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Verse 13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

My wife and I have shared many Valentine’s cards over the years, but this year’s one from her is priceless, if just for the “old married” truisms that are found in it. This comes from the Connections collection by Hallmark. See if some of them resonate with your marriage:

STUFF ONLY BORING OLD MARRIED PEOPLE LIKE US UNDERSTAND
• That Friday night is actually the PERFECT TIME to go grocery shopping.
• That no one else can drive you crazy quite like the person you LOVE most in the world.
• That it’s wonderful to have someone you can always LEAN ON…and possibly fall asleep on.
• That it’s hard to beat waking up beside the person who’s given you so many of the BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.
• That “DATE NIGHT”, although a nice idea, bears little resemblance to an actual date.
• That the TEN-THOUSANDTH KISS in its own quiet way is just as sweet as the first.
• That “FOR BETTER OR WORSE” really means “for better or worse”.
• That LOVE takes work. And time. A lifetime, to be exact.

Paul is sharing with the Corinthians the perfect exposition on agape love…the same love that Jesus loves us with, and the same love that we as Christians should share with the world. If we all did that…I think it would make a world of difference!

Something to think about.

Verses 4-7: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

Four different people, united on a doomed mission to the stars.
Brought crashing to Earth by the bombardment of mysterious cosmic rays.
Four different people; one cosmic storm. But look at how it changed them:

Reed Richards became the super-stretchable Mr. Fantastic!
Sue Storm (later Richards) became the disappearing, force-field creating, Invisible Woman!
Johnny Storm became the fiery flying Human Torch!
and Benjamin J. Grimm became the superhumanly strong, rock-skinned Thing!

Four people…one cosmic storm…but one team!

This was the origin of the Fantastic Four from Marvel Comics. But recounting their first story brings forth an interestingly strange parallel to today’s passage.

Paul is telling the Corinthians that although there are diverse gifts and ministries, it is through the same Holy Spirit that those gifts and ministries are to be used to profit the body. Just like all the parts of the body function to serve the whole body, we are to use the gifts God gave us for His glory! Not everyone can preach like Billy Graham; not everyone can sing like Sandi Patti. But every gift is useful, especially when used to glorify God. We shouldn’t fall victim to jealousy or envy, wanting someone else’s talents. We need to seek out what God has given us, and use it in His service!

Many Christians…one Holy Spirit…but one team!

Something to think about.

Verse 1: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

My wife and I got involved in a puppy-raiser program for a guide dog school; this school would breed puppies to become guide dogs for blind people. From 3 months old to 1 year, families would take the puppies into their homes, raise them, care for them, teach them basic obedience and commands (with school help, of course), socialize them, and love them. We had a 3-month old Labrador puppy named Elcon to raise; Elcon had plenty of personality! We were despairing if we would make it through the nine months as Elcon just wasn’t “getting” the basic obedience part. Our best friends were a couple who were raising a puppy as well alongside the wife’s guide dog (the wife was blind). They suggested we bring Elcon over and have a group obedience session. When they would give their dogs a command, they would obey. Elcon began seeing this and started imitating their behavior. It wasn’t long before Elcon started obeying commands very well…the trick was his imitating the behavior of other dogs doing the same commands.

Paul was concluding the previous chapter in his letter to the Corinthian church, encouraging the flock to serve Christ and live their lives as Christ lived His on earth. He wanted them to be concerned with the salvation of others, and to live their lives to reflect that. Having done that himself, he was urging them to imitate the way he lived his life, because he lived his life to imitate the life of Christ.

Remember, we may be the only Jesus some people see; these same people may never enter a church building or open a Bible. So whom do people see? Do they see you…or do they see Jesus?

Something to think about.

Verse 13: “”No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

In the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Lt. Saavik, a Vulcan-Romulan Starfleet cadet, is questioning Admiral Kirk about a leadership test she feels she failed. The Kobayashi Maru was a battle scenario designed to be “the no-win situation” and test cadets on how they respond to it. Captain Spock, later in private conversation with Kirk, reminds the admiral that Kirk took the test 3 times, before his 3rd try was graded passing. Later on in the movie, on an actual mission, Kirk and his landing party have been seemingly marooned by Kirk’s old enemy, Khan Noonien Singh (brilliantly played by the great Ricardo Montalban). Saavik again questions Kirk on how he did on the test when he was a cadet.

