To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours. – 1 Corinthians 1:2
The salutation alone should convict us. But let’s go on.
In the next 5 verses Paul affirms the Christians in Corinth.
…you do not lack any spiritual gift… He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless …you were called by Him into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
And then he begins to address their sin.
“For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by members of Chloe’s household, that there is rivalry among you.” (1:11)
In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers? (3:2-3)
For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t received it? (4:7)
It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you… (5:1)
I say this to your shame! Can it be that there is not one wise person among you who is able to arbitrate between his brothers? Instead, believer goes to court against believer, and that before unbelievers! … Therefore, to have legal disputes against one another is already a moral failure for you.(6:5,7)
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Come to your senses and stop sinning, for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame. (15:33)
And it goes on. He addresses the way they took communion, their handling of the spiritual gifts, and the disorder of their services.
His letter to them was very disciplinary in nature. Apparently they needed quite the spanking. But here is what he never said to them:
You are bad Christians. You are so-called Christians. You are not really Christians.
Ok, let’s table that for a sec.
We are fond of checking one another out in search of fruit. We love to quote Jesus saying “you will know them by their fruit”, which apparently permissions us to demand to see some fruit as validation of one’s true Christianity, as though we’re the border guards of heaven.
Can you tell it just peeves me?
Let’s read it together. But this time, let’s read the entire passage, instead of just the last verse.
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-20)
Question: Who will be recognized by their fruit? Answer: False prophets. The context of this fruity passage is false prophets, not the brethren (I just like saying that word).
Since we’re doing this, let’s look at a different passage.
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Question: How will followers of Christ be recognized, by all people? Answer: By the way we love each other.
I’m begging us to love one another and stop pointing our fingers across the aisle, demanding to see fruit. Especially from people we only know from the other side of a computer screen. The internet is no place from which to judge authenticity, purity, or any other fruity substance.
If you’re going to demand to see my fruit, we’d better be in some kind of relationship, know what I mean?
We are to bear much fruit. For.our.Father. Not so that our fruitfulness can be weighed and measured by our brothers and sisters and a decision can be reached as to whether we really are who we say we are.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians teaches us something, if we will dare to learn it. It’s the art of calling believers up and out of their sin.
Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Paul doesn’t deny their believership (yes, spell check, I did make that up. go with it.). He affirms it, and calls them to come up to it, basically saying to them, “This is not who you are anymore. Stop living as though it is.” How ’bout we do that? Call one another up to our true identity, as those in Christ. What if we affirm one another instead of yanking out our fruit-seeking spyglass. What if we loved each other enough to say ‘Stop that. That’s not who you are.’?
I know. I get it. There is just something in us (some of us, not all) that feels the pull to point out what others are doing wrong. Not because we love them, but because we are offended and highly indignant that they are sinning. We feel the need to defend the image of Christ. We get mad when someone sullies it with their sin.
And we’re cranky because we have this log in our eye so we can’t see too good and that makes it hard to look for your fruit.