3Review: a theme in 1 Corinthians How do we live together, honoring one another, before God?Paul’s answer seems to have a great deal to do with deference, humility, and love.The people of Corinth were not acting as God’s people.Paul’s answer: You are Christian, so act like it! Act in love! Don’t be self-centered!
41 Corinthians 9:1-4Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support?
51 Corinthians 9:12, 15.If others receive this right from you, are we not more deserving? But we have not made use of this right. Instead we endure everything so that we may not be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ… And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.
6What’s going on?1. Paul is setting an example for the Corinthians.The Corinthians were obsessed with their ‘rights’ – see 1 Cor. 5-8While some ‘rights’ are always immoral (such as the case of incest in ch. 5), even moral and legitimate rights might become a stumbling blockPaul is prepared to give up all his rights in order to further the cause of the gospel – the center of which is sacrificial love.
7What’s going on?2. By laying down his right to be financially supported, Paul frees himself from having to follow anyone’s agenda but that of Christ.He is free to serve everyone, without any hint of bias towards anyone other than Christ.Being liberated in Christ means being liberated to become a slave by his own choice – a slave to all so that he may win some.
81 Corinthians 9:19-24For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.
9Can we ever be ‘like’ others? On one level we must recognize our limitations – I have never experienced hunger or torture or discrimination.On a second level we are all human, and share in the common expressions of humanity.When we obsess over our rights we limit our ability to be truly empathetic. If I am more concerned about getting what is mine than with how my neighbor is doing, how am I to truly love?
10Paul and Jesus – Humble theology Matthew 20:25-28: But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. 26 It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”1 Corinthians 9:19, 23: For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people… I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it.
11‘rights’ vs. loveMaintaining the right to security can lead to distrust of those who do not look, act, or smell like us.Maintaining the right to freedom can lead us to purchase, eat, and travel without considering the consequences of our actions.Maintaining the right to privacy can isolate us from others in our community. Transparency can help the community come together to support one another through good times and bad.Maintaining the right to be right can lead to superiority over others, and valuing intellectual accuracy over relational love.