PIGS IN PINK TUTUS
"In the course of listening to Paul, a great many Corinthians believed and were baptised. One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream, 'Keep it up and don't let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I'm with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.' That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians." Acts 18:9-11 (The Message).
Corinth? Why would Paul need such powerful and personal reassurance when his evangelistic campaign seemed to be going so well? The city of Corinth was not only well known for its style of architecture but also for the nature of its residents, so much so that the word 'Corinthian' describes a pleasure loving, debauched and impure person.
It was into this environment, thick with sexual and sensual perversion, that Paul came with the message of Jesus -- somewhat like trying to dress a muddy pig in a pink tutu! The response to his preaching was phenomenal! He should have been thrilled and excited but it seems he was not. He was so depressed that he needed a personal visit from the Lord in a dream to encourage and energise him to persevere.
When we marry Luke's story in Acts with Paul's letters, we catch a glimpse of what he was up against. Of all the churches he wrote to, this one needed at least four letters to address the issues that were tearing the church apart: factions among the members, gross sexual sins which they tolerated without blinking an eye, lawsuits against each other, eating meat offered to idols, drunken and disorderly behaviour at their love feasts, competition over spiritual gifts and even false doctrines -- some were undermining the reality of the resurrection.
Other so-called spiritual "authorities" had come in and turned the church against Paul, so that he had to be harsh with them, reminding them that he had fathered them in the faith and that they were as precious to him as his children. He was not in it for money or prestige as they were led to believe.
All this lay ahead for Paul, but the seeds of these deviations were already in them as citizens of a corrupt city. Even in the early days of the church he was aware of what he was up against and was losing heart about this church becoming anything but a liability. Jesus felt the frustration and misgivings of His faithful servant and came in person to reassure him that his work was not in vain.
At this point it was not the Jews who were his problem but the church itself but the strong words of the Master enabled him to pen these words: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15; 58 (NIV).
When we read the Corinthian letters, we realise how much poorer we would be had Paul not had to deal with such a variety of issues. His wisdom and experience were written, not only for them but for every succeeding generation including us because these matters are as relevant today as they were then.
1 Corinthians 13, the "love" chapter, is a rare gem in literature, penned for posterity out of the need to correct wrong motives in a church unusually gifted with charismata, spiritual gifts that had caused them to become proud and competitive. 1 Corinthians 15, the "resurrection" chapter, brings comfort and hope to many whose loved ones have passed on.
Jesus not only had many that Paul had to reach in a wicked city, but also many messages to His church which were hammered out in Paul's own experience before he could write about them to his fellow-believers. Nothing is ever wasted. Even these people, whose lives were corrupted by the sinful environment from which they came, were salvaged, saved and sanctified by the grace of God because, to God, no one is beyond redemption.
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