Division and Immaturity
The Corinthian church was a metropolitan church which consisted of very capable people who had many excellent gifts. Not only were they smart but also they seemed to assume that they were very spiritual. They experienced the wonderful manifestations of the Spirit. But somehow the church had a lot of problems.
There were all kinds of moral problems. There were quarrels and fights. The church was divided at least in 4 ways.
In his letter to the Corinthians, right after the greeting, the first thing Paul addressed was the problem of division in the church.
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
They had wonderful spiritual experiences and yet they didn’t know how to live together in peace and harmony. They were gifted people but they lacked maturity. They were childish. They didn’t know how to uplift others and recognize others. They didn’t know how to honour each other. They were obsessed with themselves. They were busy boasting about their gifts and they insist on their own ways without listening to each other. Their spirituality was very self-centred and it was toxic. The self-centredness – That is the sign of immaturity.
As we reflected last week, they didn’t know that the best gift was each other. They didn’t yet know how beautiful and precious other people were. That’s why they easily criticized each other and put down each other with no hesitation through their words and actions. That’s immaturity.
It was because they didn’t have the love of Jesus Christ in their hearts. They knew Christ and experienced the wonderful power of the Holy Spirit but they didn’t have the love of Christ. It is strange but it can happen. I saw a lot of that. That’s why St. Paul wrote a whole chapter about love.
This chapter is famous. It has been used at the wedding quite a lot. I used it too. But this chapter is not about romantic love between two people. It was written in a totally different context. Paul saw the immaturity in the Corinthian community and it took away peace and harmony in the community. Their spirituality didn’t help; it made the problem worse. That’s why St. Paul started with this. What’s the use of speaking in the tongues? What’s the use of having faith that removes mountains? What’s the use of sacrificing oneself?
If there is no love, it is nothing. If I have no love, I am nobody.
The Greatest Illusion
My friends, Narcissism is the greatest illusion we human beings have. We are nobody alone. I am who I am because of you. We have not become who we are on our own. There were our parents who gave birth, raised us and helped us when we were helpless. There have been people who have prayed for us, supported us, and taken care of us. Narcissists will not see that. They will not recognize that. They are in their illusion and have become a slave to their self-centredness.
That is immaturity. A sign of immaturity is self-centredness.
That’s why St. Paul talked about being a child, in his teaching about love.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
I put an end to childish ways, he said. That means he stopped being self-centred.
…love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful… (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5)
It’s all about how you treat others. It is not about you. Love is being considerate of others.
Maturity Through Love
Love makes us mature. Until we know love, we are like a child. Our age doesn’t make us mature. Love makes us mature.
Children don’t know what parents are going through. In the same way, self-centred people cannot know what others are going through. When we have love, our eyes will be open. Everything becomes clear. We can see ourselves clearly and we can also see others and their needs, their hurts, and their pain. That’s why we can empathize with them. That’s what love does. It gives us the ability to be able to feel what others feel and know what others go through. Immature people cannot have this ability. That was what was going on in the Corinthian church.
So, St. Paul said,
For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
When love comes fully into our heart, we will see face to face. Love shows us clearly what is important in life. Otherwise, we will follow and seek things that are like a mist. It’s there in the morning, but soon disappears. Personal glory, personal power, personal gain – they are all vanities. They are like a mist. Only thing that is left is how much we care about others. Everything else will soon cease to exist.
St. Paul said,
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Love is the ultimate reality. That is what we should pursue. Don’t pursue what is not real. That’s why Jesus said there is only one thing that you should pursue.
The Ultimate Reality
When we pursue love, we will reach the ultimate reality. When we pursue love, we will be complete. Without love, we are incomplete.
That’s what Paul was thinking when he said,
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. (1 Corinthians 13:9-10)
Love never ends. Love makes our life complete. Love remains.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
When we see Jesus, we won’t need faith because we will see God face to face. When we see Jesus, we won’t need hope because everything will be fulfilled and there will be no more suffering. But love remains and it never ends.
In love, we find the eternity. In love, we find salvation. In love, we find confidence in life.
God is love.