Our society has changed over the years. With the onset of the technological revolution, which was supposed to make relationships better, we have become and increasingly me-focused society. If you were to look back just at photos before the Internet, you would notice the selfie really wasn’t a thing. However, it is the predominant way people use photographs (at least in the young adults). This shift in culture has affected not just photography, but the way in which we live every aspect of our lives. I know it has affected me in my relationships. Many times I wonder: “What’s in this for me?”, which in all honesty is a horrible way of developing relationships. It shows up in my prayer life, where, when I reflect I notice the majority of my prayers are for myself…not my family, not my job, not our church but me. I don’t think I am alone in this. We even approach church in this way. We think about each aspect of worship and see if it fits us, because many times we want a church tailored to us. We want to see how we can maximize what we get out of church. Here in this letter to the Corinthians, we see Paul discussing this very issue with them.
We can be sucked into the “Me Church” fad. We want church to meet our needs and we focus most of our “church efforts” on self and self-development. We look at church from an individual standpoint, when it truly is to be a community church, not a Me Church. I don’t think there is anyone here who hasn’t struggled with Me Church.We are all products of our selfie culture. I think here, in this text Paul shares with us the answer to this question: How can I live free of Me Church?
1. Paying the Cost of Community is Priceless (vs. 17-19)
Paul uses some harsh language with the church in Corinth. They were seeking church as a place to develop cliques and were separating out into what Paul labeled “factions”. There self-interest drew them into seeking to be with people who were just like themselves. They didn’t desire to pay the price of community by developing relationships with people who are different from them. They didn’t want to have to wrestle with issues or ideas people who lived and thought differently than they did would bring up. When looking back in the earlier portions of this book, we know that there was racism in the church as well as in this passage we see classism. The rich were hanging with the rich the poor with the poor the Gentiles with the Gentiles and the Jews with the Jews. This, rather than creating community created massive division. Paul knew: Unity is essential and unity without diversity is meaningless. Without integrating diversity into the church and embracing it, we miss a huge portion of why church exists. This is not simply having a diverse group of people show up, but rather engaging in the diversity and paying the cost of being uncomfortable for true community. The church should be the one place where racism and classism do NOT show up. Sadly, we are sometimes more segregated by race and economic status than the rest of the world. When we seek church for only ourselves, we refuse to stretch and grow. Paul would say that when we meet and hang with our usual “church clique” we might be causing church to be worse rather than better for all, including ourselves. Paul also commends those who do not neglect to stretch and grow. He stated that those who do not break into factions are better known because of the factions and they are the believers who actually get it. When we live outside of ourselves, we are embodying church. We do church right when we are not the most important person in the room. The Corinthians didn’t get this and were having Me Church every week and thinking that they were the most amazing believers to walk the earth. Yet Paul declared to them and declares to us that real church is found in intentional community, not simply in gathering together in a room.The next thing we see in being free of Me Church is that we must recognize:
2. Church is for Edification, not Embarrassment (vs. 20-22)
Paul moves from factions to the Lord’s Supper, also known as the “Agape Feast”. It was a time where the church came together for a large feast, in which all would were supposed to equally share in the bounty on the table. It was a time of remembrance for Christ’s sacrifice as well as a time for enriched community. It was the culmination of what church was all about. It was meant to be the centerpiece of what church meant and what its function in the life of the believer was. Paul pointed out to the believers at Corinth that they have disgraced the table and in effect the idea of church so immensely that he couldn’t even say they were at the Lord’s Table. It was no longer the Love Feast, but was a mockery of those who were poor among them. The wealthier in the group would naturally bring more food to the table for the distribution to all members, whilst the poorer members would bring less, simply because they had less. Warren Weirsbe said of this passage: “The original idea of the “agape feast” was sharing, but that idea had been lost.” They lost the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. Paul goes as far as to say that, in this they despised the church. So in essence, they lost the purpose of church. We miss the purpose of church when it’s all about us.
These wealthier church members were dining at the Lord’s Table as if they were in their homes and the less fortunate in there midst were but poor beggars who simply received their scraps. They were not seeking to edify their brothers in Christ but instead embarrassed them. They cared more about their bellies than their brother’s hearts. In our churches today, I think we too end up doing something similar. We tend care more about our convenience than caring for others. There are those among us that need help in many different ways. There are those outside of our walls that are oppressed and in need of someone to stand with them. Church is despised when we neglect to care for the oppressed. True church is realized when we let go of our comfort or our convenience and stand in the gap for the oppressed.
Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that the Lord’s table is not about ones own interest, they have their own tables to feed themselves to their enjoyment. The Lord’s Table is meant to be a place of unity, community and a place of self-sacrifice. When was the last time you thought to yourself: “I’m going to go to church today and bless someone”? Or is your thought normally: “I’m going to church today to get blessed!” Being blessed is not wrong, but we must also seek to intentionally build others up and not simply seek our own interests. In order to experience freedom from Me Church, we need to sacrifice ourselves. We must seek to go outside of our own factions. We must seek the unity that diversity brings. We must look out for the interests of others and not simply ourselves.
3. Self-Sacrifice is the standard of true Church.
I’ve never seen this more true than in my marriage. Marriage is a symbol of Christ and His bride, the church. As a man, I am called to sacrifice myself for the benefit of my bride. I am to seek her good over my own. This is not an easy task. It is not always fun, but I know it is always necessary. I have seen the richness self-sacrifice brings to my marriage. I’ve seen Hilary trust me more and more each time I choose her over myself. I’m far from perfect, but I have seen the best results in our marriage are when I die to self and serve her above myself. This same principle is for us in the church. Church will work best when we walk in self-sacrifice. It’s the point of the Lord’s Table after all…celebrating the self-sacrifice of Christ. When we emulate the one we worship, we finally get the point. The world doesn’t need another “Me Church”, but The Church.
May we seek to pay the cost of community, may we seek to edify and not embarrass and may we be people marked by our self-sacrifice and thus by our love. Love is what this world is seeking and when we are people who live for the sake of others, we are truly loving others and living as Christ lived.