant, foolish, wrong…and on and on.
And in the middle of our argument, we find ourselves digging in, and unrelenting in our drive to show the other person how wise and right we are.
And somewhere along the way, rhetoric and talking points take precedent over genuine conversation and helpful dialogue. And we begin to elevate ourselves over others, and somehow, over the course of time and years, we see ourselves as more important, or more valuable than another. Thus, when we have an opinion, we place that opinion on God.
The progression can move like this: If God is truth. And if I am right, that must mean God agrees with me, and not you.