Today we come to the last sermon in this first series of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians titled ‘Challenging Church’. It has been a time of learning as we have taken a good look at a church that had its problems and how Paul counseled the church to make it a more unified and loving church. We will continue further study of this great letter later in the year when we consider the second in the series titled ‘Loving Church’. This should be very encouraging for us as we continue to seek to become a church that displays the love of Jesus in all we do.
The two chapters before us today, viz. chapters 8-9, are interesting to say the least. One deals with a question about the right to eat certain food and the other challenges us to forgo our rights for the cause of the gospel. As I have wrestled with what Paul is teaching I have been confronted once again with his unbridled zeal for the gospel and his love for people to know Jesus. It is so easy for us to become sidetracked by the unimportant. It is so easy for us to be caught up with pursuing the rights and freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this nation of Australia as well as citizens of God’s kingdom. We quickly forget what is at stake in the lives of the people we love and care for most and rarely think of the spiritual state of the people who make up our community.
Paul teaches us that sometimes the freedoms we have as Christians can be a stumbling block to younger Christians. What seems to be fine with us may be hard for younger and less mature Christians to accept and can cause them to sin. Whilst I may be free to do anything that is not contrary to God’s word, some actions can be difficult for the younger Christian. When going to serve in Africa I was required to sign a pledge not to drink alcohol as drinking alcohol was a huge stumbling block for African Christians. This was no trouble for me because I didn’t drink but for other missionaries it was difficult!
Paul longed to see all people in a relationship with Jesus. He was prepared to sacrifice whatever it took to see people have a chance of hearing the gospel. He gave up so many rights that he was entitled to as an Apostle. But that was not all … he became all things to all people to win as many as he could to Jesus. Eternity mattered to Paul and it mattered big time! I wonder if the eternal wellbeing of our family, friends and community matters that much to us that we would be prepared to sacrifice our rights, privileges and freedoms for the salvation of others. Now there is a thought!