Compare the reading to 1 Corinthians 13:
- “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
- While we know this Scripture from weddings, Paul is addressing a much broader issue. In Christian community and out in the world, how should we treat one another?
- At the same time, our Christian witness starts with the relationships and persons right in front of us. How the Christian community in Corinth treats one another will be extrapolated in broader contexts.
- From both Scripture passages, we learn that actions matter. And we have a choice to add suffering or love into the world. Which will we choose?
John Wesley said “know your disease, know your cure.”
- There was a difference between the Corinthians’ current condition and the perfect Christian community envisioned by Paul. What Paul tries to identify and articulate are the roadblocks and course correction – all for the sake of love. After all, Jesus instructed, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
- John Wesley was a pretty meticulous person who tried to hold others to high standards. The process was similar to Paul: 1. identify where you are, where you want to be, and where God wants you to be. 2. Identify the gaps. 3. Identify ways that we can close the gaps.
- For Wesley, the process was also about recovery. Not recovery from specific sins, but recovery of our original self – for in Genesis, we are told that we are all created in the image of God. In other words, recovery of our original perfection in love.
- Controversial in his day, Wesley believed that complete recovery and perfection is possible – based upon God’s incredible power and love for us. When we open ourselves to transformation, God accomplishes great things.
Sin can be a difficult and dangerous topic.
- Addressing our own sin comes with the accompanying temptation to identify the sins of others. However, Jesus addresses this explicitly in Matthew 3:7 – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
But big and small – 1 Corinthians teaches us that we all have specks in our eyes, despite the length and depth of our faith journey.
When we remove the largest speck, we find layers of specks underneath. Likewise, the smaller specks become, the harder they become to identify and remove.
In the end, we are smart, astute, and perceptive people – only we know our personal specks – only we know what encourages or destroys abundant life in our lives. Identifying and closing the gap between where we are and where we want to be is a very personal thing.
For John Wesley, getting rid of specks was done in small groups.
- In early Methodism, small groups were not Bible studies, they were a way to do life together – Holy Solidarity.
- Small groups were the primary structure by which the original Methodist episcopal movement grew into 2.5 million members in just a few short years. After they went out of fashion, membership started to decline. And today, the largest fastest growing churches usually have a thriving small group ministry – they have them because they work.
- As Methodists, our identity is purposely wrapped up in those instructions from Jesus: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We hold ourselves to a high standard. Get rid of your specks, the big, the small, and the in-between. Small groups are a way to accompany each other on the journey and hold ourselves accountable, both accountable to ourselves and to what God wants for our lives.
Takeaway and challenge:
- I don’t expect anyone to get rid of their specks tomorrow. But I do expect that we make an effort and start small, growing closer to the example of our savior Jesus Christ.
- We can also start big! If you know what your biggest speck is, Jesus wants you to get rid of it. This is solely based on His love for you. Jesus wants the best for you, Jesus desires abundant life, Jesus wants you to be a witness to His love for the world.
- While we all have specks, the Good News is we have Holy Solidarity – both with Jesus and each other – let us grow together for the sake of perfection in love. And let that be our witness to Christ’s love for the world.