Dr. McCoy: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who beat the no-win scenario (points at Kirk).
Lt. Saavik: How?
Admiral Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so that it was possible to rescue the ship.
Lt. Saavik: What?
David Marcus: (scoffs) He cheated.
Admiral Kirk: Changed the conditions of the test. Got a commendation for original thinking. I don’t like to lose.
Lt. Saavik: Then you’ve never faced that situation…faced death.
Admiral Kirk: I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.

The scene continues with Kirk proving his point by surprising everyone with contacting Captain Spock and getting rescued, which they alluded over an open channel would take days to accomplish (since they knew Khan would be listening in on communications).

The devil loves to use temptation against Christians, especially to make them think they’re strong enough to resist on their own. He delights in watching trapped Christians wallow in what they think is a no-win situation, that there is no way out. As Paul stated to the Corinthians (remember, he was admonishing the Corinthian believer who might think he was strong enough to participate in pagan religious functions, yet not compromise his Christian walk) that God was and is always faithful to provide a way out. Sometimes that way is another combative technique or a strategic maneuver. Sometimes, like in Joseph’s case, it’s just to run like the wind away from the temptation! But there’s never a no-win situation: God provided a way out for us.

His name is Jesus Christ.

Something to think about.

Verses 22b: “”…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Little Bird loved to sing, especially Christmas carols. During December, she would greet the members of the church (whose bell tower her nest resided in) with carol after carol as soon as the sun rose. Most all the members appreciated Little Bird’s carols. She not only sang to put people in the Christmas spirit, but did it as her way of worshipping the Creator, especially at this time of year. Not too long after the Christmas season started, Frankie the owl swooped by after his nightly rounds to chat with her.

He made Little Bird aware of an older man who lived across from the church. This older man lived alone, had to work 6 days a week, and was only able to sleep late on Sundays. Frankie also knew the man didn’t know the Creator in a personal way. His sleep was being disturbed by Little Bird’s early singing, and Frankie was concerned this might drive him further away from wanting to know the Creator in a personal way.

Little Bird was crestfallen. As much as she loved to sing, she certainly didn’t want to keep anyone from knowing Christ in a personal way. But her very nature was to sing; after all, she was a songbird. Frankie provided wise counsel: “Why don’t you just start later in the morning when the man wakes up? You can still sing, just not so early.”

So Little Bird did the unusual thing for a songbird to do; she didn’t sing before mid-morning from then on. She would perch on a branch outside the man’s window and keep watch while he slept. When he would awake, she would chirp a few notes quietly to see the man’s reaction. In most cases, having gotten the sleep he needed, he would smile and “tweet” back to Little Bird. She then would begin singing her Christmas carols happily.

Paul is continuing his message to the Corinthians by stating that even though he is a free man and has certain rights, he gives up those rights to reach people for Christ. “…to the Jews, I became as a Jew…to those under the law, as under the law…to the weak I became as weak…” Paul was sensitive to the audiences that he might reach for Christ, and thus would accommodate his audience (without compromising Christ’s law…let me reiterate what Paul stressed here), in order to reach them, not push them away by his behavior or clinging to his cultural norms.

How about you, Christian? Aren’t there audiences you can reach today outside of the church building? How about co-workers? How about your neighbors? How about those who you engage in hobbies or sports with? Our God wants to build relationships with them too…it just might mean you reach out in a way that you’re not accustomed to.

Something to think about.

Verses 8-9: “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”

When she was a teenager, my wife had a principle that might seem strange to some. She would not go to the movies, even if there was one she wanted to see. She would wait for that movie to come out on video so she could see only that movie at her house. As a Christian, she was cognizant of the fact that someone seeing her go to a multi-screen theater might wonder if she was seeing a G-rated film or something rated worse. Even though she was confident in her salvation, she didn’t want to give the appearance that she watched movies that she shouldn’t, lest it hurt her witness to others. That’s a principle she’s kept to this day.

Paul here is cautioning the Corinthian church about eating food served at pagan temples (these temples also doubled as centers of civic activity). He explained that technically it didn’t matter, since idols were non-entities and there was only one true God. However, he cautioned the flock not to become “stumbling blocks” to weaker or new Christians, who might not fully reconcile what they saw with what they were told. Paul even concludes the chapter stating that he would never eat meat again if it caused his brother to stumble in their walk. As always, we Christians need to remember…we might be the only Jesus some people see today, so therefore let Jesus shine through your walk.

