The Corinthian church had some serious problems that greatly concerned the apostle Paul. In this chapter, Paul is clearly enraged by what is going on between believers in the church. There appear to have been disputes that had been taken by church members to the civil courts. Paul is not talking here about serious criminal offences, but about trivial (v2) disputes. He is angry that these have not been settled between people who are supposedly guided by the Holy Spirit and of one family in Christ. Instead, they have taken their complaints to the secular courts, whose way of life was different to Christians because they did not live by the word of God. Paul wonders how this can be. He tells the church, “Dare you take this before the ungodly for judgement?” (v1), and tells them that their behaviour is shameful (v5). He is angry because this indicates that the people valued their pride, selfishness and desire to be ‘right’ above the instructions given to Christians to be united.
Colossians 3:13 tells us, “bear with one another and forgive one another if anyone of you has a grievance against someone”. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to be “completely humble and gentle, to be patient, bearing with one another in love”. Going to court over trivial matters goes against this teaching. Fighting each other in public is a terrible witness. People are not going to be at all impressed with the church or with Christians, if they see us having petty arguments and fighting. It makes us look proud, mean and argumentative. Nobody is going to want to follow whom you claim to follow if they see this kind of foolishness. Unfortunately, we have all seen examples of in-fighting amongst Christians. The motivation is often pride, selfishness and the desire to be ‘right’. The desire to please God is often the last thing on peoples’ minds when they engage in petty fights and one-upmanship. It is not edifying to God. Paul states in v7 that the very fact that there are lawsuits among them means they have been defeated already. We cannot fight the good fight if we are divided and engaged in useless arguments. Paul states in v8 that it is preferable to be wronged by another believer and leave it at that, instead of taking is further. What he means here is that we should practice forgiveness, grace and mercy, which is what Jesus Christ showed us when He died for us on the cross.
2 Timothy 2: 23-24 states, ‘’don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed’’. This reminds us to be careful of what our aim is, when we discuss matters with our brother or sister in Christ. The relationship and fellowship should be prioritised. Beware of those who claim that they know the ‘truth’ and insist on being the one who is ‘right’ whilst others are ’wrong’. The intention when speaking to others should be to build the other person up in Christ, to encourage them in their walk with God and to strengthen the fellowship. If the intention is to assert your superiority or righteousness, then it is likely to be motivated by pride and sin. Be mindful of your intentions before you speak. Be careful of those who bring strife and encourage divisiveness instead of peace and unity. Remember that Romans 12:18 teaches us to ‘’live at peace with all men as far at it depends on you’’.
Father God, teach me to deal with my brothers and sisters in Christ with grace, kindness and humility. Help me to be an encouragement to others and help me to avoid any foolish arguments. Give me the wisdom to know how to speak and act according to your teaching. Forgive me for any foolish words I may have spoken to others and help me to do what is right according to your will. Cleanse my heart of the sin of pride and self-righteousness and help me to be kind and gracious to others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.