Text for the Week: Love Endures the Difficulties

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

When someone in your assembly has a legal case against another member, do they dare to take it to court to be judged by people who aren’t just, instead of by God’s people? Or don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world? If the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to judge trivial cases? Don’t you know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary things? So then if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint people as judges who aren’t respected by the church? I’m saying this because you should be ashamed of yourselves! Isn’t there one person among you who is wise enough to pass judgment between believers? But instead, does a brother or sister have a lawsuit against another brother or sister, and do they do this in front of unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits against each other means that you’ve already lost your case. Why not be wronged instead? Why not be cheated? But instead you are doing wrong and cheating—and you’re doing it to your own brothers and sisters.

Theme- Love Endures All Things

Questions

  1. How do the other qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13 work together to produce endurance?
  2. The Christian’s spiritual life with God is often talking about with the word abiding, how can spiritual endurance teach us about love?
  3. Paul chides the Corinthians for taking one another to court instead of giving up their rights, how would someone committed to mature endurance handle being wronged by a fellow Christian?
  4. Think about how much God has been forced to endure with humanity, how can that be motivation and solace for us in our lives together?
  5. What systems can we establish to help us endure the difficulties of life, especially those individuals who try our patience?

Helpful Information

John frequently uses the word “abide” μενω for how we are to relate to God which is directly related to the word Paul uses for endurance in 1 Cor 13 ύπομενω

Psalm 136 praises God’s “faithful love” as enduring forever. God’s love is defined by endurance.

Paul is confronting the Corinthians for taking matters to civil court, these were not legal matters but lawsuits that did not violate laws

Civil courts in Rome when Paul was writing were known for perverting justice in favor of the rich and powerful.

Paul’s idea of a Christians judging civil disputes is somewhat a concession because he would prefer people learning to endure others to learn to love them more.

Resorting to lawsuits for Paul is the same as a significant moral failure (see verse 7).

Reflection

Paul begins the list of characteristics that define love with patience and ends with endurance; I think this is intentional on Paul’s part since both put one in mind of an ability to remain in an uncomfortable position. When I read this, being patient people refers to giving people time to change while endurance is about staying in proximity to a person while they grow. I think Paul places this characteristic last because it can be very troublesome. Endurance is a virtue that must be cultivated and takes time, practice, and commitment to do so. Endurance is persistence in the face of difficulties, which means the only way to develop endurance is to routinely face difficulties. But we all know that it is not that hard to place ourselves in situations that will annoy us or cause us difficulty, we are there daily when we are around other people. If I say I love a person and that person has never annoyed me either one of us is not in a healthy place or our relationship is not, because eventually our views, values, judgments, and/or desires are going to be in conflict. It is natural for us to have some amount of friction in our relationships as we work through this journey of life together. We know there will be friction and we know endurance must be cultivated; this means wisdom must be applied to our lives with others to cultivate the endurance.

We see the importance of endurance in 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul is addressing probably wealthy Christians who are taking other Christians to court over probably financial matters. Paul is upset that these Christians would do such a thing because these civil courts were notorious for allowing their rulings to be influenced by bribes and social status. Paul is not chastising the Corinthians for taking their problems to unbelievers, he is specifically criticizing them to lodging complains in kangaroo courts. Instead, Paul recommends that these wealthy Christians settle their disputes within the local church where God’s wisdom should prevail without the coercion. He is telling them to seek justice. But in verse 7 he goes on to say that the best course of action might be to simply let themselves be defrauded. It sounds odd to me that Paul would recommend to his readers that it is better for injustice to be done than for justice to reign in a given situation. I believe that Paul is saying that it is better for the Christian being defrauded to learn to endure with others in the church than to cause undue hardships on anyone. He is telling the people that Christlikeness is bearing (enduring) the slights, burdens, and sins of others in order to given them time to repent, grow, and develop. Enduring with others is how we truly show the Holy Spirit is working in us, that we are able to bear with others as they develop in a deeper relationship with God. Paul is asking his audience to go the extra mile for people when they are slighted, but this kind of love take dedication to something truly important.

Put this into our modern conflicts, it is becoming easier and easier to create distance between ourselves and those with whom we disagree. If we have conflict with another we simply retreat from any and all of our shared spaces, we no longer have to endure any unwanted irritation in our relationships. Not that we should go out of our way to cause conflict or friction, I do not think it is wise to seek out disagreement, enough comes naturally; but we need to recognize how avoiding friction will hinder our ability to love. Paul’s wisdom shines at this point, he understood the ideal was for the wealthy Christians to allow themselves to be defrauded, but he also understood that such a burden can be very difficult to bear especially alone. His advice to take such matters to the wise individuals in the Church allows for a person to unload some of the burden of the slight they received, allows for the opportunity for justice, and engages the church community in the healing of the relationship. Paul recognizes how difficult it can be to handle the irritation and flat-out burdens of others and provides a method for a person to get some relief. Exercising Paul’s wisdom helps to build our endurance against the friction in the church while staying committed to maintaining loving relationships.

2 thoughts on “Text for the Week: Love Endures the Difficulties

Add yours

  1. Good points. But I guess this means I likely can’t live in the cabin in the woods, away from all people, like I’ve been wanting lately. 😊

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    1. Reading the Desert Fathers, I think that type of lifestyle comes with its own type of friction and so could be a different type of difficult. Or perhaps I’m just biased because it has a draw to me also.

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