When one of you has a grievance against another,

does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?

And if the world is to be judged by you,

are you incompetent to try trivial cases?

Do you not know that we are to judge angels?

How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

So if you have such cases,

why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?

I say this to your shame.

Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough

to settle a dispute between the brothers,

but brother goes to law against brother,

and that before unbelievers?

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.

Why not rather suffer wrong?

Why not rather be defrauded?

But you yourselves wrong and defraud — even your own brothers!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived:

neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,

nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy,

nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers

will inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you.

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 6:1-11

I had the privilege of discussing this passage with our Small Group last night. It has been, for me, on the more convicting side of the passages I’ve read in the Bible Reading Plan over the last week.

No, I am not planning to sue anybody at IBC. I’m not consulting with an unbelieving third party to arbitrate a dispute. And I am not aware of any ongoing lawsuits between members of our church (or any other church for that matter). So… why this passage?

Yes, the passage is about the particularities of Corinth, but behind Paul’s rebuke (which takes the odd form of rhetorical questions), is an ideal. Paul rebukes them for widely missing the ideal.

So what is that ideal? I submit that it is a community that knows its identity. It is a community that knows they have been washed, sanctified, and justified. It is a community that knows and acts accordingly.

I have missed this ideal. Not because of a lawsuit, swindling, reviling, or thieving. My sin (and I’m sure I am not alone in this) is creating insular community – getting just deep enough with others to still protect myself if they fail me. Lawsuits? Forget it! An inch-deep brotherhood is immune to such drastic disputes.

Do you keep others at an arm’s length to protect yourself? Why? What feelings are you afraid of? What a lousy bandage over past pain is a superficial and shallow friendship today. Are we even close enough to one another for conflict to arise? Are you running from community because it’s just too much work? Because everyone else is too different than you? What keeps you from depth of fellowship? Why not call someone today?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer… The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in a body, he was raised in the body…”

Do I long to be together again in the body on Sunday mornings? I’ve heard this could last for many more weeks. What a sadness. I long deeply to sing with you all. To see your faces. To hear the Sunday School songs through the ceiling tiles right when Nathan is making a crucial sermon point.

But I hope and pray that when we begin to gather again we are not fooled. We must maintain hope and strive for the ideal – the fact of our union with each other in Christ must work itself out prayerfully in our lives. And I pray that we are wise enough to see that, even when we gather again, there will be much work, repentance, and forgiving to do. We must pursue one another as Christ has pursued us.

~ Jeremiah