Introduction: We all bear an image.
We live in world full of images. We see images on cereal boxes, tv, advertisements, instagram, facebook, and so much more. These images are calling us to identify ourselves with them. They are calling us to live like them—to have the same values they have. They want us to attach our identity to them. When we do it affects the way we live. It affects the way we wear our clothes, where we shop for groceries, what we do for fun, and the the list goes on from there.
As we move toward the end of our journey through I Corinthians it is tempting to think Paul has run out of important things to say. It is tempting to believe I Corinthians 16 is just full of a bunch of random thoughts. But the instructions Paul is giving are based on a image as well. Paul was imaging one Person by looking at the two most important aspects of His life. The Person is Jesus Christ and look at every issue in light of the “Cross of Christ” and the “Resurrection of Christ.” Therefore, Paul’s final instructions are about image. The question is, “What does it look like to live like a resurrected community?”
Theme: We embrace resurrected lives when we image God to each other.
1. Resurrected Finances—I Cor 16.1-4.
It is clear throughout Scripture that God cares about justice. In the Bible justice is about equality. Since everyone is made in the image of God everyone is supposed to have an opportunity enjoy life. When we think about inequality in our culture we consider it unfortunate—this is trivializing something that God takes very seriously. God considers inequality a justice issue. It is not just about feeling bad for someone. When we think through justice we need to think about two questions: (1) Is there not enough good to go around? or (2) If there enough good to go around, then why is not?
In I Corinthians 16.1-4 Paul is discussing finances, so let’s consider the wealth in our nation alone. According to Forbes in 2016, there are nearly 400 people in our country who are worth more than a billion dollars. 45 of those people are worth in the 10s of billions—not millions, but billions. In our country alone there is enough money to go around. Therefore, question two becomes the question we need to answer, “Why is the ‘good’ not going around?” The simple answer goes back childhood lessons, we are not willing to share. We are not willing to share because of an image problem. When we attach our identity to having the dream home, the dream car, the dream children, the dream school, or any other American dream. We are indoctrinated from an early age what we are supposed to do with “OUR” money. But the problem is the money, the house, the car, the children, or anything else, they are not ours. They belong to someone else. We are merely stewards—managers.
I do not believe that many of us here today see the problems of our people, but we are paralyzed by the question, “what can I do?” We see the oppressed and truly want them to have something better. But as soon as we see it we turn around do not do anything about it. This is what Dr. Stephen Um calls “magical grace.” We know the oppressed need grace and mercy, but we look for some magical grace to appear. Sociologist Christena Cleveland commenting on this issue says:
We want oppressed people to come to our privileged spaces, assimilate to our culture, never speak out against our oppressive ways, and all the while be super grateful that we’re nice enough to even let them hang around...In short, many Christians want reconciliation without justice, much like we want the resurrection without the crucifixion...Reconciliation without justice is simply oppression disguised.
What does all of this have to do with our text? Paul is bringing to the attention of the wealthy Corinthian church to see the distress of another, and then asking them to help.
He encourages to help through two helpful resurrected financial rhythms. The first is through deliberate consistent giving. He says in I Cor 16.2, “On the first day of the week...put something aside...so there will be no collecting when I come” Paul is telling them when to give as a part of their weekly rhythms. Only when we do something often does it become a habit. This is a good habit, so Paul wants us to do it consistently. The second is through appropriate proportions. Once again he says, “each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” If someone had $50,000 and gave $5,000 then that would be significant, but if someone have $5,000,000 gave $5,000 then that is not much proportionally for them. These basic rhythms will help us all develop resurrected financial rhythms.
2. Resurrected Friendship—I Cor 16.5-11.
While finances are important in fighting injustice it is only scratching the surface. Injustice is always multifaceted, therefore, the solutions are never simple. Paul doesn’t just desire finances from the Corinthians, no, he wants something more, friendship—READ I Corinthians 16.7. He wants to spend time with them. He also wants them to care for the one’s he cares about—READ I Corinthians 16.10-11.
Look at the type of community is expecting in this church. If we want to pursue justice in our world we cannot just write a check. Everyone’s problems are deeper than merely financial. But if we are honest is is easier to make these issues into mere financial problems. Conservatives love to say we need more individuals willing to share. While Liberals say we need structures that will make sure everyone shares. Both of these are true, but they miss the most crucial point—friendship.
Many times we are very arrogant to assume we know the poor and oppressed need. Many of us would rather write a check, then live in the neighborhood, have them over for dinner, schedule play dates with them, or send our kids to the same school. It is much harder to do life with someone than write a check. It would cost us a lot more. Paul is not just calling us to share our goods with people but our lives. What would resurrected friendship truly look like for us? How could we even begin to seriously begin to think and pray this way?
3. Resurrected Image.
Let’s take a deeper look at the seriousness of what Paul was asking the Corinthian Christians—READ I Corinthians 16.3. This gift was going to Jerusalem. If you did not know, there were tons of hostility, racism, classism, and so much more between Jews and Gentiles. This did not magically disappear because they became Christians. It took them waking up everyday and embracing a new, resurrected, identity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2 tells the wall of hostility between us and God has been torn down. It also tells us the walls of hostility between our races, classes, and whatever else separates us has been removed by the Gospel. II Corinthians 5 tells us about our resurrected identity. He paints a picture of what image we should be aspiring to, dreaming about, living out. I would like us all to turn there and close today by standing and reading it together—II Cor 5.16-20.