There are many things in this world that compete for our attention. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with all that is going on around us and it is easy to lose focus on the important things to attend to the little nagging things that pop up. We try to set priorities to make sure that we can devote time to the activities that we consider to be most important. Work and family are often near the top of that list and the things we enjoy doing – hobbies, entertainment, music, movies, social media and so on – are also a high priority. The most important priority, of course, for those of us who wish to follow Jesus Christ is to work out our salvation in harmony with the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we might be transformed into the likeness of Christ.
The Church in Corinth likewise was faced with many distractions. Corinth was a large and important city, a major seaport and hub of commerce. It was also a religious center, particularly for the worship of Venus which was filled with immoral rites and practices. Not only was there the religious aspect, but Corinth was also a center of philosophical instruction. Truly it was busy place with many things going on all the time. There was always something that would appeal to any and every passion that arose in mankind. In the midst of all this, the Apostle Paul came preaching the Gospel of the God/man Jesus Christ – that He had suffered crucifixion and death in order to free us from our sins and that He rose from the dead freeing us from death.
To the great joy of the Apostle (and the great displeasure of the demons who previously had had free reign influencing the people of Corinth) there were those who believed and a local Church was founded. Not only did the Apostle Paul come to preach and teach the Gospel, but others also, such as Apollos who was himself a gentile convert to the Christian faith, came and worked to establish the believers in Corinth. Because of the hostility of the idolaters towards the Christians that was evident in the city, the Church was a very tight knit and close community – very much like a large family. This spiritual family was united by their faith and love for Christ.
As we just noted, this situation angered the demons and they sought to distract the believers from their spiritual labors, and to destroy the Church. (Sounds very much like today!) Since they had lived in this environment and had rejected the worldly life in Corinth that swirled around them, the members of the Church proved resistant to the usual temptations of Corinth. But the devil was not so easily put off – instead he began to tempt the Church with a lure that easily ensnares even many of us today: politics. In this case secular politics were not the issue, because the members of the Church had turned their back on secular society. Instead the devil induced them to indulge in internal Church politics.
The members of the Church began to divide into factions based on which teacher they favored the most. We heard in the epistle about some of these factions – those who followed Paul, those who followed Peter, those who followed Apollos and those who took pride in following no one teacher citing only that they followed Christ but all the while judging and condemning their brethren who claimed some other affiliation – sound familiar today?
Hearing of this from afar, the Apostle Paul quickly writes to the Corinthian Church to combat this discord and factionalism. He is quick to remind them that it is only Christ who has saved them, not himself or Apollos or Peter; and beyond that, it is in Christ that we are all united to one another in love – not condemning or judging one another. Paul quickly points out the central importance of the Cross – for by ascending the Cross for us, the God/man Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ has accomplished our salvation. Peter, Paul, Apollos and everyone else are saved only by Christ and all are united by Him. We must not get distracted and destroy our salvation from within, but rather we are indeed, all one, and by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we are saved together.
This call to focus on that which is important, on the Cross of Christ, which is foolishness to the world, but which is the wisdom of God, is also a call to each one of us to hold fast to this focus. We are all tempted to be distracted by the various aspects of worldly life. There are all kinds of worldly pleasures and enticements tugging at us, demanding attention. We all have our secular responsibilities – bills to pay, jobs to go to, social expectations to fulfill, politics and news to listen to, and so on.
Because of the way our society is structured we cannot just ignore politics, as we are immersed in them day by day, especially now, during an election year. All of these things, however must be brought under the discipline of working out our salvation. We are not monastics to leave the world behind and withdraw into the spiritual life – that is its own special calling – we are called to live in the world and to work out our salvation here, surrounded by daily life. How do we reconcile the two without compromising our salvation? That is indeed our challenge.
In order to accomplish this, the primary thing to remember is that there ought to be nothing in our lives that cannot be brought into our life in Christ. Every aspect of our lives can be brought into the spiritual realm and can be sanctified by the power of the Cross. The simple means of accomplishing this is to remember that whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Everything you do to fulfill your family responsibilities – do it with prayer and in a God pleasing manner.
When you are at your job and are working – remember to work not for a paycheck or for your employer’s approval; work instead for your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ to bring glory to His name. When you engage in any recreational activity, again remember that you are the representative and living presence of Jesus Christ at that place and time – do nothing that could bring criticism to Christ. Begin every task and activity with prayer, asking for God’s help, finish everything with thanksgiving, praising God for the mercy He has given you. Dress to honor God, not your body; read Scripture and the Lives of the Saints, not modern day novels; Speak in Love! In this way you cultivate a constant awareness of God’s presence with you and His provision for your life as well as create a constant state of prayer – UNCEASING PRAYER
Satan is alive and well. The evil one wants to distract you, from the working out of your salvation. He has many tools at his disposal, from the busyness of society, to the pleasures of the world and even to the politics of the Church and this country. Resist this temptation to be led astray from your primary task. Make your whole life an offering of praise to God. Strive to transform the world around you with the love of God. Remember the Cross, the one thing needful in this life. Do not get distracted from the working out of your salvation, but instead do everything to the glory of God.
What does God expect from us? To participate in His Kingdom, we have to repent of our sins and be baptized. Repentance is to live as the angels and saints do, turning away from all idolatry, all immorality, and all attachment to created things, all addictions and all selfishness. We cannot worship any false gods, including the false gods of self, of possessions, of prestige, of position, of power.
We worship Him only. And we turn toward Christ, toward being prophets, priests and kings of His royal family, in His Kingdom. We turn toward love, toward self-sacrifice, toward selflessness. And when we fail or fall, we get up, and we turn back to Him again. To have faith in Christ is to be faithful in His Kingdom. And if we do this, we will become equal to the angels and sons of God.
On the last day, we will all be raised from the dead, raised incorruptible forever. And if we are found to be faithful to Him, we will be raised to eternal life. And if we are found unfaithful, we will be raised to damnation, cast out from the Kingdom forever.
Everything that we do together, as Christians, is to serve this gospel, to enable us better to repent. This life is given to us for repentance. We cannot afford to waste it on vain things.
Make this gospel of Jesus Christ the very center of who you are. Make this gospel the center of your home, the center of your families, the center of this parish. Make this gospel what this parish is known for. Make this gospel what informs every thought that you have, every decision that you make. Teach this gospel to your children, share it with your neighbors, cultivate it in your families, carry it with you where you work and everywhere you go.
Our only hope is in Christ. Our only God is the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our only purpose as human beings is to bow down to Him, to sacrifice to Him, to give ourselves completely over to Him, and to be raised up with Him in transformation, in resurrection and in the glory of His Kingdom, which is even now coming and which shall have no end, unto the ages of ages. Jesus Come; Our Holy Myrrhbearers Pray to God for us! Amen.