Something to think about.

Verses 3-4: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

My wife attended a Christian high school, and she recalled a lesson she learned in class about God’s design for marriage. The speaker in the class described what would happen if you took 2 sheets of notebook paper and glued them together. After drying sufficiently, if you attempted to separate the papers, you couldn’t do so without tearing them. Each paper would wind up, at best, tearing off part of the other piece of paper, when they were able to be separated at all. You might say each sheet owned the other.

Obviously a great object lesson in “the two becoming one”. However, it also demonstrates the destructiveness of divorce. That’s why it is so important to enter marriage seriously and thoughtfully, putting God first in the relationship. Remember, it is God Who created marriage, and He meant it to last a lifetime. Husbands and wives today would do well to remember the above verses. If each partner in the relationship took seriously the “ownership” of each other, they would better strive to protect and to nurture that union. Marriage also is an analogy to Jesus Christ and the church; remember, He paid a huge price to buy our redemption and salvation; we need to remember as Christians just Who really should be “calling the shots” in our daily lives.

Something to think about.

Verses 18-20: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

I went to a military academy for high school. As a cadet officer, I worked in the office of the active-duty enlisted sergeants who were assigned as instructors at the academy. In working with them and talking with them, I learned a good many things, not the least of which was “don’t get into trouble”. We had one cadet, though, whose name was Jose; the sergeants liked him, despite his many times of breaking academy rules. One of them told me one day why Jose getting into trouble was different from other cadets getting into trouble. “It’s because he only gets himself in trouble, ” Sarge said. “He doesn’t pin the blame on anyone else, he doesn’t get others in trouble with him. The knucklehead only gets himself in trouble. Now, he’ll serve his punishment and pay his dues…and he’ll still go right back and do something bone-headed and get himself in trouble again. But he never drags anyone down with him.”

Paul hear states that “every sin that a man does is outside the body”…except for sexual immorality, which involves contaminating the body that Jesus bought “with a price”. When you buy something, you own it…it is yours! When we ask Jesus into our hearts, we surrender ourselves to His Lordship…soul, mind, and body. Why then would you do something to the body that belongs to someone else? Bad enough that you may damage your own possession, but damage something that is not yours?

Paul encourages the church to “glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s”. We might be the only witness for Christ that a lost person may see; don’t damage the impression you would leave on them.

Something to think about.

Verse 7: “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another,. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?”

In our society, we’re taught and trained to win. Compete as hard as you can, show no weakness, go for the win. But the following story at this Reader’s Digest link is a heart-warming story about a football team that chose to give up a victory because it was the right thing to do. Read this story for yourself at https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/football-team-loses-on-purpose/ .

Why would Paul encourage the brethren at Corinth to just accept the wrong and not take their brother to court? Because it was the right thing to do. Defeating a fellow Christian and church member in a lawsuit wouldn’t further the church’s witness in the community. It would only hurt it. It was better, in Paul’s advice, to just accept the wrong, to let themselves be cheated, than to bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ. Remember, the world is watching. Sometimes, you have to “take one for the team” to ultimately win.

Something to think about.

Verse 6: “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”

On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., there is a form of entertainment that each of the 2 main political parties love. That’s when there is “in-fighting” amongst a party, especially when it spills out into the public media. Whether it’s moderates vs progressives in the Democratic party or pro-Trump vs anti-Trump in the Republican party, the other side has a field day to see bickering amongst its rivals. It is a sad state of affairs; we should be able to have differences, yet act like adults to take care of the business of the nation. And even when there are differences, we should be able to resolve them before they blow up out of proportion.

The devil gets a similar “kick” out of seeing Christians argue with each other. What is worse, the Corinthian church members were going to court against each other, instead of settling their differences in a Biblical manner (go personally, if that doesn’t work take a friend, if that doesn’t work bring it before the church). Paul was questioning why they were doing this; even today, it seems like our television and Internet airwaves are chock-full of lawyer commercials. Paul was encouraging them to act like they are set apart from the world (because they are the church), not act like the world!

Something to think about.